Vikings general manager Rick Spielman received favorable reviews for his 2021 draft class, getting an A from Chad Reuter of NFL.com and a B-plus from Mel Kiper Jr. of ESPN. Spielman’s successor, new Vikings GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah, was not so kind.
After watching all 11 members of that draft class in training camp, Adofo-Mensah, and new coach Kevin O’Connell, cut seven of the players, including Wednesday’s decision to jettison wide receiver Ihmir Smith-Marsette after the Vikings obtained receiver Jalen Reagor from the Eagles for two draft picks.
The four remaining members of Spielman’s final draft class on the 53-man roster are first-round left tackle Christian Darrisaw (23rd pick overall); third-round outside linebacker Patrick Jones II (No. 90); fourth-round running back Kene Nwangwu (No. 119); and fourth-round safety Cam Bynum (No. 125).
Gone are three of the Vikings’ four third-round picks — quarterback Kellen Mond, linebacker Chazz Surratt and guard Wyatt Davis — as well defensive end Janarius Robinson, fifth-round tight end Zach Davidson and sixth-round defensive tackle Jalen Twyman.
Robinson and Twyman were signed to the Vikings’ practice squad after clearing waivers Wednesday, but Mond (Cleveland) and Surratt (New York Jets’ practice squad) landed elsewhere and Davis and Davidson apparently are looking for jobs.
The 2021 draft is not a complete loss. Darrisaw became the Vikings’ starting left tackle last season after recovering from injury and is being counted on to be the long-term solution at that spot. But Spielman moved back from the 14th pick to the 23rd in a trade with the Jets and also acquired the 66th and 86th picks in the third round.
The first of those selections was used on Mond and the second on Davis. In reality, Spielman dropped nine spots and got no return for doing so. At least that’s how Adofo-Mensah, O’Connell and the Vikings’ brass saw it when rosters decisions were made this week.
What’s amazing is that there was a long period of time late last season when it appeared coach Mike Zimmer, who was never afraid to complain about Spielman’s selections, was going to be fired and Spielman was going to assume a new title that would still give him some say in football operations with the Vikings.
That was before a late decision was made by owners Mark and Zygi Wilf to show both Zimmer and Spielman the door. Assuming Adofo-Mensah is proven correct about Spielman’s last draft, we now know why the former NFL executive has joined us in the media working for The 33rd Team in a league that has only 32 clubs.
- There is a video clip of Spielman and Zimmer celebrating during the 2020 draft when the Eagles took Reagor with the 20th pick. The Vikings, who were up next, selected LSU wide receiver Justin Jefferson. It quickly became apparent why the Vikings were so happy. Reagor has been a bust, while Jefferson has become one of the NFL’s best receivers. On Wednesday, Adofo-Mensah and O’Connell decided getting Reagor out of Philadelphia and into purple might just be what the 23-year-old needs. The Vikings sent a 2023 seventh-round pick and a conditional selection in 2024 to Philadelphia. Reagor figures to assume the duties as the Vikings’ punt returner for the Sept. 11 opener against the Packers, but he also should get a chance to see playing time as a depth receiver. He has 64 catches for 695 yards and three touchdowns in 28 career games. Reagor has struggled with drops and also struggled on punt returns in last season’s playoff loss at Tampa Bay. Last season, he averaged 7.3 yards on 31 punt returns and also returned 12 kickoffs for an average of 21.3 yards.
- It appears Reagor might not have been the wide receiver atop the Vikings’ wish list. Sources told SKOR North ScoopMaster Darren “Doogie” Wolfson that Minnesota checked on the availability of disgruntled Jets receiver Denzel Mims, a 2020 second-round pick, but the Jets wanted a larger return than Philadelphia did. Mims’ agent has requested his client be traded. Mims has 31 catches for 490 yards in 20 games over two seasons with the Jets.
- The Vikings’ decision to place expected starting defensive end Armon Watts on waivers — he was claimed by the Chicago Bears — leaves question marks at that position. Minnesota obtained 2020 second-round pick Ross Blacklock from the Houston Texans but he has struggled against the run and hasn’t lived up to expectations. Is Blacklock going to be the starter or is there another plan in place? The Vikings have had interest in defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh this offseason and the veteran remains unsigned. The 35-year-old Suh had 27 tackles and six sacks in 17 starts with Tampa Bay last season and could help a Vikings’ run defense that struggled under Zimmer in 2021.
- The Vikings currently have $4.768 million in salary cap space, according to the Over The Cap website. Only eight teams has less. Reagor added $1.816 million to Minnesota’s cap number. The Vikings did save cap space on Tuesday by replacing Watts with Blacklock ($1.2 million) and trading Jesse Davis ($1.5 million) to Pittsburgh.
- Among all of Spielman’s players whom Adofo-Mensah and O’Connell decided to jettison, the one surprise is that 2019 first-round center Garrett Bradbury seemed to be given the job despite his obvious struggles in pass protection. One would think there might be a solid backup plan, but that doesn’t appear to be the case. Austin Schlottmann, who was signed as a free agent after three seasons in Denver, is listed as Bradbury’s backup and veteran guard/center Chris Reed could figure into the mix. Considering how important it will be to give quarterback Kirk Cousins a clean pocket, and not allow interior pressure, Adofo-Mensah and O’Connell are certainly leaving themselves open to be second-guessed, if Bradbury doesn’t show significant improvement.
- The Wild cleared much-needed salary cap space, and might have opened up a job for Calen Addison on the blue line, when they dealt veteran defenseman Dmitry Kulikov to Anaheim on Wednesday for future considerations. Kulikov’s cap hit will be $2.25 million for 2022-23 and the Wild now have $5.738 million to sign their own players. Kulikov, who has played 13 NHL seasons, had seven goals and 24 points and was plus-23 in 80 games last season, but he had only one point and was minus-4 in two games in the Wild’s first-round loss to St. Louis in six games.