Why evaluators are raving about Dolphins’ sixth round pick Malik Washington. What to know

After drafting one diminutive slot receiver named Washington in the sixth round on Saturday, the Dolphins apparently decided ‘Why not do that exact same thing again?’

And so 90 minutes after drafting Virginia’s Malik Washington 184th overall, the Dolphins drafted Southern Cal receiver Tahj Washington 241st overall.

They have more in common besides their modest size (5-10 for Tajh, 5-8 ½ for Malik) and their elusiveness in the open field and their craftiness in the slot and the fact they did their best work after transferring (Malik from Northwestern to Virginia and Tahj from Memphis to Southern California).

They’re also dangerous deep threats.

As’s Travis Wingfield noted, on throws that traveled at least 20 air yards last season, Malik Washington caught 12 of 22 targets for 419 yards and three touchdowns.

Tahj Washington, playing with No. 1 overall draft pick Caleb Williams at USC, caught a remarkable 13 of 15 such throws for 596 yards and six touchdowns.

Here’s what else you should know about Malik Washington:

He’s immensely productive (he had an NCAA-high 110 receptions last season) and has soft hands and good instincts in traffic.

But he’s more than that too; he’s also strong in his lower body and able to break tackles like a skilled running back can, despite standing only 5-8 ½ and weighing 191 pounds. His 35 broken tackles led FBS last season.

“Some of that stuff you can’t cultivate; you have to be born with it,” Washington said in a Zoom session with Dolphins writers.

“You have to be born with a certain mindset, a certain toughness, and I feel like ever since I started playing football, that’s just how I played. That’s how I play the game, that’s how I see the game. It’s going to be hard-nosed. You’re going to have to stick your nose in there and get dirty sometimes.”

Third-day draft picks often are nitpicked by analysts because of shortcomings in their games, but that’s not the case with Washington.

“He’s a fun one,” NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah said. “If you were going to ask me who’s a pick in this portion of the draft that has a chance to really put up solid numbers next year, this would have been my player.

“He’s super quarterback friendly. He gives you so much space. He creates tons of separation. He can win in traffic and he’s not afraid of contact. Some guys, you will see them flinch, back down, alligator arms.”

Conversely, Washington “will go full extension in the middle of traffic,” Jeremiah said. “He’s extremely tough and someone I think you will see be a productive player. That’s a crowded [Dolphins receiver] room he went into, but a really good player.”’s Lance Zierlein usually is pretty close with his draft projections. In Washington’s case, he had him valued as third-rounder before he fell to the sixth, in part because of his size.

So what’s the concern with his game?

“He needs to prove he can elude press and run an NFL route tree with better attention to detail,” Zierlein said, adding that he compensates for his size with “premium catch focus, buttery smooth hands and mature ball skills.”

Beyond the 12 deep catches on passes traveling at least 20 air yards (which ranked 24th in the country), he also catches a “high number of quick-game throws and short out routes,” Zierlein said.

Washington said his skill set is suited for Mike McDaniel’s system.

“I think the way that they run their offense, the motions, the different ways they use people to get open and allow them to be themselves, allow them to work, I think that is very beneficial to me,” he said. “Just getting a chance to find some underneath routes, find some ways to get open and let that YAC – a big piece of my game – and let that shine through.”

Washington, who averaged 13.9 yards per catch and caught nine TDs last season, is only the third Power 5 player since 2017 with 110-plus receptions and 1400-plus receiving yards in a season, joining Justin Jefferson and Devonta Smith.

He credits Virginia’s coaches in part for his enormous production last season.

“I think transitioning over to a Tony Elliott and Des Kitchings offense, they allowed me to be that player,” he said. “They allowed me to be the central piece to that offense, and I think when we did that, got me the ball in space, got me the ball in the ways I felt like was best at, we saw an increase in numbers.

“We saw an increase in volume, and we saw a better product than we had years before.”

And now?

“I’m joining the best receiver room in the NFL,” he said. “I’m joining Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle – guys that have proven themselves, guys that have just done a great job at being receivers, done a great job at being a great ballcarriers and great people as well.

“If you’ve ever seen them, I think what I have to do is come in, learn from those guys, take it all in and earn my way, earn my keep.

“It’s kind of hard to model your game after that guy [Hill] when he’s running up and down the field and stuff – not many people can do what he can do. But just the toughness, the size, of course, the speed.”

Last season, Washington played 406 of his 437 Virginia passing play snaps in the slot. His 93 slot catches were second in the country. What’s more, he dropped only three passes in 138 targets.

NFL Network’s Peter Schrager noted that his 42.5 vertical jump at the Combine “was the largest ever by anyone ever the size of 5-9 in the physical recording of the Combine.”

Washington was a punt returner for four years in high school and had modest production as a kickoff returner (19.5 average on 14 returns) in his one season at Virginia. He’s an option for that role behind Braxton Berrios.

And he’ll compete with Berrios, River Cracraft and Tahj Washington for snaps in the slot.

Coming next in Part 2: What to know about Tahj Washington