Earlier this week the Minnesota Vikings made their first splash in free agency with the addition of former Packers OLB Za’Darius Smith. Smith brings with him versatility at his position and a pass rushing skillset the team desperately needed.
When the new regime of Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and Kevin O’Connell took over they made it clear that they viewed this team in win-now mode. The Kirk Cousins extension along with the Smith signing have both confirmed those prior thoughts, but the Vikings still have a lot of work to do in terms of player personnel.
There could certainly be some additions made through the second and third waves of free agency, but the Vikings focus should now be shifted towards the NFL Draft.
There are several areas of need on the current Vikings roster, but the secondary is going to need the most help. The good news for Minnesota is the depth at cornerback and safety are solid in the 2022 class.
Here is what I think an ideal draft would look like for the Vikings come late April.
What’s the best way to fix a defense that still needs talent and depth across the board? Trading back and acquiring more day two picks has been the best answer I’ve found for that question after doing an unhealthy number of mock drafts in the past 24 hours.
There are still some teams in the late teens and low 20s that could be possible trade partners for the Vikings. The Saints (18) and the Steelers (20) are two teams that could still be in the quarterback market if one falls to where the Vikings are picking at 12.
In an ideal world, the Vikings find a trade partner that allows them to pick up at least one more pick in the second or third round. If they slide back into the late teens or even mid-twenties, Michigan S Daxton Hill is a player Minnesota should have their eyes on.
He’s a speedy defender that is a willing participant in the run game. Hill can play from a deep safety look but could also help the Vikings out at nickel. The physicality of his game matches what DC Ed Donatell is looking to do with his 3-4 scheme, and it just so happens that it’s at a position of need as well.
If a player like Notre Dame S Kyle Hamilton, Oregon Edge Kayvon Thibodeaux or Cincinnati CB Ahmad Gardner fall to the Vikings at 12, trading back might be the wrong decision. But those three are more than likely going to be gone so why not get more draft capital while filling a position of need in the process.
The second and third rounds of the 2022 class have been labeled by many as the sweet spot of the draft. Minnesota currently has one pick in the second round and one pick in the third round, but the aforementioned trade back would likely land them at least one additional pick here.
Depending on how the board falls, the Vikings still have one of their top priorities left. More good news is that there will likely be some good cornerbacks available on day two. Here’s a list Vikings fans should monitor leading up to the end of April:
Kaiir Elam, Florida CB
Kyler Gordon, Washington CB
Roger McCreary, Auburn CB
Tariq Woolen, UTSA CB
Martin Emerson, Mississippi State CB
Cam Taylor-Britt, Nebraska CB
Some of these names will likely go earlier in the second round, while some might find their way towards the end of the third. If the Vikings trade back and have three picks on day two, I think they should find a way to land at least two of the above cornerbacks.
That would leave one pick for the Vikings to go best player available and land more depth along the defensive line or linebacker. Personally, I believe that wide receiver could make sense here, so here are a couple of names that could still be on the board.
Skyy Moore, Western Michigan WR
George Pickens, Georgia WR
David Bell, Purdue WR
Christian Watson, NDSU WR
Alec Pierce, Cincinnati WR (might be more of an early day three pick)
Finding picks that match positional need with value is how the Vikings should attack this draft. Several of the players mentioned above have the capability of coming in and making a big impact from day one. Getting multiple players like that in the secondary makes a ton of sense and would allow the Vikings to draft the best player available on day three.
As it sits right now the Vikings don’t have a pick in the fourth round due to the Chris Herndon trade in 2021. The third day consists of five total picks, one in the fifth-round, three in the sixth-round and one in the seventh-round.
This should strictly be a BPA approach for the Vikings, who at this point would still likely need to draft for depth on defense and the offensive line. Specifically, I think the Vikings would be wise to utilize at least two of their final picks on the interior of the offensive line. Free agency could still be in play here, but it’s no question that Cousins needs better protection than he’s gotten through his first four years in Minnesota.
Running back depth along with tight end depth could also get addressed on day three, but neither of the two are big enough areas of concern to use a top-100 pick on.
There’s still over a month between now and the beautiful sound of that first NFL Draft jingle and Roger Goodell boos, so the Vikings could make some moves that would change my thought process.
For more Vikings related news make sure to tune into KFAN 100.3 and stay up to date on KFAN.com. You can also join AJ Mansour and myself weekly on the State of Purple Podcast where we’ll be covering the NFL Draft frequently over the next month.