Day 2 Draft Prospects Vikings – Defensive Line

My second look at Day 2 draft prospects for the Minnesota Vikings — this time looking at the defensive line. Here, I will be looking at defensive tackles and defensive ends who can play in the front three. Outside linebackers will go in a separate piece.

The defensive line is an interesting area of this roster. It arguably has as much veteran and young talent as any position group but remains clouded in uncertainty. Danielle Hunter’s huge $26 million cap hit this season, and injury history leaves a question mark over his future. The same can be said for Michael Pierce, and his $10.5 million cap hit. Dalvin Tomlinson has a hefty contract, too, but after a solid first season and a return to a scheme, he will be more used to. The 28-year-old should undoubtedly be sticking around. 

After that, we have a group of largely untested young players. I think a draft pick or two should go towards the defensive line. How high in the draft will depend on the futures of some of the players already on the roster. If we are in the market for defensive linemen, here are some Day 2 draft prospects for the Vikings.

Travis Jones

After releasing Michael Pierce, then Travis Jones is your guy.

If Ed Donatell employs the front three the same way he did in Denver, it requires two players to cover a gap and a half and be capable of handling double teams. Dalvin Tomlinson can do that. The Vikings don’t have anybody else. Jones is your big early-down run stuffer but has enough athleticism to consistently pressure the opposing quarterback on passing plays. He has only scratched the surface of what he can become and, with the right coaching, could become a monster in the middle of the defensive line.

DeMarvin Leal

At one time touted as a possible first-round candidate, even appearing in the top 10 on some early draft boards. DeMarvin Leal has seen his draft stock fall, but there is still an impressive athlete with great potential.

His athleticism and power allowed him to play in every position on the defensive line in college and have success. On the edge of the front three is where I’d envision him with the Vikings. Strong hands, fluid hips, bend, great technique, and an explosive first step are the reasons he was so highly thought of. Everything is there for a top NFL player if a coaching staff can further his development and help him reach his ceiling.

Phidarian Mathis

Mar 4, 2022; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Alabama defensive lineman Phidarian Mathis (DL16) talks to the media during the 2022 NFL Combine. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Phidarian Mathis is a good scheme for a 3-4 base, which the Vikings defense will be running a version of, offering stout run defense and an interior pass rush presence on the edge of the front three, a blend of skillsets that would be a valuable addition to the Vikings roster in this new scheme.

He has really good technique, plus strong hands, and thus should be able to make an impact in his rookie year. His only weakness is lateral movement, but with possibly Danielle Hunter outside of him. He shouldn’t be chasing people to the sideline. He would be a good pick-up in the third round. If he fell to the fourth round, it would be even better.

Cameron Thomas

In Cameron Thomas, the Vikings would have a talented pass rusher who can hold his own in the run game while being able to line up in multiple positions across the defensive line — on the edge of the front three, as a defensive end if the Vikings use a 4-3 base, and as an interior pass rusher on third downs.

He has a mix of athleticism, agility, quickness, football IQ, and body control that allows him to do it all. Exceptional lateral mobility allows him to get across the field, which is a crucial factor with more and more teams employing a wide zone offense. He has a relentless motor and never gives up on plays. Maximum effort is always on show. He is the type of player Vikings fans will love if he can be landed in the second round.

Josh Pascal

When Ed Donatell talked about what he wanted from his defense, it was clear flexibility would be key. Expect the Vikings defense to line up in different variations and move players around. This is where someone like Josh Pascal is a perfect fit.

In college, he played everywhere on the defensive line from nose tackle to the edge in both odd and even fronts. He isn’t quite the athlete of the players previously mentioned, but he has plenty of power and packs a punch. It’s his versatility that really makes him stand out.

In the summer of 2018, Josh Pascal was diagnosed with malignant melanoma that required multiple surgeries and 12 months of immunotherapy treatments. He returned to play that same season. That’s the kind of fight and desire I want on my team.