What We DIDN’T Learn from the Vikings Draft

Smith Be Back
Jul 29, 2022; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings outside linebacker Za'Darius Smith (55) looks on during training camp at US Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

The Minnesota Vikings drafted six rookies last Thursday through Saturday, marking general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah’s second class of youngsters in as many years on the job.

These players arrived the roster from the draft:

  • R1: Jordan Addison (WR, USC)
  • R3: Mekhi Blackmon (CB, USC)
  • R4: Jay Ward (S, LSU)
  • R5: Jaquelin Roy (DT, LSU)
  • R5: Jaren Hall (QB, BYU)
  • R7: DeWayne McBride (RB, UAB)

What We DIDN’T Learn from the Vikings Draft

Hours later — if not minutes — Adofo-Mensah began signing undrafted free agents, leading to this impressive haul:

  • Alan Ali (OL, TCU)
  • Calvin Avery (DT, Illinois)
  • Abraham Beauplan (ILB, Marshall)
  • Andre Carter II (EDGE, Army)
  • Jacky Chen (OL, Pace)
  • C.J. Coldon (CB, Oklahoma)
  • Wilson Huber (ILB, Cincinnati)
  • Cephus Johnson (WR, SE Louisiana)
  • Malik Knowles (WR, Kansas State)
  • Ivan Pace, Jr. (ILB, Cincinnati)
  • Jack Podlesny (K, Georgia)
  • Ben Sims (TE, Baylor)
  • Thayer Thomas (WR, N.C. State)
  • NaJee Thompson (CB, Georgia Southern)
  • Jaylin Williams (CB, Indiana)

Indeed, onlookers learned a lot about the 2023 Vikings in those three days, but here’s what was not learned.

1. This Must “Be It” for Linebackers

Learn from the
Sep 25, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings linebacker Brian Asamoah II (33) in action against the Detroit Lions during the game at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

The Brief Takeaway: The Vikings will have no big-name LBs — now or in the long-term pipeline.

Minnesota lived in accommodating draft territory to leave Kansas City with Trenton Simpson (Ravens), Jack Campbell (Lions), or Drew Sanders (Broncos) on its roster. Those three were the draft’s “big names” at linebacker, and the Vikings possessed a long-term roster need at the position.

Or so we thought.

Adofo-Mensah drafted zero linebackers, signaling a starting twosome of Brian Asamoah and Jordan Hicks in September. Vikings fans will know those men intimately, but the duo is somewhat anonymous to an NFL audience.

And that’s apparently okay in Brian Flores’ defense. Perhaps the UDFA Ivan Pace Jr. will shock the world by landing a starter’s job.

2. Dalvin Cook + Za’Darius Smith’s Future

Trade Sweepstakes for Dalvin Cook Could Be Down to 1 Team
Nov 3, 2019; Kansas City, MO, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook (33) runs against Kansas City Chiefs inside linebacker Anthony Hitchens (53) and strong safety Tyrann Mathieu (32) during the first half at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports.

The Brief Takeaway: Cook and Smith were not traded. They’re still on the team.

The Vikings needed draft capital last weekend, and many believed trading Dalvin Cook or Za’Darius Smith was on the way. No cigar.

Cook and Smith remain on the Vikings roster through early May, perhaps with end dates around June 1st, when the penalty to sever ties is financially less burdensome for Minnesota.

However, until then — so, 29 days — Cook and Smith remain in a familiar place for Vikings. That’s total limbo. Maybe both will change their minds and return to the Vikings. Perhaps one splits, and the other stays. Or they can both depart.

No mystery whatsoever was resolved via Cook and Smith’s roster standing during the draft.

3. Life after Kirk Cousins Is Less Clear

QB Is Now the Vikings
Jan 15, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) prepares for the snap from center Garrett Bradbury (56) against the New York Giants during the second quarter of a wild card game at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

The Brief Takeaway: The Vikings did not land an early-round successor to Kirk Cousins.

Now — or last weekend — was the time to draft a Will Levis or Hendon Hooker to prepare for life after Kirk Cousins. The 34-year-old Cousins isn’t under contract with the Vikings beyond 2023. For now, on paper, 2023 is final season in purple and gold. If nothing new happens, he’ll hit free agency in March and probably sign with the San Francisco 49ers.

Levis fell into the Vikings lap at pick No. 23. Through non-action, they said no thanks to Levis. Additionally, Hooker fell out of Round 1, and if the Vikings really wanted the Tennessee Volunteer, they could’ve obtained him cheap, or at least at a price paling in comparison to Anthony Richardson or C.J. Stroud.

Instead, Minnesota took a scratch-off flyer on Jaren Hall from BYU. He’s a 5th-Rounder, and those rarely pan out. Everyone points to Tom Brady as an example, but he’s essentially one out of hundreds that worked.

The Vikings are still very much Cousins’ team. Had they selected Levis or Hooker, the lay of the land would be markedly different.

But they did not.

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.