Vikings Top Pick from Each Day of 2022 NFL Draft
The 2022 NFL Draft is officially in the rearview mirror, and it didn’t come and go without some big surprises. The slide on quarterbacks was arguably the biggest storyline of the weekend, but the Vikings weren’t involved in that, further confirming the new regime is bought in on Kirk Cousins.
Just because Minnesota wasn’t involved in the quarterback market doesn’t mean they didn’t make things interesting. Kwesi Adofo-Mensah was a busy man, trading six times throughout the process.
Although there was plenty of speculation revolving around the Vikings making trades with in-division rivals, it still seemed as if the new regime capitalized on value frequently throughout all three days.
Here are my favorite picks from all three days and UDFA signings after the Mr. Irrelevant pick was called on stage.
The first day drew the most criticism for the Vikings, but they addressed a position of need with one of the best players available. Obviously, they only had one pick in the first round, but the selection was a good one.
After trading down to the final spot of the first night, Adofo-Mensah and the team selected Georgia safety Lewis Cine.
Cine was the heartbeat of the National Championship-winning Bulldogs, and it’s easy to see why on film. He plays with a dog mentality, and his physical presence over the middle will translate well to the next level.
In addition to classification as one of the hardest-hitting safeties in the class, Cine has great athleticism that allows him to shine on the back end in coverage. He ran a 4.37 40-yard dash, and it shows up with his elite closing speed.
His 73 total tackles and nine pass breakups both led Georgia in 2021. The Vikings desperately needed playmakers in the secondary, and they got an instant impact player with Adofo-Mensah’s first-ever pick as Vikings GM.
Minnesota stayed busy throughout the second and third rounds as well, starting the day off with another in-division trade. This time the value charts tended to be more in favor of the Vikings, who sent away pick 34 to Green Bay for picks 53 and 59.
If you thought the Vikings were done jumping around with their picks, you would have been mistaken. The phones stayed busy, and Adofo-Mensah sealed another deal, moving up to pick 42. The swap with the Colts gave the Vikings picks 42 and 122 while losing 53, 77, and 192 to Indianapolis.
In perhaps my favorite selection throughout all three days, the Vikings landed Clemson Cornerback Andrew Booth after their first trade-up of the weekend.
Booth was looked at by many as a first-round talent that ultimately fell to the second round due to some injury concerns. If he can stay healthy in 2022, he has a legitimate chance at earning some meaningful snaps in the Vikings cornerback rotation.
Although we don’t fully know his testing numbers, it’s evident that Booth can be a solid starting cornerback at the next level. He brings another scrappy attitude to the secondary and has some top-end ball skills.
It should be noted here that the Brian Asamoah pick was a close second, but the secondary needed potential starters right away. The former Oklahoma Linebacker will now get to sit behind a star in Eric Kendricks, fine-tuning his high-end athleticism at the position.
The Vikings ultimately could have selected Booth with the 32nd overall pick, and no one would have batted an eye. Instead, they ended up with him in the second-round while already making their secondary stronger with the Cine selection on day one.
Did I mention that I thought the Vikings secondary needed a complete overhaul prior to the 2022 NFL Draft? Minnesota all but confirmed they agreed with that as their biggest need, starting day three with another cornerback selection.
Akayleb Evans wasn’t a player that was commonly mocked to the Vikings, but Adofo-Mensah and his staff seemed to be higher on him than the rest of the NFL.
“Where you find great value in this draft is the players your scouts find later in the draft and kind of bring to your attention, so he was the guy I remember watching at night,” Adofo-Mensah said after the draft on Saturday. “I sometimes watch in the dark. You’re looking, and you are looking at him play, and you look at his size. He is a big guy. Man, he moves really well. He plays off. You see him doing things in the Vikings scheme that translate really well. You see him playing different coverages. You are looking around, and you always get this look in your eye like, ‘am I crazy?’”
This quote speaks on the collaborative culture that Adofo-Mensah is trying to build. It also speaks on the scouting staff being slightly higher on Evans, meaning they feel as if they found extreme value in this pick.
Evans adds another great athlete to the secondary with ideal size for the position. The common theme of finding physical football players with high-end athleticism followed the Vikings throughout all three rounds. Evans fits the mold that we’ve seen for Adofo-Mensah’s first draft and has a chance to learn behind his idol at the position, Patrick Peterson.
Bonus: Favorite UDFA
Undrafted free agents don’t usually pan out in the NFL, but some are worth taking a chance on more than others. The Vikings have figured this out over the years, adding a top-caliber wide receiver in Adam Thielen through the same process.
Out of this group, there’s one player that catches my eye more so than the rest. Wake Forest EDGE Luiji Vilain is a name Vikings fans should get accustomed to.
Vilain has a relative athletic score of 8.85, meaning he falls in line with the common theme of selecting top-tier athletes in this class.
Out of high school, Vilain was a top-five weakside edge prospect behind some solid names. He ultimately lacked production at Michigan, but that started to flip in 2021 after transferring schools.
Vilain totaled 34 tackles, eight sacks, and two forced fumbles in his only season at Wake Forest. Pairing up one season of production with solid athletic testing numbers makes this feels like it has the chance to be a steal for the Vikings. It should also be noted that the Vikings clearly wanted him, as they guaranteed him $227,000.
The Vikings have gotten some backlash for their 2022 draft class, but it’s far too early to criticize the players taken. Instead, it’s essential to look at the value matching up with the biggest positions of need.
The secondary got revamped, and top-tier athletes were added to all three phases of the defense. There was not a ton of resources spent on offense, but there was also competition added at right guard, as well as for depth roster spots at WR, TE, and RB.
Jack Day is a Senior Writer for VikingsTerritory. He has spent time writing for KFAN.com, Vikings Wire, and working for the Vikings. He also co-hosts the original Vikings Territory podcast @LTBVikings. You can follow him on Twitter @Jack_H_Day.