7 impressive defensive line prospects the Vikings could draft in 2024

Former Texas defensive lineman Byron Murphy II
Former Texas defensive lineman Byron Murphy II / Maria Lysaker-USA TODAY Sports

It's unlikely that the Minnesota Vikings will pass on a quarterback with the 11th overall pick in the upcoming 2024 NFL Draft if they are unable to trade up in the opening round. However, it's important to be prepared for that possibility.

In the event that the Vikings do pass on a quarterback with their top pick, the team's next most pressing need is on the interior of the defensive line. The unit has only had one consistent presence in Harrison Phillips over the last two seasons.

Aside from Phillips, the talent is lacking and needs to be bolstered. Since Minnesota doesn't have a second or third-round pick this year, they might consider using their 23rd overall selection to draft an interior defensive lineman and trade future draft picks instead.

Let's take a look at some of the potential interior defensive linemen that the Vikings could select in the 2024 NFL draft later this week.

Defensive line prospects the Minnesota Vikings could pick in the 2024 NFL Draft

Byron Murphy II (Texas)

If the Vikings manage to keep their 23rd overall selection and secure a quarterback at No. 11 or earlier, it would be wise to select Texas interior defensive lineman Byron Murphy II if he's still available. Throughout the draft process, the Vikings have shown interest in Murphy, as they attended his Pro Day and invited him to their facilities for a top 30 visit.

Murphy is considered one of the top interior defensive line prospects in this draft. Despite being ranked as the No. 1 or No. 2 defensive lineman, several talented defensive players could drop in the first round, given the increasing number of offensive players potentially being drafted.

Murphy is a plug-and-play starter, and Vikings defensive coordinator Brian Flores could use him similarly to how he used Christian Wilkins during their time together with the Miami Dolphins. Murphy can play anywhere on the interior of the defensive line.

The former Texas Longhorn is great at defending the run but needs to work on his pass-rushing ability. With the right coaching and development, he could become one of the most impactful interior defensive linemen in the franchise's history.

While it might be difficult for the Vikings to keep pick No. 23 and trade up for a top-five pick, they should consider Murphy as part of their Plan B.

Jer’Zhan “Johnny” Newton (Illinois)

Johnny Newton, the interior defensive lineman from Illinois, is easily one of my favorite players in this year's draft. Newton has been the driving force behind Illinois' stellar defense for the past two seasons.

Despite his smaller build, Newton has proven to be one of the strongest prospects in the draft. Newton is arguably the best pass-rushing interior defensive lineman in the 2024 class.

Early in the college football season, Newton was highly regarded as a potential top-five pick. Although his stats did not match his performance from the previous season, he remains a top-tier player with the potential to be a franchise interior defensive lineman for the right team.

Newton is a perfect fit for the Vikings. While he can play all three interior defensive line positions, he would make an excellent 3-4 defensive end. Newton can hold his own as a nose tackle, but his pass-rushing abilities make him better suited to rush between the guards and center at the next level.

Minnesota cannot go wrong with either Newton or Murphy, and both players would be immediate starters for Kevin O'Connell's defense.

Darius Robinson (Missouri)

While I previously named Newton as one of my top picks for the draft, Darius Robinson from Missouri has definitely become my favorite overall player in the draft. When I watch Robinson on tape, I can't help but draw comparisons to J.J. Watt during his prime with the Houston Texans.

Robinson is a sturdy 6-foot-5 and 275 pounds, making him a bit too big for an edge rusher and slightly too small for a nose tackle. However, his build is perfect to be a 3-4 defensive end.

Robinson made waves after his impressive Senior Bowl performance earlier this year and quickly rose up the draft boards. Although the hype has died down a bit, many still expect him to be selected late in the first round, hopefully by the Vikings.

While Robinson can occasionally be phased out of plays in the run game, he still manages to make an impact on the defense, whether by garnering double teams or creating space for his teammates to make tackles. Robinson has been a vital component of Eli Drinkwitz's defense for the past two years.

What sets Robinson apart is his versatility - he can play on the edge if needed, although his size and power make him more effective against guards and centers. Overall, Robinson's pass-rushing arsenal will make him an excellent addition to any team.

Braden Fiske (Florida State)

Braden Fiske, the interior defensive lineman from Florida State, presents an intriguing case study. Before this year's NFL Scouting Combine, not many projected him to be selected before the early third round.

However, he surprised everyone with one of the best Scouting Combine performances a defensive lineman has ever had, and this skyrocketed his draft stock to the point where some people even had him going in the late first round. Although Fiske is on the smaller side for an interior defensive lineman and struggles against the run, he excels as a pass rusher from the interior.

Fiske doesn't have the appearance of a first-round pick, but he could be a great value pick for Minnesota if they target him at the end of the first round or in the second round.

The former Seminole may have difficulties in the NFL against larger guards and centers and may not be very impactful in the 3-4 defense, which is what the Vikings currently run.

However, Minnesota doesn't always start in a 3-4 base, and they utilize a 4-3 base formation at times. Fiske could be valuable, especially on obvious passing downs. Nevertheless, he is a boom-or-bust prospect, and buyers should beware.

Kris Jenkins (Michigan)

Kris Jenkins is a former Michigan Wolverine and National Champion defensive lineman who has football in his genes.

Kris’ father, a respected former NFL defensive lineman, passed down his passion for the game to his son at a very young age. Although Jenkins hopes to follow in his father's footsteps, his game has some deficiencies that could limit his potential as a top defensive lineman in the NFL.

The biggest weakness is his inability to create a pass rush, which could be a challenge at the next level, where guards are bigger, stronger, and faster. However, Jenkins is an exceptional run defender, possibly the best in the draft.

Jenkins is a powerhouse when it comes to taking on double teams, blocking holes in the run game, and clearing space for his linebackers to make plays. This skill set is highly valuable and could make him an attractive prospect for many teams.

The Vikings could benefit from adding Jenkins to their defense, as he has the talent to start from day one. Although he may only be useful for two downs a drive, as his strength in run defense could be a valuable asset for a team struggling to stop the run.

T’Vondre Sweat (Texas)

T’Vondre Sweat is a talented defensive lineman whose draft position has left many analysts and scouts perplexed. While some predict he will be selected in the middle of the second round, others believe he may slip down to the late third or fourth round due to his recent arrest for DUI.

Some teams may have removed Sweat from their draft board altogether. Nevertheless, his talent is undeniable. As a natural nose tackle, Sweat is a dominant force on the field.

Minnesota, who lacks a true nose tackle, should consider drafting Sweat in the later rounds if he is available. Sweat could be a Day 1 starter in the middle of their defensive line and has the potential to become one of the best nose tackles in the league.

The thought of Byron Murphy II and T’Vondre Sweat together again in the middle of the Vikings' defensive line for years to come is an idea that almost all Minnesota fans can agree with.

Michael Hall Jr. (Ohio State)

Michael Hall Jr., from Ohio State, is an undersized nose tackle who could be somewhat similar to what Kobie Turner was for the Los Angeles Rams last season. Defensive coordinators used Hall, like Turner, to take advantage of smaller centers in the run game and as a pass-rushing specialist from the inside.

However, Hall's smaller size could be an issue in the run game, and he might struggle to play all four downs early in his career. Despite this, Hall has impressive hand usage and is quick off the snap, which should help him develop at the next level.

Many pundits have projected Hall to go in the third or fourth round, and he could be an attractive option for a team like Minnesota, who currently have multiple picks in the fourth round. While Hall has met with the Vikings brass, it is uncertain if he would be an every-down defensive lineman under Brian Flores.

It will be interesting to see if Minnesota general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and his staff take a chance on the former Ohio State Buckeye during this year's NFL Draft.

Vikings News and Analysis