Vikings Can Find a Building Block in the Draft

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The Minnesota Vikings enter a paramount offseason for the franchise’s future as Kirk Cousins is a free agent, and his future with the organization is in question. General manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah has the 11th overall pick, the highest the franchise has drafted in almost a decade. With that selection, he could find Cousins’ successor but also a stout defender, someone who can be the focal point of a defense for years.

Vikings Can Find a Building Block in the Draft

And someone like that is necessary for Minnesota as most of Mike Zimmer’s guys have departed from the organization, only leaving Harrison Smith and Danielle Hunter as the remaining star players from Zimmer’s golden days. But that could change this offseason as Smith contemplates retirement while Hunter is a free agent.

Vikings Can Find a Building Block in the Draft
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Hunter and fellow edge rushers D.J. Wonnum and Marcus Davenport are in the free agency pool unless Adofo-Mensah hands one of them a contract extension. For that reason, it is a massive hole on the roster and perhaps even more crucial than a quarterback. Andre Carter and Patrick Jones are the only outside linebackers under contract.

While the top passers are expected to fly off the board with the first two picks, there will be a fantastic edge defender on the board when the Vikings are on the clock, and according to Matt Holder from Bleacher Report, the franchise could find one of five foundational pieces in this draft class at that spot.

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Besides quarterbacks Drake Maye and Caleb Williams, wide receiver Marvin Harrison Jr, and offensive tackle Joe Alt, he thinks pass-rusher Jared Verse can be a foundational player for a team’s defense, and the Vikings are one of three potential destinations for him.

A quality edge defender should be the foundation of every defense. Having someone who can consistently pressure the quarterback makes life easier for defensive backs, and a defensive lineman who disrupts the offensive line in the running game allows linebackers to roam freely and make stops.

That’s why edge-rusher is considered a premium position and why most of the NFL’s top defenses have at least one star at that spot. In this year’s draft class, two edge-rushers stand out among the rest: Florida State’s Jared Verse and UCLA’s Laiatu Latu.

Both players are in the top 10 of B/R’s latest big board and are only separated by two spots. Verse earns the nod as the better building block because his physical play style yields better results against the run.

Whoever ends up drafting Verse will be getting a defender who can contribute on all three downs. He’s similar to Ryan Kerrigan, a foundational player for Washington’s defense from 2011 to 2020.

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Laiatu Latu is another player who ended up in Minnesota in frequent mock drafts. The Vikings need an edge rusher and are in a perfect spot to get one of the top guys. So it makes sense to go after him or Verse.

Some edge defenders are only pass-rushers, and while that is important, the difference between those and truly elite players like Maxx Crosby or Myles Garrett is their play against the run. They aren’t one-dimensional but can destroy the offense in different ways. Hunter is also one of those players.

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In two seasons at Florida State, Verse has produced nine sacks each season and 29.5 tackles for loss. He surely has the production that earns him top-ten consideration in the draft. He was named first-team All-American in each of the last two seasons.

Verse has the necessary size and athleticism to be a dominant player at the next level but needs to refine his pass-rush plan more, and like most defenders, it might take him a year to get used to NFL physicality. But for the most part, the deficiencies in his game are coachable, and he would be a real asset for the Vikings.

However, Adofo-Mensah must decide if he is willing to spend a draft pick on defense or if he wants to address the QB position. It will be the crucial decision in the offseason, determining the targets in free agency and the draft.

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