The 2021 NFL Draft befalls into less than two weeks, and there is no clear-cut player or position that the Minnesota Vikings will select.
The glaring roster needs as of April 18th are offensive line and EDGE rusher. Currently, the Vikings would enter the 2021 season with an offensive line that is either “as good as” or worse than that 2020 edition. And the 2020 bunch wasn’t very good.
Vikings team pass block grade and rank since 2014:
2014: 72.4 (23rd)
2015: 67.9 (28th)
2016: 64.7 (30th)
2017: 71.9 (17th)
2018: 63.6 (27th)
2019: 63.0 (27th)
2020: 55.5 (29th)
— PFF MIN Vikings (@PFF_Vikings) January 14, 2021
There is no reason to believe the men existing on the depth chart would improve this ranked-29th standing via pass protection. However, the NFL draft has not transpired, and a handful of free agents remain available in the offensive trenches.
For EDGE rusher, Minnesota would tentatively send Danielle Hunter — who will return from a season-long 2020 injury — and Stephen Weatherly onto the field at the defensive end spots. The trick here is to determine if that is a twosome becoming of the Mike Zimmer standard. Weatherly started for the Vikings in 2018 when Everson Griffen briefly departed the team — and he actually performed well. But he was a ho-hum defender during his one-year sabbatical to the Carolina Panthers in 2020. The 27-year-old was the first player to ink with the Vikings in free agency this spring.
As for other draft possibilities, the Vikings could choose the bonafide best player available with their 14th pick. There is no way of knowing who that will be, but names like DeVonta Smith (WR), Micah Parsons (LB), and Rashwan Slater (OT) might plunge to #14 if five quarterbacks indeed get picked through ten picks. Several pundits forecast a QB-heavy bonanza early in the draft.
This week, Bleacher Report conducted a community mock draft where the registered users of Bleacher Report choose the draft choice for their favorite team. The draft board fell predictably as trades were not allowed during the process.
When the Vikings were up at #14, Vikings fans chose offensive lineman, Alijah Vera-Tucker, from USC. This is the very definition of filling a team need because Minnesota arguably needs two guards to be ready for 2021. Should the front office choose an ignorant path, then center-turned-guard Mason Cole would probably start. He was acquired via trade with the Arizona Cardinals for a 6th-Round pick in late March.
If it’s Vera-Tucker and little else for offensive line transactions from now until September, the Vikings offensive line would feature something like this:
(LT) Ezra Cleveland, (LG) Alija Vera-Tucker, ( C ) Garrett Bradbury, (RG) Mason Cole, (RT) Brian O’Neill.
The integrity of this lineup would depend on Cole’s acclimation to the Vikings and Bradbury’s third year of development. The rest — is pretty solid.
Drae Harris of The Draft Network scouts Vera-Tucker with these findings:
“Alijah Vera-Tucker has aligned predominantly at left tackle this season for the Trojans offense. He has exceptional athleticism, as evidenced by his balance and body control in his pass set. He is an easy mover who demonstrates his athleticism in the passing game, particularly in his kick slide. He plays with very good competitiveness when he is bull rushed. In the run game, he comes off the ball hard to strike and he excels by getting his body in favorable positions. He’s played this year at left tackle, affording him much more value due to his ability to play that position in a pinch at the next level.”
Pro Football Focus considers Vera-Tucker the 34th-best football player in the 2021 draft class.
CBS Sports adjudicates him more favorably, calling the Trojan the 19th-best pro prospect in the country.
When Bleacher Report held its community mock draft at this time last year, Vikings fans selected cornerback Jeff Gladney and tackle Austin Jackson. So, they got it half-right one year ago.