The NFL Draft is quickly approaching! The IDP department is breaking down each team post-free agency and what they should look to address in the draft.
The Vikings made it to the NFC Championship game last year on the strength of their defense, considering their offense was being led by Case Keenum. This defense is loaded. Having added Kirk Cousins, this team looks to be one of the favorites in the NFC along with Philly and LA. Who they draft on defense is also fairly irrelevant. Head Coach Mike Zimmer doesn’t like giving rookies snaps.
Minnesota had an amazing draft back in 2015. They took Trae Waynes in the 1st Round, followed that up with Eric Kendricks in the 2nd Round, Danielle Hunter in the 3rd Round and Stefon Diggs in the 5th Round. Four legitimate starters is a great draft. The problem with having such a productive draft class is having a lot of expensive contract extensions coming due at the same time and that time is next offseason.
Everson Griffen ended with 45 tackles and 13.0 sacks. That’s the highest sack total of his career for the 30-year-old. Danielle Hunter ended with 45 tackles and 7.0 sacks. Hunter is going into the final year of his rookie contract. Re-signing Hunter will be a pretty high priority, given he’s still only 23-year-old and likely hasn’t reached his ceiling yet. Brian Robison plans to play for one more year. Barring injury, Robinson will again be the team’s DE3.
Kirk Cousins was the big name signing over the offseason. It overshadowed the other big Twin City signing of the offseason, Sheldon Richardson. Richardson will replace Tom Johnson next to Linval Joseph making the Minnesota D-Line one of the best in the league. Of course, the NFC has started a D-Line arms race, so it’s impossible to say where it stacks up against Philly’s D-Line and LA’s D-Line. Joseph ended 2017 with 68 tackles and 3.5 sacks. Richardson put together 44 tackles and 1.0 sack in Seattle last year, but could be more efficient this year with O-Lines having to focus more attention on Joseph. Richardson only signed a 1-year deal, so they may be looking to find his replacement next year.
Minnesota has one of the most talented, albeit IDP-frustrating, linebacker corps. Highlighted by Eric Kendricks at MIKE and Anthony Barr at SAM. Zimmer may be the most inconsiderate Head Coach ever. Who keeps their SAM out there for all three downs? Barr will be a free agent next offseason. The Vikings locked up Eric Kendricks with a 5-year 50 million dollar deal that has $25 million in guarantees. Last week, so Barr may not be with the team next season unless they want to invest in both linebackers. Ben Gedeon may be a sneaky pickup. If the Vikings don’t resign both Kendricks and Barr, and if the Vikings don’t add another linebacker in the first three rounds this year, Gedeon could be looking at a 3-down role in the defense next year. Of course, that’s only if you can roster someone with this mustache with a clear conscience.
Minnesota has one of the best CB trios in the league, full of former 1st and 2nd Rounders. Xavier Rhodes is a shutdown CB in his prime. Trae Waynes had a solid year last year and is still ascending. Mackensie Alexander is a 2nd Rounder entering his 3rd year. Minnesota will likely pick up the option on Waynes, keeping all three of these CBs under contract through at least 2019.
Harrison Smith is one of the best Safeties in the league. Smith ended with 78 tackles, 5 INTs, and 1.5 sacks. Andrew Sendejo starts across from Smith. Sendejo ended with 80 total tackles and 2 interceptions last year. Sendejo is likely the weakest link of this impressive defense. Sendejo will be 31 when the season starts and Smith 29. This group may need some youth.
Draft Needs – S, LB, DT, & DE
This defense is loaded. The only realistic position to improve is Safety, replacing Sendejo. But again, Zimmer doesn’t like playing rookies, so it’s more a matter of looking forward to next year. Adding depth at LB and DT for 2019 and depth at DE to eventually replace Griffen are the next priorities. The best bet is to play into the strengths of the draft, Safety, LB, and DT, and wait a year to address DE in a draft with hopefully better DE depth.
The Vikings currently own:
1st Round #30 overall
2nd Round #62 overall
3rd Round #94 overall
5th Round #167 overall
6th Round #204 overall
6th Round #213 overall
6th Round #218 overall
7th Round #225 overall
The Vikings will likely use multiple picks on their O-Line, which still need improvement. The 1st Round pick will likely be an O-Lineman. If they go Safety in the 2nd Round, Justin Reid would be a great option, assuming he’s still available. Reid and Smith could both play either spot, allowing Minnesota to mix up coverages and giving opposing offenses fits.
If Minnesota decides to go LB with their 2nd or 3rd Round picks, they have some options available. Josey Jewell, Tegray Scales, Malik Jefferson, Fred Warner or Genard Avery should all be there. The last time Minnesota drafted an Iowa Linebacker, it worked out pretty well for them, getting a 10-year starter at WILL
If the Vikings decide to add an interior D-Lineman to prepare for Richardson’s absence in 2019, Nathan Shepard or Trenton Thompson would both be great developmental additions.
For more in-depth analysis of these players, you can get the 2018 Rookie Roundup for FREE and read up on the IDP relevant draft prospects.
Thanks for reading! Be on the lookout for your favorite team broken down IDP style. Follow me @Ben_Glaser and let me know who you would want the Vikings or your team to draft this year!
Liked this? Check out the breakdown of the Denver Broncos, Green Bay Packers, San Francisco 49ers, New Orleans Saints, Detroit Lions, Jacksonville Jaguars, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Indianapolis Colts, Chicago Bears, Los Angeles Rams, Houston Texans, New England Patriots, Buffalo Bills, Seattle Seahawks and Arizona Cardinals.