Vikings Should Consider Ending Own Draft Trend

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When the draft takes place on April 27, the Vikings could select a player from many different position groups. The draft is always unpredictable. No one expected the team to pick Lewis Cine last year, but Kwesi Adofo-Mensah did it anyway.

In a couple of days, Adofo-Mensah could target a cornerback to pair with Byron Murphy at one of the weakest groups on the roster, and he could add a replacement for Adam Thielen as the second wide receiver on the team. However, there is one position that isn’t talked about enough.

Vikings Should Consider Ending Own Draft Trend

The last five first-round picks of the purple team all play different positions, so there’s no trend to see, especially since the new regime came in just one year ago. Before safety Cine, offensive Tackle Christian Darrisaw was the last first-rounder, following wideout Justin Jefferson, cornerback Jeff Gladney, and center Garrett Bradbury.

Vikings Should Consider Ending Own Draft Trend
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One position, however, hasn’t been drafted in the top round since 2013, when Spielman selected defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd.

Floyd had a short career because of a knee injury and a botched surgery in the subsequent procedure. Despite showing potential, he only played 44 games in his career, all for the Vikings, and recorded 9.5 sacks.

Of course, the purple team was still strong in the trenches. Brian Robison, Danielle Hunter, and Everson Griffen handled the edge duties, and free agent signings Linval Joesph and, in the last couple of seasons, Dalvin Tomlinson were excellent players inside.

The Vikings haven’t picked a first-round defensive lineman in nine consecutive drafts, including edge rushers and defensive tackles, but that could change in 2023 for obvious reasons. It’s common knowledge that the Vikings’ defensive line is one of the team’s weak spots.

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Tomlinson left in free agency and signed a massive deal with the Cleveland Browns, leaving a huge hole at the most tackle spot. His teammate Harrison Phillips, a 2022 addition, is a decent player, but the team still lacks talent on the defensive line.

Phillips secured a starting spot, but the players next to him will be decided in training camp. Dean Lowry has been the only addition so far. He spent the first part of his career in Green Bay, where he played next to star lineman Kenny Clark. Lowry will add some pass rush, but his run defense could be better. The new addition is a low-end starter or a rotational player. He won’t suddenly be a game-wrecker after switching teams.

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Minnesota re-signed Khyiris Tonga after a promising 2022 campaign. He was one of the elite defensive tackles, according to Pro Football Focus but in a small sample size. Considering the current alternatives, his role with the team could increase in the second season.

The Vikings also brought back last year’s starter Jonathan Bullard, but he’s an underwhelming starting defensive lineman. James Lynch, Esezi Otomewo, and Ross Blacklock all played a rotational role in 2022, and unless one of them can take a big step, they will have the same role in the upcoming season.

Because of the lack of a real difference-maker, defensive tackle should be near the top of the list of Kwesi Adofo-Mensah’s draft targets. There are some intriguing prospects in the draft, and some of them are expected to be drafted close to where the Vikings are scheduled to select their first player, pick 23.

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Bryan Bresee, a defensive tackle from Clemson, was the number one overall recruit coming out of high school. He missed most of the 2021 campaign with a torn ACL and several games in 2022 because of a family matter and another injury. Bresee provides a serious pass-rush threat from the interior, something the Vikings haven’t had in years, and has a high ceiling because of elite athletic tools.

Calijah Kancey is drawing comparisons to future Hall of Famer Aaron Donald. Like Donald, Kancey played his college ball in Pittsburgh and is an undersized defensive lineman. Kancey is extremely quick and an outstanding pass rusher, but he’s also undersized, which is his most significant weakness.

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Mazi Smith out of Michigan is a true nose tackle. Other than the previously mentioned defenders, Smith is a player in the mold of Dalvin Tomlinson, and he could immediately replace him. The prospect is a stellar run defender and a true anchor of the defensive line but doesn’t offer the pass-rush ability of Bresee and Kancey, even though he is a decent pass-rusher for a nose tackle.

All three could provide an instant spark to the defensive line in Brian Flores’ new defense. The Vikings could be in a position to choose whatever position and playing type they prefer.

Janik Eckardt is a football fan who likes numbers and stats. The Vikings became his favorite team despite their quarterback at the time, Christian Ponder. He is a walking soccer encyclopedia, loves watching sitcoms, and Classic rock is his music genre of choice. Follow him on Twitter if you like the Vikings: @JanikEckardt