Vikings’ Main Draft Need Next Year Already Pretty Vivid

Vikings
Kwesi Adofo-Mensah & Kevin O’Connell Talk Free Agent Moves, Future at Quarterback & 2023 NFL Draft in Eagan, Minnesota, on April 13th, 2023. Adofo-Mensah and O'Connell joined the organization in January and February 2022, respectively.

The Minnesota Vikings just finished this year’s draft, headlined by the selections of J.J. McCarthy, a quarterback from Michigan, and Dallas Turner, an outside linebacker from Alabama.

Vikings’ Main Draft Need Next Year Already Pretty Vivid

Indeed, the McCarthy era in Minnesota will begin sometime in 2024 or 2025, and employing Turner on the defensive line only bolsters that side of the ball. But four months before the start of the regular season, the draft community is already peering ahead at next year’s rookies, and for Minnesota, the most explicit need is defensive tackle.

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Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports.

For starters, next to Harrison Phillips on the defensive line’s interior, the Vikings will presumably roll with a hodgepodge of Jerry Tillery, Jonah Williams, Jonathan Bullard, Jaquelin Roy, and rookie Levi Drake Rodriguez. That group does not inspire much confidence, at least not on paper.

So, it’s no surprise that ESPN’s first 2025 mock draft outfits the purple team with a fancy defensive tackle. Jordan Reid foreshadowed Minnesota picking eighth next April and aligned Kevin O’Connell’s team with Mason Graham, a DT from Michigan, the same school as McCarthy.

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Michigan defensive lineman Mason Graham looks to tackle Washington quarterback Michael Penix Jr. during the second half of U-M’s 34-13 win in the College Football Playoff national championship game in Houston on Monday, Jan. 8, 2024. © Melanie Maxwell / USA TODAY NETWORK.

Reid explained, “Minnesota’s interior defensive line lacks a consistent presence, and Harrison Phillips is entering the final year of his contract. Graham is a rugged, heavy-handed run defender and disruptive pass-rusher. He had 7.5 tackles for loss and three sacks last season, and he’d fit great with defensive coordinator Brian Flores’ scheme.”

To be clear, a full year of college football must transpire before the rookie pecking order can crystalize, but Reid’s theory on DT is just the beginning of what some fans feel is inevitable: at some point, general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah must get serious about the guts of the defensive line and find an impact defensive tackle.

Vikings
Peter van den Berg-USA TODAY Sports.

The Vikings have notoriously avoided emphasizing the spot with back-to-back coaching regimes. It’s why players like Jonathan Bullard, Armon Watts, and Shamar Stephen always find starters’ jobs. Minnesota typically finds a mid-tier performer at defensive tackle and calls it good.

Meanwhile, with the would-be DT plan in tow, Minnesota may also be faced with trading down in next year’s draft. Adofo-Mensah spent oodles of draft mid- and late-round capital to select McCarthy and Turner, so much so that 2025 and 2026 will be about recovering assets. A defensive tackle can assuredly be a priority, but to re-fortify the cabinet, Adofo-Mensah might have to trade down a time or two.

Coach Already a Hot
Minnesota defensive coordinator Brian Flores takes over the team’s defense at an introductory press conference on February 15th, 2023, in Eagan, Minnesota.

Finally, if the purple team wishes to fix the defensive tackle position without a rookie, next year’s free-agent class isn’t quite as dazzling as the 2024 version. For now, Green Bay Packers DT Kenny Clark is scheduled to hit the open market, but that’s about it for impact interior defensive linemen.


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).

All statistics provided by Pro Football Reference / Stathead; all contractual information provided by OverTheCap.com.

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