The School to Watch in Particular for Vikings in Draft

Minnesota Vikings Head Coach Kevin O'Connell introduced new Defensive Coordinator Brian Flores from the TCO Performance Center on February 15th, 2023. Flores coached for the New England Patriots, Miami Dolphins, and Pittsburgh Steelers before joining the Vikings in 2023.

The school is famous, probably the most in college football history, perhaps next to Notre Dame.

It’s the University of Alabama, and you should get familiar with the school and its players before the 2023 NFL Draft.

The School to Watch in Particular for Vikings in Draft

The Vikings hired defensive coordinator Brian Flores in February, replacing Ed Donatell, who skippered Minnesota’s defense for just one season. And by trade and history, Flores seems to have an affinity for Crimson Tide alumnus.

The School to Watch
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In three seasons as the Miami Dolphins head coach from 2019 to 2021, Flores’ Dolphins picked 10 times in Rounds 1 and 2. Thirty percent of the draft picks arrived in Miami from Alabama — Tua Tagovailoa (QB), Raekwon Davis (DT), and Jaylen Waddle (WR). Of course, two of the men played offense, and Flores is now defensive coordinator, but that shouldn’t stifle the man’s apparent fascination with Alabama.

Minnesota has one pick in the first two rounds, although many Vikings loyalists expect the club to trade down once or twice from the 23rd overall pick, potentially stockpiling draft capital between Rounds 2 and 4. And if that’s the case, these are the Alabama defensive players to monitor from April 27th to 29th:

  • Brian Branch (S)
  • Jordan Battle (S)
  • Eli Ricks (CB)
  • Henry To’oTo’o (LB)
  • Byron Young (DL)
  • D.J. Dale (DL)
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports.

Branch can be considered the showstopper from the group. His teammate Will Anderson, an EDGE rusher, will be long gone by the time the Vikings make a pick. So will quarterback Bryce Young. Yet, after that on the Crimson Tide list, it’s Branch, and he could be available when Minnesota approaches the podium.

A hybrid defender, Branch is listed as a safety but could play cornerback, too. The Vikings desperately need CBs, as Byron Murphy, Andrew Booth, and Akayleb Evans are the only starting-caliber corners on the roster as of early April.

Andrew Wevers-USA TODAY Sports.

“The rest” — Battle, Ricks, To’oTo’o, Young, and Dale– are more Day 2 and 3 commodities but don’t rule them out for the Vikings draft preferences. Unless the franchise has grand plans for Tay Gowan and Kalon Barnes, more cornerback depth is required, so a player like Ricks could be just what the doctor ordered in the middle rounds. Look for Round 3 or so on Ricks.

Minnesota also needs some linebacking help, with Brian Asamoah and Jordan Hicks tentatively penciled in for starting duty. After those two, however, like cornerback, depth should be pursued. Trenton Simpson (Clemson), Drew Sanders (Arkansas), and Jack Campbell (Iowa) are the big three who will leave the board before the end of Round 2. But in the meantime, the Vikings might explore To’oTo’o if they traded back for picks in the 2nd and 3rd Rounds.

Minnesota has defensive roster needs, hired Flores to lead the charge, and Flores has ties to past Alabama draftees. It’s a school to watch.

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).

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