Sometime over the summer, I was discussing the Miami Dolphins with a friend of mine (living in New England, they’re all Patriots fans). In their incessant mocking of our then downtrodden franchise, the question came up of whether or not I even had a favorite player on the roster anymore. Admittedly, I really did not, but after some quick thinking you know what my answer was? Davone Bess. He’s this week’s unsung hero.
Bess is in his fifth year in Miami. Coming to the team as an undrafted free agent out of the University of Hawaii, Bess was originally assumed to only be training camp fodder before surprisingly making the team and contributing from day 1 as a rookie to a division winning team. He has displayed a diligent work ethic and always appears to put forth the utmost effort both on and off the field. With the exception of a brief stretch in 2011, Bess has always displayed excellent hands and consistent route running, making him one of the most reliable slot receivers in the NFL.
Dating back to Bess’s rookie season in 2008, the top 15 players in catches in the NFL include such luminaries as Wes Welker, Reggie Wayne, Roddy White, Andre Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald. Oh yeah, and Davone Bess. Bess has more receptions (315) than Greg Jennings (303), DeSean Jackson (275), Vernon Davis (267), and even more than Antonio Gates (285). That isn’t something to shake a stick at.
And Bess’s production, while admittedly for less yardage than some of his contemporaries, is not without productive merit. Throughout his career Bess has been known as a third down stalwart. This season alone, he has 22 receptions on third down, representing 40 percent of his season total. For a player whose designated role is short yardage over the middle, these types of receptions are the pinnacle of his potential success.
But Bess doesn’t seem to get the appreciation and accolade due a player who has been so consistent and so productive for five solid years. On a national stage, Bess remains largely unknown, likely due to the team’s general lack of relevance and frankly, Bess’s lack of touchdowns leading to poor fantasy football production. On a team specific level, fans are always looking to replace him and perhaps can only compare him to his main predecessor as a slot receiver in Miami, Wes Welker. It’s not Bess’s fault the organization gave Welker away to a hated rival.
While there’s no question the Dolphins could use an additional wide-out to stretch opposing defenses, outside of the aforementioned Welker, how many slot receivers are there in the NFL that you would rather have on your team? Guys like Percy Harvin, Victor Cruz, and Danny Amendola all spend some time in the slot and would certainly be considered more valuable Bess, but the man is pretty damn good at what he does. Don’t you think teams like the New York Giants, Houston Texans, and Chicago Bears would kill to have a reliable secondary weapon like Bess available to them?
And for all the criticism Bess and Brian Hartline take for not being the explosive wide-outs necessary to take this team into the future, the Dolphins are the ONLY team in the NFL to have their top two wide receivers in the top 20 of the league in both receptions and receiving yards to date in 2012. There’s a stat you can win a bar bet with. Yes, they are likely better suited as complimentary pieces behind a stud WR1, but their performances this season are certainly worthy of praise for keeping the team relevant.
This past week against the Seattle Seahawks (another team who probably wouldn’t mind calling him their own), Bess had one of the best games of his career, pulling in only 7 balls but delivering 129 receiving yards, generating an 18.4 YPC average well above his career metric. On Ryan Tannehill’s first career game-winning drive, Bess got the ball rolling with two huge catches first for 19 yards to convince HC Joe Philbin to go ahead and be aggressive over the final 90 seconds of the game, and later for 25 yards to put the team onto the periphery of field goal range. His diminutive stature hardly prevented Bess from stepping up big when the game situation called for it.
For a guy who went undrafted, I’d say this kind of production ain’t half bad. And with his contract at an average annual value of just over $3 million per, the price is certainly right. Bess may never make a Pro Bowl, he may never sell a lot of jerseys, he wouldn’t win a footrace against very many wide-outs and he may never be recognized on the street outside of Miami, but if he ever were a free agent there’d be a ton of GM’s lining up at his door for the kind of consistent, reliable production that is hard to find in professional sports. I, for one, am sure glad he’s on our side.