Miami used its first pick in each of the last two NFL projects for an Alabama player, and preparing to pick the first helped convince the Dolphins to take the second.
Miami selected Crimson Tide quarterback Tua Tagovailoa with the fifth pick in the NFL 2020 Draft and wide-ranging successor Jayn Waddle with the sixth pick in the NFL 2021 Draft.
“Obviously we watched a lot of Tua last year,”
“And then getting to know him was – that kind of, I’d say, confirmed a lot of the things we’d heard. We just think he is a very, very good player, a good person and someone who would fit in our locker room. “
But if the Dolphins looked at Waddle for a long time through their study of Tagovailoa, they also saw very wide DeVonta Smith receivers.
Smith won the Heisman Trophy, Maxwell Award and Walter Camp Award in 2020 and left Alabama as a leader in the SEC’s career in receiving yards and touchdown receptions. Waddle’s ankle injury in seven games in 2020, when he caught 28 assists for 591 yards and four touchdowns in six games. Smith caught 117 passes for 1,856 yards and 23 touchdowns in 2020, after having 68 assists for 1,256 yards and 14 touchdowns in 2019. Waddle caught 33 passes for 560 yards and six touchdowns in 2019.
When the Dolphins picked number 6 on Thursday night, Smith remained on board. Miami took Waddle instead, and Smith went to the Philadelphia Eagles with the 10th pick.
EAGLES TRANSLATE ALL FACTORS BEFORE DESIGNING DEVONTA SMITH
Miami general manager Chris Greer said the Dolphins preferred Waddle because of its “dynamic trait.”
“At the end of the day, they’re both really good players and really good kids and very competitive,” Grier said. “Just as we went through this, this is the explosiveness that Waddle gives you, as well as the game of return. …
“DeVonta will be a really good player in this league. We really liked the explosive ability to play and the return for us. “
Before injuring his ankle on Oct. 24, Waddle caught 25 assists for 557 yards and four touchdowns in the first four games last season. The injury could have kept Waddle in the season, but he is working to return for the CFP National Championship game, and he caught three passes for 34 yards in Alabama’s 52-24 win over Ohio on Jan. 11.
Waddle’s decision to return for the final game impressed the Dolphins.
“It shows again the character and how important football is to him,” Grier said. “Many players would have chosen not to play and risk injury, but he wanted to be with his teammates and he is working hard to recover and come back and be there and contribute, so for us as we got to know him, as Brian said, it just finished the picture before we even recognized him, just to say that this is the type of kid who loves the ball and will fit our culture. “
Waddle said his return had nothing to do with impressing NFL decision-makers.
“I played simply because I love playing the game,” Waddle said, “so I didn’t really think about how I came out with anyone or anything like that. They never talked about it or anything like that or anything like that. I’m just trying to be myself. I play because I want to play, not go out of any way. “
Miami returns the leading receiver for 2020, DeVante Parker, who caught 63 passes for 793 yards and four touchdowns, along with four of the five other wide receivers who caught at least 10 passes for the Dolphins last season.
Miami also signed wide receiver Will Fuller, who caught 53 assists for 879 yards and eight touchdowns for Houston Texas in 2020, and former notable Alabama Robert Foster this season.
“His role will be what he did,” Flores told Waddle. “Based on the whole movie we watched, we think it will fit inside or outside. We think it will add an element of speed. Obviously he has some value in the rematch. I think his flexibility is a big part of that. His ability to play from the inside, to play in the slot, to play on the perimeter, to play in the reverse game. Again, we are very, very excited to have it. “
Waddle doesn’t go to Miami with any preference for how he should be positioned by the Dolphins.
“I’m just going to do my best to do what the team wants me to do,” Waddle said, “and try to be the best player and do the things the team wants me to do, at the highest level and level. which I know I can play in. I will try to do whatever my coaches want me to do. “
Waddle said he was looking forward to catching on from Tagovailoa again.
“I can tell you I’m excited to just go back with him, take everything down, reduce our time and stuff,” Waddle said. “Luckily for me, we spent time together in Alabama, so we just have to keep going. …
“But I come to work and I know he does. So just take it down and just do it, day after day, just try to build it and build more. “
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Mark Inabinett is a sports reporter for the Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter Ark AMarkG1