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.”