A Head-to-Toe Vikings Draft Preview

Oct 30, 2021; South Bend, Indiana, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish safety Kyle Hamilton (14) watches warm ups before the game against the North Carolina Tar Heels at Notre Dame Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Where Is the Draft Value for the Vikings?

The 2022 NFL Draft kicks off on Thursday night, and in preparation, I wanted to look at each position and present some thoughts regarding the Vikings’ possible draft strategy. We will look at how the roster currently sits, how likely it is that the Vikings will make a selection at that position, what round they could look at, and some players that I think would fit into our current schemes and culture well.

Quarterback

I’m not going to spend very much time here at all. After signing Kirk Cousins to an extension this off-season, combined with second-year player Kellen Mond I just don’t see the value in spending a high pick on any of the quarterbacks in this year’s class. You can never rule it out. There is a chance that they really like a particular prospect that could fall further than expected, and they feel like they have to pick him up for the value but again, in this class, I just don’t see that happening.

Highest: 2nd Round

Prediction: None

Names to Watch: Malik Willis, Sam Howell, Desmond Ridder

Vikings Recommended as Team that Should Draft Tarheel QB
Feb 1, 2022; Mobile, AL, USA; American quarterback Sam Howell of North Carolina (14) talks with the media after American practice for the 2022 Senior Bowl at Hancock Whitney Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vasha Hunt-USA TODAY Sports

Runningback

Much like QB, I’m not going to spend a ton of time here. With Dalvin, Mattison, and Nwangwu all on the roster, I don’t envision the Vikings looking into adding another back to the roster this year. Again, there is always a chance someone tumbles down the board so far they feel like they have to take them, but I would be shocked if it’s anything higher than a 7th rounder late on day 3.

Highest: 4th Round

Prediction: None

Names to Watch: James Cook – Georgia, Hassan Haskins – Michigan, Pierre Strong – SDSU

Wide Receiver

This is where things start to get interesting. I personally hold the belief that the Vikings are going to value defense much higher than bolstering an already potent offense early in the draft. With Adam Thielen and Justin Jefferson, along with an emerging KJ Osborn and Ihmir Smith-Marsette on the roster, taking a first-round wide receiver would definitely feel like a luxury pick.

However, there are a ton of scenarios where the board falls in a way that makes it really enticing to go receiver early in the draft. If all of the top defensive backs and highly coveted EDGE players are off the board, it makes it easy to envision the Vikings snagging a top receiving target like Drake London from USC or the explosive Jameson Williams from Alabama.

If the Vikings decided to go WR at 12, those would be the only two names I personally would consider. London is an absolute freak with contested catches, using every bit of his long-armed 6’4″ frame to extend and snatch the ball over defenders. He also brings an unusual amount of juice after the catch for a player of his size.

Jameson Williams is the definition of lightning in a bottle. I’m not going to put him in the Tyreek Hill tier of explosiveness, but he’s the closest thing we’ve seen to it. After suffering an ACL tear in the National Championship game, Williams will likely miss the start of the season while rehabbing. This is why I am hesitant to use the twelfth pick on him.

This class does have good depth at the position too, and I could see them taking a gamble on a high-upside prospect in the middle rounds as well. Overall, I hope the Vikings go another route, but I won’t be upset if they land a top-tier talent like London or Williams.

Highest: 12 Overall

Prediction: 12th Overall or Day-3

Names to Watch: Drake London – USC, Jameson Williams – Alabama, Treylon Burks – Arkansas, Christian Watson – NDSU, Skyy Moore – Western Michigan, Calvin Austin III – Memphis, Tyquan Thornton – Baylor

Sep 18, 2021; Pullman, Washington, USA; USC Trojans wide receiver Drake London. Mandatory Credit: James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

Tight End

After losing Conklin to the Jets in free agency, I do think there is a chance that the Vikings will look to add another TE to the roster at some point in the draft. Some intriguing high-upside options will probably be available in the 3rd-5th rounds. I have completely fallen in love with the potential that Jelani Woods, the TE from Virginia, brings to the table. Standing at 6’7″ with good ball skills and great athleticism for his size, what’s not to like? Between Woods and guys like Greg Dulcich from UCLA, Cade Otton from Washington, and Charlie Kolar from Iowa State, I would love for the Vikings to add another big-bodied receiving target to the roster in the middle rounds.

Highest: 3rd Round

Prediction: Day 3

Names to Watch: Jelani Woods – Virginia, Charlie Kolar – Iowa St, Cade Otton – Washington, Greg Dulcich – UCLA, Jeremy Ruckert – Ohio St, Isaiah Likely – Coastal Carolina

Offensive Line

I’m not going to break this out into all of the different positions because, to be honest, I think there’s only one that has any real chance of getting addressed. After all of the free-agent moves that the Vikings have made and the current construction of the roster, I don’t see them taking an OT unless one they love falls into their lap that they want to take for depth.

As much as nobody wants to hear it, I am also still convinced that they are far from giving up on Garrett Bradbury, and I think the plan is absolutely to go into the season with him as the starting center and make a decision on his future with the team based on his play this season.

With that being said, I think this rules out a guy like Linderbaum at pick 12, though maybe they would look at a guy like Cole Strange from Chattanooga or Cam Jurgens from Nebraska later in the draft.

So, that leaves the guard position. Virtually everything points to Ezra getting the nod at LG, while RG will be an open competition between Chris Reed, Jesse Davis, Wyatt Davis, and Oli Udoh. This is the one spot truly up for grabs going into the season, and while I expect Chris Reed will be the one to win that job, right guard is the position along the offensive line that I think the Vikings will look at the most.

There are a ton of 2nd and 3rd round graded guards in this class that all tested well athletically, which has historically mattered quite a bit to the Vikings. I know we are dealing with a new staff, but many scouts have remained, and I don’t think you can throw out all of our past tendencies. Keep your eye on Zion Johnson from Boston College or Kenyon Green from Texas A&M if they were to slide out of the first round. I also like Tyler Smith from Tulsa, Cole Strange from Chattanooga, and Dylan Parham from Memphis as potential guards for the Vikings.

Highest: 12 Overall if they love Linderbaum, but likely 2nd Round

Prediction: Day Two

Guys to Watch: Tyler Linderbaum – Iowa, Cole Strange – Chatanooga, Dylan Parham – Memphis, Cam Jurgens – Nebraska, Tyler Smith – Tulsa, Alec Lindstrom – Boston College, Blaise Andries – Minnesota

EDGE

The Vikings are in a fascinating spot when it comes to EDGE Defenders. After bringing back Danielle Hunter and signing Za’Darius Smith in the off-season, the Vikings don’t have an immediate need for EDGE anymore. However, EDGE is also the position that benefits the most from having good depth and being able to have a steady rotation and keep guys fresh all game long. EDGE is also unquestionably one of the strongest positions in this year’s class.

I have 7 EDGE Rushers with a Top-50 grade this year, with another four Top-75 grades. This is one of the main reasons I hesitate to buy into all of the talks of them being really interested in EDGE at pick 12. If one of the exceptional guys in Aidan Hutchinson, Kayvon Thibodeaux, or Travon Walker were to somehow fall into their lap, they should absolutely take them.

But in the real world, I think they will be much better suited to look at someone in the 2nd round like Drake Jackson from USC, Josh Pashal from Kentucky, or Arnold Ebiketie from Penn St. The dream for them at EDGE, in my mind, is that an extremely high-upside talent like Boye Mafe from Minnesota, or David Ojabo from Michigan fall to them at pick 46.

Highest: 12th Overall

Prediction: Day 2

Players to Watch: Jermaine Johnson Jr – Florida St, George Karlaftis – Purdue, Drake Jackson – USC, Boye Mafe – Minnesota, Josh Paschal – Kentucky, Arnold Ebiketie – Penn St, David Ojabo – Michigan, Nik Bonitto – Oklahoma

Interior Defensive Line

Interior Defensive Line is another position in which the Vikings are in a unique situation. The roster isn’t in a bad place currently, with Dalvin Tomlinson and newly signed Harrison Phillips entrenched as starters. Armon Watts and James Lynch are returning as solid depth/rotational players, and second-year player Jaylen Twyman is also looking to impact this season.

If the Vikings miss out on the top defensive backs and decide to swing for the fences on a player like Jordan Davis, I would be ecstatic. I am higher on Jordan Davis than some, but I truly view him as a player that changes the way that you can play defense. After Davis, I love the potential that many of the players in this class bring from a pass-rushing standpoint. Guys like Davis’ teammate Devonte Wyatt, DeMarvin Leal from Texas A&M, or Logan Hall from Houston have a ton of upside, but I wouldn’t spend a high pick on one just because of the current construction of the roster.

I could be talked into an early Day-3 pick on a guy like Perrion Winfrey from Oklahoma or Phidaian Mathis from Alabama if one of them fell that far.

Highest: 12th Overall

Prediction: Day 3 or None

Names to Watch: Jordan Davis – Georgia, Devonte Wyatt – Georgia, Logan Hall – Houston, DeMarvin Leal – Texas A&M, Phidarian Mathis – Alabama, Perrion Winfrey – Oklahoma

Off-Ball Linebacker

Off-Ball Linebacker is a position that, at the end of the season, I would’ve put money on us drafting in the first three rounds of this year’s draft. However, after bringing in Jordan Hicks from the Arizona Cardinals to line up next to Eric Kendricks, I honestly would be shocked if they spent a high pick on the position.

I absolutely love the athleticism and explosiveness of this linebacker class, though, and would have no problem if the Vikings snagged an electric athlete at the position like Channing Tindall from Georgia, Leo Chenal from Wisconsin, or Troy Anderson from Montana St to have as a rotational piece to develop for the future. I doubt we see a linebacker pick unless late on Day-3, but I’m not going to rule it out.

Highest: 3rd Round

Prediction: Day 3 or None

Names to Watch: Nakobe Dean/Quay Walker/Channing Tindall – Georgia, Chad Muma – Wyoming, Troy Anderson – Montana St, Leo Chenal – Wisconsin

Cornerback

I think it is universally understood that even with the Patrick Peterson re-signing, cornerback is unquestionably the Vikings’ biggest need to fill in the draft. At a minimum, they need one more player to bring in as a Nickelback/rotation player. Ideally, they bring in a new starting slot cornerback and a rotational/developmental slot cornerback.

The dream is still they find a way to land LSU star Derek Stingley Jr. even though that is looking less and less likely as we approach Thursday. Assuming he and Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner from Cincinnati are both off of the board, I am looking for the Vikings to either trade back or select Trent McDuffie, an electric cornerback prospect from the Washington Huskies. Although slightly undersized, McDuffie put out some of the best film of anyone in this class, and the consistency of his play is what sticks out. He plays much larger than his size, especially in the run game, at times reminding me of fellow Husky Budda Baker. He’s extremely sticky in coverage and experienced playing carried coverage types throughout not only seasons but games.

On Day-2 would also love for them to look at additional corner depth with guys like Jalen Pitre from Baylor or Roger McCreary from Auburn still on the board. I will love it if the Vikings double-down on cornerback with their 1st and 2nd Round picks this year, with my absolute dream scenario being Derek Stingley Jr. at 12 and Jalen Pitre at pick 46 in the 2nd Round.

Highest: Trade up from 12 to secure Stingley

Prediction: 12 Overall, and again on Day 2

Names to Watch: Derek Stingley Jr. – LSU, Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner – Cincinnati, Trent McDuffie – Washington, Jalen Pitre – Baylor, Daxton Hill – Michigan, Kyler Gordon – Washington, Andrew Booth Jr. – Clemson, Roger McCreary – Auburn, Tariq Woolen – UTSA, Zyon McCollum – Sam Houston St, Coby Bryant – Cincinnati, Marcus Jones – Houston

Safety

After a promising rookie campaign that saw him play well when he saw the field, Cam Bynum looks poised and ready to take over opposite Harrison Smith in the defensive backfield. That being said, if a player like Kyle Hamilton, who I view as a truly special talent at the safety position, falls right into their lap at 12th overall, I think I would have to make the pick, assuming that Stingley and Sauce are both off of the board. Hamilton is essentially Harrison Smith playing in a 6’4″, high-cut, long-armed, explosively physical body.

As much as I like Cam, that isn’t the type of talent you pass up unless you have an even better option. Hamilton and Smith would immediately allow Ed Donatelle’s defense to hit another level of multitude and variability, two things that the new regime has preached as key components to the scheme they are envisioning.

Outside of Hamilton, I like the top few safeties in this class but don’t know that they are transcendent enough to move on from Bynum so soon, though Harrison Smith won’t be around forever either.

Highest: 12th Overall

Prediction: 12th Overall if Hamilton is there and Stingley and Sauce are gone, otherwise no earlier than Round 3

Names to Watch: Kyle Hamilton – Notre Dame, Lewis Cine – Georgia, Jaquan Brisker – Penn St, Kerby Joseph – Indiana

The Vikings have done a fantastic job throughout this off-season, putting themselves in a great position to be extremely flexible throughout this draft and indeed draft not only the best available players but to focus on the specific positional values within the different rounds. I’m extremely excited to see how Kwesi Adofo-Mensah, Kevin O’Connell, and the new regime decide to reinforce this team throughout the draft this weekend,