Vikings NOT Desperate for a Defensive End

With the cap having gone down this year, the Minnesota Vikings had even less money to spend on free agents. The 2021 draft is coming up fast, and Minnesota’s selections will make or break their season. Contrary to popular belief, the Vikings should not draft a defensive end early.

The number one priority in this draft should be offensive line. Whether it’s a guard, tackle, or both, GM Rick Spielman needs to add another premiere body to that position group. The team is paying Kirk Cousins over 30 million this year, and he must be protected to maximize his performance.

Now let’s take a look a look at the current defensive ends on the roster ranked by skill (in my opinion):

  1. Danielle Hunter
  2. DJ Wonnum
  3. Stephen Weatherly
  4. Hercules Mata’afa
  5. Jalyn Holmes
  6. Jordan Brailford
  7. ?. Kenny Willekes (injured all of last year)

Reports say Danielle Hunter is recovering well from last season’s injury, so he will be starting almost every down.

DJ Wonnum proved Minnesota scouts right with his performance last year. In limited reps (on the field for 30% of defensive snaps), he played at a very high level. Wonnum was able to defeat blocks with his hands, turn the corner on tackles, and get to the quarterback. He tallied three sacks as a rookie, and he deserves a much bigger role. It’s too early to call him the next Danielle Hunter, but we’ll never know if he’s buried on the depth chart by a first-round defensive end.

Stephen Weatherly will likely split snaps with Wonnum. He’s not the flashiest player, but Weatherly is actually one of the smartest football players you’ll meet, per some specials the Vikings Entertainment Network has done on him. He brings great experience to the defensive line as a sixth-year player.

Players lower on the depth chart have some intrigue too. Several of them are entering contract years, so you’d expect them to be putting it all on the line. Kenny Willekes has never played an NFL snap before because of an injury, but he received plenty of praise coming out of Michigan State.

Aside from the team’s true defensive ends, the Vikings have great defensive tackles and other players on defense capable of blitzing that should be used more in that role. Recent acquisitions Michael Pierce and Dalvin Tomlinson will be extremely difficult to block up front. Anthony Barr and Harrison Smith are quick and crafty when sent after the quarterback, so Minnesota would be better off using their pass rush skills than spending a draft pick on a new defensive end.

As tempting as it will be to draft an exciting new defensive end, the Vikings are much better off using their first round pick elsewhere.

You can follow Reid Johnson and his personal Vikings blog, Purple Reign News, on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or subscribe to it for free HERE.

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23 days ago

Mata’afa actually played pretty well last year, and was clearly the best DE on the team with Hunter out. I think he’s in a contract year and so expect big things from him. I’m also anxious to see what Brailford might be able to show this season. But I agree, the Vikings aren’t desperate for a DE. They probably have a bigger need for 1) safety, and 2) third linebacker on that side of the ball. And of course, the o-line needs to be fixed.

Reply to  Biglar
23 days ago

Agreed. Mata’afa was definitely the more efficient pass rusher and, for the most part, tackler. I also remember reading someone else saying that PFF had ranked Mata’afa one of our better run defending defensive linemen, and definitely better than Wonnum.

Mata’afa: 293 defensive snaps, 2.5 sacks (1 per 117.2 snaps), 11 pressures (1 per 26.6 snaps); 306 combined D and special teams snaps, 24 combined tackles (1 per 12.75 D/ST snaps).

Wonnum: 471 defensive snaps, 3 sacks (1 per 157 snaps), 14 pressures (1 per 33.6 snaps); 607 combined D and ST snaps, 24 combined tackles (1 per 25.3 D/ST snaps).

Pro Football Reference (the source for the raw numbers above, while all proportions are from my spreadsheet program) lists both D.J. and Hercules as having a 17.2% missed tackle rate, because they both made 24 tackles and missed 5 of them, and 5 divided by 29 = 17.2%. However, if you take the 5 missed tackles as a proportion of their combined defensive and special teams snaps, Wonnum’s missed tackle rate is only 1 per 121.4 combined snaps, or 0.08%, while Mata’afa’s missed tackle rate is 1 per 61.2 tackles or 1.63%. So, that’s the one area in PFR’s basic or advanced stats where Wonnum was better than Mata’afa in 2020. However, the coaches might feel that Mata’afa hit his ceiling last year, while it was only Wonnum’s floor. We’ll have to see, but I hope they give Herc the chance to prove last year was only the beginning.

Still not happy about pushing Odenigbo out the door, and wouldn’t mind signing Griffen or Kerrigan to a one- or two-year deal if they don’t want to draft a DE on Day 1 or Day 2.

23 days ago

Thank the Lord that someone posted an article about this. If I were the Vikings, I would try for Rashawn Slater. Then with my later picks I would get Hufanga the safety out of USC and you just got everything you need right there.

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