Pass-Rush Prospect to Vikings Gaining Steam

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The Minnesota Vikings lost their last four contests of the 2023 season, leading to a free fall in playoff percentages and the eventual elimination but also to a better draft position. Finishing the season with a 7-10 record, general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah has the 11th overall pick in April’s draft, the highest the franchise has drafted in years.

Pass-Rush Prospect to Vikings Gaining Steam

Pass-Rush Prospect to Vikings Gaining Steam
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A capable quarterback usually prevents teams from having one of the top picks, and Kirk Cousins is one of those. Because of his injury for half the season, the Vikings are now in a position to draft his successor in a deep first-round draft class for passers, with Jayden Daniels, J.J. McCarthy, Michael Penix Jr, and Bo Nix all gaining some steam in the first-round conversation behind star prospects Caleb Williams and Drake Maye.

Kirk Cousins is scheduled to hit free agency prior to his age-36 season and is coming off a torn Achilles. But some folks are convinced the franchise should address a need on the defensive side of the ball and perhaps stick with the veteran instead.

Pass-rushers Danielle Hunter, D.J. Wonnum, and Marcus Davenport are also pending free agents, creating a massive hole in Brian Flores’ defense at perhaps the most important position other than quarterback. For that reason, many analysts expect the Vikings to pass on a passer and grab one of the top pass-rushers instead.

Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy makes a pass against Alabama linebacker Dallas Turner during the first half of the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California, on Monday, Jan. 1, 2024.

Marcus Mosher from The 33rd Team predicted the Vikes selecting Dallas Turner, edge rusher from Alabama, in his latest mock draft:

Danielle Hunter had a fantastic 2023 season, but the Minnesota Vikings need to add someone opposite him who can create pressure on the quarterback. Dallas Turner had double-digit sacks at Alabama this season despite being just 20.

There’s a lot of debate about who the top pass rusher is in this class, but it’s hard to pass up Turner and his production.

Not only does Hunter need a new teammate, but he might also need a successor if the player and the organization can’t find common ground and he leaves via free agency.

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An unbelievable fact about the Vikings is that they haven’t drafted a pass-rusher in the first round since Erasmus James in 2006, but it has always remained one of the team’s strengths with the acquisition of Jared Allen and the discovery of gems Everson Griffen, Brian Robison, and Hunter.

Turner is regarded as one of the best defensive prospects in the draft. He has racked up a total of 22.5 sacks in the last three seasons and 32.5 tackles for loss.

At 6’4″ and 242 lbs, Turner is an elite athlete, a true physical freak, offering some exciting upside in addition to his already solid production. He has a 19.6% pass-rush win rate, an elite number. He needs some refinement in his run defense; perhaps he must put up some more weight, but that is not unusual for a 20-year-old, a player amongst the youngest in the draft.

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Another edge defender who frequently appears in Minnesota’s draft projection is Laiatu Latu from UCLA. Also a productive player, Latu has an extensive injury history that might scare some teams.

The two most likely scenarios for Adofo-Mensah are either the selection of a quarterback or reinforcements on the defensive line, whether on the edge or in the middle of the line. But like always, the draft is unpredictable, and the GM has thrown some curveballs in his two-year tenure.

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