Oodles of Interesting Prospects in Vikings Trade-Heavy Draft — Now We’ll See How They Actually Play
Vikings Insider, The GM’s View
The 2022 NFL Draft is in the books, and it was quite the wild ride for Vikings GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah in his first draft as the top decision-maker. In the end, he had made six trades, drafted defensive players with Minnesota’s first six picks, and finished with four offensive players in the later rounds.
Here are my early takes on analyzing the draft from a Vikings perspective:
1.I don’t think it was wise to trade with division rivals Detroit and Green Bay in the first and second rounds. These deals enabled the Lions to draft a fast, dynamic receiver in Jameson Williams at No. 12 overall and the Packers to select tall, athletic Christian Watson at the top of the second round (No. 34). Let another team trade up to get those players, and you don’t open yourself up to second-guessing down the road if Williams and/or Watson become stars that the Vikings now will face twice a year.
It could turn out ok for the Vikings if those two receivers are not top producers or Pro Bowlers and players the Vikings drafted as a result of these trades—first-round safety Lewis Cine, second-round cornerback Andrew Booth, second-round guard Ed Ingram, third-round linebacker Brian Asamoah become productive starters, and one or more are Pro Bowlers down the road.
There also were a lot of good prospects picked by other teams in the 20 spots Minnesota dropped from No. 12 to No. 32, including two safeties — Kyle Hamilton, who Baltimore picked at No. 14, and Daxton Hill, Cincinnati’s selection at No. 31. So Cine will be compared to these players in the years ahead. There also could be second-guessing if others could’ve been picked at No. 12, such as a great defensive tackle prospect in Jordan Davis (No.13–Philadelphia) is the next Aaron Donald. Or if cornerbacks Trent McDuffie (No. 21—Kansas City) or Kaiir Elam (No. 23—Buffalo) are better NFL players than Cine.
And moving into the second round when the Vikings could’ve stayed put at No. 34 before dropping to No. 42 to take Booth…what if cornerbacks Roger McCreary (No. 35—Tennessee) or Kyler Gordon (No. 39—Chicago) outperform Booth?
2. I like Adofo-Mensah and his scouting staff going hard for secondary help with Cine, Booth, and fourth-round corner Akayleb Evans. Cine and Booth, in particular, could well be first-year starters if they pick up the defensive system quick and if Booth is recovered as expected by training camp from his sports hernia surgery (and can stay healthy). As I wrote last Friday, I like Cine’s size, speed, smarts, and aggressive nature as a hitter. And I think Booth is a very interesting prospect who is athletic with good ball skills. He has first-round talent but fell to the second round due to injury concerns.
3. The Vikings decision to not draft a quarterback tells me head coach Kevin O’Connell was not enamored with this year’s QB class and knows next year will offer better choices at the most critical position. My further read on O’Connell is he thinks last year’s third-rounder Kellen Mond has more potential than Mike Zimmer saw in the former Texas A&M QB, so O’Connell wants to work with Mond this season. In a recent media session, O’Connell said of Mond, “I thought he was really successful in college, he’s athletic, naturally accurate and can make off-schedule plays.”
If O’Connell doesn’t like what he sees in Mond’s development this season, you can bet the Vikings will draft a quarterback in the first three rounds out of a better 2023 draft class, and if he’s not thrilled with Kirk Cousins’ performance, it could be a first or second-round QB picked next April.
4. As I said, Ed Ingram needs to eventually become a solid starter since he and Booth were the players acquired with the two Green Bay second-round picks. Ingram is a big, strong player who lost time at LSU due to a suspension after a sexual assault arrest, and the charges were ultimately dropped. He needs to stay out of trouble, and his addition sets up great training camp competition at right guard with last year’s starter Oli Udoh, the Vikings’ three veteran free agent signees (Jesse Davis, Chris Reed, and Austin Schlottmann), and last year’s third-rounder who seems not to be getting much media attention this spring but should be in the mix–Wyatt Davis.
With the Vikings, as expected, not exercising the fifth-year option on center Garrett Bradbury thus setting him up to be a free agent next March, perhaps one of the O-linemen mentioned above can be the next starting center, either in 2022 if they beat out Bradbury or in 2023 if Bradbury is not re-signed.
5. The Vikings may not have needed to draft an inside linebacker as high as the third round, but I see Asamoah as an intriguing pick and a good example of taking their highest-graded player at the time of the pick. We’ll see if he can become a starter down the road as Pro Bowler Eric Kendricks and newcomer Jordan Hicks will play this season as 30-year-old inside linebackers. Asamoah certainly should make an impact immediately on special teams with his 4.56 speed and his excellent college stats as Oklahoma’s leading tackler the past two seasons.
6. Ty Chandler, the running back Minnesota picked in the fifth round, looks like a good pick talent-wise with his impressive 4.38 speed and his college production (3,819 scrimmage yards and 30 TDs at Tennessee and North Carolina). It’s also a smart pick with No. 2 back Alexander Mattison entering the last year of his rookie contract, so if the talented Mattison likely moves on to a bigger payday after this season, Chandler and Kene Nwangwu can battle to be No. 2 behind Dalvin Cook, get playing time in the rotation and probably start a few games when Cook inevitably gets hurt for a couple of weeks.
7. I thought the Vikings needed to draft a receiving threat at tight end with Irv Smith coming off his knee injury and Tyler Conklin having left in free agency. Seventh-round pick Nick Muse is big at 260 pounds, so I’ll be interested to see if he is most likely to compete with free-agent signee Johnny Mundt for playing time as the blocking tight end/short-yardage option.
But Muse reportedly has some pass-catching skills, so perhaps he can help there and battle for the third tight end spot with last year’s fifth-rounder Zach Davidson who finished 2021 on the active roster and did have 40 catches for 894 yards and 15 TDs at Central Missouri in his last college season. But will the team carry three tight ends with O’Connell’s offense expected to feature more three-WR sets so Muse could wind up on the practice squad?
8. The other 2022 Vikings draftees not discussed at length above—fourth-round cornerback Akayleb Evans (Missouri), fifth-round defensive end Esezi Otomewo (a former Minnesota Gopher), sixth-round tackle Vederian Lowe (Illinois), and sixth-round wide receiver Jalen Nailor (Michigan State) all bring talent in varying degrees and will compete for active roster or practice squad spots.
Overall, it looks like a promising Vikings draft despite the trade downs in the early rounds. But of course, time will tell, and we’ll know more about how this draft class stacks up in a few years. Meanwhile, I look forward to seeing the draftees in Vikings purple at the upcoming rookie minicamp on May 14-16 and then on into OTAs, training camp, and the regular season ahead.
Around the NFL Observations:
1.I‘ve always said it’s ridiculous for media members to grade team draft classes before we see how the players actually perform in the NFL. So I’m not going to break down the drafts for the division-rival Packers, Lions, and Bears at this juncture other than to say I like what Detroit and Green Bay did better than Chicago, who had traded away their first-round pick to move up and pick Justin Fields last year. It was surprising that the Bears did not pick an offensive lineman until the fifth round despite needing more talent there.
2. Next week—on Thursday night May 12– brings the release of the 2022 NFL schedule, so it will be fun to see the full Vikings schedule including who they open with on September 11 or 12 and Minnesota’s national TV dates.
Jeff Diamond is a former Vikings GM, former Tennessee Titans President and was selected NFL Executive of the Year after the Vikings’ 15-1 season in 1998. He now works for the NFL agent group IFA based in Minneapolis and does other sports consulting and media work along with college/corporate speaking. Follow him and direct message him on Twitter– @jeffdiamondnfl