With the NFL Combine wrapped up and free agency largely in the books, draft season in full swing, so it’s time to get back to an annual tradition: The draft simulation.
Most media outlets mock, but we take a different path with the draft sim using The Draft Network. The site allows us to make the Minnesota Vikings’ selections while simulating the rest of the draft based on draft rankings and team needs.
With that said, let’s have a look at how things turned out in our first draft sim, the first four rounds….
A three-year starter for the Cougars, Dillard put together a terrific career, never allowing more than 15 QB pressures in a season despite clearing 700 pass blocking snaps in each season, per Pro Football Focus. The NFL Combine confirmed that he is an elite athlete. Dillard ran in the 96th percentile for 40-yard dash, 99th in the broad jump, 89th in 3-cone and 98th in 20-yard shuttle, according to Mockdraftable. His caliber of athlete would fit nicely with the Vikings’ zone running scheme.
Selecting Dillard would allow the Vikings to move Riley Reiff from left tackle inside to guard and set the Vikings up with two outstanding athletes at the tackle positions for years to come.
While he isn’t the explosive athlete of the TJ Hockenson or Noah Fant caliber, Sternberger put together a terrific season at Texas A&M, grabbing seven passes of 20 or more yards, which was No. 1 in the draft class. In total he caught 49 passes for 836 yards and 10 touchdowns.
“Despite his experience in-line and willingness to block in Jimbo Fisher’s offense, he has neither the size nor strength to handle those duties as a pro. Sternberger is athletic with above-average ball skills, catch radius and route breaks that help him undercover on the second and third level. His paychecks will be tied to his pass-catching so he’ll need to play stronger through route contact and with better focus when contested. He has eventual starter potential as a move tight-end who can function as a big WR3/4 from the slot.”
With Kyle Rudolph heading into the final year of his contract and the Vikings needing more weapons for Kirk Cousins, Sternberger could act as a No. 2 TE option in Year 1 and transition into the starter in 2020 if Rudolph leaves for free agency. If Rudolph stays, the Vikings would have mismatch opportunities with the two tight ends for years to come.
The Clemson corner did not allow a touchdown into his coverage in two years as a starter and gave up just a 51.1 passer rating against for the Tigers (per PFF). At 6-foot-1 with a 4.46 40-yard dash, he fits the size/speed combo that Mike Zimmer likes for cornerbacks. Mullen also received high grades as a run defender.
The Vikings must begin to make plans for the future at cornerback. Despite drafting Mike Hughes last year in the first round, there is still uncertainty with Trae Waynes and Mackensie Alexander set to hit the free agent market next year.
Auburn’s deep threat speedster averaged 20.3 yards per completion over his three seasons as a starter. At the Combine he ran a 4.39 40-yard dash and registered a 40-inch vertical. While his production is underwhelming — 35 catches and eight drops — Slayton’s athleticism could give him a chance to develop into more of a playmaker instead of just a downfield receiver.
The hardest player to pass up was Jonah Williams of Alabama but Dillard is a better fit for the Vikings because of his athleticism. It would be very tough for the Vikings to pass up a potential franchise left tackle to fill their need at cornerback with one of the top prospects. Same goes for receiver, where they need another weapon but can’t spend a first-round pick on one with Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen under long-term contracts.
The second round presented itself with some intriguing trade-up scenarios. Kansas State’s Dalton Risner went 40th. He was followed by BC’s Chris Lindstrom. Both players are quality O-line prospects who ultimately could end up as guards. If the Vikings went all-in on O-line with the first two picks, they would hear very few complaints from fans.
Considering the skill players available in the second and third rounds, there’s trade-down potential too. Deebo Samuel went 62nd, Andy Isabella 65th, Terry McLaurin 75th and JJ Arcega-Whiteside 84th.
Try your own draft simulation here… leave your results in the comments or tweet them @matthewcoller