The NFL Draft is one of my favorite events in sports. In other leagues, drafting is important, but there are other ways to build a successful team. In the NFL, drafting well means success and drafting poorly means failure. Period. Specifically, drafting a quarterback is one of the scariest propositions in all of sports. Draft Peyton Manning and you’re looking at 15 years of success, multiple trips to the Super Bowl and the Lombardi. Draft JaMarcus Russell and you’ll flounder until you realize he’s not the answer. Every pick is important. Because of the size of the NFL’s 53-man roster, rookies will be on the field early and often. If you hit, the salary-cap structure allows you to get key contributors at a bargain price, and you end up with an All-Pro for a fraction of the cost. Everything about it is enthralling. So – let’s figure out what the Vikings are going to do.
This Years Draft Is About Next Year
Because the Vikings are paying Kirk Cousins and have a laundry list of extensions to give out, they are strapped for money, which makes this draft vital for the team’s future. Outside of offensive line, one would be hard pressed to find a hole on the roster. That is why a pick this year may not fill an immediate need, but instead may be in preparation of cuts next year, so pay close attention. Here are some potential salary-cap casualties for next year:
- TE Kyle Rudolph – $7.6 Million
- SS Andrew Sendejo – $5.5 Million
- OT/OG Mike Remmers – $6.35 Million
- LB Anthony Barr – unsigned
- WR Stefon Diggs – unsigned
- DE Danielle Hunter – unsigned
- CB Trae Waynes – unsigned
- DT Sheldon Richardson – unsigned
What Would Be A Shock?
Alabama WR Calvin Ridley is widely considered the top WR in the draft, however, there’s rumblings that he could fall out of the first round because of his average combine. An interesting proposition is the Vikings take him at 30, if he fell that far. With Diggs set to make upwards of $15 million/year on the free agent market, this could save money without sacrificing talent. Letting Diggs walk would open up the door to re-sign Hunter and Barr after restructuring a few deals.
This wont happen because: Spielman missed on Treadwell and there’s no way the Vikings are ready to say good-bye to Diggs. I expect an extension for him this offseason, or he could get slapped with the tag.
Less shocking, a TE, like Dallas Goedert, could be drafted as Kyle Rudolph’s replacement or compliment, and someone like EDGE/LB Lorenzo Carter could determine the fate of Anthony Barr/Danielle Hunter.
The Vikings Take From Their Top 30
Throughout the draft process, teams constantly meet with prospects. I’m sure it’s common, but the Vikings seem to draft players they met with at a significantly high rate. If you pay attention to who they have met with, you can develop an idea for who they might be targeting with each pick. Vikings Territory did an excellent job of tracking this.
Who Are They Going To Take?
Nobody knows. I think everyone likes to see a sexy first-round pick (anything but an offensive lineman), but it would be prudent if the Vikes went in that direction. Spielman is on record as preferring 10 total picks in each draft. The Vikes currently sit at 8 total picks, so I think there is a high likelihood the Vikings trade out of the first round to accumulate more picks. With all of this said, based off of expert predictions, who they have met with, where prospects are likely to go and their holes for 2019, here are some names to watch with their corresponding rounds:
- Round 1: Connor Williams, OL (Texas); Billy Price, OL (Ohio State); Frank Ragnow, OL (Arkansas) ; Ronnie Harrison, Safety (Alabama) ; Dallas Goedert, TE (South Dakota St.) ; Maurice Hurst, DT (Michigan) ; Will Hernandez, OL (UTEP) ; Mike Hughes, CB (UCF) ; Josh Jackson, CB (Iowa) ; Isaiah Wynn, OL (Georgia)
- Round 2: Lorenzo Carter, OLB/EDGE (Georgia) ; Justin Reid, Safety (Stanford) ; Harrison Phillips, DT (Stanford) ; Brian O’Neill (Pitt) ; Nathan Shepherd, DT (Fort Hays State) Anthony Miller, WR (Memphis); Austin Corbett, OL (Nevada)
- Round 3/ Round 4 (if they acquire another pick): Dante Pettis WR (Washington) ; Uchenno Nwosu, OLB/EDGE (USC) ; Kemoko Turray OLB/EDGE (Rutgers) ; Nyheim Hynes (RB, NC State) ; Alex Cappa, OL (Humboldt St); Holton Hill, CB (Texas)
- Round 5-7: Dalton Schultz, TE (Stanford) ; Jordan Lasley, WR (UCLA) ; Jack Cichy, LB (Wisconsin) ; Troy Fumagali, TE (Wisconsin) ; Scott Quessenberry, OL (UCLA) ; PJ Hall (Sam Houston St) ; Jake Wieneke, WR (South Dakota St.) ; Damon Webb, Safety (Ohio State)
What’s an Ideal Scenario??
I don’t watch film or analyze players (outside of being a casual NCAAF fan), but based on what I read from other draft writers, these are seemingly realistic picks that would excite me and fill out the roster nicely. In this scenario, I’m making the Vikings trade back and acquire a 4th rounder so they have 9 total picks:
- 2nd round (pick 1) – Billy Price, OL (Ohio State)
- 2nd round (pick 2) – Lorenzo Carter, EDGE (Georgia)
- 3rd round – Dante Pettis, WR/PR (Washington)
- 4th round – Holton Hill, CB (Texas)
- 5th round – PJ Hall, DT (Sam Houston St)
- 6th round – Scott Quessenberry, OL (UCLA)
- 6th round – Justin Jackson, RB (Northwestern)
- 6th round – Jack Cichy, LB (Wisconsin- I don’t know who this is, but the Vikes have met with him 3 different times, he’s destined to wear purple)
- 7th round – Jake Wieneke, (WR, South Dakota St.)
Why? – Price steps in as an immediate starter alongside his former teammate Elflein, while Carter learns Barr or Hunter’s position for a year (he has the versatility to do both). Pettis steps in as a slot and much needed return man for the team. Holton Hill has immense talent, but off the field concerns. Fix that and you have a steal. PJ Hall is a rotational DT for Big Goon (Linval). Quessenberry, Cichy and Wieneke add depth at positions of need while Justin Jackson works his way into a rotation to spell Cook as a dual-threat.
Other top picks that would be welcome additions:
- Maurice Hurst, DL (Michigan) – Sheldon Richardsons replacement after the year, falling because of size. Size shouldn’t worry teams. (See: Aaron Donald
- Frank Ragnow, OG (Arkansas) – apparently an absolute mauler and rock-solid, athletic guard. Just what the doctor ordered
- James Daniels, OG (Iowa) – same as above.
- Ronnie Harrison, S (Alabama) – I’ve come to love Sendejo, but a highly skilled safety next to Harrison Smith would be exciting
- Justin Reid, S (Stanford) – same as above.
- Jaire Alexander, CB (Louisville)- small, elite slot corner could be a tremendous upgrade
- Mike Gesicki, TE (Penn State) – the most athletic TE in the draft, gives Kirk Cousins his ‘Jordan Reed’ to go along with Rudy.