Miami Dolphins

With Tankersley pick, Dolphins make history — three defensive players in first three picks

Clemson cornerback Cordrea Tankersley (25) catches a pass as Virginia Tech tight end Bucky Hodges (7) attempts to interfere, during the second half of the Atlantic Coast Conference championship NCAA college football game, Saturday, Dec. 3, 2016, in Orlando, Fla.
Clemson cornerback Cordrea Tankersley (25) catches a pass as Virginia Tech tight end Bucky Hodges (7) attempts to interfere, during the second half of the Atlantic Coast Conference championship NCAA college football game, Saturday, Dec. 3, 2016, in Orlando, Fla. AP

The Dolphins’ defense was historically bad in 2016.

They made a different kind of history a few months later.

By selecting Clemson cornerback Cordrea Tankersley with the 97th overall selection, Miami used its first three draft picks on a defensive player for the first time in the franchise’s 52-year history.

(The Dolphins in 1992 selected defensive back Tony Vincent, defensive end Marco Coleman and two-way player Eddie Blake, but used the interior lineman on the offensive side of the ball during his ill-fated time in Miami.)

But the Dolphins, who allowed a franchise-worst 6,122 yards in 2016, insist they didn’t set out to go all-defense

“It really was the way the board fell,” Dolphins general manager Chris Grier said late Friday, adding that the Dolphins had their eye on a number of offensive players, but those prospects were taken just before Miami went on the clock.

“We’re all about competition here,” he continued. “It's one thing Adam [Gase] has stressed. It doesn't matter where they were picked, they have to earn it. It's up to them.”

Tankersley, whose nickname is Tootie, did just that in college. He was a two-way star in high school, but became a full-time defensive back at Clemson.

He went from special teams contributor to a core member of a defense that helped Clemson win a national championship in 2016, earning consideration for both the Jim Thorpe and Bednarik awards.

The 6-foot-1, 199-pound corner will presumably compete with Xavien Howard and Byron Maxwell for playing time.

Maxwell preceded Tankersley at Clemson; the latter said he modeled his game after his predecessor. Tankersley watched Maxwell play when the younger corner was recruited out of high school. The two players have a “close relationship,” he added.

Tankersley, who visited the team’s training facility ahead of the draft, said the Dolphins are “a great man team. The run a lot of man. They want to match up. ... They want to mix it up. I feel like they I feel like I fit that mold pretty well.”

While Tankersley is “still learning the corner position,” according to Grier, the Dolphins like his length (6-foot-1), speed (he ran a 4.38-second 40) and ball skills.

“We think there's a tremendous upside still,” Grier said. “We really like the kid.”

Adam H. Beasley: 305-376-3565, @AdamHBeasley

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