The Miami Dolphins entered the 2017 offseason with many needs and perhaps one of their biggest areas of weakness was the defensive tackle position. Yet, despite the obvious need, and despite being ranked 30th at stopping the run, the Dolphins chose to wait until the 6th round of the draft to add some help for that position. I know William Hayes was an addition by trade, so I suppose that’s not entirely true, but I believe most would agree that it was a surprise to see the Dolphins wait that long to beef up the interior of their defense. Furthermore, I would imagine most critics believe that defensive tackle is still a weakness for the Dolphins. So, with all that being said, let’s look at some defensive tackle prospects that may be available for the Dolphins in the 2018 NFL Draft.
Da’Ron Payne, DT, Alabama - Junior
Ever since arriving at Alabama, Payne was known for and expected to be a force in the middle for the Crimson Tide. A five star recruit out of high school, he began his college career well; appearing in a couple games as a true freshman. Entering his junior year this coming season, he will look to establish himself as one of the top defensive tackle prospects for the 2018 NFL Draft. Payne will bring a strong anchor and base to the middle of any defense. He’s pretty athletic for his size, moves well, is a very good block shedder, and uses his hands exceptionally well. This is a big year for Payne, as he has the opportunity to be the top defensive tackle in this class. He needs to continue to show improvement and be the force that his potential says he can be. He is certainly a possible first/second round pick.
Christian Wilkins, DT/DE, Clemson - Junior
6-4 310 lbs
Wilkins can almost do it all. He’s very stout at the point of attack, uses his hands well to keep offensive linemen off of him, shows good football awareness and anticipation, has phenomenal athleticism; there’s a ton to like with Wilkins’ film. I love him as a pass rusher, he can stop the run, he plays all along the defensive line, is always hustling, I could go on. His game film screams early draft pick.
Oh and by the way he’s also an offensive secret weapon. This is a huge year for Wilkins and he needs to take advantage of it.
Vita Vea, DT, Washington - Junior
6-4 344 lbs
Vea plays with obvious strength and can be flat out dominating at times. The main problem with him that I have seen is inconsistency. He often seems tired (especially against hurry up offenses) and can be taken out of the play. Although when he is dominating, he can be unstoppable. He uses his hands very well, is very stout, good anchor, gets great penetration. I really like to see consistency when I scout a prospect, because then I know what I am getting. Inconsistencies create doubt and make it difficult to put a finger on what kind of player you are getting.
However, when inconsistency is the main problem I have with a prospect, I really don’t count it as a big red flag; the last defensive tackle I saw with inconsistency issues was Fletcher Cox of the Philadelphia Eagles and he has turned out to be a pretty darn good football player.
Maurice Hurst, DT, Michigan - Senior
He shows good strength; holding his own at the point of attack, displaying strong anchor vs double teams. He plays with a great motor, always hustling to the ball. I like his athletic ability but it doesn’t blow me away. His footwork is impressive; he’s got a quick step for a big guy. He needs to use his hands more effectively, does not have a good punch or consistency at disengaging. He seems to have the natural ability to always be around the ball, which is a big deal for me. To put it plainly, his tape is good, but nothing that excites me. I’d like to see him be more dominant and disruptive. What does stand out is his motor, determination, play recognition. I can see his work ethic on display through his film. If he can take the next step this upcoming season you will hear real talk of Hurst being a top half of the draft type player.