Dustin Baker’s 1st-Round Pick Prediction for Vikings | 2023

The NFL Draft.

For about the last half-decade, the Minnesota Vikings always needed — and fans yearned for — offensive line help. Then, Brian O’Neill and Christian Darrisaw came along, two draft picks that would later anchor the offensive trenches in bookend fashion.

Accordingly, Vikings fans don’t have to daydream about a competent offensive line, and that Round 1 roster need is essentially vanquished.

Dustin Baker’s 1st-Round Pick Prediction for Vikings | 2023

But the 2023 NFL Draft has new wrinkles for Minnesota, including the need for cornerbacks, perhaps a wide receiver, and a contingency plan for quarterback Kirk Cousins, who is contractually committed to the Vikings for just one more season.

The team can also enhance the defensive trenches, especially in the middle of the line. Therefore, the Vikings are most likely to select Clemson’s Bryan Bresee as their first pick in the draft via trade back from the No. 23 spot and maybe even two trades.

Bryan Bresee, DT, Clemson Ncaa Football Syracuse At Clemson. © Ken Ruinard / USA TODAY NETWORK.

Enjoy the rationale.

The Why

Pick Prediction for Vikings
Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports.

While Kwesi Adofo-Mensah was employed in San Francisco for eight drafts, the 49ers drafted these positions by the numbers in Rounds 1 and 2 from 2013 to 2020:

DL = 6
Safety = 3
WR = 3
OL = 2
RB = 1
TE = 1
LB = 1
CB = 0
QB = 0

The Vikings — mostly without Adofo-Mensah — haven’t drafted a defensive lineman in Rounds 1 or 2 since 2013. Ten years ago.

Adofo-Mensah was reared in a system where building the defense up front was paramount. He chose defensive backs last year with his first two picks, Lewis Cine and Andrew Booth, and now’s the time to copy the 49ers. A get-back to his roots, of sorts.

Bresee has the physical prowess to succeed in the NFL, with the only knock on his skillset as durability. He tore his ACL in 2021 and played 25 college football games in three years. Adofo-Mensah proved last year with the Booth pick that he isn’t afraid to choose players with an injury history.

For years, Minnesota has employed average defensive tackles at Bresee’s spot, including Shamar Stephen (forever), Armon Watts, and Jonathan Bullard. In between, it signed Sheldon Richardson a couple of times, and he performed admirably.

But the Vikings need a pass-rushing tyrant on the inside of the line, changing the current modus operandi of relying on Danielle Hunter and his flavor-of-the-season pass-rushing partner as the only source of QB pressure.

Bresee does that, and that’s why the Vikings are likely to select a defensive tackle with their first pick. There’s actually a decent chance that the identity of Bresee as the pick is wrong, and the Vikings grab a different DT like Calijah Kancey (Pittsburgh) or Mazi Smith (Michigan). We shall see.

The How

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports.

Adofo-Mensah can probably trade back an undetermined amount of spots on the draft ladder and still nab Bresee. Ergo, the prediction here is a trade with the Houston Texans for their 33rd overall pick and perhaps a 3rd-Rounder. Other teams to watch via trade down include the Cincinnati Bengals, New Orleans Saints, Kansas City Chiefs, and the Philadelphia Eagles.

Bresee should blend both worlds for the Vikings front office — the desire to stockpile some draft picks while still adding a blue-chip talent.

If Not Bresee, then Who?

6 Outside CB
Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports.

Agony ensued when it was time to proffer this draft prediction. Minnesota’s draft this go-around is just so mysterious. The franchise could, quite frankly, do about 10 different things on Thursday night.

In order of likelihood, here’s where the Bresee prediction ranked when formulating the final answer:

  1. A DT after a trade back in Round 1 (Bresee)
  2. A CB after a trade back (Deonte Banks, Kelee Ringo, etc.)
  3. Staying put and selecting Joey Porter Jr. if he’s available.
  4. A WR like Jordan Addison or Quentin Johnston
  5. A trade up the board for a QB

Ultimately, at least for the prediction’s sake, a defensive tackle feels like the surest bet.

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.