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Five observations on Vikings’ draft: GM gets immediate help, while also keeping eye on future

NCAA Football: Texas A&M at Tennessee
Dec 19, 2020; Knoxville, TN, USA; Tennessee linebacker Deandre Johnson (13) chases down Texas A&M quarterback Kellen Mond (11) during a SEC game between the Tennessee Volunteers and the Texas A&M Aggies held at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, Tenn., on Saturday, December 19, 2020. Mandatory Credit: Brianna Paciorka-USA TODAY NETWORK

Rick Spielman traded back in the first round, didn’t have a pick in the second for the first time since 2014 and only had one selection in the final two rounds of the NFL draft. But the Vikings’ general manager still had 11 picks in the three-day draft and is likely to receive solid grades for his work.

Spielman filled immediate needs, while also addressing the future. Most importantly, it didn’t appear that he got cute with trades or picks. The fact he moved back from 14 to 23 in the first round and still got a very good left tackle was a combination of luck and savvy.

It’s guessing to try to project how this draft class will turn out, but from a position standpoint Spielman’s approach appeared to be solid. Here are five thoughts on a Vikings’ draft that wrapped up Saturday.

  • The Vikings can say first-round pick Christian Darrisaw will have to compete for the starting job at left tackle, but the reality is something would need to go very wrong for the 6-foot-5, 314-pound rookie not to be Minnesota’s opening day starter. In fact, if all goes according to plan, Darrisaw will be the Vikings’ starting left tackle for the next eight to 10 years. I know, I know, you’re pointing to Matt Kalil, who was a flop after being the fourth pick in the 2012 draft, but the idea on Kalil was the right one. Left tackle is one of the most important positions, and having a good one (especially on a rookie contract for five years) is extremely important.
  • Darrisaw shouldn’t be the only rookie starter on the line. Wyatt Davis, a third-round pick from Ohio State, will have every opportunity to win a job at guard. The only question is will it be left or right guard? Davis, who is 6-4, 315 pounds, played right guard for the Buckeyes and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him stay there and for 2020 second-round pick Ezra Cleveland to move from right to left guard. Cleveland played left tackle at Boise State, so he has experience playing on that side of the line. Darrisaw and Davis give the Vikings more size on the line and that should benefit a unit that has gotten pushed around at times.
  • In moving down from the 14th pick to 23 in a first-round trade with the Jets, Spielman also picked up two third-round picks (Nos. 66 and 86). He used the second of those third-rounders on Davis, but the first landed the Vikings quarterback Kellen Mond with the second selection of the round. There already is debate about whether Mond should be considered a legitimate candidate to become the Vikings’ starting quarterback one day. Kirk Cousins will be the Vikings’ starter this season and there’s a good chance he will hold that job in 2022. But that’s why selecting Mond was smart and necessary. Mond not only can learn behind Cousins with little to no immediate pressure, but he also serves as the first QB the Vikings have had behind Cousins who provides hope for the future. Cousins is signed through 2022, and before the Vikings took Mond on Friday there was no plan for life without Cousins. Now, there is and it comes in the form of a player who has skills that Cousins’ lacks.
  • The Vikings surprised many by taking North Carolina linebacker Chaz Surratt 12 picks after Mond — Surratt, a quarterback at North Carolina until 2019, appeared to be a reach — but there appears to be a real chance he could compete for a starting job as the weakside linebacker playing alongside Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks. That’s not a huge stretch considering the Vikings’ third linebacker is often on the sideline when the team goes to its nickel defense.
  • Although the NFL Network analysts continued to refer to California’s Camryn Bynum as a cornerback after the Vikings selected him with the 125th pick in the fourth round, Spielman announced Bynum as a safety. The Vikings have made the decision to move Bynum, who had questions about his speed as a corner, to safety. Bynum is a smart player and figures to benefit by getting a chance to get some reps alongside veteran safety Harrison Smith. That doesn’t mean Bynum will be starting on Day 1, but Anthony Harris went from an undrafted free agent to a pretty good starter for the Vikings.