A player the Vikings might not be able to take a pass on, this Wild player will become a center of attention and the Timberwolves continue to wait on D’Angelo Russell.
- Item: Daniel Jeremiah of NFL Media has the Vikings selecting Alabama wide receiver DeVonta Smith with the 14th pick in his most recent mock draft. (Jeremiah will join the Purple Daily podcast on Friday.)
- Reaction: Many mock drafts have Smith going higher than this, but the 2020 Heisman Trophy winner landing with the Vikings could create a nightmare scenario for opposing defenses and a dream situation for Kirk Cousins. Justin Jefferson was the best wide receiver from the 2020 draft class and veteran Adam Thielen remains a threat. The addition of Smith — who had 1,856 yards and 23 receiving touchdowns en route to becoming the first wide receiver to win the Heisman since Desmond Howard in 1991 — to an offense that also has running back Dalvin Cook and tight end Irv Smith Jr., would give new offensive coordinator Klint Kubiak an embarrassment of riches with which to game plan. It’s unlikely Smith falls to the 14th pick — and the Vikings certainly have other areas of need — but seeing the Vikings return to the days of “Three Deep” could be great fun.
- Item: Marcus Johansson, who opened the season playing left wing for the Wild, will be used at center as the team returns from a six-game layoff caused by an outbreak of COVID-19. Johansson had the coronavirus but has been cleared to return for Tuesday’s game against the Kings in Los Angeles.
- Reaction: Johansson is a natural winger but the move to center isn’t a surprise given the Wild’s lack of depth at the position and the fact the veteran has been used in that spot before in his career. He will play in between Jordan Greenway and rookie Kirill Kaprizov. Greenway was off to a terrific start (two goals and a team-leading 10 points in 11 games) before the NHL shut down the Wild’s facility. Much of that time he was playing with Joel Eriksson Ek and Marcus Foligno. But Eriksson Ek is now with Zach Parise and Kevin Fiala on the first line, a promotion Eriksson Ek deserves considering he has been the team’s best center this season. His five goals lead the Wild. Johansson, who has two goals and one assist in nine games, had his best performance (one goal, one assist) of the season in the Wild’s 5-3 victory over the Kings on Jan. 28, but suffered an upper body injury in the next game against Colorado. Don’t expect any magic from Johansson, but if he can win a few faceoffs and get the puck to the uber-talented Kaprizov that will be a good start.
- Item: Timberwolves guard D’Angelo Russell will miss his fourth consecutive game Tuesday night because of a sore left leg. According to Dane Moore, when Ryan Saunders was asked what “sore left leg means exactly, the Wolves coach said: “He’s been playing heavy minutes. Ankle, knee, you get sore left leg.”
- Reaction: This will be the eighth game that Russell has missed this season and the fourth in a row since Karl-Anthony Towns returned after missing time because of the coronavirus. That means that Towns and Russell have only played in five games together since the Wolves acquired the latter in a trade last season with Golden State. The Wolves are coming off a win over Toronto on Sunday in Tampa, Fla., but remain an NBA-worst 7-20. While the Wolves are getting a long look at some of the youth on their roster, the main goal this season was to see how Towns and Russell clicked. The hope was that the duo would provide a spark that would enable the Wolves to ascend in the Western Conference standings. Instead, the two only have played four games together (2-2), leaving the Wolves’ brass with no real idea about how close (or far away) the roster might be to being competitive. It also makes it more difficult to judge Saunders as a coach. Moore reported the Wolves are “continuing to gather information” on Russell’s injury, meaning his absence could be an extended one. (Update: The Wolves announced Tuesday evening that Russell will undergo arthroscopic surgery on Wednesday to remove a loose body in his left knee. He is expected to miss four to six weeks.)