With no 1st-round pick, Dolphins add depth, speed in draft
By ALANIS THAMES
MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. (AP) Miami general manager Chris Grier called this offseason “business as usual” despite not having a first-round pick in the NFL draft.
The Dolphins forfeited their 2023 first-rounder after an NFL investigation found they violated the league’s antitampering policy by communicating with Tom Brady and Sean Payton, and they traded another pick away last November to acquire star pass rusher Bradley Chubb from Denver.
“Once decisions were made, we just kind of moved on and said ‘OK,’ and looked at the roster and picks and free agency and kind of attacked it from there,” Grier said.
With only four picks for the second straight year, Grier filled many of Miami's roster holes in free agency, but he added depth in the draft, selecting cornerback Cam Smith of South Carolina, running back Devon Achane of Texas A&M, Stanford wide receiver Elijah Higgins and Michigan offensive lineman Ryan Hayes.
“The interesting thing about that is you’re very aware that you have a small opportunity to make your team better,” Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel said, “but it’s a very real opportunity. So you don’t ever want to squander a draft pick, but the less you have to focus on - the less amount of draft picks - you have more attention on those parts of the draft and really what can you get out of it.”
An increasingly competitive AFC East got better when the Jets acquired Aaron Rodgers, and the Dolphins saw an opportunity at pick No. 51 to beef up their secondary with Smith.
Tight end and offensive line seemed to be more pressing areas of need, but Grier, who does not generally draft based on position need, went with the best available player on Miami's board. Smith's versatility is an ideal fit for defensive coordinator Vic Fangio.
“In this league and especially in the AFC, with a lot of talented quarterbacks and teams, we can never have enough corners,” Grier said, “as we experienced last year with the rash of injuries that we dealt with.”
Miami had to go deep into its cornerback room in 2022, with Nik Needham tearing his Achilles tendon in Week 6 and Xavien Howard nursing groin injuries all year.
The Dolphins last month traded for All-Pro cornerback Jalen Ramsey, who is expected to start opposite Howard next season. Smith, with his ability to play multiple positions, gives Miami depth for the future.
“We always know I can play two positions, but just kind of get my feet wet in the league first, getting outside, making sure I can hold it down, do everything I need to do and learn those new techniques that they are going to teach me,” Smith said.
McDaniel told Achane before the Dolphins drafted him at No. 84 that he planned on building one of the fastest teams in the NFL.
Not only will Achane add depth to a group that struggled to run the ball last season, but he brings his speed - measured at 4.32 seconds in the 40-yard dash - to a team with Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle, regarded as the NFL's fastest wide receiver duo.
“I have a very unique skillset. I feel like I can do a lot," Achane said. “I can be at running back. I can line up at receiver and they also might want to use me on special teams.”
That the Dolphins drafted Achane in the third round shows how high they were on him. Before Friday night, Grier had only once drafted a running back in one of the first three rounds - Kenyan Drake in the third round in 2016 - since becoming general manager in 2016.
TIGHT END SWITCH
The Dolphins waited until pick No. 197 of the sixth round to address the tight end position when they selected Higgins - who has never played tight end.
Higgins had 1,380 yards and six receiving TDs at Stanford. He said he's already spoken to Miami's coaching staff about switching from wide receiver.
“I’m definitely willing to make that transition, obviously,” Higgins said.
The Dolphins needed depth at tight end with only three on the roster: Tanner Conner, Eric Saubert and Durham Smythe.
Saubert joined the Dolphins in March as a free agent. Smythe, the longest-tenured player on Miami’s roster, just signed a contract extension through 2025. The Dolphins lost tight end Mike Gesicki to New England in free agency.
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Updated April 29, 2023