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Best Vikings draft fits, part 5: Safeties

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 5, we look at safeties: 

Part 1: Cornerbacks can be read here

Part 2: Offensive linemen can be read here

Part 3: Wide receivers can be read here

Part 4: Defensive line can be read here

Best case scenario pick: Minnesota, Antoine Winfield Jr.

While it certainly falls under the category of pre-draft cliches to pair the local kid with the pro squad, Antoine Winfield Jr. and the Vikings are perfect for each other. He picked off seven passes for the Gophers last season while playing a myriad of positions in the secondary. At the NFL Combine, all questions about his pure athleticism were answered when he posted a 4.45 40-yard dash and 36-inch vertical jump. Winfield’s combination of versatility, intelligence and instincts makes him a natural fit with Mike Zimmer.

Alabama, Xavier McKinney

Credit: USA Today

Another safety who was used in multiple roles, McKinney played 272 snaps as a free safety, 285 in the box and 227 as a slot corner per PFF data. He checks all the production boxes as well, grading in the top five in the country in coverage by PFF, effectively rushing the passer with 21 pressures in 71 blitz snaps and racking up 70 tackles.

Adding a player with SEC dominance on his resume could give the Vikings an instant weapon that they have no had alongside Harrison Smith for his entire tenure in Minnesota. wrote:

“His coverage instincts, athleticism and quick-twitch burst are more cornerback than safety, which is why he’s likely to be a coveted toy for teams looking to upgrade and diversify their sub-packages. He can sit in center field all day if needed, and he’s an adequate open-field tackler but has room for improvement in that area. McKinney represents the new breed of versatile, matchup safety with high upside as an early starter.”

LSU, Grant Delpit

If the Vikings are looking for a safety with top-notch coverage skills, Delpit is their guy. The 6-foot-3 defensive has ball skills that project similarly to Anthony Harris with seven interceptions over the past two seasons. While the LSU standout’s 2019 season was not as strong as his 2018, in which he was he was first-team All-American, he still received a solid PFF coverage grade while playing through an ankle injury and gave up a 71.1 rating into his coverage.

Cal, Ashtyn Davis

Versatility isn’t the name of the game for Davis, range is. He wasn’t able to go through Combine drills so it’s unclear exactly how his athleticism compares to others in the class but he showed with six interceptions over the last two years that he can track large areas of space as a single-high safety. His two-year PFF grade was among the top 10 in the draft class and he had more interceptions and forced incompletions than catches allowed. If the Vikings want a replacement at the position who reflects their previous two compliments to Harrison Smith, Davis should be considered.

Lenoir-Rhyne, Kyle Dugger

One of the most improbable high prospects in the draft, Dugger received zero Division-I offers out of high school and turned into one of the most intriguing players at the safety position.His Combine performance, running a 4.49 40-yard dash with a 42-inch vertical combined with weighing 217 pounds is enough to be intrigued. The website Mockdraftble compares his showing in Indy to that of Eric Berry.

Dugger isn’t exactly the quick fix the Vikings might be looking for at safety but he’s a game-changing athlete — which is something they haven’t had at the position during the Harrison Smith era. wrote:

“Dugger crammed the stat sheet full and used those elite traits to dominate the opposition. At times, he seems bored with his level of competition, but his engagement can be instant and urgent when it needs to be. He plays with controlled violence and carries an alpha demeanor on the field. He has soft hands and is rangy, but needs to train his eyes and improve his fundamentals before he’s coverage-ready. Dugger is a versatile, scheme-friendly safety who helps immediately on special teams and could develop into a talented NFL starter.”

Sleeper: Southern Illinois, Jeremy Chinn and Utah, Terrell Burgess

Nearly as impressive as Dugger at the Combine, Chinn put him a 4.45 40-yard dash and 41-inch vertical at 6-foot-3, 221 pounds. Coincidentally his comparison is Harrison Smith. He is largely considered more of a raw athlete than someone who is ready to start right away. Chinn could be the answer if the Vikings plan on keeping Anthony Harris on the franchise tag.

Another potential player for an instant fit sleeper is Utah’s Terrell Burgess, who isn’t as lanky but has quickness and posted PFF’s fourth highest coverage trade. While he only had one interception, Burgess gave up a 65.9 rating against per PFF and showed exceptional speed with a 4.46 40-yard dash.


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