We are once again doing our Vikings Draft Profile series. We’ll be starting with some higher end, or well known talents. Once the NFL Combine and pro days roll around, we’ll be trying to target lesser known players who could become the gems of this year’s draft.
It’s always intriguing to look at legacy players, and Antoine Winfield Jr is no exception to that. Antoine Winfield Sr was a 14 year veteran for the Vikings and for many years was the best defensive back on the roster. The Vikings are currently looking for the future at the safety position, with Harrison Smith getting older and Anthony Harris needing to be given a big contract to stay, and Winfield Jr may just be the answer.
The younger Winfield is slightly bigger than his father, but is still only 5’10” and 205 lbs. Although his numbers aren’t eye popping, it’s important to note that Winfield played only four games in two of his four seasons. This year, he recorded 83 of those tackles, seven interceptions, and three sacks. So he has played his best football most recently and helped the Gophers to their most wins (11) since the early 20th century. He also took home All-Big Ten first team honors, Big Ten Defensive Back of the Year, and Unanimous All-American honors.
The best thing about Winfield’s game is undoubtedly his ball skills. He had more interceptions than pass breakups because when he has a chance at the ball, he’s going to get it. Two years in row, Winfield ended games against Fresno State with excellent interceptions in the endzone. His 2018 interception is particularly impressive.
Winfield also had great instincts for the game and isn’t afraid to mix it up at the line of scrimmage. His size will mean he occasionally bounces off tackles, but he puts himself in good positions for often than not. He is also an effective blitzer, much like the Vikings Harrison Smith, and with a few years could be the prototypical elite NFL safety.
There is also some concern about Winfield’s speed. He wasn’t often asked to line up man to man with top receivers in college, and he’ll need to prove he can handle some man coverage duties at the next level. We’ll also have to see how he tests. It’ll be interesting because he has good athleticism, but if he tests extremely well, he could be a big riser in the next couple months. Alternatively, if the concerns of his speed are confirmed, he may fall from being taken day two, to the middle of the whole draft.
The Vikings may not even be targeting Winfield. Mike Zimmer has already made it clear that he likes tall safeties. Both Anthony Harris and Harrison Smith are over six feet tall. However, an exception might be made for Winfield as he’s the son of a Vikings legend, and a very smart and instinctual player. If the Vikings want to snag Winfield, they will probably have to do it in the second or third round. Like I said though, we could see him fall to as low as the fifth depending on testing and what other defensive backs fall.
Projected Draft Round: 2-5
Best Traits: Ball skills, Instincts
Biggest Drawbacks: Top end speed, Size, Man coverage skills