Janik Eckardt’s Vikings Draft Predictions

The NFL Draft.

Kwesi Adofo-Mensah is in charge of the second NFL draft in his career. He took over the Vikings general manager position in 2022 and is slowly building the roster how he and head coach Kevin O’Connell want it to be.

He made some bold moves last year, and despite the small sample size, we might have gotten a glimpse of how he generally works. His second draft class is unpredictable as the team has some holes to fill and only a few picks.

Janik Eckardt’s Vikings Draft Predictions

The top round of the draft will take place on April 27, and Minnesota currently owns the 23rd overall pick. The predictions aren’t in any particular order.

1. Vikings Trade Back

Janik Eckardt's Vikings Draft Predictions
Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports.

The first draft move in Adofo-Mensah’s tenure was a trade back with the Lions from the 12th spot to the 32nd, despite having some excellent players on the board. He then picked safety Lewis Cine. The Vikings also got the 34th pick in return and ended up trading that pick away.

He did it last year and will do it this year for a simple reason. The Vikings only have five draft selections. One of them was spent on Akayleb Evans last year, one was traded for Jalen Reagor, and another one for T.J. Hockenson.

No team trades more on draft day than the Vikings, and Adofo-Mensah wants more picks to find good players.

2. Kwesi Won’t Draft a QB in Round 1

The Vikings must find a successor for QB Kirk Cousins at some point, as his contract hasn’t been extended, and he is scheduled to be a free agent next offseason. Logically, the next Vikings franchise quarterback should enter the door via the draft in either 2023 or 2024.

However, the Vikings will not find that guy on Thursday. The top four QBs will be long off the board when the team is on the clock. They will go so early that trading up for one of them would be too expensive, no matter all the talk and rumors floating around in the world of NFL media.

The Vikings could very well pick one later in the draft, maybe taking a stab at lower-rated players and projects later in the draft like Tanner McKee, Dorian Thompson-Robinson, or Clayton Tune, but the sure-thing next franchise QB will not enter the door in the first round.

3. First Pick Is a Defensive Lineman

Janik Eckardt's Vikings Draft Predictions
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The decision-makers have a choice to make. Do they want to improve the horrendous defense or add some talent to the offense in the hope of getting an elite unit that can carry the defense?

Both ways are valid, but the Vikings will pick a defender with their first pick. The team needs cornerback help for a disastrous room, and the defensive line needs a difference-maker added to a bunch of average guys. In addition to that, a new linebacker could be a target because Jordan Hicks struggled last year, and Brian Asamoah is unproven.

Because the organization already has two young and promising cornerbacks, Andrew Booth and Akayleb Evans, both were brought in by Adofo-Mensah just a year ago, and because there isn’t a great linebacker in this class, they will address the defensive line, a position they have ignored for years. Bryan Bresee, Calijah Kancey, and Mazi Smith are the popular picks.

4. WR or RB on Day 2

Like the defensive struggles, the Vikings must add another weapon on offense. The departure of Adam Thielen hurt the receiver room that only has Justin Jefferson, K.J. Osborn, and a pack of unproven players in it.

The value in rounds two and three is always fantastic for wideouts, teams regularly find stars in that area of the draft, and many of them are stars from the beginning. This year’s group isn’t great at the top but has depth, so a decent WR will be available for the Vikings.

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

But a new wide receiver isn’t the only thing that could help the Vikings’ offense excel. Dalvin Cook’s departure is close, and he must be replaced by either the guys on the roster or a new guy has to enter the building.

Running backs don’t have a lot of value in today’s NFL, but the organization made it clear with the moves in the 2023 offseason that more focus on the running game is the plan going forward, and someone has to carry the football. Keep your eyes on the second or third-tier guys like Jahmyr Gibbs, Zach Charbonnet, Tyjae Spears, Devon Achane, or Tank Bigsby.

5. Vikings Add at Least 1 CB

Even though the Vikings won’t select a CB with their first pick, it doesn’t mean that they will totally ignore the position. The cornerback room is a disaster at the top and depthwise, and the Vikings need a handful of more players before training camp begins.

Similar to last year when the Vikings were enamored with Evans in the fourth round, they are higher on some CBs than other teams and will pick one.

6. No Cousins/Hunter Trade

The Vikings won’t pull off a trade for either of their two stars. Moving Kirk Cousins would leave the Vikings with a dead cap hit of $38 million. The trade simply doesn’t make sense financially since the team restructured the contract just six weeks ago.

Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

In addition to that, nothing indicates that the purple team doesn’t want to go on a run in 2023. Getting rid of the QB on April 27 is not how teams make runs.

Pass rusher Danielle Hunter is in an interesting situation. He certainly wants a new contract, and he has earned one. Hunter has been severely underpaid for years when he was healthy, but he is getting paid only $5.5 million in 2023, the final year of his contract. Trading him now would cost the Vikings an additional $5.5 million dead cap hit and escalate the total number to $18,860,000. Receiving a new contract from the Vikings seems like the more likely scenario.

If the Vikings trade a player, it will be Dalvin Cook or Za’Darius Smith, maybe even both.

Janik Eckardt is a football fan who likes numbers and stats. The Vikings became his favorite team despite their quarterback at the time, Christian Ponder. He is a walking soccer encyclopedia, loves watching sitcoms, and Classic rock is his music genre of choice. Follow him on Twitter if you like the Vikings: @JanikEckardt