Greg Cote

The Miami Dolphins landed a major 1st-round prize in Clemson DT Christian Wilkins | Opinion

What Dolphins 1st round pick Christian Wilkins likes about Miami; no income tax, Marino and replacing Dwyane Wade

What Miami Dolphins first round pick Christian Wilkins likes about Miami; no income tax, Marino and replacing Dwyane Wade, April 25, 2019.
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What Miami Dolphins first round pick Christian Wilkins likes about Miami; no income tax, Marino and replacing Dwyane Wade, April 25, 2019.

The Miami Dolphins scored a major first-round prize in getting Clemson defensive tackle Christian Wilkins in the first round of the NFL Draft on Thursday night in Nashville.

The team’s top of the draft priority was bolstering the “trenches,” the offensive or defensive lines, and in Wilkins they get a player who checks all the boxes for both on-field production and the kind of off-field character that fits the new culture coach Brian Flores is trying to develop here.

“It’s everything I imagined,” were his first words as a Dolphin Thursday night, wearing his new team’s cap. “The Dolphins are going to get every bit out of me. I’m ready to tear this league up.”

POLL: DOLPHINS DRAFT CLEMSON DT CHRISTIAN WILKINS NO. 1. LIKE THE PICK? VOTE NOW!

In my Mock Draft I’d pegged Wilkins going ninth to Buffalo. I predicted Michigan defensive end Rashan Gary to Miami at 13th -- largely because I didn’t think Wilkins would be there. I’d written, of Wilkins: “Dolphins might gobble him up if he dropped to 13th.”

He did, and they did, and the number 13 became a lucky one of for Miami.

Wilkins, a 6-3 and 315 pounds, arrives as a two-time national champion from the pedigreed program of Clemson, the ACC power that has been a Miami Hurricanes roadblock.

He will be an instant starter. He will immediately buoy a Dolphins run defense that ranked 31st, next to last, in the NFL last year. He is a first-team Associated Press All-American and first-team All-ACC.

You can argue Miami needed an edge pass rusher more than an interior D-lineman with the first pick. Or that the offensive line was a more urgent need. I know many fans wanted a quarterback; Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins was still on the board.

Miami Dolphins take Clemson's DT Christian Wilkins with 13th overall pick in 2019 NFL Draft, April 25, 2019.

But in Wilkins you get a cornerstone defender and, notably, one whose off-field character is exceptionally noteworthy.

He became the first Clemson scholarship football player to earn a degree in only 2 1/2 years. He was team captain.

And he plays with a motivation one cannot contrive.

Wilkins’ grandfather, Eurie Stamps, was killed when a SWAT team rifle accidentally discharged during a raid of his apartment in January 2011, when Wilkins was a boy. The police were looking for Stamps’ stepson, suspected of selling drugs from the apartment.

Miami Dolphins GM Chris Grier why Clemson's DT Christian Wilkins was their 13th overall pick in 2019 NFL Draft, April 25, 2019.

Wilkins credits his drive to the memory of his grandfather, and did so again Thursday on the biggest night of his life.raising his hand.

Wilkins is one more thing. He is a personality. There is an effervescence. This is a large man who can do cheerleader-like splits on the sideline without pulling a groin muscle. His smile is always on the ready. For a team that lacks personality, a team looking for a face, Wilkins is raising his hand for the job.

Look, the Dolphins are down right now. Expected to be maybe the worst team in the league in 2019. Praying for an answer at quarterback amid a swirl of “tanking” talk.

Dolfans are looking for something to be positive about, to feel good about.

They got that Thursday night.

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