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Zulgad: A seven-pack of thoughts on the Vikings’ first draft with Kwesi-Adofo Mensah in charge

NFL: Combine
Mar 1, 2022; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Minnesota Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah during the NFL Combine at the Indiana Convention Center. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Rick Spielman’s final three drafts as the Vikings’ general manager netted the franchise 12, 15 and 11 picks, respectively. Kwesi-Adofo Mensah didn’t match those numbers in his first draft — he stopped at 10 selections in seven rounds — but he showed the same willingness as his predecessor to make trades in order to move around and even exceeded Spielman when it came to making moves that could be considered risky. Here are a few thoughts on Adofo-Mensah’s work over the past three days.

  • The Vikings didn’t only drop back 20 spots (from 12 to 32) by making a deal with the Detroit Lions in the first round, but they helped their NFC North rival draft a top wide receiver prospect in Alabama’s Jameson Williams. Adofo-Mensah then took one of the picks acquired from the Lions, the 34th selection, and traded it to the division rival Packers. Green Bay selected North Dakota State wide receiver Christian Watson at that spot. Adofo-Mensah clearly liked the returns he got from the Lions and Packers, but I’m not a big fan of helping to potentially land skill position talent at a key position for teams in your division. Adofo-Mensah’s point was the Lions and Packers likely would have found a way to trade up, but that doesn’t mean he had to help them. And, in the Detroit trade, the Vikings needed to clearly win that deal. The price for the Lions to get their guy, should have been taking a bath on the return. They didn’t.
  • The Vikings’ draft focus, not to mention free agent moves, sent a clear message about how Adofo-Mensah and coach Kevin O’Connell felt when it came to how Spielman and coach Mike Zimmer left things: The offense was subject to such bad coaching, that they simply underachieved despite being very good. The defense, Zimmer’s pride and joy, was considered a mess that needed plenty of fixing, especially with the move to a 3-4 base. O’Connell is an offensive coach, but the Vikings used five of their first six selections on the defensive side of the ball. That speaks volumes.
  • The secondary was considered thin with plenty of question marks before the draft. That no longer should be the case. First-round safety Lewis Cine from Georgia should be a Day 1 starter and could find himself as part of a three-safety package with Harrison Smith and Cam Bynum at times. Cornerback Andrew Booth of Clemson is likely to compete with Cam Dantzler for a starting position on the outside and could be the long-term replacement for veteran Patrick Peterson, who is back for a second season with the Vikings. Fourth-round corner Akayleb Evans of Missouri also could find himself in the mix to see playing time. This makes sense considering it won’t be surprising if the Vikings use plenty of dime defensive looks.
  • Adofo-Mensah’s draft-weekend trades meant that the Vikings didn’t use a pick that they entered the three-day event with until they selected Illinois offensive tackle Vederian Lowe with the 184th selection in the sixth round. They also owned and used the 191st pick in the same round to take Michigan State wide receiver Jalen Nailor. Other than that every selection they owned on Thursday morning was moved.
  • While grading a team’s draft the day after it’s completed is impossible, there are plenty of folks who do exactly that and, if you are to believe their work, the Vikings had a pretty good draft. Of five report cards sampled, the Vikings received an A-minus from Chad Reuter of NFL.com; A grade of B from Bleacher Report, Pro Football Focus and USA Today; and a B-minus from Mel Kiper of ESPN.
  • Final thought I: In many ways, the Vikings will begin offseason workouts with two draft classes that have plenty of unknowns. The 2021 class includes quarterback Kellen Mond; linebacker Chazz Surratt; guard Wyatt Davis; defensive end Patrick Jones II; and on and on. You have to wonder if fifth-round wide receiver Ihmir Smith-Marsette will get a chance to show his speed. Fourth-round running back Kene Nwangwu also could be a nightmare for opponents, if used in the proper offensive packages.
  • Final thought II: Is center Garrett Bradbury, whose fifth-year option isn’t going to be picked up, really not going to have any competition entering training camp? That makes no sense. Either there is another move to come, or the Vikings are going to hope second-round pick Ed Ingram can start at right guard and veteran newcomer Chris Reed can push Bradbury at center.