PFF Regrades the Vikings 2020 Draft Class an A+

Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson (18) celebrates after scoring his first NFL touchdown in the third quarter of a football game against the Tennessee Titans, Sunday, Sept. 27, 2020, in Minneapolis. (Anthony Souffle/Star Tribune via AP)

Some may feel draft grades are silly. They come out immediately after the draft has concluded without any NFL games being played. 2021’s class is especially difficult to grade because of how many players didn’t even play college ball. While it is truly nearly impossible to get a full sense of how a draft class ended up until years down the road, we are beginning to understand that Minnesota’s 2020 class is quite special already. In PFF’s recent regrade of the Vikings’ class, they have bumped the grade up to an A+. The Vikings and Buccaneers are the only two teams to earn such a grade.

Obviously, when you have a rookie that plays to the historic level of Justin Jefferson, the grade is going to be high. Jefferson came out of LSU hilariously expected to be a WR3 project out of the slot. He almost immediately proved everyone woefully wrong. That said, even though the class has an A+ now, there have been some bumps in the road already. Jeff Gladney, another first round pick, may not even be on the team anymore with his ongoing legal issues.

Though we may have a situation where the Vikings first-round picks end up being polar opposites on the boom-or-bust scale, this draft was really made in the middle rounds. Cameron Dantzler dazzled at cornerback down the stretch of the 2020 season. With the recent free agent acquisitions surrounding him, he may be in for an even more impressive 2021. As a third rounder, the fact that he is already penciled in as a starter is impressive.

Ezra Cleveland went through some growing pains in 2020 as he tried to learn the right guard position. These should have been expected as he was a left tackle in college. Not only was he playing on the wrong side of the line of scrimmage, but he was also playing a completely foreign position. 2021 should be an improved year for him as well after the draft selections of both Christian Darrisaw and Wyatt Davis. Still, Cleveland is another guy that was an immediate starter and is still projected to be this year. That makes three starters in the first three rounds; not too shabby for Rick Spielman.

The rest of the class is exciting because there is just so much more potential to be unlocked. Specifically, I am speaking of D.J. Wonnum. Wonnum got limited time at DE last season, and with the return of Danielle Hunter, he may be in for limited time again this year. Still, he should find some playing time in the rotation of Stephen Weatherly, Patrick Jones, and Hunter.

In the time Wonnum earned last season, he was surprisingly productive. In just 44% of the defensive snaps, Wonnum earned 14 pressures and three sacks. Day three picks are almost always flyers on guys with high ceilings and low floors. A fourth-round selection making plays in his rookie year is icing on the cake for an already successful draft. The fact that it will be much easier for him playing alongside Hunter, Michael Pierce, and Dalvin Tomlinson just makes him an exciting player to track going into the season.

Outside of these four, there are still players that we just haven’t seen enough of yet. Harrison Hand played under 20% of the defensive snaps last season, but when he was on the field, he looked like a guy that could hang in coverage. K.J. Osborn was relegated to kick return duties on a woeful special teams. Perhaps with a better scheme under newly hired coach Ryan Ficken, he will find more production in that role.

Overall, Vikings fans should feel good about the direction of the franchise after these two most recent drafts. 2020 has panned out beautifully so far, and as long as the main guys stay on their current trajectory, it will be a very successful class. 2021 looks to be a very good class at this point as well, and I think we can all agree that watching this young team develop will be very exciting.