The compensatory picks have been doled out. The Combine has come and gone. Many of the headline making free agency moves have come to pass So now all that's left are pro days and the picks getting called in. With a month and half remaining until the grand poobah takes the stage in Nashville there may be one more installment of Mock Drafting. In the event that there isn't it's time to connect some dots to the picks that the Vikings have. If you want a single name with each, go elsewhere. I'll try to limit it to no more than three possibilities for each selection.
More than a month has passed since the first talk of the draft. Those days have not changed how I would like pick #1 to go one little bit. Offensive line remains the glaring weakness of the roster. Jonah Williams (Alabama) & Jawaan Taylor (Florida) are considered to be the top 2 Tackles with Cody Ford (Oklahoma) & Greg Little (Mississippi) rounding out the top four & being fringe first round talents. With the possibility of getting a talented guard/center much more likely as the rounds unfold, nailing a tackle to protect Cousins is huge. I'm dubious about every Tide player coming into the pros because the list of flops seems so much longer than the list of success stories. Williams could buck that trend but without the info that the franchises have, I'm eliminating him from consideration. So with that said, any of Taylor, Ford or Little may be a win for the franchise.
Defensive Tackle. With the money being allocated as it has been, the facts are starting to hit the fan. Anthony Barr & Kyle Rudolph are here to stay while Sheldon Richardson decided to join the hot chocolates. That leaves the position next to the hungry one pretty open for enhancement. Shamar Stephen is a decent option but should not be considered the end all, be all. As far as the upcoming rookies at the position, after Quinnen Williams (Alabama) there are differing opinions about who's best amongst the DT. For my money either Ed Oliver (Houston) or Christian Wilkins (Clemson) would be great but the list of possibilities extends beyond those two if they want to fortify the wall.
Trade down. If April 25th comes and the Vikings make a trade for more picks at around 8:30 CT I will break things. Last season showed that they aren't two players away but they need to get the highest caliber talent they can while the window is still open. Now is not the time for 4 pick sixth and seventh rounds! But the possibility remains that someone could come calling with a later first and more picks, Spielman's always been one to deal so I make it a top 3 possibility for the Vikings at 18. There's too much unknown for me to say with any certainty which team would even call about it since there are 17 picks that would play into the possibility.
It should go without saying that what happens with 18 plays a key role in what the Vikings do at 50, but I just said it to cover the bases. For this exercises sake, I'm going to operate as though they selected one of the tackles that I forecasted. That leaves several other positions up for enhancement. It's not necessarily the way that I would do it but my feeling is that they'll go defense at 50. Of the two defensive positions that may be most in need of new talent, I think Tackle could come out slightly ahead of the other. The names I mentioned before would be long gone but Rick's favorite U - Notre Dame - may have a player to come in & contribute. Jerry Tillery has some character concerns but may be a talent worth the risk, and would also harken back to Zim's time in Cincy, working with some of the guys he did those days. Miami's Gerald Willis III is another DT to watch in the mid second round.
If not defensive tackle then Linebacker seems like another strong likelihood to get announced. The flip back to Minnesota by Barr may lower that need but it's been a few years since they invested a top 1-3 round pick at linebacker and with Ben Gedeon entering year three, this could be a good time to bring one. The player that i'm most intrigued with is D'Andre Walker (Georgia). He's not the biggest guy on the board but he was a good tackler, was a play maker against ball carriers and had decent pass coverage numbers. That very well could add up to him being near the top of the board at a position of moderate need for the Vikings.
Guard. I know that it could be a reach, but on the chance of finding a guy capable of carrying the pads of some of the Guards of the past, it needs to be considered. Cody Ford shows up again as a possible Guard, which is a plus for whichever teams acquires his services. He's one of only two first round rated Guards in the class. So it's entirely possible that the Vikings could get a steal. History is a factor but after looking into the names of the guys that may be around for the Vikings second go, Michael Jordan may be a winning pick. And no it has nothing to do with his name. Coming from Wisconsin he would likely already be adept at doing the sorts of things that Zimmer wants to see done by the offense from the interior offensive line. The one concern I have is that he's taller than the typical Guard, which can affect the effectiveness of blocking against the best D-Tackles. Even with that in mind, I would take a long look his way if Guard was the preferred position.
Defense could get another addition to it's ranks, maybe at Safety or possibly at Linebacker but those are not the high priorities for the team. I think the priority would rightly be for another offensive lineman to get selected at 81, if not in the second round. The best outcome would be to find a guy that could play in the middle from day one but then slide outside for year two and beyond. Even if a switch to Tackle never happened, getting a starting Guard to pair with Elflein, O'Neill & first round guy would be a wonderful young core for the team to grow into the future. There are more than a half dozen Guard prospects that could go starting in the third round. The one player I'd take a long look at is B.J. Autry from Jacksonville St. What he slightly lacks in height is more than made up for in his reach, which ranks among the best of all O-Line prospects. It may sound like a strange differentiator but when your job is holding guys at arms length, length of reach is important!
Since the defense is still where the butter meets the bread, it will always get a look. As I already mentioned, Linebacker may be next up on the hierarchy of needs for the Wrecking Crew. It may even make more sense to go that way in the third round but need is the clincher and the team's need is higher at offensive line. Here's the kicker, the Vikings have regularly bypassed team need in favor of the best player available so if you like, consider this option 1B, at worst. The one name I would watch is Vosean Joseph (Florida). Even as an Outside Linebacker he may be good enough of a tackler to challenge Kendricks for the lead on the defense in year one. With the Bears & Packers and even the Lions' offense's to a lesser extent, having sure tacklers is a key feature of the Vikings defense!
A distant third for 81 but worth consideration would be the running back position. It may be a stretch for him to still be available but a replacement for Latavius could come in the form of Mike Weber from Ohio State. He measured nearly identically With Dalvin and possesses a similar skill set so that in the event of more missed time by the former FSU star, the offense wouldn't miss a beat. Running back is a deep group once again but depending on how other teams select, it could be a position to pull the trigger on before the 100's.
The last pick before an extended break adds weight to the fourth rounder that wouldn't otherwise be there. Excluding trades as I have means that this will be the Vikings last chance to try and find an "impact" player. With the exclusion of Punter, Kicker & Long Snapper, every position is on the table here. It's the proverbial wild card pick of the entire weekend for the Vikes. It also happens to be the start of the nearly impossible postulation. After more than 100 picks there will be some players on the board that no one sees as possibilities right now. None of that is new information but is an important foreword for the remainder.
So with every position under consideration, Draft Saturday will start with some fun for Skol Nation. I'm not confident that he'll still be available but in the event that he is, selecting Will Grier could be a proverbial Chess move by the Vikings brain trust. The logic is that he would serve as a two year understudy if worse comes to worse or a four year backup if Cousins is able to take the team where it needs to go. Either way, that would be a fine way to send the team into the later rounds. I'm not sure I would take any other quarterbacks there but he would be my first choice for the pick.
Spreading the ball around could be just as beneficial for the offense as having a wall to protect the quarterback. Finding a true third wide receiver may be the best way to that end, even with the news that Kyle Rudolph is sticking around. Contrary to that, I would look for another young tight end to bring into the fold for the benefit of the offense. There are two TE's coming off very productive season's that may be available when the clock starts ticking. Josh Oliver from San Jose St & Jace Sternberger from Texas A & M each finished with more than 700 yards. Oliver also finished with 10 touchdowns while Sternberger managed four scores. They may not be quality blockers right away, as is the norm for that position's receiving threats but pairing either one with Tyler Conklin could solidify the position for the next seven seasons.
The third option before the break that I think would make for a good addition would be another young horse to put on the defensive line, opposite of Danielle Hunter. I don't think Griffen is done but with the rumors & uncertainty it needs to be considered in the draft. The one guy that I would monitor during the proceedings is Miami's Joe Jackson. With the right coaching he could be another Hunter in waiting, and it's pretty evident that the Vikings have great defensive line coaching so why not give them another piece of clay!
Halfway through the draft, there's been plenty to consider. Now as it becomes more of a shot in the dark, the gong will resound with offensive line at every opportunity. Instead of wasting time and space on it under every pick, just keep it in mind. Are there names that may be worth being aware of? Sure, but all of them would be on a wing & a prayer of success. Until the Vikings actually identify a couple in the sixth and seventh that turn out to be more than totally worthless, my perspective will remain unchanged and I'm not going to sell hope on one or another. So be aware that offensive line should be in play with the final four picks but there's more to dissect.
As I mentioned earlier, adding a true third wide receiver could be great for Cousins and everybody. Not since Randy Moss has the team had a true red zone threat that succeeded. They've tried and with the dynamic duo currently on the roster, they're solid at the position but it would behoove them to find someone who can go over even tall Corners to score. A one trick pony that could tally at least five touchdowns a year would be great. There are four Basketball size receivers projected as sixth round possibilities. That means they are considered to be flawed but so were Adam Thielen and Antonio Brown. As long as we can avoid the crazy, and get a guy that has that kind of work ethic, it would work out beautifully. Even if not, just throw them jump balls and enjoy the points. I'll single out Lil'Jordan Humphrey from Texas but it's little more than pulling a name from a hat.
As things stand today, the roster is still phat with cornerbacks. Even after selecting Mike Hughes last April, the season showed that it's not possible to have too many good cover guys. Mackenzie Alexander had his best season in the pros so in order to keep him from resting on his laurels, finding a slot corner makes the most sense to me. It's somewhat surprising but the lower ranked guys are more of the outside corner variety. So if they do move on from either Waynes or Rhodes, this could be the time that they look to re-deepen the well of cover guys. Until that happens, if it does, I'm sticking with more of an inside guy. The one that I'd like to have don the Purple is JMU's Jimmy Moreland. They were one of the best defenses in the country during his year's there and he already showed up well at the East-West week which may be the best evidence that he can hang. It's for competition and depth so that's good enough for me!
In the event that none are selected over the first five picks, now would be a great time to think about a partner for Dalvin. The home run selection would be getting Bryce Love (Stanford) this late. He has some medical concerns which are especially concerning because of Cook's trouble staying healthy but as a complimentary player instead of the focal point, I think he could be a dangerous piece. A secondary option is a guy I've seen for every game of his career and who could also quickly distinguish himself as a steal - NDSU's Bruce Anderson. He's a complete player that would do well when played. The biggest block between the Bison & the Vikings is that Spielman seems determined to ignore them. Fortunately, it's not too late to correct that error in approach.
In the event that the Vikings haven't locked up another backup QB option by now, this would be a good time to do so. Opinions range wildly on him but another guy that I've seen for every game of his career is Easton Stick. Full transparency, before his senior season I was convinced that he would not be drafted. After seeing how big of a leap he took this year, I've completely changed my tune. I've heard & read some who think he could be a second round guy. That's hard to accept, even with my new found bullishness towards him. A more reasonable fourth round prediction may still be too bold to come to fruition but could happen. All it takes is one GM or coach who sees the positives in game for him to be gone. If he is still available on Saturday afternoon of the draft then the Vikings would do well to use one of their current late picks on him.
I didn't intend on making the last three picks the FCS section of my Mock Talk but I've seen the talent of the best guys on that level more than most & don't have a bias against them. I'm actually biased towards those guys, but doesn't mean they shouldn't be considered or can't compete with the pros!
With Anthony Harris & Jayron Kearse still on the young side, the safety position is ok. For insurance purposes and for the sake of special teams, adding a fourth makes a lot of sense. Of the players that may be available in the waning minutes of the draft, Justin Clifton could be a strike for the Vikings. The Arkansas State product as the measurable's to help on kick & punt coverage while also showing coverage skills that could only improve playing alongside the Hitman.
For the sake of special teams, adding another linebacker here may be prudent. I can't believe the words I'm about to type but a Kansas Jayhawk may be a sneaky selection. Joe Dineen wouldn't be the fastest guy on the field but he racked up just shy of 150 tackles this past season. That kind of ability to find the ball and finish the play should appeal to any team that wants to improve their special teams. It's not a fluke either as he nearly eclipsed 140 stops in 2017.
Fact of the matter is that this should be an offensive lineman. A guard or a center, whatever, just a body to bring in for competition. If not that, then it should be a roll of the dice on a position not addressed already. If they can find a success story, GREAT but the odds are so slim that to me it's just about taking a chance. Since I've covered just about everything and I don't feel like being more redundant than I may have already been, I'm just going to leave it at that. It's only three picks different than their seventh selection so the long odds of getting a contributor apply to that as well but there was still something original that I had to say for that pick.
Now I'm tapped out, but I hope you got something out of this!
And if you have different opinions about it, let me know in the comments!