Miami Dolphins Day 2: Did Chris Grier make the right picks?

With Darnell Washington, and Drew Sanders on the board, Chris Grier decided to take a corner and running back they didn’t need

For all the great things Chris Grier did for the Miami Dolphins in terms of trades and making splash moves to acquire players who could contribute, he sometimes does things that make fans scratch their heads. Examples include Austin Jackson, a tackle out of USC, Auburn’s Noah Igbinoghene, and Robert Hunt, an offensive guard, all of whom were picked in the first two rounds of the 2020 NFL Draft but are no longer on the roster. The pick of Cam Smith feels somewhat like Grier is trying to make up for the failure of Igbinoghene.

Still, the Fins seemed to be well-stocked at the cornerback position. With the addition of Jalen Ramsey, one of the best corners in the league, and the ability to keep Xavien Howard on the outside, their starting lineup looked strong. While Kader Kohou and Nik Needham may serve as solid depth options, they also showed promise in their respective roles last season. Kohou was impressive as an undrafted free agent and ranked 22nd among slot corners in adjusted yards allowed per coverage snap, while Needham proved himself as a reliable option after going undrafted in 2019. Overall, the Dolphins appeared to have a strong group of cornerbacks heading into the 2023 season.

It made sense for Grier to take a tight end given the style of offense that Mike McDaniel runs. At 6’7″ and 267 pounds, Darnell Washington is a massive tight end with fantastic length and freakish athleticism. He is an excellent blocker and could be a dynamic weapon that leaks out. There was also a need at linebacker, and Drew Sanders was available. Sanders is a long linebacker with great athleticism who can blitz and drop into coverage. He has the potential to be an excellent off-ball linebacker in a defense that uses a lot of post-snap movements.

Despite these options, Grier chose Cam Smith, a cornerback for the South Carolina Gamecocks. Smith is a highly competitive and confident defender who has developed into an impact starter. With his twitchy athleticism, quick feet, and loose hips, he excels in man coverage and creates early disruption on routes by crowding and leveraging releases. His dynamic click-and-close ability allows him to invade the catch point, and he showcases excellent ball skills and body control to locate the football in the air.

While Smith’s aggressiveness as a tackler is admirable, there are times when he doesn’t wrap up properly, which leads to missed tackles. Additionally, he can get over-eager at times and fire his hands with dead feet, causing him to fold at the waist and get off-balance. Smith’s grabbiness in coverage also led to frequent penalty flags in 2022. Despite these concerns, Smith has the potential to be a quality starting cornerback in the NFL.

Let’s talk about running back. With limited draft resources, it was unlikely that Miami will add a major threat to their veteran lineup. The running back depth chart includes veterans Raheem Mostert, and Jeff Wilson who split carries. Myles Gaskin was a solid rotation piece. Under Mike McDaniel, the Dolphins excelled in rushing the ball last season. Sure, neither Wilson nor Mostert has a history of good health, but they performed well in Miami’s system. Despite lacking a marquee player at the position, the Dolphins have a solid group of backs who have found success in their system and can complement each other’s skills.

Devon Achane is a dynamic running back with lightning-fast speed and elite acceleration that makes him difficult to tackle. He’s also a skilled receiver out of the backfield, with good hands and elusive route-running. Achane has an appealing skill set and is a creative runner who mostly demonstrates good vision, discipline, and patience. However, his size is a concern, as he lacks the power components of the position, making him less effective in short-yardage situations. Additionally, Achane has not proven to be an effective pass-blocker and has only had modest production as a receiver in college. Achane would work well as an explosive, complementary back in tandem with a more physical runner. Yet Chris Grier drafted him to play in a system with backs of the same style.

In choosing the best player available in Cam Smith and Devon Achane, Grier followed the B.P.A. GM strategy.  He may have missed an opportunity to fill other positions of need. What role will either of them have on a team with depth at corner and running back?