Dolphins select Georgia LB Channing Tindall in third round of NFL Draft

Dolphins

Georgia linebacker Channing Tindall (41) plays against Vanderbilt during an NCAA college football game on Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/John Amis)

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Unlike previous years, the Dolphins sat through a long wait before their first pick in the 2022 NFL Draft.

But when they finally were on the clock in the third round late Friday night, they made sure to add a potential starter to a position of need.

The Dolphins selected Georgia inside linebacker Channing Tindall with the No. 102 overall pick.

A four-year player at Georgia, Tindall recorded 67 tackles in the 2021 season, along with 7.5 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks, which ranked fourth on the team. He came to the Dolphins facility for a predraft visit earlier in the month and said it felt like “home.” Tindall, 22, believes the team’s coaches were drawn to his potential versatility in its scheme.

“The way they use their linebackers is different,” Tindall said. “They use their linebackers everywhere. They put them on the edge sometimes, they put them on the line. They put them at MIKE, WILL. They’re very versatile and I feel like I fit into it.”

Tindall, 6-1 and 230 pounds, played 50 games over his college career, recording 108 tackles, 16 tackles for loss, 12 sacks and one forced fumble. He did not have a single start, however, playing on a defense that annually produces NFL players. Five of Tindall’s defensive teammates were selected in the first round Thursday night.

Tindall’s senior season was a breakout for him, though, as Georgia won the college football national championship. Tindall said spending extra time to watch film with his position coach Glenn Schumann allowed him to better understand his responsibilities.

“I was on a mission the entire season … My mindset was like do or die,” Tindall said.

“The biggest thing was, I wanted to be the best version of me,” he added. “And I knew I wasn’t doing everything I could to be the best version of me.”

As part of the Dolphins’ effort to return the core of their defense this offseason, they re-signed inside linebackers Elandon Roberts, Duke Riley and Sam Eguavoen. However, all were signed to one-year deals and split playing time next to starter Jerome Baker. Baker’s increasing usage as an outside linebacker also made a need for a middle linebacker who can play the run and pass, the latter as important as ever in today’s NFL.

Tindall, who ran a 4.47 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine, projects as the type of player with the size and speed to fill that role over time, according to general manager Chris Grier said.

“The speed is what we like,” he said. “He has the ability to play all three downs and play special teams as well.”

A South Carolina native, Tindall was a four-star recruit out of high school, playing defensive end and middle linebacker. When he arrived in Athens, he had to play behind several other highly-touted linebackers. Fellow Georgia inside linebacker Quay Walker went No. 22 overall to the Green Bay Packers, while Nakobe Dean, the recipient of the Butkus Award given to college football’s top linebacker, was picked by the Philadelphia Eagles with the No. 83 overall pick.

Grier said he had multiple conversations with Georgia coach Kirby Smart, and Tindall’s decision to stay despite a stacked roster and his improvement stood out to Grier during the evaluation process.

“Talking with Kirby, he was just really saying that the arrow is still going up on Channing,” Grier said, “and that he’s taken a big step because now he’s been in the box playing more. And obviously with Nakobe and Quay there, two really good players in front of him, they were all fighting for playing time. But, he took a step and ended up playing more because he had grown so much. So for us, it’s exciting that we still have a player that’s young, there’s still upside to develop and we feel has got a good progression.”

As the third round arrived, popular mock draft picks for the Dolphins, who had needs at offensive line and inside linebacker, began to come off the board. The Jacksonville Jaguars selected Kentucky offensive lineman Luke Fortner and Wyoming inside linebacker Chad Muma at No. 65 and No. 70, respectively. The Houston Texans then selected Alabama inside linebacker Christian Harris with the No. 75 overall pick.

Later on, Dean, who had one of the most surprising slides Friday, went to Eagles. And the Las Vegas Raiders selected Memphis offensive lineman Dylan Parham with the No. 90 overall pick.

But the Dolphins had their pick of Tindall, as well as another popular inside linebacker, Wisconsin’s Leo Chenal, who went to the Kansas City Chiefs with the very next pick. Grier said the team had targeted Tindall throughout the draft process, though. He becomes the first Georgia linebacker the franchise has ever drafted.

The Dolphins tried to trade up “a couple times,” Grier said, but “people wanted to make their picks.”

Other potential trade partners wanted the Dolphins to give up one of their early 2023 picks to make a deal, which Grier said was “non-negotiable.” The Dolphins have five picks in the first three rounds of next year’s draft, including a pair of first-rounders and third-rounders.

“It was a long wait for us,” Grier said.

The Dolphins sat out the first two rounds of the draft after sending their first two picks to Kansas City as part of the trade that brought All-Pro wide receiver Tyreek Hill to Miami. The No. 102 overall pick was the latest the Dolphins have ever made their first selection.

The Dolphins enter Day 3 of the NFL Draft with three picks remaining: one in the fourth round (No. 125 overall) and two in the seventh round (No. 224, No. 247). The team is expected to seek depth at offensive tackle, center and defensive line but may need to accumulate more picks to address all those needs.

This story was originally published April 29, 2022 11:32 PM.

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Daniel Oyefusi covers the Dolphins for the Miami Herald. A native of Towson, Maryland, he graduated from the University of Maryland: College Park. Previously, he covered the Ravens for The Baltimore Sun.

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