NFL Draft Rumors: Dolphins top DT draft targets to replace $110 million-man Christian Wilkins

The Dolphins look to draft their next Christian Wilkins.

Former Miami Dolphins DT Christian Wilkins
Former Miami Dolphins DT Christian Wilkins / Megan Briggs/GettyImages

Miami Dolphins Pro Bowl defensive tackle Christian Wilkins is a paid man.

The former 2019 first-round pick is expected to sign a massive four-year deal worth a base of $110 million Las Vegas Raiders.  With the departure of Wilkins, the Dolphins obviously have major shoes to fill at the position.  Will they turn to the 2024 NFL Draft in hopes of striking gold like they did with Wilkins who is coming off a career year with the Dolphins.

Setting a career high mark with 9 sacks along with 61 QB pressures, Wilkins lived up to first-round expectations in becoming a major presence in the middle of the Dolphins’ defensive line.  The $110 million contract earned by Wilkins is proof of his dominance.  Now the Dolphins are left regretting that decision not to franchise him and looking towards the draft for a replacement.

With the 2024 NFL Draft over a month away, priorities can change depending on how the rest of free agency goes, but the Dolphins could look to use one of their top picks on a defensive tackle. Currently with the No. 21 overall pick in the 2024 NFL draft, here are some interesting defensive tackle options for the Dolphins.

2024 NFL Draft: Top 3 defensive tackles Dolphins could target with the No. 21 overall pick

Jer’Zhan Newton, DT Illinois:  A player who could go in the top 15, but possibly be around when the Dolphins select at No. 21 is former Illinois star Johnny "Jer'Zhan" Newton.  With good size at the position at 6-foot-2, 304 pounds, the 2023 Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year could come in and make Dolphins fans forget about Wilkins…eventually.

Miami Dolphins draft target Jer'Zhan Newton
Illinois defensive tackle Jer'Zhan Newton / Scott Taetsch/GettyImages

With tremendous strength at the point of attack against the run, Newton does a great job at plugging up lanes even with being a little undersized.  He can get pressures on the quarterback racking up 7.5 sacks during his final season with the Illini.

Byron Murphy II, DT Texas:  If the Dolphins are looking for an explosive player in the anterior of that line, Bryon Murphy II could be their man at this spot in the draft.  As one of the top defensive tackles entering the draft, Murphy lacks the typical size of an interior defensive lineman at 6-foot-1, 297 pounds, but he makes that up with athleticism and speed with a 40-time at the NFL combine of 4.87 seconds.

Ranked No. 19 on Daniel Jeremiah’s top 50 2024 NFL Draft prospect rankings, Murphy is a powerful defender who can get to the quarterback as well as defend the run.

Jeremiah writes:

“He is a dynamic disruptor against the pass game. He explodes out of his stance and can roll his hips on contact, creating instant push. He consistently gets underneath blockers and prevails in the leverage battle. He has quick hands to win with swipe moves, a push/pull maneuver or a violent club. Once he feels a blocker leaning left or right, he has elite change-of-direction quickness. Against the run, he can utilize his quickness to penetrate and create negative plays.”

Leonard Taylor, DT Miami (FL):  The 6-foot-3, 305-pound defensive lineman would be familiar to Dolphins fans, playing his college football at the University of Miami.  His college stats don’t stand out like Newton and Murphy, but like those two players, he has a nice combination of quickness and strength to defend the run and create pressure on the quarterback.

Leonard Taylor at No. 21 would be a bit of a reach for the Dolphins, but if they decide to trade back and gain another pick in the draft, he would be a nice player to take a shot at late in the first round or if he slides down to them at No. 55 in the second round. 

In all, it would be hard for any player to come in and fill the void left by Wilkins, but finding a young player who can grow into what Wilkins became will be a key motivation for the Dolphins as they approach the draft.

Projected in most mock drafts to select an offensive lineman, If Miami elects to wait until the second or third round to select a defensive lineman if the names above are not available.  A couple of interesting Day 2 options include Clemson’s Ruke Orhorhoro and Florida State’s Braden Fiske.