The 2018 NFL Draft has come and gone and the Minnesota Vikings haul has drawn skeptical reviews from fans. They entered the draft with returning starters at every position except for right guard, which was vacated by the retirement of Joe Berger. Outside of guard, corner back, running back and defensive line depth stood out as their biggest needs.
Below are the players taken and undrafted free agents the consensus big board projections in parentheses:
- 30 – Mike Hughes CB, UCF (33)
- 62 – Brian O’Neill T, Pitt (72)
- 102 – Jalyn Holmes DL, Ohio St (138)
- 157 – Tyler Conkin TE, Central Michigan (185)
- 167 – Daniel Carson K, Auburn (281)
- 213 – Colby Gossett OG, Appalachian St (170)
- 218 – Ade Aruna DE, Tulane (178)
- 225 – DeVante Downs LB, Cal (Unranked)
Notable Undrafted Free Agents:
- Holton Hill CB, Texas (96)
- Hercules Mata’afa DT, Washington St (114)
- Jake Wieneke WR, South Dakota St (243)
- Roc Thomas RB, Jacksonville St (261)
- Armanti Foreman WR, Texas (Unranked)
- Jeff Badet WR, Oklahoma (Unranked)
- Kamryn Pettway RB, Auburn (Unranked)
Vikes Fill a Need at a Valuable Cost
With most fans anticipating a guard as the first selection, the Vikings stayed true to their board and took their best player available in UCF CB Mike Hughes. Hughes also filled a need at slot corner back along with possessing the versatility to play outside. He should also contribute this year as a return man. One thing I noted about this pick is Zimmer mentioning how he could deploy 4 CBs and 1 Safety this year in certain situations. Zimmer is usually at the forefront of the league in therms of defensive innovation, and Hughes’s presence should give Zimmer the capability to match up with any offense in the league, further bolstering his number one defense.
With their first selection, though, the Vikings could have easily taken a guard like UTEP’s Will Hernandez, but elected to wait due to the depth of interior offensive linemen in the draft. Unfortunately, once the Vikings second-round pick came around, most of that depth was depleted, forcing the Vikings to take a tackle in Pitt’s Brian O’Neill. O’Neill drew rave reviews as an athletic linemen, perfect for the current Vikings mold, but most say he’s a year away from being a legitimate starter. Taking a project still leaves the state of the offensive line in question.
In rounds 4-7, the Vikings beefed up their roster in a number of ways. Defensive Lineman Jalyn Holmes projects as a strong pick, hopefully becoming a versatile defensive piece that can give a number of players along the defensive line a blow. Additionally, TE Tyler Conklin is the Vikings latest effort in grabbing a second receiving TE to pair with Kyle Rudolph. His basketball background shows he has the athletic potential to do so. Guard Colby Gossett was praised as a steal by a few draft pundits and may have more immediate value than second-rounder Brian O’Neill in challenging for the starting guard spot. Ade Aruna is an athletic freak that the Vikings seemingly always try to develop at defensive end, and lastly, grabbing a kicker in the fifth it means it’s Kai’s time to go.
UDFAs Have 53-Man Potential
The UDFA class that the Vikings grabbed brought a lot of unforeseen added value. Last year, three made the team and may have a similar number this year. Holton Hill and Hercules Mata’afa were projected to go in the third and fourth rounds of the draft, and according to the big board above, they were the third and fourth ‘best players’ the Vikings came away with this weekend. Roc Thomas is a shifty, undersized third down back in the mold of Jerick McKinnon. Armanti Foreman (4.40) and Jeff Badet (4.27!!!) ran blazing 40-yard dashes and may project into the missing deep threat on the Vikings roster.
Post Draft Needs
After all of the acquisitions made, these are the areas the Vikings still need to figure out. Most of the answers are already on the roster, but there may be a few veteran free agents the team will kick the tires on.
- Offensive Line
- After taking O’Neill and Gossett, the Vikings have added depth and competition, but they have far from a sure thing starting at right guard. Jahri Evans is 34-years old but could potentially have a productive year milked out of him. Also, Luke Joeckel is a former 2nd overall pick and only 26-years old if the Vikings want to try and catch lightning in a bottle.
- Deep Threat WR
- There aren’t any free agents that the Vikings can add here, and they do already boast a solid group of WRs. However, none of them are what I’d call ‘burners’. Armanti Foreman or Jeff Badet may be able to make the team as a result, and keep an eye on last year’s seventh rounder Stacey Coley, who has 4.45 wheels, to project as a deep threat.
- Pass Rusher
- The Vikings added Holmes as more of an interior lineman, and outside of Danielle Hunter, Everson Griffen and the aging Brian Robison, there isn’t much depth here. Perhaps the Vikings feel comfortable that Tashawn Bower will make the next step, or think that Ade Aruna could develop quickly. Either way, I’d like to see them add a situational pass rusher from free agency that boasts a few names (albeit aging) with 5+ sack potential, namely Connor Barwin, Tamba Hali, Elvis Dumervil and Charles Johnson.
- Receiving TE
- John DeFilippo’s offense almost requires two receiving TEs to create mismatches. With newly added Tyler Conklin, as well as David Morgan being a better receiver then he gets credit for, the Vikings may be set at this position. If they are looking to add, though, Julius Thomas is available and still only 29-years old.
- LB Depth
- Outside of Eric Kendricks, Anthony Barr and Ben Gedeon, the Vikings are strongly lacking in depth at linebacker. Kentrell Brothers is suspended the first four games of the season, leaving last year’s UDFA Eric Wilson as the only backup. Seventh-round LB Devante Downs was the Pac-12 leader in tackles prior to suffering a season-ending knee injury, so if healthy, he may have the potential to be an immediate contributor. If not, some names that pop are talented SS/LB Eric Reid, who remains unsigned for reasons unknown (speculated Kaepernick affiliation). Also, Rey Maualuga has experience with Zimmer’s defense in Cincinnati and Navorro Bowman is exciting for obvious reasons, despite being a shell of his former self. Andrew Gachkar is another name the Vikings showed interest in past offseasons.
- McKinnon Replacement
- It sounds like UDFAs Roc Thomas, Kamryn Pettway or current running back Mack Brown will fill this need, but if the Vikings don’t feel comfortable, Lance Dunbar is a shifty receiving back who has battled his way through injuries the past couple of years. If healthy, he could be worth the add.
Ultimately, the Vikings did a great job in filling holes on their roster and building for future. In uncharted territory, they still exit the draft with arguably the best roster in the league. Without a doubt this team is improved (how could you not improve after the draft??), but they failed to improve at their most needed position and still have to take a long, hard look at a few other positions. It’s possible someone like Colby Gossett could be a starter at guard, and I wouldn’t write off O’Neill as a potential Week 1 Starter. However, their main question going into the draft is still a question after it, which is not what the team anticipated. Shoring up the line with a solid starter would have been in line with the win-now moves GM Rick Spielman made in the offseason by signing QB Kirk Cousins and DT Sheldon Richardson. Instead, it remains their biggest question, which could prove vital down the stretch.