ESPN Says Defense for MIN in Latest Mock Draft

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After the Minnesota Vikings resolve their 1st-Round draft pick debate, the club will step up to the podium on April 25th and likely choose a quarterback or EDGE rusher.

ESPN Says Defense for MIN in Latest Mock Draft

Those are the two most prominent theories among Vikings fans and draft pundits as of mid-February. Minnesota must decide in the next four weeks to extend quarterback Kirk Cousins or let him vamoose to free agency. If the latter occurs, the Vikings would be nearly a lock to select a quarterback with their 11th overall pick.

ESPN Says Defense
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But according to ESPN’s Field Yates, defense will be on the menu for the Vikings draft. He mock-drafted EDGE defender Jared Verse from Florida State to Minnesota this week, a somewhat common theme so far during this draft cycle.

Yates explained Verse to Vikings, “Retaining Danielle Hunter — soon to be a free agent — would change the outlook on this pick, but losing Hunter, D.J. Wonnum and/or Marcus Davenport would leave Minnesota razor thin at pass-rusher. Verse is long, has great in-line power and shows a growing set of pass-rush moves to get home.”

Florida Gators quarterback Max Brown (17) gets stopped by Florida State Seminoles defensive lineman Jared Verse (5) and Florida State Seminoles defensive lineman Braden Fiske (55) during first-half action as Florida takes on Florida State at Steve Spurrier Field at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, FL on Saturday, November 25, 2023. [Alan Youngblood/Gainesville Sun]

It’s worth noting that Vikings could do both regarding Hunter and Verse. Even if Hunter is re-signed on a third contract, Minnesota will still need a starting outside linebacker. Re-upping with Marcus Davenport seems severely unlikely.

“After surprising many and returning to Florida State for the 2023 season, he helped catalyze what was on the short list for the best defense in college football last season, racking up nine sacks,” Yates added.

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The Vikings entered the offseason with two EDGE rushers under contract: Patrick Jones II and Andre Carter II. Neither is considered a startable option, at least not early in the 2024 offseason. Between Hunter, the Verse theory, and a free-agent addition, Minnesota must find at least two starting outside linebackers between now and April 27th.

Josh Frey, editor of PurplePTSD, a sister-site to VikingsTerritory, recently described Verse, “You won’t find too many pass rushers that surpass Verse in terms of athletic ability. He has it all. He is explosive off the line of scrimmage, can maneuver his way around blockers with ease, and his acceleration is impressive while in pursuit of ball carriers. Verse also has an incredible motor that allows him to wear down offensive lines over the course of a game. An example of this came against the Florida Gators where Verse recorded a pair of sacks and a forced fumble in the final minutes to help seal a win.”

Offseason Is Different
Minnesota Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah at the 2023 NFL Combine the Week of February 27th. The Vikings have the 23rd overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft.

Selecting Verse would also end a long Vikings drought. Minnesota hasn’t used 1st- or 2nd-Round draft capital on an EDGE defender since 2005. It’s been 19 years, and the last guy was named Erasmus James.

Verse will turn 24 in November — a bit on the older side by a traditional rookie standards.

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,’ Basset Hounds, and The Doors (the band).

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