The last time ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. released a mock draft he had the Vikings taking Gophers defensive back Antoine Winfield Jr. with the 25th pick in the first round. Since that time, the Vikings have obtained a second first-round selection (in the Stefon Diggs trade) and, in Kiper’s estimation, Winfield’s value has increased.
In his NFL Mock Draft 3.0 released on Tuesday — the first one he has done since the NFL Scouting Combine — Kiper has the Vikings using the 22nd pick, the one they got from Buffalo, on Baylor wide receiver Denzel Mims. Kiper writes: “Mims is one of the biggest risers from the pre-draft process, as he was tremendous at the Senior Bowl and then blew up at the combine, running a 4.38 40 at 6-foot-3, 207 pounds and testing well in the other workouts. He had 28 touchdowns over the past three seasons at Baylor.”
Kiper then has the Vikings selecting Iowa defensive end A.J. Epenesa with the 25th pick. Kiper writes: “Epenesa could be a capable replacement for (Everson) Griffen as a defensive end with a big frame (6-foot-5, 275 pounds) who is good against the run and has room to grow as a pass-rusher.”
Kiper’s top five picks include the Bengals taking LSU quarterback Joe Burrow; Washington selecting Ohio State defensive end Chase Young; Detroit picking Ohio State cornerback Jeff Okudah; the Giants going with Clemson linebacker Isaiah Simmons; and Miami taking Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa.
Kiper has two more quarterbacks going in the opening round: Oregon’s Justin Herbert at No. 6 to the Los Angeles Chargers and Utah State’s Jordan Love at No. 23 (one pick after the Vikings’ first selection of the round) to New England.
And what about Winfield Jr.? Kiper now has him going 20th to the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Kiper writes that Winfield can play “everywhere,” adding, “He has the versatility to play deep safety, nickel corner, strong safety and even some linebacker. At 5-foot-9, 203 pounds, he’s not the biggest guy, but you couldn’t tell from his tackling on tape — he’s not afraid to hit a ball carrier. Winfield stayed healthy in 2019 and had seven interceptions. He’s a ballhawk, which is something Jacksonville could use after it traded Jalen Ramsey last year. I really like Winfield, and this is a great landing spot for the best defensive back left on my board.”