Draft night is finally upon us and the Minnesota Vikings have far more options than in previous years. What are the best possible outcomes? Let’s have a look…
Land a top tackle and cornerback prospect at 22 and 25
Run 50 draft simulations on whatever website you like and there’s always a common theme: One top prospect falls through the cracks. Sometimes that’s a player that doesn’t help the Vikings much like LSU linebacker Patrick Queen but other times a player at the biggest positions of need — tackle and cornerback — ends up remaining on the board. It only takes one team surprising us by taking a QB earlier than expected or going off the board with a projected second rounder in the first to set up the Vikings in prime position.
At corner there are two players standing well above the rest in Jeff Okudah and CJ Henderson. It would be stunning if either sunk to 22 but players like Jeff Gladney, AJ Terrell, Kristian Fulton and Jaylon Johnson could be ranked higher by the Vikings depending on their potential fit. There’s a good chance that one of them ends up in that spot.
Along the offensive line most are projecting between four and six players will be taken in the first round. But the value of right tackles will be put to the test with a player like Jedrick Wills of Alabama, who might not be in the same category as left tackles Mekhi Becton and Andrew Thomas. Another ascending tackle is Josh Jones of Houston, who emerged in his final year as one of the best pass blockers in the class.
Any combination of corner and tackle who are first-round talents would check off major areas of need for the Vikings.
Trade down to late first or early second round, pick up another Day 2 pick
Another simulation theme: Trading down almost always looks good. In this particular draft, the talent between the 20th and 40th best prospects has been hotly debated and may largely depend on scheme fit. That gives the Vikings an opportunity to pick up another third-round selection by sliding back from the 25th pick.
With multiple corners, multiple O-linemen, at least one receiver and possibly a safety needed, the Vikings could hit a home run by gathering more top 100 selections while sacrificing little to nothing in terms of their second selection off the board.
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Trade Anthony Harris for a second-round pick
The combination of Anthony Harris and Harrison Smith helped the Mike Zimmer’s defense still rank fifth in points allowed despite below average cornerback play but signing Harris to a long-term contract extension might be too rich for the Vikings’ blood as they overhaul the defense. Zimmer said at the Combine that safety isn’t exactly at the top of the positional value chart. So if the Vikings do go hunting for a new partner for Harris, they would win draft night by coming away with another second-round pick where they could potentially grab his replacement in someone like Antoine Winfield Jr. or wait until the second round to pick a receiver in a very deep class.
The likelihood of a team paying out a second for Harris isn’t high but the pressure on teams to improve on draft night always ends up ramping up when picks are flying off the board.
Trade 22 or 25 for a current star player
You never know who is going to suddenly end up on the trade block. The day before the draft, Pittsburgh’s Ju Ju Smith-Schuster reportely came up for sale and Odell Beckham Jr.’s name was tossed around earlier in the week. Add them on top of players like Trent Williams, Jamal Adams and Alshon Jeffery, who have been on the block for awhile.
The Vikings might not be in a spot to be in Super Bowl or bust mode for 2020 but they can alter their timeline with a move that would push the chips to the middle of the table, whether that’s for a Stefon Diggs replacement or a game-changing lineman like New England’s Joe Thuney.
Draft capital is nice and so are players who project as stars but the certainty of adding a current star — especially in a year where offseason programs are altered — could be a home run for the Vikings.
Take the receiver who slips
There are more receivers ranked in the first round than teams who are going to select first-round receivers. It’s highly likely that none of the top ranked players like Jerry Jeudy or Henry Ruggs land at 22 but a player like LSU’s Justin Jefferson could slide just enough to put the Vikings in position to land a player who would be ranked in the top two or three in a normal year.
Kubiak’s system the Vikings might feel confident in their ability to fill around Adam Thielen and wait to select receivers in the third or fourth round. However, if the right player ends up at 22, they would be foolish to avoid another weapon for Cousins.