Even going into the 2018 NFL Draft, the Minnesota Vikings were regarded as having one of the best defensive line groups in the National Football League. According to a leading NFL Draft analyst, they may have added a player in the late round that could end up being an outstanding addition to the purple defense.
Rob Rang of NFL Draft Scout has put together an analysis of the Vikings’ 2018 Draft Class, and says that he thinks that defensive end Ade Aruna, who the Vikings took in the sixth round (#218 overall) could, ultimately, end up being the “best fit” out of all the players the Vikings drafted this past April.
Here’s what he had to say about the Vikings’ selection of Aruna:
At a towering 6-foot-5, 262 pounds with 34-inch arms and massive hands (10 5/8 inches), Aruna, certainly looks the part of an NFL defensive end. He tested like one, as well, showing off rare explosiveness in the 40-yard dash (4.60) and vertical jump (38.5 inches) at the Combine.
For all of Aruna’s exciting traits, however, he remains sushi-raw when it comes to technique, a by-product of playing just one season of football in high school and largely being asked to take on blocks (rather than slip past them) at Tulane, which used a three-man base front.
Aruna’s college numbers sort of back up Rang’s point, both concerning what he was asked to do in Tulane’s defense and the stage of development that he’s currently at. In his four years with the Green Wave (after just one year of high school football), Aruna put up 11 sacks, including just two in his final season. As Rang’s analysis above points out, that’s what the Green Wave asked him to do in their defensive scheme.
But, he did put on an outstanding performance at the Combine, as Rang points out, and though it’s way too early to make this comparison, it sort of reminds me of a current member of the Vikings that was viewed in much the same way.
One that just got a whole lot of money for developing the way the Vikings had hoped.
When you look at the college statistics for Danielle Hunter, there’s really nothing on there that blows you away. In his three seasons at Louisiana State, Hunter put up just 4.5 sacks, including 1.5 in his last year before declaring for the NFL Draft. I don’t recall enough about the 2015 LSU defense to remember how Hunter was used in their scheme, but it may have been similar to Aruna’s case where he just wasn’t asked to go after the quarterback on every play.
However, the Vikings obviously saw something that they liked in Hunter athletically, such as the 4.57 40-yard dash he put together at the Combine as a 6’5”, 252-pound defensive end. (He didn’t do a full workout at the Combine because of a hamstring issue.) They grabbed him in the third round of the 2015 Draft, and after not doing much in the way of pass rush at LSU, he’s done enough at this level where he’s now going to be set for the rest of his life financially.
When you listen to people who know a lot about draft prep and what teams look for (such as Arif does on Norse Code), you often hear that the Vikings are a team that value “traits over production.” Hunter is an example of that, and Aruna could be the next one. The team obviously has faith that they can develop players with great athletic gifts into the sort of players that can succeed in their scheme. With the track record that Mike Zimmer and Andre Patterson have shown since they came to Minnesota, I’m not going to be foolish enough to declare that they can’t do the same here.
I don’t know if Ade Aruna is going to be an impact player for the Vikings this season, but it certainly appears as though he could be that sort of player in the future. I’m also not saying that he’s the next Danielle Hunter, but there appear to be enough similarities where Aruna might be a player that’s worth getting a little excited about.