ESPN Draft Analyst Has Defense on the Brain for Vikings

The Early Frontrunner
Sep 24, 2022; Columbia, South Carolina, USA; South Carolina Gamecocks defensive back Cam Smith. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports.

Whether the Minnesota Vikings lose prematurely in the playoffs or win the Super Bowl in February, draft season is right around the corner, as the event occurs in Kansas City on April 27-29.

Minnesota will enter the offseason with a handful of roster needs, including wide receiver, cornerback, off-ball linebacker, and perhaps interior defensive line. During Kwesi Adofo-Mensah’s first NFL draft in 2022, the young executive operated defensively, selecting defensive personnel with five of the first six picks. We shall see what he has on the menu for 2023.

ESPN Draft Analyst Has Defense on the Brain for Vikings

Left up ESPN draft analyst Jordan Reid, a wicked intelligent draft mind with sentimental ties to the Vikings, Minnesota will once again use Round 1 on a defender — cornerback Cam Smith from South Carolina.

ESPN Draft Analyst Has
Oct 29, 2022; Columbia, South Carolina, USA; South Carolina Gamecocks defensive back Cam Smith. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports.

Reid authored an early mock draft this week, with Minnesota choosing at the No. 25 hole. And in that spot, Reid believes the Vikings will draft Smith from the Gamecocks to help fix a leaky secondary.

He defended the pick, “General manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah showed in his first draft in Minnesota that he values initial quickness, and after the Vikings struggled mightily in pass defense this season (7.8 yards allowed per attempt, 31st in the NFL), they will be seeking defensive backs who show good burst and can make plays on the ball. Smith checks those boxes and has experience in the slot and on the outside.”

Sep 25, 2021; Columbia, South Carolina, USA; South Carolina Gamecocks defensive back Jaylan Foster (12) celebrates with defensive back Cam Smith (9). Mandatory Credit: Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports.

Smith played 32 games at South Carolina, recording 91 tackles, 18 passes defended, 6 interceptions, and 3.5 tackles for loss. The 22-year-old also received 2nd Team All-SEC honors in 2021.

The Draft Network calls Smith a “highly-competitive defender that plays the game with confidence and physicality” and a “twitchy athlete with good speed, loose hips, and quick feet that lead to sticky reps in man coverage.”

Currently, the Vikings pass defense, which ranks 26th in the NFL per DVOA, employs Patrick Peterson, Cameron Dantzler, Duke Shelley, and rookies Andrew Booth and Akayleb Evans at corner. Peterson becomes a free agent in two months, and Dantzler has been passed on the depth chart by Shelley. The veteran Shelley could morph into a long-term starter thanks to tremendous performance in the last two months. And the rookies (Booth and Evans) are prospects at the moment that the Vikings hope turn into starters.

That’s a lot of maybes and projects.

Vikings Will Enter 2023 Offseason with Familiar Problem
Kwesi Adofo-Mensah

The “who to draft?” Vikings debates will get white-hot when Minnesota’s season concludes, and expect fans to bicker about wide receivers and cornerbacks in the 1st Round rather profusely. Adam Thielen has aged a decade overnight, and the aforementioned cornerback situation is highly interpretive.

Minnesota has to nail the first pick because it doesn’t get a selection in Round 2. That piece of draft capital was used to procure T.J. Hockenson from the Detroit Lions about two months ago.

Smith was teammates with current Vikings D.J. Wonnum and Nick Muse at South Carolina.


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 Viking fandom dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ and The Doors (the band).

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