With the 2017 draft is in the books, let's take a look at some of the key picks, and see how they will impact the position they play for the Minnesota Vikings. If you're looking for full draft recaps, we did our traditional Stock Market Report after round two, which if you didn't read you can catch right here. Eric did a great day three recap here, and Fearless Leader covered all the trades in depth here and here. We also have our full draft coverage here, so go check that out when you get a chance to take a look at all of the newest members of the Vikings.
Before we start, let's recap the 2017 Draft class, since the Vikings ended up with 11 picks. They are:
Dalvin Cook, RB
Pat Elflein, C
Jaleel Johnson, DT
Ben Gedeon, MLB
Rodney Adams, WR
Danny Isidora, G
Bucky Hodges, TE
Stacy Coley, WR
Ifeade Odenigbo, DE
Elijah Lee, LB
Jack Tochco, CB
The Big Two On Day Two
The three biggest needs for the Vikings heading into the draft was offensive line, running back, and defensive tackle. And with their first three picks, they addressed their three biggest needs. And by address, I mean to imply that all three will either come in and start or significantly contribute. We'll talk about Johnson in a bit, so for now let's focus on Calvin Cook and Pat Elflein.
Dalvin Cook and the running backs: I don't want to come off as sounding disrespectful to Adrian Peterson's career in Minnesota, because he is a first ballot Hall of Fame player, or should be. But, when you look at Cook and the signing of Latavius Murray, you could make a legitimate argument that the Vikings running backs corps, from top to bottom, is as good and deep as it has been since 2009. None of the current crop of backs are better than Peterson on an individual basis, but as a group, this is a unit that has quality and depth from top to bottom. And in the last couple years, Peterson's weakness in running out of the shotgun or spread formation, and the depth behind him, became a big issue. It came to a head last year when Peterson went down, as Jerick McKinnon and Matt Asiata weren't dynamic enough to make up for the loss. Combined with a bad offensive line, the Vikings running game became one of the worst in the NFL.
Those problems seem to be a thing of the past now, as Murray, Cook, and McKinnon are all comfortable running out of what is now a formation that has become a key part of the Vikings offense. They also complement each other very well, and although I expect Murray to begin the season as the starter, Cook will see plenty of action. I really liked the trade up, I'm really encouraged about the improvements in this group on paper, and I'm looking forward to seeing them on the field.
Pat Elflein and the line: To me, getting a guy that can start on the interior line was the biggest priority the Vikings had entering the draft. I really thought they would target a guy with their second round pick, but I can't fault them for getting a guy like Dalvin Cook once he began to fall. They were in danger of missing out on all the top prospects, but when GM Rick Spielman made a move up to get Elflein, it was a great move that solidified the line. Mike Zimmer said that Elflein will play center, and that means one of two things. They're either projecting him to start right away and move Joe Berger back out to right guard, or Berger will play center, someone else will play guard, and Elflein will back up Berger for a year.
My guess is the former, as Elflein is a pretty good prospect, Berger is just as effective at RG as he was at C, and you're essentially killing two birds with one stone by making the move by getting younger and improving the line. If that's the case,your starting offensive line, L to R, of Reiff, Boone, Elflein, Berger, and Remmers is leaps and bounds better than what the Vikings fielded in 2016. Is it elite? No, I don't think anyone can rationally claim that. But is it the mess a lot of people think it still is? No, I don't think anyone can rationally claim that anymore, either.
Three Thoughts On Day Three
Early Contributors: The first pick of the day, Jaleel Johnson, was the best pick of the 132 picks the Vikings amassed on day three of the draft. With Shariff Floyd's injury clouding his future, Johnson will make an impact right away on the interior line. I would be surprised if he isn't in the rotation from the first day of training camp, and with Tom Johnson coming off an injury, I can see him pushing for a starting job in training camp, assuming Floyd can't go.
Bucky Hodges is a guy that I've warmed up to after I got over my...wait for it...butt hurt...over the Vikings not drafting Jake Butt. Hodges is a guy that is a serious pass catching threat, and has speed for a tight end. As TE friendly as Pat Shurmur's offense is, I can see Hodges carving out an early role in the offense.
Ben Gedeon is a guy that is solid in what he does, and that's play in a base 4-3 and stop the run. He's a liability in coverage, but if you look at what Gedeon does well, which is pursue and tackle between the edges, you quickly find he does it very well. I see him as a big contributor on special teams right away, and I would actually be okay if the Vikings look at him as the starting Mike in their base 4-3, and move Eric Kendricks back outside with Anthony Barr. When you look at the speed guys Gedeon had at Michigan to contain the edge, it looks a lot like the speedy linebackers the Vikings have in Barr and Kendricks, and that trio could set up very well for the Vikings in their base set. We'll see.
Rodney Adams can flat out fly, and he sounds like he could be the next Cordarrelle Patterson at a fraction of the cost. A raw route runner who is a really good return guy, Adams seems like he's set up to compete right away as a kick and/or punt returner, and will be next in the long line of players proclaimed to be the Guy That Causes Marcus Sherels To Get Cut. I will buy the former, and I laugh at the latter. As Fearless Leader has said many times and we have all echoed, when the world ends the only three things left standing will be Twinkies, cockroaches, and Marcus Sherels.
Remainder of the draft class: Of all the picks remaining, I think the best one that has a chance to contribute early is Danny Isidora. I'm not saying that because I expect a low grade nuclear weapon to be detonated on the Vikings offensive line again, but Isidora was graded out by a lot of sites to be a third round talent, and getting him as far back in the draft as the Vikings did could be a steal. Yes, I know we say that about every offensive lineman the Vikings draft in the late rounds. Yes, I know it almost never works out. Still, Isidora has talent, and if he can be developed, I can see him becoming a starting RG in a year or two, after Berger retires.
The Trades: Hoo boy, I think by the end of the day even our resident draft guru MarkSP18 was saying 'Uncle'. I doubt it, but yeah, I'll never criticize his mock draft trades again. Anyway, my thoughts on the trades were as follows. The first two to move up and get both Cook and Elflein I loved. They were minimal cost moves to get maximum value, at positions the Vikings really needed top shelf talent to upgrade. When Spielman made those moves, I fully expected a couple moves back down to try and recoup some of the draft capital used in the first two trades, and I was fine with it. The next two trades, also on day two, were moves I expected, as the Vikings ended up moving back out of the third round completely. But at the end of the night they had the second pick in the fourth round, and three additional picks in the later rounds. I could have done without the last trade of the night, which was the one that took the Vikings completely out of the third round, but I understood the thinking.
The three trades on day three, though, seemed puzzling to me and by the final trade, I was fairly frustrated. I get wanting to add picks because of no first round pick and the two trades up in rounds two and three, I do. But I thought that had been addressed sufficiently in the two ensuing trades back down on Friday night, and had the Vikings stood pat there was some solid talent available. I'm not sure the additional seventh round picks the Vikings got by trading down will turn into a net plus in terms of players they passed over, but the more bodies means the more competition, and the greater the chance you'll find a solid player.