Antoine Winfield Sr., became one of the Vikings’ most reliable cornerbacks during his nine seasons in Minnesota and his son, Antoine Jr., turned into an outstanding safety with the Minnesota Gophers before declaring for the 2020 draft. But could the younger Winfield’s time playing in Minnesota continue in purple?
In what would qualify as a major first-round surprise, ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr., projected the Vikings would take Winfield with the 25th pick in his 2.0 mock draft that appeared on Tuesday morning. Kiper’s point was that the salary-cap strapped Vikings could lose safety Anthony Harris when free agency opens a month from Tuesday and will need someone to replace him.
The 5-foot-10, 205-pound Winfield had his 2017 and 2018 seasons ended early by injuries, so that is a definite concern but when healthy he showed that, much like his father, he’s an incredibly smart player with outstanding athletic ability. Winfield, who was a redshirt sophomore in 2019, started all 13 games for the Gophers, leading the team with 88 tackles and three sacks. He tied a school single-season record with seven interceptions, returned one for a touchdown, and forced two fumbles.
The Vikings interest in Winfield could extend beyond him playing safety. He plays a similar game to his dad and there is a chance Winfield Jr., also could step into the inside role in the nickel defense and be the same type of punishing player as his father.
The big question is whether Winfield would need to be taken in the first round? Winfield Sr., who was listed at 5-10, 180 pounds, was a first-round pick of the Buffalo Bills (23rd overall) in 1999. Taking Winfield Jr., in the opening round might be a reach but keeping him in Minnesota would be a good idea.