Heading into the 2020 NFL Draft, the Minnesota Vikings needed to address several positions to remain contenders this upcoming season. With the team losing much more than it gained in free agency it was clear the team had to add young talent at cornerback, wide receiver, offensive line and defensive line.
The Vikings were able to fill several of those holes all while sticking to the same script that they’ve used over the last few seasons. Here are a few takeaways that will factor into the final overall grade given to Minnesota.
Rick Spielman and trading back in the draft
The Vikings GM was in prime draft shape over the weekend, trading back multiple times to acquire more picks. Spielman and company were able to set an NFL Draft record, selecting 15 total players over the weekend.
On top of trading back and getting more chances on later round picks, Spielman also managed to get more picks in the 2021 draft. The Vikings are now set to have at least two fourth and fifth round picks, and more compensatory picks are projected to be awarded to the Vikings.
Currently, the Vikings have ten overall picks for next year. However, the team at OverTheCap.com are projecting the Vikings to get an additional third round pick for Trae Waynes and a sixth round pick for Mackensie Alexander.
That would put the Vikings at 12 total picks, including three in the fourth round, two in the fifth round and two in the third round if that compensatory pick works in the Vikings favor. Spielman has made it known over the years that he enjoys trading back, and this year it worked in his favor getting 15 new players and a haul of picks in 2021.
Mike Zimmer and his love for the secondary
This offseason, the Vikings lost Trae Waynes, Mackensie Alexander, Xavier Rhodes, Jayron Kearse and Andrew Sendejo. It was clear that the Vikings had to address the secondary, and Zimmer got to address his favorite position a total of five times throughout the draft.
The Vikings added Jeff Gladney, Cameron Dantzler and Harrison Hand at cornerback, and Josh Metellus and Brian Cole II at safety. These picks all fit the Vikings draft strategy since Zimmer arrived as head coach.
Zimmer seems to like his corners in the earlier rounds, and he got that with Gladney and Dantzler. There is a legitimate chance that both of them will be starting day one and it’s going to be exciting to watch Zimmer groom them into NFL stars.
The final three selected are going to be bigger projects for the team, but they all have a lot of upside. Hand was a great value pick and the safeties have similarities to other Vikings safeties have had over the years. Both Metellus and Cole could use some teaching in pass coverage, but they’re both extremely physical and will be able to contribute on special teams.
It’s clear that Zimmer appreciates a good defensive back, and he now has a great young core of talented players in the secondary. Combining the talent selected in the draft with Mike Hughes, Holton Hill and Kris Boyd will have Vikings fans excited for the future of the Vikings defense.
Athletic, raw pass rushers being taken in the middle rounds
The Vikings have found success in waiting till the middle rounds to select pass rushers over the years, and they utilized the same strategy in 2020. With their first two picks in the fourth round, the Vikings selected D.J. Wonnum and James Lynch.
Both players are at their best when rushing the passer, but Wonnum is an edge rusher and Lynch said he’s at his best while in the 3 technique.
Wonnum is an athletic, but raw, defensive end and has solid measurables according to MockDraftTable.com. He stands at 6’5, 258 pounds and his arm length ranks in the 76th percentile. On top of being built like a true edge rusher, he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.73 seconds, ranking in the 86th percentile for edge rushers.
Lynch was taken shortly after Wonnum, and his numbers were very productive during his time at Baylor. He was honored as the 2019 Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year and led this entire 2020 draft class in total quarterback pressures with 70. He finished his 2019 season with 13.5 sacks and 19.5 tackles for loss.
In the past, the Vikings found Danielle Hunter in the third round and Everson Griffen in the fourth round. It’s too soon to make a comparison to either of them, but it seems as if the Vikings found some talented players for Defensive Line Coach Andre Patterson to groom.
The selection of an athletic offensive tackle
With Gary Kubiak bringing his zone run scheme to the Vikings, it was critical to find an athletic offensive tackle in this draft. The Vikings held off on taking a lineman in the first round, but one of their favorites tackles fell to them at pick 58.
Ezra Cleveland out of Boise State was one of the best athletes at the position in this entire class. Here are his measurables according to MockDraftTable.com.
- 40-yard dash time: 4.93 seconds, ranking in the 96th percentile.
- Broad jump: 111 inches, ranking in the 90th percentile.
- 3-Cone drill: 7.26 seconds, ranking in the 98th percentile.
- 20-yard shuttle: 4.46 seconds, ranking in the 94th percentile.
- Bench press: 30 reps, ranking in the 83rd percentile.
Cleveland isn’t the biggest lineman in this class weighing 311 pounds, but that is something the Vikings can work on. His athletic ability fits Kubiak’s scheme perfectly and he has even drawn some comparisons to the Vikings best lineman, Brian O’Neill. It might take a year for him to settle into the NFL, but Cleveland has the ability to become a long-term starter for the Vikings.
The Vikings got the wide receiver they wanted
With the Stefon Diggs trade occurring just over a month ago, the Vikings had to attack this deep wide receiver class at some point. They decided to do it with their first pick of the draft, and they were able to land Justin Jefferson.
There were talks of Jefferson being one of Kubiak’s favorites in this class, and the Vikings were even reportedly trying to move up from 22 to get him. Instead they waited, landed one of their favorite prospects and were able to trade out of pick 25 to acquire more picks and Gladney.
Jefferson did play the majority of his snaps at LSU out of the slot, and that has drawn some criticism for the Vikings taking him instead of a true outside receiver. However, he was clearly the best available receiver and Spielman and company were excited he made it to 22. Here’s what he said when asked about potentially trading up for Jefferson.
“He was one of the guys -- we had two other names as well,” Spielman said. “But we were very excited to get Jefferson, because I know he’s going to have -- he has a chance to be a pretty impactful rookie when we get him in here.”
In his 2019 season, Jefferson totaled 111 catches for 1,540 yards and 18 touchdowns. He also played a huge role in helping LSU win the National Championship, showing that he has no fear of playing under the bright lights.
According to PlayerProfiler.com, Jefferson ran his 40-yard dash in 4.43 seconds, ranking in the 86th percentile. His speed score ranks in the 83rd percentile, burst score ranks in the 80th percentile and he broke out at the age of 19.6 which ranks in the 74th percentile.
On top of being one of the best athletes in this class, Jefferson brings solid route running with him to Minnesota. He has drawn comparisons to Michael Thomas and Keenan Allen, while PlayerProfiler has him best matched up analytically with Reggie Wayne.
Those are three extremely talented receivers to be compared to, and that should make Vikings fans excited to see him play in Minnesota. The Vikings also drafted K.J. Osborn out of Miami and added some speed signing Quartney Davis out of Texas A&M as an undrafted free agent.
Regardless of where his best fit is, the Vikings landed one of the top receivers in this class in Jefferson. He has already drawn comparisons to some of the best receivers in the game and he will get the chance to shine in Minnesota.
Overall grade for the 2020 Vikings draft class: A-
The Vikings were able to get better at several positions of need throughout all three days of the draft. They attacked wide receiver, offensive tackle and cornerback early, and those were the three biggest concerns heading into this draft.
Not only did the Vikings attack some top tier talent early, but they also found a ton of value with a good majority of their later picks. Troy Dye, for example, is going to be able to come in and learn a lot behind Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks. He is a fun, exciting linebacker out of Oregon that will make contributions on special teams from day one.
On top of crushing this year's draft, the Vikings set themselves up for the 2021 draft as well. The A- grade factors in all of the things the Vikings did well this year, but they don’t get a perfect score. This is due to the fact that they could have improved the interior of their offensive line and the outside receiver position.
However, it seems as if the Vikings are really high on some of their younger players already on the depth chart. There has been a lot of buzz around second year guard Dru Samia taking over one of the guard spots, so it will be interesting to see how that unfolds in the 2020 season.
The A- grade is nitpicking the Vikings draft a little bit, because overall they had one of the best drafts they’ve had in years. They set themselves up for the future by adding a lot of young talent and stockpiling picks in the 2021 NFL Draft.
With the 15 total picks the Vikings had this year, it wouldn’t be surprising to see this class draw some comparisons to the great 2015 class the Vikings drafted. Only time will tell if the Vikings really hit this draft out of the park, but as of now Vikings fans should be extremely excited about the outcome of the 2020 NFL Draft.