Mock drafting is great but simulating the draft is better. Websites like FanSpeak and The Draft Network have functions that combine draft boards and team needs to estimate how things will play out in the 2020 NFL Draft. We at SKOR North will be simulating the draft from a Minnesota Vikings perspective as we lead up to when the Vikings are on the clock.
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Here is our first post-Combine draft sim:
Josh Jones put together an impressive Senior Bowl, which boosted his draft stock up into the first-round conversation. He ranked as the 14th best prospect in the draft on Pro Football Focus’s pre-Combine big board after allowing just one sack and three QB hurries in his senior year. He was not one of the fastest (5.27 40-yard dash) tackles at the Combine but has impressive size (6-foot-5, 319-pounds) and length (34-inch arms).
“Early tape would suggest that Jones is a raw, developmental project in need of substantial technique work, but tape study later in the season suggests a level of improvement that creates additional intrigue for the long, athletic left tackle prospect. To be clear, he needs plenty of work with his pass sets and footwork, but most of his issues appear to be coachable. He’s a good fit for a move-oriented rushing attack and has the traits and talent to become a future starter if he continues to develop with coaching.”
TCU’s Ross Blacklock is NFL.com’s second ranked defensive tackle prospect. He was first-team All Big 12 in 2019, picking up nine tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks.
“Flashes menacing disruptive qualities as a gap seeker, but is just ordinary when forced to sit and take on blocks. Blacklock rebounded from a 2018 Achilles injury and showed off basketball quickness that was often too much for a single blocker. However, his technique and hand usage need work, as he’s inconsistent holding the point and keeping his feet. He’s a hit-or-miss run defender, but he’s a relentless pass rusher with elite lateral quickness and change of direction to exploit interior galoots and open pathways to the pocket. Blacklock needs development as a one-gapping three-technique with rare movement talent and intriguing rush potential.”
Even if Jones isn’t ready to start right away the Vikings need a future starting left tackle with expensive veteran Riley Reiff getting into his late prime. If they feel that he could be a Day 1 starter because of his huge leap from junior to senior year, they Vikings could move Reiff inside to guard or release him to create cap space. Even if more athletic tackles could be considered better scheme fits, improving pass protection is a top priority if the Vikings want to reach greater heights on offense.
Since Sharrif Floyd’s career ending injury the Vikings have been looking for an impact player at three-technique defensive tackle. Sheldon Richardson filled that spot in 2018 but couldn’t be retained because of his price tag and in 2019 the Vikings used a rotating cast depending on the situation. Blacklock is the type of athlete who could be developed into an even better pass rusher than he was at TCU.
.@TCUFootball DL Ross Blacklock runs a 4.97u 40-yard dash.
— NFL (@NFL) February 29, 2020
Who was available?
In this iteration the Vikings could have selected…
— Iowa edge rusher AJ Epenesa, who is known for his power rushing ability
— CeeDee Lamb, a game-breaking receiver from Oklahoma to add to Kirk Cousins’s weapons right away
— High-ceiling edge rusher Terrell Lewis from Alabama
— Versatile Alabama safety Xavier McKinney
FIRST ROUND: The Vikings may have a lot of needs but there are quality prospects at nearly every spot they could be looking to fill — including QB if they are not planning on extending Cousins (which appears unlikely at this point). The defensive end position isn’t deep but that could mean seeing the top prospects drop to the bottom of the first round. Zimmer said he wants Everson Griffen back though there’s no guarantee that happens and mixing and matching another talented DE would benefit the defense right away.
Adding another uber talented safety to play alongside Harrison Smith could give Zimmer all sorts of opportunity to be creative right away. McKinney reportedly can play slot or deep safety or in the box.
Jackson might be a better scheme fit. The idea of scheme fit also might be overvalued because pass protection is king.
The corners are the weakness part here. CJ Henderson and Trevon Diggs went before the Vikings’ pick, making it more likely in this scenario that they would select someone in the second round instead.
SECOND ROUND: A consensus good pick in Minnesota football fans’ minds would be Antoine Winfield Jr. but in this draft he was picked by the Chicago Bears at 50th overall. Some other players that would be on their radar like Oklahoma’s Neville Gallimore, intriguing edge rusher Julian Okwara and blazing fast corner Jeff Gladney of TCU came off the board just before the Vikings were set to pick. That left three particularly interesting options aside from Blacklock: USC receiver Michael Pittman Jr., D-lineman Justin Madubuike and safety Ashtyn Davis, whose stock may fall because he missed the Combine.
Trading up generally isn’t the best idea but if the Vikings are looking to fill immediate holes that might be required.
Here’s how the top 10 played out in this draft sim