The 2023 NFL draft was low-key for the Dolphins because they didn’t have a first-round pick and only had four selections overall. The Dolphins lost one first-round pick in the Tom Brady/Sean Payton tampering decision and the other in the deal to acquire edge rusher Bradley Chubb.
Still, they improved their team talent by selecting cornerback Cam Smith in the second round and running back Devon Achane in the third round.
Smith makes the defensive backs room even deeper and more talented. He’ll likely battle for a starting spot in the nickel package, where the Dolphins are fairly veteran-laden.
Achane will battle for playing time as a running back and/or as a slot receiver.
In the sixth round the Dolphins selected Stanford tight end Elijah Higgins, who will convert from wide receiver, and Michigan offensive tackle Ryan Hayes, who could be moved inside to guard.
Here’s a closer look at each:
Cornerback Cam Smith, South Carolina, second round (No. 51)
Smith adds to an already-dynamic collection of cornerbacks, but he also fills a need considering Xavien Howard (groins), Byron Jones (lower leg) and Nik Needham (Achilles) missed time with injuries last season. The thinking with the Dolphins is you can’t have too many talented cornerbacks in a division and league that’s stacked with good quarterbacks.
Smith, a physical sort, has excellent cover skills and should fit into new defensive coordinator Vic Fangio’s zone scheme. Smith can play on the boundary or in the slot and said after the draft his plan is to learn the boundary and then the slot.
Smith, who had six career interceptions in college to go along with 23 passes defended and 3.5 tackles for losses, initially figures to fit in behind starters Howard and Jalen Ramsey, and alongside returnees Kader Kohou, Keion Crossen, Needham and Noah Igbinoghene, among others.
Running back Devon Achane, Texas A&M, third round (No. 84)
Achane is all about speed. He ran a 4.32-second 40-yard dash at the combine and used that speed on the field to average 161.0 all-purpose yards per game.
He averaged 30.7 yards per kickoff return for his career, rushed for 2,376 yards and 21 touchdowns while averaging 6.4 yards per carry.
With the Dolphins, Achane fits in the backfield alongside Raheem Mostert, who is also a speedy kickoff returnman, and slasher Jeff Wilson Jr. Achane could be used as a ball carrier out of the backfield (he said he has no aversion to running between the tackles) or as a slot receiver.
Coach Mike McDaniel will tap into his creative mind to find ways to use Achane in his offense. The jet sweep comes to mind along with screen passes and other ways to get him into space and one-on-one with a defender.
Tight end Elijah Higgins, Stanford, sixth round (No. 197)
Higgins (6 foot 3, 235 pounds), who lined up mostly as a slot receiver in college, will be converted to tight end.
He’s regarded as a good route-runner with good hands and good toughness as a wide receiver. He had 59 receptions for 704 yards and two touchdowns last season. In 2021, he totaled 45 receptions for 500 yards and four touchdowns.
Higgins gets a high grade on athleticism and speed as a tight end, but not so much as a wide receiver. But the Dolphins will use him at tight end so his athleticism makes the grade.
Higgins said he’s an aggressive player who is willing to block and get his hands dirty.
Offensive tackle Ryan Hayes, Michigan, seventh round (No. 238)
Hayes (6-6, 298) is a left tackle who could end up being moved inside to guard. If he stays at left tackle he’ll likely compete for backup duties with a group that includes Kendall Lamm, Kion Smith and Geron Christian.
Hayes went to Michigan as a tight end, then switched to right tackle and then finally left tackle. Hayes is a good athlete and comes from athletic roots. His mother, Sue, is in the Central Michigan Hall of Fame for her basketball skills and his father, Mike, played football at Central Michigan.