The 2023 NFL Draft is officially over, and by now, we’ve all had time to marinate on the Dolphins 2023 draft class. With only four picks, general manager Chris Grier and head coach Mike McDaniel made good use of their draft capital — landing a cornerback, running back, tight end, and offensive lineman.
In this series, I will break down the film on each of Miami’s new draft picks and forecast how each player could contribute in 2023 and beyond. First up, with the 51st pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, the Miami Dolphins select Cam Smith, Cornerback, South Carolina!
i've only watched a few games, but i'm really starting to like what cam smith brings to the #dolphins secondary. he's fast AF & can line up anywhere -- tho he's best suited on the outside. i'm stoked to see what fangio can scheme up & how much he grows under X & ramsey. #finsup pic.twitter.com/fw7a1fLqQS— josh houtz (@houtz) May 3, 2023
(Watch this video, please.)
Who is Cam Smith?
College: South Carolina
Hometown: Blythewood, South Carolina
Weight: 180 lbs
40-yard dash: 4.43
Career Stats: 91 total tackles, 3.5 sacks, one forced fumble, 18 pass breakups, and six interceptions.
Why did the Dolphins draft a cornerback?
With how the first round of the draft transpired, this pick may become the most scrutinized of Miami’s 2023 draft class. But when you peel back the layers, drafting South Carolina cornerback Cam Smith with the 51st overall pick is starting to make more and more sense. After all, the best general managers in football always seem to look two or three years down the road (I’m looking at you, Howie Roseman), and that’s precisely what I believe Chris Grier was doing when he made this pick.
Sure, Kader Kohou looked great as a rookie. And the team just added Jalen Ramsey in a trade with the Los Angeles Rams. But look at what happened when Xavien Howard was hampered by two groin injuries and veteran Nik Needham was lost for the season. The Dolphins were relying on veteran defensive backs Keion Crossen and Justin Bethel, respectfully. Furthermore, both X and Ramsey are getting older, and we know how valuable having a good group of cornerbacks can be — especially with how pass-happy the NFL has become. But enough about how and why, let’s talk about Smith.
Smith, 100%, seems like a Vic Fangio pick. Additionally, I think it’s safe to say he was the best player available on Miami’s draft board. And when you turn on the film, the plan and fit make more sense than ever before.
What does the film say about Dolphins CB Cam Smith?
with the 51st pick, the @miamidolphins select South Carolina CB Cam Smith pic.twitter.com/SMKULcjIp9— josh houtz (@houtz) April 29, 2023
When watching the coach’s film, the first thing you notice is Smith’s physicality. He’s a sticky defender that can get a bit handsy at times, but the same was said about Xavien Howard coming out of college. Simply put — he’s got the dog in him — just like the popular meme you’ve seen regurgitated on social media one trillion times. Unfortunately, I’ve only been able to get my grubby hands on two games with the All-22 — East Carolina (2021) and Kentucky (2022) — and I will admit, I’ve really come to like the pick.
Smith is versatile enough to play on the outside and at nickel, but he’s best suited on the boundary. He even got some reps at safety during his time at South Carolina. But what stood out most was his anticipation and ability to read and react to what was happening on the field. At times, it seemed like he knew what was happening before the offense — blowing up a well-designed screen or beating the receiver to his spot.
Smith excels at both man and zone coverage, and with 4.43 speed, he has the ability to close on receivers in a hurry. He could improve as a tackler, but part of that comes from his aggressive style of play. Overall, he’s a stud. And although it may be a year or two before he’s in Miami’s starting rotation, I can see the vision. And believe he will become a marquee part of the Dolphins’ defense sooner rather than later.
What Scouts are Saying about Cam Smith
Bob McGinn from Go Long!
- “Thin-framed guy,” one scout said. “Smooth, twitchy athlete. Good speed, and I really like his instincts. He can match up with top receivers. Not the strongest guy. Not a real physical guy. Not great in the run game.”
- “He can play,” a second scout said. “He’s just a little bit of a live wire. Emotional would be a safe word to (describe) him.”
- Scouts from five teams expressed reservations about his makeup. “Diva, high maintenance,” said one scout. “Just not good enough to deal with all his bullshit.”
- One team removed him from their draft board. “He’s got anger-management issues,” said a third scout.
- “Be hard to coach this guy. He’s a good athlete — just undisciplined,” a fourth scout said. “He is talented. Second round. Too many good corners ahead of him.”
Lance Zierlein from NFL.com
- “Long outside cornerback with instinctive eyes and the ball skills to consistently close on throws when in position. Smith lacks fluidity and acceleration to consistently press and run with speedy downfield targets. Also, he gives ground in his lateral transitions. However, he’s highly anticipatory with the vision and route recognition to shine from coverages allowing him to play with his eyes and feet forward. While his timing/length can be formidable weapons on contested catches, he often fails to move his feet quickly enough in transitions and ends up grabbing receivers, leading to penalties. Smith appears to be better suited for zone coverages and off-man but if he can trust his technique, he might become more scheme-diverse and develop into a CB2.”
The Final Yard
I wasn’t sure what to think when the Dolphins drafted Cam Smith. Part of me wanted the team to draft an offensive lineman or tight end. The other part is self-aware, and I can admit Grier and McDaniel have a much better plan than I do. Nevertheless, when you turn on the film and learn more about Miami’s newest defensive back, I can’t help but be excited about the pick. Smith is a physically gifted corner that eat, sleeps, and breathes football. He’s best suited for the outside, but has the tools to line up in the slot and at safety if called upon. And with the help of defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, Jalen Ramsey and Xavien Howard — the sky is the limit for Miami’s defense in 2023 and beyond!
What are your thoughts on the Cam Smith selection? Was there another player you would have drafted at 51 overall if you were Chris Grier and Mike McDaniel? Do you think Smith will make an impact in his rookie year, or is this a player the Dolphins will take their time with? Let us know in the comments section below!