With four selections in the 2023 NFL Draft, the Miami Dolphins selected South Carolina cornerback Cam Smith (51st overall), Texas A&M running back Devon Achane (84th overall), Stanford tight end Elijah Higgins (197th overall), and Michigan tackle Ryan Hayes (238th overall).
General manager Chris Grier and head coach Mike McDaniel met with media members to discuss what the newest Dolphins can add to the organization.
“Cam is a very talented football player,” Grier said. "We're excited to add him and competition we'll always add at every position, as we've talked about here. So it was the opportunity for us to, at that point in the draft, add a really talented football player that fit. So excited to add him, he's excited to come, so we're looking forward to working with him."
Of course, with new defensive coordinator Vic Fangio now in charge, Grier was asked how Smith will fit within the team's new defensive system.
"He's a talented athlete," Grier stated. "He's versatile. He's played a lot outside. He's played nickel. It's just the football player and the instincts, so we're just excited. We thought he was a good fit and where he was in the draft, we just couldn't pass on the opportunity."
"I mean, speed we generally like around here," McDaniel said. "But I think it's more of you feel like there's a fit in terms of a guy fitting within your existing team. You're always keeping in mind that you're adding players to a team and really think that that group in particular, the running back room for us is very important. You find a person and player that fits your skill set that you like but also that fits within the room because we have some other good competition in there as well. So we're real excited to add player to a group. And he is fast. Chris and I share that – we do have affection for that trait."
While Achane had his best season in College Station in 2022 – he ran for 1,102 yards and eight touchdowns and added 196 receiving yards and three receiving touchdowns – he didn't just recently come on to the coaching staff and front office's radar. In fact, McDaniel and Grier had been interested in Achane for a long time.
"We talked about him last year a little bit with some of the flashes you saw out of him," Grier said. "Then just watching him this year and getting to know him, we brought him in on a 30-visit and spent some time with him and got to know him as a person. We watched film and probably about two or three weeks ago, Mike was convicted in his love for the player. We all were but he was very effusive."
The Dolphins continued their pursuit of offensive versatility in the sixth round, taking Stanford tight end Elijah Higgins 197th overall.
"First of all, I'm just excited to add the competitor," McDaniel said. "You see through his game tape that he's a guy that strains with the ball in his hands. But specifically for the tight end position, drafting a guy that plays wide receiver and converting him to tight end – I think the first time in my career that I was a part of that was Niles Paul back in 2011 out of Nebraska. For me and my history, there's a lot of traits that he resembled in his competitiveness, in his size and in his strength. And really, this day in age, converting a receiver to a tight end isn't as abstract as it used to be only because half the teams are playing spread and two-points anyway. Even if they're called a tight end, they're playing receiver stuff anyway. So you get kind of used to projecting people to do things like that and we felt very comfortable and confident that he fit the bill for that, so we're excited to have him."
The Dolphins then selected Michigan tackle Ryan Hayes with the 238th pick, the team's fourth and final selection in the 2023 NFL Draft.
Grier was asked about Hayes and praised his competitiveness and willingness to put in the necessary work.
"With him, he's played a lot of football," Grier said. "Smart kid. Competitive. Tough. Came (to Michigan) as a tight end and converted (to offensive line) and worked. He's been coached in a good program. Coach (Jim) Harbaugh has done a great job. Just watching him over the years develop and compete and play, so for us, we were excited at this point in the draft to add him into our group of guys coming in and competing."
Not only is the NFL Draft a lifechanging moment for the athletes, it's a source of pride for their college coaches as well.
Here's what Smith and Achane's college coaches had to say as they transitioned to the NFL:
"I've never seen anybody that competed harder on the practice field and loved being out there and just playing football," South Carolina head coach Shane Beamer said of Smith.
Texas A&M head coach Jimbo Fisher also had high praise for his latest NFL product.
"Devon is a matchup problem for defenses and special teams," Fisher said. "He is an all-around football player who just happens to have world-class speed. He has natural ball skills as a receiver and caught a lot of balls for us. He will be a three-down back. He has great patience running between the tackles and people underestimate his strength and balance. He's a good pass blocker, he's tough and physical. On special teams, he is a dynamic kick returner. The area that is not talked about when it comes to Devon is his ability to pick things up. He is highly intelligent and is an easy guy to coach. I expect him to be a great professional player."
As the 14-hour, 30-minute 2023 NFL Draft came to a close, Grier and McDaniel took the opportunity to reflect on the work and collaboration that has gone on to complete what they believe to be a successful offseason thus far.
"We're really happy with the offseason we've had, the players that we were able to keep on this roster, the new ones that we've added, that we added in the draft and that we're going to in free agency," McDaniel said.
For Grier, the long hours and constant communication between departments was a rewarding process and one that has brought the building closer together.
"I think the human communication part of it between the coaching staff, the scouts, has been really good," he said. "I think if you asked everyone in the building, a lot of work goes into drafts. As you know, it's never a one-man show or a two-man – it's a lot of people helping a lot of information done. I just think the environment of allowing everyone to have a voice in the process and really allowing people to have a say and really be free to speak on stuff has been really, really fun. It's been a really good process. I think guys have really enjoyed it, and we felt we've had a good outcome."