Armando Salguero

Cordrea Tankersley not drafted to shine now but he must shine for 2018

Clemson's Cordrea Tankersley, right. dives for North Carolina State's Matthew Dayes during 2015 game. He was the Dolphins third-round selection Friday.
Clemson's Cordrea Tankersley, right. dives for North Carolina State's Matthew Dayes during 2015 game. He was the Dolphins third-round selection Friday. AP

The draft experts are poo-poohing the Miami Dolphins’ selection of Cordrea Tankersley.

That’s fine.

I don’t expect Tankersley to be a starter for the Dolphins defense right away. And to hear general manager Chris Grier talk, he doesn’t, either.

“He’s a guy that’s still learning the corner position,” Grier said. “He’s got a lot of traits we like. He’s long. He’s got length. He’s got speed. He has ball skills. Again, he’s got a lot of stuff that we like. We think that there’s a tremendous upside there. Again, we really like the kid.

“He’ll be a contributor on special teams as well, so for the depth, (to) come in and compete for the roster spot. This is a player we’re very high on so we’re excited to add him.”

Special teams and depth now is not the reason Tankersley was drafted in the third round Friday night. That’s what he will probably be doing right away, but that’s not his final assignment. He also didn’t get picked to come in and immediately turn the secondary around.

He got picked in this 2017 draft to be a 2018 starter.

So think of this, at least initially, as a reshirt year for Cordrea Tankersley.

He got picked because the Dolphins -- expecting Xavien Howard to blossom and Tony Lippett to continue improving and Byron Maxwell to start in 2017 -- are very likely breaking up that group in ‘18.

Bye, Byron.

Maxwell, 29, will cost the Dolphins $8.5 million against the salary cap this season. That’s fine. That’s manageable.

But next year, at age 30 when many cornerbacks begin an inexorable fade, Maxwell will cost $10 million against the cap. Same for 2019 and then $11 million in 2020.

That is a ton of cap space the Dolphins probably don’t want to invest on an aging corner. And they probably won’t because cutting Maxwell before any of those three years will cost the team nothing.

No dead money.

No cap cost.

Cutting Maxwell the 2018 offseason will result in a cap savings of $10 million each of the next two years and $11 million in 2020.

In other words, the out for Maxwell’s contract comes next spring.

And that’s when the Dolphins need Tankersley to be ready to step up and replace Maxwell in the starting lineup -- after a year of learning and honing and improving, Tankersley needs to be ready to start in one year, not in the next few months.

He needs to be ready to show that the 4.38 40 he ran at the combine and his 6-1 frame built for press coverage is ready to, well, do everything his physical gifts suggest he should be able to do. But, again, not for another year.

“They’re a great man (coverage) team,” Tankersley said of the Dolphins. “They run a lot of man. They want to match up. I feel like I fit their team. Also, they want to do some zone and mix it up. I feel like I fit that scheme, as well. I feel like they do an aggressive style, which I had at Clemson, so I think I fit that mold pretty well.”

He may actually not fit yet. Now, he’s more likely to be a backup and a special teams contributor. Now is not the thing.

Next year and in the years after that ... That’s the thing.

This pick is being ripped by pundits because it won’t fix Miami’s issues right away. Because Tankersley probably isn’t NFL ready right away.

But this pick was made with a vision of tomorrow.

That’s when Tankersley will have to step in. And step up.

Let’s see what the pundits say then.

Judge the pick then.

Follow Armando Salguero on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero