Ranking the Vikings Last 5 Drafts

Justin Jefferson
Dec 6, 2020; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson (18) warms up before the game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Vikings haven’t really hit on impact defenders since the 2015 NFL Draft, a remarkably long drought, especially with Mike Zimmer in the building from 2016 to 2021.

But a new general manager is in charge in Kwesi Adofo-Mensah, and he’ll encounter his second draft as the guy in charge on Thursday night.

Ranking the Vikings Last 5 Drafts

So, let’s take a look back at Minnesota’s last five drafts, ranked in ascending order (No. 1 = best).

5. 2019

the Vikings Last 5
Nov 13, 2022; Orchard Park, New York, USA; Minnesota Vikings center Garrett Bradbury (56) on the sidelines during a game against the Buffalo Bills at Highmark Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports.

Key Contributors:
Garrett Bradbury (C), Alexander Mattison (RB), Irv Smith (TE), Oli Udoh (OT), Kris Boyd (CB)

This draft had oodles of promise, chiefly because Vikings fans believed Irv Smith would morph into the next big thing.

He didn’t.

Additionally, drafting a center in Round 1 is rare, and if a team is willing to do it, the subsequent draft pick should become a Pro Bowler or All-Pro. Bradbury has done neither. Centers can typically be found after Round 1 unless the man is considered “generational.”

Some decent depth dribbled out with Mattison, Udoh, and Boyd, but the draft wasn’t very rewarding in retrospect.

4. 2018

The Vikings Need Kevin
Sep 11, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings offensive tackle Brian O’Neill (75) and Green Bay Packers linebacker Rashan Gary (52) in action at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

Key Contributors:
Brian O’Neill (RT), Tyler Conklin (TE)

The only reason this one ranks ahead of 2019 — it was a pretty poor draft — is O’Neill. The Vikings right tackle is a Top 3 performer at his position, and the team’s fans begged for a player like him for about half of a decade.

O’Neill has solidified the right side of Minnesota’s offensive trenches, almost from the moment he took over. The Vikings massively missed on Mike Hughes as the 1st-Rounder, so this is close to the worst draft in the last five years.

But the franchise did score O’Neill, and that’s a big damn deal.

3. 2022

Vikings 8 New
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.

Key Contributors:
Ed Ingram (RG), Brian Asamoah (LB), Jalen Nailor (WR), Lewis Cine (S), Andrew Booth (CB), Akayleb Evans (CB), Ty Chandler (RB)

Many will balk at this draft “so high” on the list, and the critique is somewhat fair. Drafts cannot be truly adjudicated until years down the road, but this class is trending up.

Ingram played every single snap in 2022. Asamoah, Cine, and Booth are in line to start in September. And Nailor + Evans + Chandler should experience a significant portion of playing time.

A faction of Vikings fans didn’t like this draft and have since decried Cine and Booth as busts, but it’s too early for that. This group still has oodles of promise.

Plus, 2018 and 2019 were pretty bad-bad, making this one shiny by default.

2. 2021

Hendon Hooker Already
Sep 19, 2022; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Minnesota Vikings offensive tackle Christian Darrisaw (71) prepares to block against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports.

Key Contributors:
Christian Darrisaw (LT), Camryn Bynum (FS), Kene Nwangwu (RB), Patrick Jones (OLB)

Like the O’Neill speech above, netting Darrisaw was a franchise changer. He joined O’Neill on Minnesota’s offensive line as a bookend, and now the team is set for the next few years at offensive tackle — a tremendous luxury.

Bynum has played extensive snaps and could flop over to slot cornerback in 2023, depending on the outcome of this week’s draft. Nwangwu is one of the most dangerous kick returners in the sport, if not the scariest. Jones, an EDGE rusher, performed well in limited sample size during the last two seasons.

Generally speaking, though, this is the Darrisaw Draft. If only the Vikings had hit on Kellen Mond, Wyatt Davis, Chazz Surratt, or Ihmir Smith-Marsette.

1. 2020

Writer Claims Justin
Jan 15, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson (18) looks on during warmups before a wild card game against the New York Giants at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

Key Contributors:
Justin Jefferson (WR), Ezra Cleveland (RG), K.J. Osborn (WR), D.J. Wonnum (OLB)

This draft was fabulous — not just by Vikings standards but by the NFL’s measuring stick.

Jefferson is carving a path to the Hall of Fame, a mind-boggling projection that somehow doesn’t feel weird after three seasons. Minnesota showcased horrid left guard play before it discovered Cleveland. Osborn may be the club’s WR2 in 4.5 months. And Wonnum is a decent reservist pass rusher.

This one takes the cake, and it’s not debatable. It was the Vikings best draft since 2015.

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.