Dolphins third-round pick Tankersley settles into life in South Florida
It’s easy to see what the Miami Dolphins are hoping for from defensive end Charles Harris, and that includes a contribution from the first-round pick in 2017. It’s easy to see what the team is hoping for from linebacker Raekwon McMillan, and that includes a contribution from the second-round pick in 2017.
If things go as expected and Harris is as physical and flies around with pads on as he’s doing now during OTA sessions, he’s going to play on passing downs in 2017. He will be rushing the passer for the Dolphins this coming season.
If things go as expected and McMillan learns the defense, specifically his assignments, as well as coaches believe he’s already doing, he’s going to play on early downs at some point in 2017 and by the end of the season he might be playing all three downs.
Third round pick Cordrea Tankersley?
It’s harder to see how and where he will fit in 2017.
It might be awhile before he contributes.
This is not an indictment on Tankersley. The Dolphins have exactly what they thought they would get when they drafted him. He is a big, fast cornerback.
But multiple people within the organization tell me he is “stiff.”
Now, relax. Breathe.
That doesn’t mean he’s not good.
It simply means Tankersley has already shown he needs to improve on his ability to change direction smoothly and efficiently. Some of that can be learned. Some cannot. Some of it is what it is.
The kid’s a little tight.
But I’m told stiff corners can still play in the NFL. They have to basically be long, which Tankersley is. They have to be able to run, which Tankersley can do. And they have to be in the right system, meaning they have to play press, which is what the Dolphins play.
All those things combined suggest Tankersley will factor eventually for the Dolphins.
But all those things also suggest Tankersley is going to take awhile to develop. He’s a third-round draft pick for a reason. And so perhaps he surprises in training camp and actually gets on the game day roster early in the season so he can play special teams. Perhaps he figures in the nickel later in the season.
But unlike McMillan and Harris, he’s something more of a 2018 hope than a 2017 reality.
That doesn’t mean the Dolphins are disappointed. Again, Tankersley has a lot of qualities the team loves, and he can be developed. But everyone understands he’s not going to be pushing Xavien Howard or Byron Maxwell or even Tony Lippett for snaps right away.
Despite this reality, Tankersley is a very upbeat and bright kid. He was asked Monday how often he feels totally lost on the field.
“[I’m not] lost,” he said. “Like I said, I just follow my vets and study the game so the next practice, I’m always prepared. I don’t go out there being lost. I’m always prepared. It’s just getting used to the speed of the game.”
Tankersley has learned very quickly to follow those who know more about the NFL game than he does. He’s listening to defensive end Andre Branch, who like him went to Clemson. He’s listening to Byron Maxwell, who like him when to Clemson and plays the same position.
“A Clemson guy, that’s just what we do,” Tankersley said. “We take care of one another, we always look out for each other. That’s just how we were raised at Clemson.
“It felt like I’ve known him all my life. The guys that Clemson recruits, we are all really the same. We are low maintenance, high character kind of guys. Even with Andre Branch, I’ve latched on to him. I’ve kind of known those guys, so just being here and seeing those guys already here has motivated me to not be overwhelmed. I have older brothers you could say.”
Tankersley has a national championship ring. He’s played in big games. He knows what it feels like to win on a big stage. So he doesn’t talk as if the practices and being on an NFL team are too big for him.
He actually seems to be quite comfortable.
That’s a very good sign. Just don’t expect too much too fast from this player. He’s on a path to contribute.
But it will probably take a little while.
Follow Armando Salguero on Twitter @ArmandoSalguero