Don’t let all the mock drafts on Twitter fool you — the NFL Draft is still a couple of weeks away. But seeing as the Final Four in Minneapolis is this weekend and the Masters takes place the following weekend, the biggest event of the NFL offseason will be here before you know it — so be sure to get your
two 50 mock drafts in before it’s too late.
When it comes to roster needs for the Minnesota Vikings, offensive line is clearly the No. 1 priority. In fact, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the team take multiple linemen early in the draft. Still, the draft is seven rounds. So with eight picks currently at their disposal, what other positions could be upgraded in Nashville?
Dan Parr of NFL.com recently identified the top-five needs for all 32 teams. Listed for the Vikings were offensive line, defensive line, tight end, running back and wide receiver. Parr’s breakdown:
Left tackle Riley Reiff was the only Vikings‘ O-lineman with a top-80 grade last season, per PFF. The addition of Josh Kline helps on the interior, but they should still be looking to add at least one more starter up front. On the D-line, Sheldon Richardson was scooped up by the Browns, and Shamar Stephen returns to Minnesota to help replace him. This club could still use another disruptive presence up front. After addressing the trenches, GM Rick Spielman might want to look to the skill positions. TE Kyle Rudolph is in the last year of his contract, RB Latavius Murray left for the Saints, and what about a No. 3 WR? Laquon Treadwell has been a bust to this point.”
Parr believes the Vikings should look to add offensive and defensive linemen early in the draft and then find playmakers at the skill positions later on… I don’t know him or anything, but I think it’s fair to say Parr is a genius.
Controlling the line of the scrimmage is something the Vikings struggled with last season. Adding some young, explosive athletes to both units should make the team more effective in trenches. It should also provide the quarterback with more time to get the ball into the hands of his playmakers.
As we’ve discussed, the most obvious pre-draft position of need for the Vikings is guard. Due to financial restrictions the team was limited in terms of adding personnel in free agency. Nevertheless, the Vikings were able to address the offensive line by retaining Brett Jones and acquiring Josh Kline. Now the team will look to improve the unit via the draft.
It’s a familiar theme. Almost every season fans clamor for the Vikings to draft an offensive lineman early in the draft, yet it rarely happens. This time around, things are different. Every pick that’s not spent on an offensive lineman is another legitimate reason to argue the team is not giving quarterback Kirk Cousins everything he needs to succeed. Prediction: That won’t happen.
A less obvious position of need is defensive tackle. Last year, Linval Joseph, Sheldon Richardson, Tom Johnson and Jaleel Johnson formed a respectable rotation in the middle of the d-line. The starters had solid individual seasons, but the unit struggled as a whole. The defense fell from 2nd against the rush in 2017 to 15th in 2018.
Despite the development of Jalyn Holmes and the signing of Shamar Stephen to a three-year contract in free agency, the team could use a long-term answer at three technique. Adding a rookie defensive tackle early in the draft could rejuvenate and solidify what has been an unstable position in recent years. Pairing a young, physically dominant three-technique with Danielle Hunter, Everson Griffen and Linval Hungry could be the recipe the Vikings need to get back to their run-stuffing ways.
Look for the Vikings to also address defensive end, safety and linebacker in the draft or via rookie free agents.
There has been a TON of chatter this offseason about drafting a tight end on Vikings twitter, and I get it. Longtime starter Kyle Rudolph is in the final year of his deal and there are a lot of solid rookie options in a deep class of tight ends.
Rudolph has a cap hit of $7.625M in 2019. While that’s actually lower than his 2018 cap number of $7.675M, it’s still a substantial amount of money for a contract containing zero dead money. There’s still a chance the team approaches the 29 year-old about restructuring or adding years to his contract to open up more cap space.
Still, considering the deep tight-end pool and the fact a starter and backup are already in place, there’s no reason to reach too soon at a position that’s really not screaming to addressed. Unless of course the next Gronk falls in your lap.
Since the departure of Latavius Murray to New Orleans, naturally, Vikings fans are interested in finding a backup running back. The team re-signed Ameer Abdullah in free agency, but he’s far from locked into a role. The team has met with a couple of mid-to-late round prospects who could wind up competing with Abdullah and Mike Boone for the backup role.
Offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski will be calling plays. His advisor, Gary Kubiak, has traditionally featured a “bell cow” or “work horse” running back. He may not be the one calling the plays, but based on Kubiak’s past as well as comments made by offensive line coach Rick Dennison when he was hired, the Vikings offense seems to be preparing for a much larger workload for Dalvin Cook in 2019. Adding a late-round/undrafted prospect who has a similar skill set as Cook makes a lot of sense.
It’s no secret the Vikings could use some quality depth behind Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen. Considering the team still hasn’t signed TD-machine Aldrick Robinson, one could hypothesize that’s the type of player Minnesota wants to target in the draft. A fast, field-stretching wide receiver that can make plays. Should that be the case there will quite a few options to choose from come April 25th. Plus, speedster Jeff Badet is already on the roster.
Mike Zimmer said during his press conference at the NFL Combine that Kubiak “has a vision” for wide receiver Laquon Treadwell. Was that a smokescreen? I can think of a few people who hope it was… Regardless, Treadwell is under contract this season and may have some newfound hope in the KubSki offense. He’ll still need to beat out guys like Chad Beebe and Brandon Zylstra to earn a significant role and playing time.