The End, 2019
We're a week out from the party of the offseason. I've dropped my hypotheses about the positions that could be at the top of the draft board with every pick that the Purple currently have. If you missed it, here's your chance to go back, before you go ahead!
But onward & forward we go!
This time around, I'm going to pin one player per pick that I think could be a good fit and realistically still available when the clock starts.
With a week left to go, the Vikings still have a glaring need for guys to play between the QB and the defense. 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. Jonah Williams could buck that trend but without the info that the franchises have, I'm eliminating him from consideration. Which still leaves three other possibilities to play tackle. The one I'm going to push in on is Oklahoma's Cody Ford. With the athleticism he is said to possess, he would fit in very nicely with what the Vikings want to do and would help establish a strong, long term core for the offensive line. It's been a decade or more since anyone could legitimately say that the Vikings had that so bring him on!
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 exercise's sake, I'm going to operate as though they went with an offensive tackle. The more I've thought about it, the more sense it makes to me for the Vikings to go defense in the second round. Of the two defensive positions that may be most in need of new talent, I think the three technique Tackle could come out slightly ahead of the other. Rick's favorite U - Notre Dame - may have a player that could come in & contribute from day one. 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. The roster is pretty high character right now so taking a swing on one guy with questions in the area may be unrealistic but it could also be time to make an exception to that, after all they already did to an extent with Richardson last year.
The team could opt for more defense in the third but i think the best outcome would be to find a guy that could play in the middle from day one and 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 & Ford 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, the length of that reach is important!
Since the defense is still where the butter meets the bread, it will always get a look. 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,. 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 on the schedule as much as they are and even the Lions' offense's to a lesser extent, having sure tacklers is a key feature of the Vikings defense!
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. After more than 100 picks there will be some players on the board that no one sees as possibilities right now. Maybe the Purple would swoop in and select another faller, it'll be part of the fun of the weekend!
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. Regardless of that, I would look for another young tight end to bring into the fold for the benefit of the offense. The one guy that already showed that he could at least be a red zone target is San Jose State's Josh Oliver. He finished with more than 700 yards and 10 touchdowns last season. Competition is surely something consider on the numbers but as a draft & develop guy, the fact that he put them up shouldn't be ignored. He likely wouldn't be a high end blockers right away, as is the norm for that position's receiving threats, but pairing him with Tyler Conklin could solidify the position for the next seven seasons or more.
As things stand today, the roster is still phat with cornerbacks. A certain PED violation diminishes that a little bit but PHAT still applies that group. The rub is that even after selecting Mike Hughes in the first round 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 to continue pushing him makes the most sense to me. It's somewhat surprising but the lower ranked guys are more of the outside corner variety. With a week to go until the draft it doesn't seem like they're going to ship either Waynes or Rhodes. In the event that they do make a trade involving either, 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 with pro caliber players. It's for competition and depth so that's good enough for me!
With Griffen much closer to the end than the beginning, taking another roll of the dice on a future pass rushing possibility should be in play before Mr. Irrelevant gets called. It's possible this would be a bit of a reach but the name that I would watch out for is Maryland's Byron Cowart. He underwhelmed in college when compared with his ranking but still has the potential to be a steal. With the defensive line coaching staff that Minnesota has, potential may be enough to draft a guy.
With Anthony Harris & Jayron Kearse still on the young side, the safety position is okay, but just okay. 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 has the measurable's to help on kick & punt coverage while also showing coverage skills that could only improve under the team's tutelage. As a Bison fan, I also feel a certain amount of duty to inform that one of the school's best safeties ever is Minnesota native Rob Grimsley. I've long considered him to be the FCS's version of Harrison Smith. He will likely go undrafted but even as a senior for NDSU he was the guy called upon as the "safe catch" guy so he'll do anything asked of him by the staff. So just a bit of a PSA on the guy from Hutchinson!
The last pick of the draft could go any direction, except punter or kicker! Even with two highly drafted Offensive linemen, the need for more would still exist. I would be rooting for that to be the way it goes but it could be almost anything, almost. It seems counterintuitive but even with the ongoing national need for professional quarterbacks, I don't see the Vikings going that way during the draft. I would like to be wrong because I think one should be taken every year but I just don't see it happening. Likewise, I'd be shocked and maybe disgusted if they doubled down on any of the positions that addressed over the sixth and seventh rounds. Which also eliminates Safety, Defensive end & Cornerback from consideration right now. So if it's OL, there are any number of guys that could be available but here ends my filibustering. My official choice for the end of the draft with the picks that are currently possessed is running back. It may not be the most prudent thing to wait this long to get one since the roster is pretty thin at the position right now. It also happens to be the most replaceable position in the league so if there's one that the Vikings like so much that they don't want to get into a bidding war for his services, then 250 would be a great time to make a move! One player that will likely still be available and who could distinguish himself as a steal in year one is NDSU's Bruce Anderson. His skill set is very similar to Cook's so a true backup, I would love to see him in MN. He would not however be the best possible replacement for Murray so I guess it will come down to what those in charge want to do. If it were up to me, as this mock is, I would make the call & feel very good about it!
So that's all she wrote. I'm tapped out but I hope you got something out of this! I diverted from my original plan a little bit along the way but there you have my guesses as to who the Vikings will end up with, or at least some of the names that I think should be under consideration. With a handful of days remaining, a lot could change but can't go off information that doesn't exist!
If you have different opinions about it, let me know in the comments!