The Early Frontrunner to Land with Vikings in 2023 NFL Draft

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NFL mock drafts are as plentiful as blades of grass between now and late April, and in such concoctions, every 1st-Round-worthy collegiate prospect will probably be sent to the Minnesota Vikings before the draft actually begins.

For now, though, one name stands out among the rest because of Minnesota’s positional needs, the man’s current draft stock, and the best player available mantra held by most general managers and fans regarding the draft.

The Early Frontrunner to Land with Vikings in 2023 NFL Draft

And that soon-to-be rookie is Cam Smith, a cornerback from the University of South Carolina.

The Early Frontrunner
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Smith is ‘mocked’ to the Vikings more often than most, as Minnesota holds the 23rd overall pick in April’s draft. Heading into the 2023 offseason, general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah has three corners under contract: Cameron Dantzler, Andrew Booth, and Akayleb Evans — a threesome that doesn’t exactly scream confidence for a Super Bowl-contending team. Via free agency of the draft, the Vikings need a true-blue CB1, especially if free agents Patrick Peterson and Duke Shelley don’t return.

Just this week, Joe Marino from The Draft Network spitballed Smith to the Vikings in a mock draft. He explained the selection, “The Minnesota Vikings stacked a bunch of wins together in 2022 with little help from their defense, which must be upgraded this offseason. Cam Smith is a versatile corner that can win in zone or man with exciting ball skills, physicality, and athleticism to be a lock-down performer in the NFL.”

ESPN Draft Analyst Has
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On Thursday, The Draft Wire’s Luke Easterling mimicked Marino with Smith-to-Vikings using this rationale, “Minnesota’s terrible defense eventually caught up with them in the postseason, sending them to an early exit. They need to address it at just about every level this offseason, and the best value in this scenario comes at corner. Opposing quarterbacks learned quickly to test Smith at their own risk, and he dominated despite facing top competition on a weekly basis in the SEC.”

The Vikings defense ranked 31st in the NFL per passing yards allowed, so an early-round cornerback feels like an automatic if no big CB names are acquired via free agency.

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.”

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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.

Before the Vikings season ended prematurely against the New York Giants, ESPN’s Jordan Reid — a noted Vikings fan — also linked Smith to Minnesota in his first mock draft of the 2023 cycle, “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.”

Smith was teammates with current Vikings D.J. Wonnum (OLB) and Nick Muse (TE) 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 Vikings obsession dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ and The Doors (the band).

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