The Minnesota Vikings’ 2020 season is truly a tale of two seasons. After starting a troubling 1-5, the team has flipped that record by going 5-1 and in the process. That has given them the ability to control their own destiny and do what only a handful of teams have done before in making the post-season after winning one game in six contests.
In the process, though, they’ve obviously also negatively effected their 2021 draft position. The Vikings at 1-5 peaked at the sixth overall spot (had the season ended at the bye).
After this recent run, where do they land?!
Jack White of Vikings Wire covered the updated draft position first today, so definitely check out his piece.
In his article White says:
“Minnesota has won five of its last six games and notched its record to 6-6. If the NFL draft started today, the team would not get a top pick, but rather the No. 20 selection in the first round of the draft.”
Who could the Vikings take at 20?
Depends on what we think their greatest need(s) are/is?
White lays out potential players, which outside of a quarterback fall into three positions. Offensive line/left tackle, defensive end, and defensive (nose) tackle.
Let’s analyze each! I pulled up one of the more recent mock drafts from a national source, so the info I allude to comes from this.
The CBS Sports mock draft has the Vikings taking a left tackle in USC’s Alijah Vera-Tucker. V-T is the fourth left tackle taken off the board, which would give the Vikings a decent pool of players to choose from.
The issue here is that Riley Reiff is having a great season, so you could keep him around for another year or two while finding a left guard later in the draft. As Dakota Dozier is the only liability left on a Vikes O-Line that has struggled for years, you might end up with a better line keeping Reiff and moving Ezra Cleveland to the left guard spot (his natural side), then finding someone to play right guard in the fifth round or later. Better line than if you let Reiff go and replace him with a roll of the dice draft pick.
This all depends on Reiff’s contract, though, as he nearly walked before the season as he didn’t want to take a pay cut. Reiff is still due nearly $14 million in 2021, but will most likely need an extension before the season begins.
Another intriguing prospect is using a first round pick on the left guard of the next 10-15 years in Ohio State powerhouse Wyatt Davis. Being widely considered as the best interior offensive lineman in the country would be enough, but Davis is actually considered to be one of the best Big Ten players of the past DECADE.
Considering the fact that ESPN just ranked the Big Ten as the most talented/dominant power conference in terms of position-by-position pro talent mainly due to their quarterbacks (Brady, Brees, Wilson, Cousins, etc) and offensive lineman.
This pick could elevate the Vikings line to elite status if Reiff’s play holds up, Garrett Bradbury continues to develop/shine, and Ezra Cleveland and Brian O’Neill stay healthy. Color me down AF for this pick. But I can’t fathom a reality in which Zimmer/Spielman don’t use this pick on the defensive line.
Wyatt Davis highlights
Should they draft the LT of the future? TBD
Would they (possibility range from 1-10)? 5
Should they draft the LG of the future? Yes.
Would they? 4
The Vikings have had surprisingly good output from the combination of Ifeadi Odenigbo, DJ Wonnum and company, but after trading away Yannick Ngakoue the Vikings are in need of another elite edge to play opposite Danielle Hunter (presuming he doesn’t hold out for a new deal).
The good news here is that if you go by CBS Sports’ mock, the Vikings would have the veritable pick of the litter at 20. There are multiple linebackers taken before 20 (some that would/could rush the QB almost exclusively in a 3-4), and one defensive lineman in Kwity Paye of Michigan.
I’m not exactly sure why they have Paye listed as DL and not as an EDGE, as he’s widely considered to be the best edge rusher in the draft and most everyone else refers to him as such. The Vikings won’t be able to nab Pay, but they may be able to take another extremely physically gifted edge from the Big Ten in Penn State’s Jayson Oweh.
Oweh is more raw than Paye, but if the Vikings did end up combining him with Hunter? They may be the most physically dominant pair in the NFL.
Defensive Tackle/Nose Tackle
The Vikings’ biggest off-season free agency signing was defensive tackle Michael Pierce, who opted out of the 2020 season over COVID concerns. The Vikings tried to trade for then Las Vegas Raiders DT PJ Hall, but he failed his physical and the trade was nixed.
That alone shows the Vikings obvious need and desire for a true nose tackle, although they had every opportunity to sign now Seahawks practice squad turned in-game contributor Snacks Harrison (for the veteran minimum) and didn’t.
The Vikings may have already been a lock for the post-season if they had Harrison or some semblance of a true nose tackle. Of the three positions we’re talking about, this is the only one that currently doesn’t have an actual player playing that is/was that position.
The likelihood of this happening comes down to what the Vikings think they have in Pierce. Many Vikings fans/writers said that Pierce was an upgrade over Linval Joseph. Pierce’s 2019 was graded by PFF as a 69.2 overall (70.6 against the run and a pass rush score of 63.3). Joseph’s last season with the Vikings was rated 71.2 overall despite a run D grade of 69.2 and a pass rush grade of 62.4 (he must get extra points for getting shot in the leg in downtown Minneapolis and missing no games).
CBS Sports has no IDL being taken in the first round, so, the Vikings could potentially trade down and land any of the following dominant tackles.
Don’t think there’s any doubt FSU’s Marvin Wilson is DT 1 entering 2020.
Scary part may be that I see a few easy ways he can really improve. pic.twitter.com/Yvci0IZEJo
— Cole Cubelic (@colecubelic) June 3, 2020
— Yogi Roth (@YogiRoth) September 9, 2019
— DLineVids (@dlinevids1) April 17, 2019
However, it’s clear that the Vikings could land a top nose later in the draft. For now, though, the Vikings don’t have a second round pick courtesy of the trade with Jacksonville for Ngakoue that turned into a third round (and fifth) pick when he was traded to the Ravens.
Trading down to perhaps get a second round (and more) pick could be too good to turn down for Rick “7th-round MVP” Spielman, especially of the Vikes are confident they can land their DT-1 in the process.
Should they? Not unless they trade down.
Would they? 7
Cornerbacks: These are the Minnesota Zimmer’s and while the crop of young corners/DBs have improved significantly since the bye, Zimmer loves him some first round corner talent.
One of those first rounders, Mike Hughes, hasn’t shown that he can stay healthy. Even with Cameron Dantzler and Jeff Gladney (another first) these unit is thin (especially as they just released Holton Hill).
The Vikings would be looking for a nickel, most likely, a position that they spent a second rounder on in Mackenzie Alexander a few seasons ago.
The Vikings have too many needs elsewhere for this to make sense. Especially when you look at the impact each may have on the overall team.
Wyatt Davis could finally give Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins a great offensive line to play behind. With Justin Jefferson’s emergence and Dalvin Cook’s continued excellence, the sky is the limit for this offense if the line can play as well as every other position on the offense.
Pairing another dominant edge with Danielle Hunter would help in a ton of obvious ways (and help the corners, as well). If the Vikings generate consistent straight up coverage (by rushing four) and stay aggressive with their blitzes while using their best in the league safeties deep? We’ve seen smatterings of that (Seattle, Green Bay II) and it’s been glorious.
As for the nose tackle spot… Even as a guy that loves the offensive line and especially Big Ten lineman, it’s hard to argue that this is the most persistent and obvious need for this team. Add to that that the Vikings may get to do what Spielman loves more than anything and trade down while landing the top player on their board? I wouldn’t be mad at that (especially if they flip Cleveland to the left).