The 2023 NFL Draft concluded last night, ending the three-day selection process that added 259 college prospects to team rosters around the league. The Miami Dolphins only had four selections in this year’s draft, with previously made trades and a tampering charge punishment from the league limiting the chances Miami had to add players. How did the Dolphins do with their selections over the weekend? ESPN’s Mel Kiper, Jr., and Todd McShay published their thoughts on the Dolphins - and all 31 other teams - overnight.
Kiper posted his 2023 NFL draft grades for all 32 teams, He gave his top grades this year to the Philadelphia Eagles and Seattle Seahawks, to both of whom he gave an “A” grade. With just four picks this year, and none in the top 50 selection, it would seem to be an uphill battle for the Dolphins to land high marks in 2023. Kiper had them receive the 13th best grade - one of 16 teams, or half the league, to land a “B” grade. Only four teams received less than a B, all of which received a “B-” mark.
Miami’s four picks this year were:
2nd Round - 51st overall - Cam Smith, CB, South Carolina
3rd Round - 84th overall - Devon Achane, RB, Texas A&M
6th Round - 197th overall - Elijah Higgins, WR, Stanford
7th Round - 238th overall - Ryan Hayes, OT, Michigan
What did Kiper say in explaining his B grade for the Dolphins? He really seemed to like what Miami did in the second and third round:
Miami entered this draft with just four picks, the fewest in the league, and it had already filled its biggest roster hole via the March trade for cornerback Jalen Ramsey. This is a really solid team, though its success hinges a great deal on the health of quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, who was in the MVP discussion before concussions caused him to miss five games. I wanted to see the Dolphins get immediate help somewhere, and I love their first two picks.
Cornerback Cam Smith (51) excelled in zone coverage in college, and he locked down SEC wideouts. Running back Devon Achane (84) could be one of the steals of the draft. He should be on preseason Rookie of the Year watchlists. Achane is super fast and has ability in the pass game; what’s not to like? Ryan Hayes (238) is my 15th-ranked offensive tackle; I was surprised he lasted that late. His 2022 tape is very solid.
This class was handcuffed by the forfeited first-round pick, but general manager Chris Grier landed two tremendous players on Day 2.
While Kiper looked at the overall grade for each team, McShay took a closer look at one pick from each franchise. In his 2023 NFL draft value picks for all 32 teams, McShay looked at the best pick for the team, but stressed “best pick” does not necessarily mean “best player,” instead trying to factor in team needs, scheme fit, pre-draft player ranking, and any trades involved to select the best value pick each team made.
Looking at the Dolphins’ picks, McShay seemed to agree with Kiper on the potential and value of the third-round selection of Achane. He wrote:
What a perfect fit this is for Achane and the Dolphins, who had just four selections. Despite re-signing Raheem Mostert and Jeff Wilson Jr., the Dolphins needed to find a running back in the draft this year to round out a potent offense. They were in the bottom half of the NFL in yards per rush (4.3) and rushing TDs (12) last season. Even more telling, Miami was last in the league in NFL Next Gen Stats’ rushing yards over expectation at minus-0.4 per carry. But with coach Mike McDaniel pulling the strings, Achane is going to be a versatile matchup nightmare for opponents and could pick up chunk plays early and often in 2023.
Because of his 5-foot-9, 188-pound size, Achane might never be a three-down back ... but he doesn’t need to be to have a big impact. With his 4.32-second speed and sudden, sharp-cutting ability, he is a home run hitter who can take any handoff to the house. He will create even behind marginal blocking, using his shiftiness to find seams and pull away in the open field. He went for 1,102 yards on the ground last season.
But what I really love about this pick is what Miami can do with Achane in the pass game. You’ll see him lined up in the slot, using his speed and reliable hands to smoothly transition upfield after the catch. He’ll be a real asset for Tua Tagovailoa here as an underneath target, though he’s also a solid route runner.
A “B” grade seems solid for a team that could only add four players in the draft process. Both of ESPN’s top draft analysts seem to like what Miami did in their limited opportunities in the 2023 draft - especially when it comes to the selection of Achane in the third round. Could he really be a Rookie of the Year candidate this season? Will he become the matchup nightmare head coach Mike McDaniel envisions?