This Draft Is Different Than Recent Vikings Drafts

General Manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah in August of 2022 at Minnesota Vikings headquarters in Eagan, Minnesota.

Kwesi Adofo-Mensah, second-year Vikings general manager, will be in charge of the second draft in his career when the first round of the 2023 draft kicks off on Thursday. Minnesota has a few roster holes, so it is unpredictable what position the Vikings will actually address early.

The purple team has the right to the 23rd overall pick, too late for some key positions, especially quarterback, and too early for some others, finding a new starting linebacker and successor of Eric Kendricks is a stretch at that spot. The organization doesn’t own a second-round pick, their second selection is scheduled to be the 87th overall pick.

This Draft Is Different Than Recent Vikings Drafts

Other than in recent years, nobody has any clue what Minnesota will do with the top selection.

After the departure of some essential pieces for the team’s success in the last decade, the team is clearly trying to get younger and faster but has to replace some big pieces. No draft in recent Vikings history was as unpredictable as the upcoming one.

This Draft Is Different Than Recent Vikings Drafts
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Dalvin Tomlinson left a gaping hole on the defensive line, a line bereft of difference-makers up front. Harrison Phillips is a decent lineman but not a game-wrecker like Aaron Donald or Chris Jones.

Dean Lowry, a free agent signing from the Green Bay Packers, is a solid rotational pass-rusher. Khyiris Tonga played well when needed in 2022 but in a small sample size. James Lynch, Esezi Otomewo, Ross Blacklock, and Jonathan Bullard are also rostered and some of them will play a role.

The line could definitely use an upgrade, the Vikings could target Bryan Bresee, Calijah Kancey, or Mazi Smith with their top pick. Bresee and Kancey provide pass-rush while Smith is a nose tackle with some similarities to Dalvin Tomlinson.

Another position that could be targeted is cornerback. Minnesota only employs six CBs, and only one of them is a proven starting-caliber player. The signing of Byron Murphy was a wonderful one but that doesn’t matter if the team can’t find a decent counterpart.

Could Move Down
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Last year’s draft picks Akayleb Evans and Andrew Booth both had an injury-plagued rookie campaign but are talented players. It all depends on how much the team, especially defensive coordinator Brian Flores, likes them. It wouldn’t be shocking to see the Vikings address the position once again after spending a second-rounder on Booth last year, and first-rounders in 2018 for Mike Hughes and in 2020 for Jeff Gladney. The team can’t seem to get it right.

Uber-athletic cornerback prospect Deonte Banks from Maryland is an often-mocked player to the Vikings. He is a candidate to be a day-one starter.

Just like defensive tackle, the Vikings have a hole at wide receiver after the departure of a player. Adam Thielen was released after spending ten years with the organization, and the Vikings haven’t brought in anyone other than return specialist Brandon Powell who is unlikely to make a significant impact on the offense.

K.J. Osborn is the front-runner to become the second wideout of the team, mainly because there isn’t any competition. Someone has to step up to be the second fiddle to Justin Jefferson, someone needs to be able to take some pressure off of him.

None of the remaining players at the position seem to be that guy. Neither Jalen Nailor nor Jalen Reagor, Trishton Jackson, Blake Proehl, or the aforementioned Powell are likely to provide enough to be a serious threat in the passing game, even though Nailor showed some flashes in his rookie season.

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Adofo-Mensah could transform the offense into a real juggernaut if he decides to add another WR with the 23rd overall pick. He might be in a position to choose between the smooth route runner Jordan Addison, and the physical phenom Quentin Johnston.

Wide receiver might be a position the Vikings won’t address because there are many excellent WRs available and investing in one on day two might make more sense. However, if they really like one prospect, they could also take that player.

Finally, a new quarterback is a real possibility. The Vikings didn’t extend the deal of Kirk Cousins for the first time since he joined the Vikings in 2018, so his clock is ticking. It is likely that the purple team would either wait until next year or pick one this year.

The top guys, Will Levis, Bryce Young, C.J. Stroud, and Anthony Richardson should be long gone until the Vikings are on the clock but trading up is an option. Adofo-Mensah must facilitate a deal into the top 10 to have a shot but the price could be too high.

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However, there has been a lot of buzz about Hendon Hooker as the target for the Vikings with the 23rd pick. The Tennessee QB has two huge red flags. He is 25 years old and is recovering from a torn ACL. However, he has some exciting qualities. Kevin O’Connell must decide if he is worth a shot.

Another alternative could be the addition of a late-round flyer like Clayton Tune, Jaren Hall, Dorian Thompson-Robinson, or Tanner McKee.

In 2019, everyone knew the first pick would be a lineman, the Vikings ultimately selected center Garrett Bradbury who recently received a second contract from the organization. A similar obvious choice came in 2016 when the Vikings wanted to support young QB Teddy Bridgewater with a new weapon and ended up drafting Laquon Treadwell.

Receiver Justin Jefferson was also an expected pick in 2020 after the team traded away Stefon Diggs. Just a few spots later, the Vikings addressed the huge void at cornerback by selecting Jeff Gladney.

Vikings in Laughable Spot for ESPN Power Rankings
Lewis Cine. © Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

Last year, Adofo-Mensah surprisingly added safety Lewis Cine to the roster in the first round but only ten picks later, he picked cornerback Andrew Booth, a move that was expected by some in the first round.

2023 is totally different. The Vikings could go in so many directions with their first pick. They could trade up to secure a QB or simply the best talent, they could also trade down to acquire more picks. Offense and defense are both on the table, just like most positions. Offensive tackle and tight end seem to be the only ones that can be ruled out. Less than a week to go and the Vikings’ draft plans are still a total mystery we might have to wait until Thursday night, maybe even Friday, to see the Vikings reveal their plan.

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