It’s draft season and the Vikings have their work cut out for them. They have lost a total of seven starters, as Everson Griffen, Linval Joseph, Xavier Rhodes, Trae Waynes, Mackensie Alexander, Josh Kline and Stefon Diggs are no longer on the roster. Only one player, DT Michael Pierce, has been brought in from the outside to fill a clear vacancy, leaving six starting positions up for grabs. Needless to say, the 2020 team looks far worse on paper than the 2019 version. It’s unlikely for this to be fixed in one draft, but April 23-25 will go a long way in determining whether the Vikings will reload to becoming contenders in the near future, or falter and be forced to rebuild as early as next year.
Because of the above departures, there’s not much debate that the Vikings have top needs at: CB, OL, WR and EDGE. Since Spielman took over as GM, these are the positional breakdowns of his picks by round:
CB is heavily favored, followed by OL and WR early in the draft. Because WR is deep in this draft, CB and OL, not only make sense to address first, but it lines up with Spielman’s general tendencies. EDGE will likely not be touched until the middle rounds, where it’s commonplace for the Vikings roll the dice on an athletic pass rusher, in the mold of Danielle Hunter.
The Drop Off:
Based on composite draft rankings, there seems to be some form of consensus Top-17 before the rankings become gray. Odds are these will not be the first 17 picks, as there are always surprises on draft night, but in all likelihood, the Vikings will have to move up to land one of these prospects:
- QB: Burrow, Tagovaiola, Herbert
- WR: Jeudy, Lamb, Ruggs
- OL: Becton, Thomas, Wirfs, Wills
- DT: Brown, Kinlaw
- EDGE: Young, Chaisson
- LB: Simmons
- CB: Okudah, Henderson
Mocking the Picks:
Based on what we know about the Vikings, I’m going to my best to project the first four rounds. Anything after the fourth is an absolute wild guess, so I’m not going to try and pretend I have an idea about what the brain trust will do with their three 7th round picks.
We know Spielman is going to move around, and because of the aforementioned drop-off, I’m going to have him do so and secure a top-15 pick. The fall-out of his trades are below, and I’ll draft as such, using TheDraftNetwork.com’s Mock Draft Machine.
Original Picks Post-Trade
- #22 #15 (from DEN)
- #25 #25
- #58 #69 (from CAR)
- #89 #105
- #105 #113 (from CAR)
- #132 #132
Note: this is not what I want to happen, but rather my best guess at what I think will happen
#15 – Andrew Thomas, OL, UGA
TRADE: #22, #89, #155 to DEN for #15
Other options: CJ Henderson, CB, Florida ; Javon Kinlaw, DL, South Carolina ; K’Lavon Chaisson, EDGE, LSU
In the offseason, the one thing the Vikings did for continuity was extend Kirk Cousins, further committing to him as their future quarterback, but eliminated his best receiver when they traded Stefon Diggs in the process. Wide receiver is a major need, but improving the offensive line is more in line with the way the offense is built. Unless Jeudy, Lamb or Ruggs are in free-fall, I don’t see the Vikings taking a wide receiver in the first-round, as it is the draft’s strongest position and value can be had later. As for cornerback, the OL drop-off is seemingly a larger gap, so I think the goal is to trade up for one of the top-4 linemen, and make sure they get their guy to protect Cousins. Iowa’s Tristan Wirfs is the ideal pick, but it seems likely that Thomas is the last of the top linemen taken, thus making him the pick and the stalwart left tackle of the future. Riley Reiff can kick inside to be the new left guard.
#25 – Kristian Fulton, CB, LSU
Other Options: AJ Terrell, CB, Clemson; Jeff Gladney, CB, TCU; Josh Jones, OT, Houston; Justin Jefferson, WR, LSU ; Jalen Reagor, WR, TCU
After moving up to nab their lineman, Spielman will be tempted to trade back and recoup the trade collateral he lost. In the end, though, with CB as the biggest hole on the roster, Zimmer is going to bang the table for his guy. The Vikings have the 411 on the LSU corner, as Assistant DB Coach Roy Anderson was the lead defensive analyst for LSU in 2019. LSU Safety Grant Delpit is also an intriguing option if the Vikings move on from Anthony Harris on draft weekend.
#69 – Donovan Peoples-Jones, WR, Michigan
TRADE: #58 to CAR for #69 and #113
Other Options: Cameron Dantzler, CB, Miss. St. ; Price Tega Wanogho, OT, Auburn ; Van Jefferson, WR, Florida ; Julian Okwara, EDGE, Notre Dame
Here’s where Spielman moves down. If I were in control of the draft, I would have taken Penn St. WR KJ Hamler at 58, who is one of my personal favorite prospects. Instead, I think he will move back down to accumulate an additional mid-round pick after losing the 3rd rounder to nab Andrew Thomas. Hamler went off the board, and Peoples-Jones was the best remaining receiver, so he becomes the pick. He stands a solid 6’2’’ with sub 4.5 speed and showcases strong return and run-after-catch ability that the Vikings lost when they traded Diggs. A former 5-star recruit out of high school, he has all of the tools to become an elite receiver, but still remains somewhat of a project. While he develops, though, he can contribute on special teams and as a rotational receiver. If the Vikings wanted to go with a safer, more pro-ready prospect, keep an eye on Florida’s Van Jefferson.
#105 – Amik Robertson, CB, LA Tech
Other Options: Troy Pride, CB, Notre Dame; Jordan Elliott, DL, Missouri; Khalid Kareem, EDGE, Notre Dame
With the way the roster looks today, I’d be surprised if the Vikings don’t take a couple of defensive backs by the end of Day 2. Amik Robertson is a tiny CB out of a small-school that would immediately compete for the slot-corner job. He’s only 5’8’’ but has the ball skills to be a playmaker at the next level, intercepting 14 passes in his college career. This pick came down to Robertson or Notre Dame’s Troy Pride. Robertson being a slot corner gives the Vikings additional flexibility with Mike Hughes. If the Vikings don’t pick a slot corner in the draft, then Hughes is resigned to that position.
#113 – Alton Robinson, EDGE, Syracuse
Other Options: Shane Lemieux, OL, Oregon ; Saahdiq Charles, OT, LSU ; K’Von Wallace, S, Clemson
Here’s the athletic edge rusher the Vikings take every year. Robinson ran one of the quickest 40’s at the combine and has an athletic profile similar to some of the NFL’s best pass rushers (Yannick Nagakoue, Ryan Kerrigan). He can immediately compete with Ifeadi Odenigbo, or at the very least come in on passing downs, kicking Odenigbo to the inside.
#132 – Devin Duvernay, WR, Texas
Other Options: Tyler Johnson, WR, Minnesota ; JR Reed , S, Georgia
We could have taken the hometown kid out of Minnesota, but instead opt for the deep threat that the roster lacks. Duvernay has 4.39 speed and can take the top off of opposing defenses. A receiving corps of Thielen, Peoples-Jones, Duvernay, Bisi Johnson and Tajae Sharpe is solid for a run-first offense.
Your 2020 Minnesota Vikings:
Regardless of how the Vikings draft, there are going to be a lot of question marks with rookies thrust into starting roles. With the line-up above, the Viking would have 11 starters on their rookie contracts (50%). It’s a year of transition in Minnesota and I believe this draft is more about contending in 2021 than it is in 2020. After extending Cousins, the Vikings will look to build around his strengths and continue to protect him as best as possible. When given ample time, Kirk is one of the best passers in the league. Outside of structure, he’s pretty abysmal. Improved offensive line and a youth movement on defense sounds to be what Mike Zimmer and the coaching staff view as the recipe for success. However, unless there are multiple Day 1 high-impact picks (something the Vikings haven’t seen in some time), 2020 will be about rejuvenating the team’s core with a look to return to contention for 2021.