4 Vikings Draft Theories Pick Up Steam

Cameron Dantzler (CB, Commanders), Eric Kendricks (LB, Chargers), Patrick Peterson (CB, Steelers), Adam Thielen (WR, TBD), and Dalvin Tomlinson (DT, Browns) have formally left the Minnesota Vikings in the last week while Josh Oliver (TE, Ravens), Marcus Davenport (EDGE, Saints), and Byron Murphy (CB, Cardinals) joined via free agency.

And because four days of free agency are in the rearview, the team’s draft plans are a bit more apparent.

4 Vikings Draft Theories Pick Up Steam

In ascending order of realism, four Vikings draft theories are beginning to pack a heavy punch.

4. Don’t Rule out DT Bryan Bresee

4 Vikings Draft Theories
Dec 30, 2022; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Clemson Tigers defensive tackle Bryan Bresee (11) sacks Tennessee Volunteers quarterback Joe Milton III (7) during the first half of the 2022 Orange Bowl at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports.

These are the Vikings solutions at defensive tackle since 2016 at Bresee’s spot:

  • 2016 = Shamar Stephen
  • 2017 = Tom Johnson
  • 2018 = Sheldon Richardson
  • 2019 = Shamar Stephen
  • 2020 = Jaleel Johnson
  • 2021 = Armon Watts
  • 2022 = Jonathan Bullard

It’s time to get serious about the interior defensive line, and Bresee might just be available at the Vikings selection to fix the glitch. The knock on Bresee? It’s familiar for recent Vikings draftees — injury history. He’s played less than 500 snaps in the last two seasons at Clemson, and his stock on April 27th could fall accordingly.

Brian Flores’ defense lost Dalvin Tomlinson to Cleveland, so Bresee could be a natural replacement if he tumbles down the board.

3. CB at No. 23 Very Much Alive

Another Pundit Piles
Nov 5, 2022; Madison, Wisconsin, USA; Maryland Terrapins defensive back Deonte Banks (3) reacts following a play during the third quarter against the Wisconsin Badgers at Camp Randall Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports.

Everybody — and we mean everybody — mock-drafted Deonte Banks from Maryland to the Vikings in the lead-up to free agency. It was as if the powers that be, via credible draft reporting, assembled and decided Banks must become a Viking.

To date in free agency, general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah signed Byron Murphy from the Arizona Cardinals for presumable CB1 duty, leaving Andrew Booth and Akayleb Evans as the other maybe-startable corners.

The Vikings need more.

If the club signs no more free-agent CBs — yes, this includes Duke Shelley — Murphy, Booth, and Evans won’t cut it, not in the modern pass-happy NFL. Expect Adofo-Mensah to draft a cornerback with one of his first two picks if no other free agent CBs join from free agency.

2. Circle WR as the Round 1 Frontrunner

CBS Sports Says WR
Nov 19, 2022; Pasadena, California, USA; Southern California Trojans wide receiver Jordan Addison (3) celebrates his touchdown scored against the UCLA Bruins during the second half at the Rose Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports.

The same if-then logic from above applies here. Should Adofo-Mensah sign D.J. Chark, Mecole Hardman, or Odell Beckham in the next six weeks, then Minnesota doesn’t urgently need a WR early in the draft, instead leaning on Justin Jefferson, the Chark-Hardman-Beckham guy, K.J. Osborn, and Jalen Nailor.

The WR draft board should shake out beautifully for the Vikings, as one or some of Jaxon Smith-Njigba (Ohio State), Jordan Addison (USC), Quentin Johnston (TCU), Zay Flowers (Boston College), or Jalin Hyatt (Tennessee) will be available with the No. 23 pick. Five receivers won’t fly off the board in the first 22 picks, especially when four quarterbacks are virtually guaranteed to be gone by the time Minnesota approaches the podium.

Minnesota has fantastic historical luck drafting wide receivers, and now is the time to do it again. Opposing defensive coordinators will increasingly find ways to tame Justin Jefferson on any given Sunday, and Kevin O’Connell must find a man he can turn to on those afternoons and evenings.

If that’s not a free agent to be named later, and it’s not K.J. Osborn, will Smith-Njigba, Addison, Johnston, Flowers, or Hyatt please step right up?

1. Minnesota Must Draft a QB

Nov 19, 2022; Greenville, North Carolina, USA; Houston Cougars quarterback Clayton Tune (3) throws the ball against the East Carolina Pirates during the second half at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports.

You’re here. You’ve arrived. Stay awhile — about six weeks.

Finally, the Vikings are in Chiefs + Packers territory. Kirk Cousins has one year left on his current contract, and if he is not extended, the Vikings have one year to draft “their guy” and let him marinate behind Cousins for a season. This is how the Chiefs did it in 2017; this is how the Packers habitually do it.

Adofo-Mensah can do this in two ways. A) He can trade oodles of assets to get into the Top 10 and draft Will Levis or Anthony Richardson, assuming, of course, either man bedazzles him and Kevin O’Connell. B) The Vikings can take a stab at a non-1st-Rounder like Hendon Hooker, Clayton Tune, Jaren Hall, etc., and invest time developing him.

Those are the options. What they cannot do is this — just wait until 2024 when Cousins might be gone to “figure it out.” There should be no scenario anywhere on this planet where the Vikings lean into free agency for life after Cousins, merely to sign Cousins-lite for 2024 and beyond. If that’s the goal — keep Cousins.

The Vikings can draft the next QB1 now for the first time since Teddy Bridgewater and hope Adofo-Mensah and O’Connell do a better job at quarterback scouting than Rick Spielman.

Bottom line? With Cousins playing out the final year of his contract (we think), a quarterback of some sort is damn near mandatory in the draft sometime between April 27th and 29th.

Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Subscribe to his daily YouTube Channel, VikesNow. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sal Spice. His Vikings obsession dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ and The Doors (the band).

All statistics provided by Pro Football Reference / Stathead; all contractual information provided by OverTheCap.com.