A Look Back: PFF Offers Astounding Grade for Vikings 2020 Draft Class

Justin Jefferson
Dec 6, 2020; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson (18) warms up before the game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

The recent commotion surrounding the Minnesota Vikings and the NFL draft is rightfully centered on recency. General Manager Rick Spielman was able to outfit an offensive line of organically drafted players as a result of the 2021 NFL Draft while also drafting a potential quarterback for the future in Kellen Mond.

Most draft pundits lauded the Vikings for a job-well-done in April’s draft, increasing optimism for the franchise after a chintzy 7-9 season in 2020. Spielman traded back nine spots in the 1st Round — and still found offensive linemen in Christian Darrisaw and Wyatt Davis as a direct result of bartering with New York Jets.

On Thursday, Pro Football Focus conducted a look back of sorts at the 2020 NFL Draft, which transpired 13 months ago. Via retroactive analysis, PFF gave the Vikings an ‘A+’ grade for their draft haul during the pandemic draft. Justin Jefferson, the runner-up for the 2020 Offensive Rookie of the Year award, was even used as the promotional picture at the top of the article.

PFF’s Mike Renner wrote:

“While the Jeff Gladney pick is up in smoke at this point, the Vikings may have come away with three quality starters in the first three rounds. Justin Jefferson is obvious after breaking the rookie receiving record, but Cameron Dantzler was quietly the second-highest-graded rookie corner after a strong second half of the season.”

In the immediate aftermath of the 2020 draft, Minnesota was granted an ‘A’ grade. Due to Jefferson’s seismic breakout performance, that score was rounded up to perfect — an ‘A+.’

And the grade is not a Jefferson-only deal, although the pass-catcher was the showstopper. Jeff Gladney showed promise last season, generating a scrappy reputation for hard hits. He was a 1st-Round pick after Jefferson and experienced ample playing time. However, Gladney is mired in legal woes at the moment. He is accused of assaulting his girlfriend in Texas — a situation that has been rather hush-hush amid the last six weeks. So, the verdict is still out Gladney quite literally.

His running mate, Cameron Dantzler, was magnificent. Renner called him the “second-highest-graded” first-year CB, but it is unclear who is ahead of the Mississippi State alumnus:

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Perhaps there is a player that did qualify for snaps or something of that ilk. Otherwise, Dantzler topped the list for rookie cornerbacking.
Then, Ezra Cleveland — a left-tackle-turned-guard — started for significant portions of 2020. At right guard, Cleveland played 57% of all offensive snaps in 2020, accelerating his development. Guard play was suspect last season as Dakota Dozier and Dru Samia registered heinous PFF grades. Therefore, offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak slid Cleveland to a place of need. It worked. Cleveland is now tentatively slated to start at left guard in September, ensuring that quarterback Kirk Cousins’ blindside is now trusted entirely to rookies.
Defensive end D.J. Wonnum saw some reps, too, and he was a rookie plucked out of the 4th Round. Notably, he stripped Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers to secure a Vikings victory at Lambeau field in, what turned out to be, Minnesota’s most impressive win of the season. Wonnum has room to mature as his PFF grade was 51.1 in 2020.
For now, though, the cumulative impact of the Vikings 2020 draft class scores at the top of PFF’s radar. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were the only other franchise to get an ‘A+’ inside Renner’s 2020 reflective draft analysis.