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How each Vikings draft pick fits on the depth chart

The Minnesota Vikings restocked their roster in the NFL Draft by adding 15 players to the mix. Let’s have a look at where each player is most likely to start on the depth chart…

WR, Justin Jefferson

Projection: No. 2 receiver

LSU’s star comes with huge production at the highest level and the athleticism to stand out in the NFL right away. That combined with an NFL-style offense should give him an opportunity to quickly take a large chunk of the No. 2 receiver responsibilities. Whether he overtakes Bisi Johnson and Tajae Sharpe for the clear-cut role and plays 80% of snaps or more depends on how well he adapts. In his breakout year, Jefferson played the vast majority of snaps in the slot so there could be an adjustment period that sees him fit into a more specified role that splits time with Johnson, Sharpe (and whoever else might emerge).

CB, Jeff Gladney

Projection: Starting outside corner

The Vikings entered the draft with Mike Hughes, Holton Hill and Kris Boyd as the only corners with any type of NFL experience. That means the door is wide open for Gladney to win a starting job. While he might have long-term potential to play slot corner, he is far more experienced on the outside with four years of significant playing time at TCU.

There are a number of combinations possible if Gladney starts on the outside. We could see Hughes as a nickel corner and Hill across from the rookie or Boyd learn the slot corner role and Hughes-Gladney start outside.

OT, Ezra Cleveland

Projection: Swing tackle with a chance to start at LT or LG

Another experienced college player, Cleveland has a shot to start right away at left tackle and bump Riley Reiff inside to guard. There aren’t many positions tougher to make the jump from college to the NFL than left tackle but Cleveland has elite athleticism for the position which gives him a shot to make up for some of the technical shortcomings required for the gig. There is also a chance they could give him an opportunity to compete at guard if the Vikings’ staff is more comfortable with Reiff holding down Kirk Cousins’s blindside.

With a shortened offseason, taking on the challenge of playing right away could prove too difficult and we might see Cleveland sit in the same way that Brian O’Neill started his 2018 season as a reserve and then eventually worked into the lineup.

CB, Cameron Dantzler

Projection: Backup outside cornerback

Dantzler has the length that Mike Zimmer likes in his outside corners and the high-level play that made him as high as a second-round pick for some draft analysts. A slow 40-yard dash hurt his draft stock but ultimately might play right into the Vikings’ hands. His play against SEC competition was outstanding, giving up only one touchdown and picking off five passes over the last three years (per PFF). He may be in a similar spot as Hill in ’18 in which he has a chance to be the first man off the bench on the outside if/when there are injuries.

DE, DJ Wonnum

Projection: Situational pass rusher

A classic Andre Patterson project, Wonnum possesses the size/length/athleticism to become an effective edge rusher in the NFL if he can hone his technique under the Vikings’ co-defensive coordinator/D-line coach. With Everson Griffen very likely out of the picture, they will need more than one player at right defensive end to fill his shoes. Last year Ifeadi Odenigbo emerged as being capable to hold down the majority of snaps but there will be plenty of competition for players rotating into the mix in pass rushing situations.

DT, James Lynch

Projection: Situational pass rusher

Last year the Vikings only got six QB pressures from Shamar Stephen and used Odenigbo and Stephen Weatherly (who signed in Carolina) to mix in during passing downs. But if Odenigbo has a starting defensive end role, Zimmer won’t be able to use him as much lining up over guards on third down. That opens the door for Lynch to prove he can become what the Vikings got for years out of Tom Johnson. The competition will be open between Armon Watts, the former Baylor star Lynch, Hercules Mata’afa and ’18 fourth-round pick Jalyn Holmes to earn playing time.

LB, Troy Dye

Projection: Special teams, fourth LB

Few teams have a better top three linebackers than the Vikings with Eric Kendricks, Anthony Barr and Eric Wilson. But behind them there isn’t an obvious choice for another coverage backer or big nickel type player. Last year the Vikings picked Cameron Smith in the fifth and they grabbed Devante Downs in the seventh in ’18 but they appear more along the lines of special teamers. Dye will have a chance to beat one of them for a special teams gig to replace Kentrell Brothers and be either the first man off the bench as a third linebacker or potentially a situational player if they love what they see in camp.

CB, Harrison Hand

Projection: Cornerback depth, special teams

Hand falls into the category of players battling for a roster spot along with Mark Fields, CFL’er Marcus Sayles, practice squader Kemon Hall and UDFA Nevelle Clarke.

WR, KJ Osborn

Projection: Punt return specialist

The Vikings struggled to return punts last year so they brought back Marcus Sherels but he won’t be there this year to beat out the young’ins at camp. Osborn was one of the better punt returners in the country at Miami, averaging 15.9 yards per return. He isn’t likely to have a spot in the receiving corps over more experienced players but starts camp as the front runner for return duties, in part because Mike Hughes will be relied upon to play full-time at corner.

OT, Blake Brandel

Projection: Practice squad

The roster has two other developmental tackles in Oli Udoh and Aviante Collins who start ahead of Brandel on the depth chart. Injuries could open the door for a job behind Riley Reiff, Brian O’Neill, Rashod Hill and Ezra Cleveland but it’s far more likely the Oregon State tackle is aiming for a practice squad gig.

S, Josh Metellus 

Projection: Backup safety, special teams

Michigan’s versatile safety could turn out to be what the Vikings wanted Jayron Kearse to become: A big nickel. Metellus showed at the Senior Bowl that he can cover and played a big role in Michigan’s defense in the box as a blitzer and run stopper. Aside from Harrison Smith and Anthony Harris, it’s Metellus, seventh-rounder Brian Cole and UDFA Myles Dorn and that’s it. Metellus has a path to becoming a role player.

DE, Kenny Willekes

Projection: Practice squad

A former walk-on at Michigan State, Willekes is a “never tell me the odds” guy so it’s far from a sure thing that he’ll end up on the practice squad. He showed run stopping ability and posted 23.5 career sacks for the Spartans. He is part of the competition with Wonnum, Anthony Zettel, Stacy Keely and Eddie Yarbrough.

QB, Nate Stanley

Projection: Practice squad

Will battle with Jake Browning for the No. 3 spot.

S, Brian Cole

Projection: Backup safety

Similar to Metellus, Cole has a decent chance to stick as a backup safety simply because the numbers are so thin at that position.

G, Kyle Hinton

Projection: Practice squad

Dru Samia, Pat Elflein, Dakota Dozier and Brett Jones will all be fighting for jobs during camp. If Hinton can adapt quickly, he could earn a job on the practice squad.


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