This NFL draft will be extremely interesting for Vikings fans based on one thing: We have no idea what new general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah will do with his eight selections. Sure the mock drafters have made their projections, but this is the franchise’s first draft that hasn’t been run by former GM Rick Spielman since 2012 and the first since 2007 that Spielman hasn’t had a hand in.
It would have been a safe bet that Spielman and former coach Mike Zimmer — both fired after last season — would have grabbed a cornerback with the 12th pick in Thursday’s first round and there are many who think that’s exactly what the Vikings will do. But you can’t dismiss the fact that the Vikings now have an offensive-minded head coach in Kevin O’Connell and much of the offseason focus already was put on helping to improve an underachieving defense.
So would the Vikings take LSU cornerback Derek Stingley Jr., with the 12th pick, or trade up to try to get him, or grab Washington corner Trent McDuffie? Or would they add another wide receiver to a group that already includes Justin Jefferson, Adam Thielen and K.J. Osborn by taking Ohio State’s Garrett Wilson, Alabama’s Jameson Williams or any other top receiver that might fall to them? There also is the chance the Vikings could trade back, especially if quarterbacks Malik Willis or Kenny Pickett fall and a team gets desperate.
Taking a wide receiver could make a lot of sense, considering the Vikings’ emphasis on giving Kirk Cousins as many weapons as possible. It also would mean the Vikings could be in a place to move on from 31-year-old Adam Thielen in 2023.
Spielman had become predictable in his draft philosophy. He loved to trade back to accumulate picks because he was confident that giving himself more chances meant he would hit on more prospects. Adofo-Mensah, who came to the Vikings after two seasons as vice president of football operations with the Cleveland Browns, brings his own philosophy and also will be influenced by O’Connell. At his pre-draft press conference, Adofo-Mensah made it clear the Vikings’ draft process will be focused on collaboration of the entire staff.
That’s great in theory but when a team is on the clock it’s up to the general manager to make the final call. In the Vikings’ case that will be Adofo-Mensah. He must decide what direction he wants to take the franchise and ultimately will be judged on his decisions.
One possibility is that Adofo-Mensah could try to make a trade that will bring back a 2023 first-round selection. Cousins’ contract runs through 2023 — the last two seasons are void years — and next year’s draft has a deeper quarterback class than this year’s. Alabama’s Bryce Young and Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud lead the way.
Having two first-round picks could position the Vikings to move up and compete with teams like Houston, Seattle, Detroit, Miami and Philadelphia for a quarterback. Those five teams already have multiple first-round selections in 2023. The Vikings aren’t likely to land a Top 10 pick based on their record, so the only way to pursue a top quarterback prospect might be to have the ability to trade up.
- You have to wonder what Wild coach Dean Evason’s strategy was in starting goalie Marc-Andre Fleury for three consecutive games after giving Cam Talbot back-to-back starts? The two had pretty much rotated after Fleury was acquired from Chicago at the NHL trade deadline. Fleury hasn’t played great of late, while Talbot has been very good, so it’s logical to assume Talbot will get the net for Game 1 of the Wild’s first-round playoff series against the Blues next week. But the Wild also could look at Fleury’s playoff experience and expect a bounce back once the postseason begins.
- The Blues are likely to start Ville Husso, not 2019 Stanley Cup hero Jordan Binnington, in the playoffs. Husso, 27, a fourth-round pick by the Blues in 2014, has taken over as St. Louis’ top netminder in his second season with the team. He is 25-6-6 with a 2.47 goals-against average and .921 saves percentage in 39 games and 37 starts this season.
- The Wild’s power play had looked better of late but was 0-for-6 with only five shots on a goal with the man advantage in a brutal 5-3 loss to bottom-feeder Arizona on Tuesday at Xcel Energy Center. There is no doubt the absence of winger Mats Zuccarello (lower-body injury) and defenseman Jared Spurgeon (upper-body injury) significantly impacts the power play. Given how little injury information NHL teams share this time of year, it shouldn’t be assumed any of the Wild’s injured players, including defenseman Matt Dumba, will return until they are actually back on the ice. Evason said the team is encouraged about Spurgeon’s situation, but he said the same thing about Dumba a few weeks back and he hasn’t played since getting hurt on April 5 in Nashville.
- If any Timberwolves fan had been told at the start of the season that the team would be going to a Game 6 in a first-round playoff series against Memphis they likely would have been overjoyed. While that will be the case, with the Wolves playing host to the Grizzlies on Friday night, it’s difficult not to lament the fact the Wolves blew 26 and 25 point leads in losing Game 3 at home and then blew a double-digit lead in a game Memphis spent three quarters trying to give them on Tuesday. How messed up is the life of a Minnesota sports follower, at least one who follows the men’s teams? Some of us found it difficult to get worked up by the Game 5 loss because the Game 3 choke was so much worse.
- While the Twins certainly benefitted from Nelson Cruz’s stint with the team, the decision to trade him to Tampa Bay last July has turned out to be a good one. Righthander Joe Ryan, whom the Twins got from the Rays, entered his start Wednesday against Detroit with a 2-1 record and a 1.69 ERA. The 41-year-old Cruz, who signed with Washington during the offseason, is slashing .174/.260/.261 with two home runs and nine RBIs in 18 games as the Nationals’ designated hitter.
- Despite the temperature being 49 degrees at first pitch for Wednesday’s game, Ryan was pitching without sleeves.
- One of the main concerns about the Twins entering this season was starting pitching. So far that hasn’t been an issue. The team’s starters entered Wednesday with a 6-5 record, 2.60 ERA, 19 walks, 69 strikeouts, a .211 opponent batting average and a 1.02 WHIP. The ERA and WHIP ranked first in the American League and third in MLB. The 2.60 ERA is the fourth-lowest through 17 games in Twins history.