The NFL Draft is so exciting because it’s so unpredictable. Players pegged as top-10 draft picks can fall to the second or third round, and teams can make earth-shattering trades that change the landscape of the night’s festivities. For the most part, Minnesota Vikings general manager Rick Spielman sticks to a familiar script — accumulate draft picks, trade back when sensible, and use the end of the first round as a fluid space for movement.
This year, however, the Vikings are this close to contending for more than just the NFC North title and a Wild Card playoff berth. A roster flush with talent at almost every position gives the team a chance to be more aggressive come April 28th. Rather than staying put at the 23rd-overall pick, drafting the best available player, or trading back, Spielman can flex his negotiating muscles.
So, the Vikings Territory team tried their hand at such an exercise, concocting scenarios that very well could play out in the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft. See our answers after the jump!
What’s one surprising and/or unexpected move you could see the Vikings making in the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft?
Sam: Vikings pass on a wide receiver
Something tells me the top cluster of wide receivers will slide a little bit on draft night. With the questions surfacing about Laquon Treadwell, there’s no slam dunk top prospect at the position, and—it may end up—no one worthy of a top-fifteen pick. If that happens, I expect the Vikings to pass on a receiver in round one, and instead go with either OT Jack Conklin or LB Darron Lee. Then, knowing how Spielman works, I could see him trading up to the top third of the second round and selecting a receiver from the back end of that top cluster; either Michael Thomas or Tyler Boyd.
Adam P.: Taking a chance on a star DL
Defensive line is probably the last position group anyone would think the Vikings would add to in the first round this year. Minnesota has added to their other two defensive units in the past two drafts, so adding to their remaining defensive group would not come as a giant surprise.
Robert Nkemdiche has been mocked to likely be gone by the time the Vikings are on the clock, but character issues may allow him to fall to Minnesota. Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer is more than capable of handling players with character issues (see Pacman Jones), so Nkemdiche should not pose as much of a problem for Minnesota as he would for other teams.
Drafting a flashy wide receiver in the first round may be tempting for the Vikings, but then again, the Denver Broncos just won the Super Bowl while only passing for 104 yards. If Nkemdiche is still on the board when the time comes for Minnesota to pick in the first round, good luck convincing Zimmer that the Vikings should pass on him.
Adam W.: Woah, a tight end?!
There are few people that disagree that the Vikings would benefit from adding reliable targets for Teddy Bridgewater to take advantage of and the general consensus is that these prospects should have some size to them. I’m on board with that, but where I differ from the pack is that those prospects must come in the form of a wide receiver.
As I outlined in version 1.0 of my Mock Draft, the Vikings offense should be in the hunt for any prospect that gives them improved blocking and a legitimate redzone target. If you are willing to take that leap with me, perhaps more feasible now that Rick Spielman bought himself some flexibility during free agency, then Arkansas tight end Hunter Henry might jump out to you as a legitimate first round target… especially if Spielman is able to trade back a few spots as he is so apt to do.
Rhett Ellison (injured) is no guarantee to make it to the active roster at the start of the season. Brian Leonhardt is a nice homegrown story, but his contract makes him absolutely expendable. Mycole Pruitt was a nice addition last year, and showed some promise as a rookie, but he still has a lot to prove to be considered anything more than a depth player.
While Kyle Rudolph is currently only 26 years old, he hasn’t exactly been the poster boy for durability, and his cap hit will never be less than $6.8 million between now and when his contract expires following the 2019 season. I hate to admit it, but there seems to be a decent possibility that Rudolph’s production again falls well below his salary, so having a long-term succession plan in place wouldn’t be the worst decision to make.
Finally, I see Henry himself as a prospect worthy of late first round consideration in his own right. He’s a reliable and willing blocker, he’s a threat down the seam, and he’s a big body that can be utilized in red zone situations. Any team that doesn’t currently possess three stud tight ends, including the Vikings, should covet the skill set that Henry brings to the table.
Carl: Wait, Adrian Peterson is the running back…
Rick Spielman is anything but timid on draft day when it comes to moving up or down to acquire coveted players and more picks. If by chance Laquon Treadwell and Josh Doctson are off the board and Paxton Lynch is still available at 23, Spielman might be tempted to trade back with Denver, giving them the quarterback they covet and the Vikings the opportunity to select Derrick Henry. Shopping Adrian Peterson to the Dallas Cowboys helps the Vikings create a deal to move up to the 34th spot for WR Michael Thomas.
Nik Edlund, Draft Season: The more the merrier
The surprising or unexpected move I could see the Vikings making in the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft would be to take a defensive tackle, namely Andrew Billings from Baylor. There have been rumblings that the Vikings really like this guy, and there were rumors on Twitter that Billings himself said the Vikings told him they would take him at pick 23 if he was still on the board.
Nothing against Billings personally, but to me, this would be a shocking, unexpected, and bone-headed move by the Vikings. Unless they are secretly unhappy with Sharrif Floyd or Linval Joseph, taking a defensive tackle makes no sense for this team. Defensive tackle is arguably the team’s deepest position. They are set at the top with Floyd and Joseph and then have the more than capable Tom Johnson as third on the depth chart. Behind him, there is Shamar Stephen who has shown he can play at the NFL level, and then Kenrick Ellis as the fifth option. That’s pretty good.
If they take a rookie defensive tackle, barring injury, he is likely going to end up as the fourth man in the rotation at defensive tackle. That equals to about six to 10 snaps a game. That is a waste for a first round pick, especially for a team that is ready to compete for a title this season. The Vikings should take a player who can help them now, like a receiver from a certain Texas college, with purple and black as their colors. If they take a defensive tackle, part of me will be ready for it, but mostly I’ll be in shock, awe, and utter disappointment.
Austin: Rick trades UP?!
Rick Spielman rarely trades up, and when he does, it’s usually to get back into the first round. The Vikings are sitting pretty with the 23rd-overall selection and will have their choice of top prospects at that position. While a number of defensive tackles or wide receivers will likely fall to them late in the first round, it’s a player the Vikings love that will warrant a move into the middle of the first — TCU star Josh Doctson. A standout pro day elevated Doctson’s stock to the point where he may not be available when the Vikings are on the clock, making a trade almost necessary to land the lauded wide receiver. It’s unlikely, but Doctson fits the mold of a wide receiver the Vikings offense has lacked for so long. Why not invest in the future while you have the “currency” to do so?