PFF Sends Vikings Help in Much Needed Spot with Latest Mock Draft

The Vikings are in an interesting spot in advance of the upcoming draft, as the roster has holes all over the place for multiple reasons. One reason is that the team has not drafted well in recent years. Another reason is that the top players of the team are aging — fast.

Center Garrett Bradbury will enter free agency, and his level of play in 2022 will make it hard for the Vikings to retain the offensive lineman. He had a surprising breakout season and turned into a good center in Year 4 after struggling in the first three campaigns.

PFF Sends Vikings Help
Dec 17, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

Many Vikings fans want the team to invest in a wideout. Adam Thielen is quickly declining and is no longer one of the top guys at his position. The team has to support Justin Jefferson with a dynamic second receiver to keep the offense unpredictable. Someone has to feast in the passing game when the full focus is on Jefferson.

PFF Sends Vikings Help in Much Needed Spot with Latest Mock Draft

Thielen is not the only aging player. Safety Harrison Smith will turn 34 in February, and Eric Kendricks will be 31 in the same month. The Vikings drafted both positions in last year’s draft, but they should still be on the table.

Even a quarterback could be an option. Kirk Cousins is 34 years old and is entering a phase in which he will decline at some point. It might not be in the next couple of years, but the Vikings must plan for the future.

PFF‘s Trevor Sikkema did not address any of the previously mentioned positions and attacked another gigantic need instead when he sent defensive coordinator Ed Donatell a cornerback with the 30th overall pick.

Nov 12, 2022; Champaign, Illinois, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini defensive back Devon Witherspoon (31) tackles Purdue Boilermakers tight end Payne Durham. Mandatory Credit: Ron Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

The pick was Illinois defender Devon Witherspoon. Witherspoon is a 2022 consensus All-American and the Tatum-Woodson Defensive Back of the Year.

The Vikings’ projected offseason shows they’ll have a big cornerback need, especially with Patrick Peterson getting up there in age as a 32-year-old pending free agent. Witherspoon has been one of the best outside cornerbacks in the country this season, with an elite 92.6 grade in coverage and only 206 yards allowed all year. He now oozes first-round potential because of it. 

Trevor Sikkema, PFF

The Vikings desperately need help at the cornerback position. Patrick Peterson is producing an excellent season but is getting older. He is also not under contract for the next season. Cameron Dantzler will enter the final year of his rookie contract. He has not been bad by any means, but opponents still targeted him a lot. Dantzler has not been a shutdown cornerback. PFF has graded him as the 62nd cornerback out of 121 eligible players.

Load the Box: Position Battles
Aug 14, 2022; Paradise, Nevada, USA; Las Vegas Raiders wide receiver Keelan Cole (84) is defended by Minnesota Vikings cornerback Andrew Booth Jr. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports.

Both rookies, Akayleb Evans and Andrew Booth, had problems staying healthy in their first professional season, and Booth especially struggled when he was on the field. Duke Shelley could be a wild card. He was signed to the practice squad in September.

Shelley had to fill in a few times before he earned his first start against the Patriots on Thanksgiving and in Weeks 15 and 16. He has done a phenomenal job and is now the number 14 cornerback per PFF. Slot cornerback Chandon Sullivan is also scheduled to become a free agent in March.

Witherspoon appeared in 41 games for Illinois. He recorded 157 tackles, including 11.5 tackles for loss, and hauled in five interceptions. His PFF grade implies that he could be the next big-time cornerback in Minnesota, something the team desperately needs.

Janik Eckardt is a football fan who likes numbers and stats. The Vikings became his favorite team despite their quarterback at the time, Christian Ponder. He is a walking soccer encyclopedia, loves watching sitcoms, and Classic rock is his music genre of choice. Follow him on Twitter if you like the Vikings: @JanikEckardt