Vikings Viewed as a Fit for Defensive Prospect

Flores Flourish
Jamie Sabau-USA TODAY Sports

With the draft only a few weeks away, Skol Nation is awaiting the arrival of a new hero, a franchise quarterback. Undoubtedly, the easiest way to win a Lombardi Trophy is to be lucky (or skilled) enough to find an elite passer in the draft. It is a good draft to need a new QB, but the top four are probably drafted within the first five picks of the draft. Trading up from 11 is required.

Vikings Viewed as a Fit for Defensive Prospect

in Particular Rookie
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To do that, general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah has acquired pick 23 from the Houston Texans. He has the ammo to find a deal, but there is no guarantee, as a trade involves two parties. If nobody wanted to trade down, he would be stuck at 11.

While that is likely too low to bring one of the top QB prospects to Minnesota, it is the prime position to draft an elite defender in a draft filled with offensive talent. Most mock drafts see only one or two defenders drafted before the Vikings are on the clock.

With the signings of pass-rushers Andrew van Ginkel and Jonathan Greenard and cornerback Shaquill Griffin, neither position is as pressing a need as it was a month ago. Instead, reinforcing the defensive line is possible, and Texas defender Byron Murphy is the right guy for that. According to Matt Holder from Bleacher Report, the Vikings are the perfect fit for him.

Vikings Draft
John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

While the Vikings are widely expected to trade up in the first round to pursue a quarterback, there’s no denying that they could use an interior pass rusher as well. Harrison Phillips led the position group with three sacks last season and run defense is his calling card as that figure was a career high.

Murphy could be exactly what Minnesota’s defense needs, someone who can provide pressure up the middle to support new edge rushers Jonathan Greenard and Andrew Van Ginkel. Plus, Brain Flores is known for dialing up exotic blitzes that confuse offensive lines which could help the Texas product rack up some easy sacks as a rookie.

Matt Holder

The 21-year-old has been linked to Minnesota numerous times. The Vikings have set up a visit with the consensus best DT in the draft class.

Unrelated to Vikings cornerback Byron Murphy Jr., Murphy has been a riser in this draft cycle. Starting as a potential second-rounder late in the season, early-offseason buzz has elevated him into the top half of the first round.

Good defensive tackles are hard to find outside of the first 32 picks, and Murphy certainly has the potential to be one of the better players at the position. He is coming off his best season, producing five sacks, 8.5 tackles for loss, and 29 total tackles — all career highs. The strong defensive line was a big reason why the Longhorns returned to relevancy and even earned a trip into the playoffs.

Texas defensive lineman Byron Murphy II (90) defends against Iowa State offensive lineman Jim Bonifas (63) and Iowa State quarterback Rocco Becht (3) in the second half of the Longhorns’ game against the Cyclones at Jack Trice Stadium in Ames, Iowa, Saturday, Nov. 18, 2023. Texas won the game 26-16. © Sara Diggins/American-Statesman / USA TODAY NETWORK.

Tony Pauline reported from Murphy’s Pro Day that he would be the franchise’s plan B if they can’t land a passer:

Defensive tackle Byron Murphy, looking like Mr. Universe as he worked out shirtless, looked terrific in drills, just as he did during the combine. The Bears, Falcons and Colts met Murphy the last two days, as did the Vikings.

Word since the Shrine Bowl was that the Vikings would take Murphy with the 11th pick of Round 1. Obviously the focus has shifted to the quarterback position. Yet the feeling they were giving off at pro day is that Murphy would be their contingency plan at 11 if no signal caller is available.

Tony Pauline

The Vikings could surely use his presence, as Harrison Phillips is a run defender, and the other guys in the building are merely rotational players. Jonah Williams and Jerry Tillery were signed, while Jaquelin Roy and Jonathan Bullard returned from last season.

Texas Longhorns head coach Steve Sarkisian greets Texas Longhorns defensive lineman Byron Murphy II (90) on senior night before the game against Texas Tech at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium on Friday, Nov. 24, 2023. © Mikala Compton/American-Statesman / USA TODAY NETWORK.

Murphy is equally promising at rushing the passer and stopping the run. He has enormous potential and excellent quickness and strength. Falcons defender Grady Jarrett has been a common comparison.

Minnesota missed out on the top free agents at the position who once again signed huge contracts elsewhere.

Murphy is a sweet idea, but it is only feasible if the Vikings don’t trade up for a QB.

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