Vikings Target Biggest Weakness in Draft

Georgia defensive back Lewis Cine. News Joshua L Jones

Last season, the Minnesota Vikings looked the part of a team that would challenge for the division when they broke camp in August.

The largest caveat is that they were incredibly thin behind the starters. Everything was going to need to break right for them to remain relevant. The new front office certainly made a strong effort to distance that possibility for 2022.

When the Vikings found themselves on the clock for pick 12 in the 2022 draft, they opted instead for depth. Kyle Hamilton was there, and so to was Malik Willis. The former was the consensus top player at a position they ultimately selected, and the latter was a big name at a position that could have potentially set up the future.

Trading back, Minnesota picked up an additional pick from the Detroit Lions. When selecting 32nd, it wasn’t a cornerback but a safety to play alongside Harrison Smith. Lewis Cine is a hitter that can step in right away. He allows Cam Bynum to provide depth after playing in 14 games last season and drawing three starts.

Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports.

The top corners were both gone where the Vikings initially were slated to draft in the first round, but they got a highly regarded talent adding to the group in Andrew Booth starting the second round. He slots in right behind Patrick Peterson and can learn from a veteran who has been among the best in the league for quite some time. Booth may not immediately be the next great lockdown corner, but he will strive to reach that tier and should have the developmental ability to do so.

After acquiring offensive line help for 2022 from Jesse Davis this offseason and drafting a stud bookend in Christian Darrisaw last year, Minnesota opted for more Kirk Cousins protection in round three. Ed Ingram should start for the Minnesota Moving Company, and he pushes Ezra Cleveland to a backup role.

The theme of depth continues here, and it’s been on the line where the Vikings have been exploited in recent seasons. Adding interior strength should help the group as a whole, and while Garrett Bradbury remains a concern, Kwesi Adofo-Mensah raises the water level in the room.

Minnesota Vikings center Garrett Bradbury. Green Bay, Wis. Wm. Glasheen USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin.

Losing Anthony Barry in free agency was countered by bringing in Jordan Hicks, but using a third-round pick on Brian Asamoah from Oklahoma gives Minnesota a quality backup that has already played at a very high level. Seeing Asamoah make starts this season wouldn’t be a shock, and he’ll also benefit from watching an extremely talented veteran in Eric Kendricks.

In both the fourth and fifth rounds, Minnesota added strong rotational players. Akayleb Evans becomes the second corner of the Vikings draft and gives Ed Donatell no less than five cornerbacks to cycle through starting options. Minnesota secondary was always going to be questionable this season with so many new faces, but infusing it with high-ceiling depth options was the only way to overhaul a group that was among the worst in the league last season.

Bringing back Danielle Hunter and signing Za’Darius Smith gives Minnesota one of the most fearsome defensive end tandems in the league. There’s nothing Minnesota fans have grown more accustomed to than time missed from Hunter, however, and they are also well versed in the talent Esezi Otomewo brings to the football field. Playing for the Gophers, Otomewo got after the quarterback plenty. He can rotate in with the recently acquired Harrison Phillips and provides another body alongside Jalen Twyman.

It wasn’t until the 5th round that the Vikings opted for a skill position player, and then they did so in each of the next two rounds. The Minnesota head coaching job was incredibly attractive because of the offensive weapons already available. It was the defense that needed an infusion of talent, and it’s hard to suggest that the new regime did anything but. It will now be on O’Connell and his coaching staff to utilize the talented selected, but they are well-positioned to return an offense that can compete with a defense looking to rebound.

At times it’s easy to view the impact skill position players as the sexy picks, but there’s no reason to skew heavily one way or the other with a 53-man roster. Minnesota returns enough talent to make noise in the NFC North and beyond this year. Preparing for injury, providing depth, and looking to make developmental progress, the draft accomplished just about everything the Vikings should’ve sought to do.