During the lead up to the NFL draft, we will be looking at the players from each Minnesota Vikings position of need who would be the best fits in the first or second round plus one sleeper pick who might be available later in the draft. The fit is based on playing style, production, NFL Combine results and realistic possibility of being selected… For Part 1, the cornerbacks…
The Florida standout played regularly for three seasons as a Gator and was only targeted an average of 37 times per season, per PFF tracking data. In 110 total targets, he gave up five touchdowns and picked off six passes while giving up just a 52% completion percentage.
At the NFL Combine, Henderson proved to be a cut above athletically. At 6-foot, 204-pounds, he blazed to a 4.39 40-yard dash and benched 20 reps (91st percentile). Mike Zimmer’s defense asks outside corners to play a good deal of man coverage and Henderson is, by all accounts, only second to expected top pick Jeff Okudah in that area.
It’s unlikely that Henderson will still be on the board when the Vikings pick but if he drops, they would find themselves in a dream scenario.
Certainly there would be some uncomfortable feelings within the Diggs home if the Vikings selected him in the first round but the team’s recent history with his brother Stefon shouldn’t be enough for the cornerback-needy Vikes to turn a blind eye to his talent. At Alabama, he mauled opposing receivers, allowing a 44.5 quarterback rating on throws in his direction last season and gave up just 309 yards on 52 targets against. At 6-foot-2, 200-pounds and nearly 33-inch arms, he meets the specs of a classic Zimmer corner.
Because of his length/strength combo, PFF compares him to Josh Norman and NFL.com likens him to Aqib Talib.
Shutting down the best receivers of the SEC is no easy task but Fulton did just that over the last two years, giving up 48 completions on 110 targets. PFF’s draft guide notes that he was graded in the top 15 in the country in press coverage against top wide receivers. He was also No. 1 in the nation in “forced incompletions.” There was some question about his raw athleticism but he ran a 4.46 40-yard dash at the Combine.
Considering the level of competition that magnitude of games in which Fulton flourished, he might be the top plug-and-play corner in the draft.
The Tigers’ top defensive back was built for Mike Zimmer. At 6-foot-1, 195-pounds, he ran a 4.42 40-yard dash to go along with one of the fastest 10-yard splits at the Combine. He gave up a 52% completion percentage last season and has five interceptions in the last two years. PFF’s NFL Comparison for Terrell is Darius Slay.
While his NFL Combine performance wasn’t as impressive as some hoped and he doesn’t fit the exactly height-weight specs that the Vikings look for, Gladney still has impressive speed, strength and length to go along with production. Over the last two years he allowed just a 41.5% completion percentage on throws in his direction, per PFF. The Vikings have drafted undersized corners in the recent past with neither Mackensie Alexander or Mike Hughes being under 6-foot tall. While he has the experience in press coverage that the Vikings seek, the one concern is whether he is shifty enough to move inside to nickel if needed.
Few players in the draft have more experience than Johnson, who was a three-year starter at Utah. In those seasons, per PFF, he allowed QB ratings against of 54.9, 57.6 and 52.0, picking off seven passes while allowing just three touchdowns. He is known as one of the most instinctive players at the position and he put together a solid Combine that would answer questions about his athleticism. Without playing in a top conference versus the best of the best receivers, there might be a learning curve that could cause teams to allow him to drop into the second or third round.
The Vikings are in dire need of restocking their cornerback cupboard with Xavier Rhodes, Trae Waynes and Mackensie Alexander all signing elsewhere this offseason. It should be their No. 1 position of need and it would be stunning if they left the first round without a corner. Most draft experts have the Vikings getting their pick of the litter beyond Henderson, who is projected top-15.