Keen insight offered on Dolphins’ first four picks: Waddle, Phillips, Holland, Eichenberg

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One is injured, one recently changed positions, one walks with what some see as a limp and another is still learning communication skills for a position that demands it.

But let’s be very clear about this: The Miami Dolphins couldn’t be happier with the four players they selected in the first 42 picks of April’s NFL Draft.

Jaylen Waddle, drafted sixth overall, has made several impressive receptions in practice, elevating for high throws or diving to the ground for low throws.

Jaelan Phillips, selected 18th overall, impressed everyone during the offseason program and early in camp before an undisclosed lower-body injury sidelined him 11 days ago. (He was well enough to participate in Sunday’s post-practice sprint.)

Jevon Holland, plucked at No. 36, was promoted to the first team three practices ago and has been involved in three takeaways since, including two interceptions.

And Liam Eichenberg, chosen 42nd overall, has done a “nice job,” since moving from right tackle to left guard, according to co-offensive coordinator Eric Studesville.

Because the Dolphins gave up their own 2022 first-round pick to move from 12th to sixth in the draft, Waddle will be the most scrutinized of the four; ESPN’s Dan Orlovsky has called him the most important player in the AFC East excluding quarterbacks.

Waddle has flashed the speed and elusiveness that everyone expected. But he also has displayed an ability to contort his body to make difficult catches.

Receivers coach Josh Grizzard said Monday that Waddle has a chance to excel because of “the speed, the quickness, his ability to change directions, cut on a dime, make a guy miss. The versatility he brings. He’s a good route runner. I don’t know if he got as much credit coming out as he deserves [as a route runner, but he can] separate. Even more than just speed and quickness is how tough he is. We saw that in the national championship. Seeing that the last couple weeks is pretty much as we expected.”

Less than three months after sustaining a serious ankle injury in a game against Tennessee, Waddle — clearly not 100 percent — played in Alabama’s 52-24 demolition of Ohio State in the national title game at Hard Rock Stadium in January and caught three passes for 34 yards.

“I didn’t watch it in the stadium,” Grizzard said. “But I was watching it at home. Without ever having talked to the guy and just knowing how the younger generation is on opt outs and not playing in bowl games, you can tell this guy is not 100 percent and he’s out there competing. You could tell the guy was tough as hell and it meant a lot to him.

“That was evident through the Zoom stuff going into the draft. We didn’t have a chance to meet him in person, not having the Combine. He enjoys being out there. You’ve got to drag him off there to a fault a little bit.”

Dolphins coach Brian Flores downplayed what some believe to be a limp when he walks; that simply might be his gait. “I would just kind of chalk it up to soreness,” Flores said. Waddle hasn’t missed any of the 10 practices.

Phillips remains sidelined — the Dolphins decline to reveal the injury or give a timetable — but he hasn’t walked with any limp in recent days. Outside linebackers coach Rob Leonard raved about him on Monday.

“It’s hard to find a guy with his skill set that also has his mentality, how good he wants to be,” Leonard said. “Some guys coming out of college have been told how great they are your whole life, especially if you’re as gifted as Jaelan is. Complacency is human nature. For him to be who he is at his age and how mature he is, he can be as good as he wants to be in my opinion. He is consistent day in and day out, watching film early in the morning. Always engaged. It’s all been encouraging. He always says the right things.”

Physically, “he walks into the building, you’re going to go ‘Wow.’ Other than being 6-5 and 265 pounds, he has a lot of God-given ability as an athlete,” Leonard said. “You combine that with awareness and instincts and wanting to get better, you have the right recipe to have something special.”

Holland has impressed coaches since being promoted to first-team free safety — ahead of Jason McCourty — but must continue to master presnaps calls to teammates, something predecessor Bobby McCain excelled at.

“The kid’s been doing a good job,” defensive backs coach Gerald Alexander said. “He’s had some ball production during practice. A guy young in this position who is going to be a communicator in our defense needs to be loud and deliberate and show confidence when he’s out there communicating with the defense.”

And how is Holland doing at that? “It’s improving,” Alexander said. “He’s learning well. He has a passion to develop.”

As for Eichenberg, the team has been pleased how he has fared at left guard in seven practices, but offensive line coach Lemuel Jeanpierre said he wants to see him practice against a strong Chicago Bears front on Wednesday and Thursday — and play in Saturday’s preseason game — before determining whether he should stay at guard.

“He also could go back to tackle,” Jeanpierre said. “We’ve seen him at left [tackle] at Notre Dame. We’ve seen him at right tackle in spring [Dolphins practices]. Now you see him at left [guard]. We love the kid. He’s doing a good job. Super aggressive like you want him to be,... very much a technician.”

NOTABLE

Tight end Mike Gesicki was activated off the COVID-19 list after missing nine days.

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