Put 1 Item at the Top of Your Vikings Draft Wishlist

Judgment Day
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The Minnesota Vikings have not been eliminated from playoff contention, but their chances are down to 3%, and most fans have turned their eyes to April’s draft and how another loss could help the draft position rather than learning the playoff scenarios. Kwesi Adofo-Mensah’s third offseason in charge of the personnel will be intriguing as the team enters the offseason with many question marks.

Put 1 Item at the Top of Your Vikings Draft Wishlist

Of course, over every other decision and position floats the QB mystery. With Kirk Cousins approaching the age of a declining player and coming off a season-ending injury, it remains to be seen if the Vikings are willing to give him another lucrative deal or if the acquisition of his successor will be a priority this year. The downside is obviously that it would occupy the valuable first-round selection and maybe more if the decision-makers want to trade up to secure their guy.

Put 1 Item at the Top of Your Vikings Draft Wishlist
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But they have other holes to fill, and having a first-rounder available would help fill one. An unacknowledged need is that of a pass-rushing defensive tackle, a position that has been forgotten in Minnesota for a long time, which is a shame as they employed two of the best ever to do that. John Randle and Alan Page sit in the Hall of Fame after pestering quarterbacks for years.

Besides nose tackle Harrison Phillips–who is a fantastic run defender but doesn’t have the necessary burst and quickness to hunt quarterbacks–the Vikings don’t really have another decent defensive lineman on the roster. Dean Lowry and Jonathan Bullard are fine role and rotational players but aren’t difference-makers. Opponents aren’t scared that they will blow up their plays, and they certainly don’t have to scheme to stop them.

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Rookie Jaquelin Roy has barely made an impact, and Khyiris Tonga didn’t make the expected step to stardom in his second year with the Vikings. In addition to the lack of talent, all of them have their strengths at defending the run, but none of them can get after the quarterback.

They can’t impersonate Aaron Donald; they aren’t even a lite version, a borderline starter version of the future Hall of Famer. And the statistics verify that theory. NFL analyst Brett Kollmann tweeted the teams with the worst pass-rush win rate, and, well, Minnesota’s numbers are kind of embarrassing.

The fact that it is not even close to the second-worst team is alarming. There are two reasons for that. For one, the Vikings have faded the position in the draft ever since selecting Sharif Floyd in 2013. He was the last first-rounder spent on the interior defensive line. In fact, he was the only interior lineman chosen in the first three rounds in almost two decades. Because of that, the talent just hasn’t been there, and the free-agent additions (Linval Joseph, Michael Pierce, Dalvin Tomlinson, Harrison Phillips) were all run-stoppers.

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Minnesota has had strong edge-rushers in the last decade, and actually, ever since they traded for Jared Allen. He was replaced by Everson Griffen, Brian Robison, and Danielle Hunter. But the NFL has changed. Tom Brady’s weakness used to be when he was pressured from the inside, which is why the Patriots always emphasized strong interior blockers. A pocket passer that can’t step up in the pocket is screwed; he can’t just escape and scramble like Patrick Mahomes does.

Teams have started to look for and develop inside pass-rushers. They want their own version of Aaron Donald or Chris Jones. The Vikings have faced Kenny Clark for a long time, and he gives them fits every single year.

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With no decent interior threat on the roster, and quite frankly, not even in the pipeline stashed in the depths of the team, they should invest to finally bring someone to Minnesota who can do that job and consistently annoy passers.

Every draft has some exciting defensive tackles in the first round, but even on day two, teams can find someone who can do the trick. The Vikings should spend that type of draft capital, possibly on the guy Kollmann mentioned, Jer’Zhan Newton, who is exactly what the Vikings need. Perhaps adding another one via free agency could be an option, too.

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