ESPN draft guy Todd McShay has a bit of a wrinkle for the Vikings in his latest mock draft (it’s behind the paywall, so you won’t be able to see it unless you subscribe). With most everyone expecting (and a lot of Vikings fans pleading) to take an offensive lineman, he projects that Minnesota does something else entirely:
18. Minnesota Vikings
Montez Sweat, DE, Mississippi St
With the top three offensive linemen off the board -- reaching for Ole Miss’ Greg Little is a possibility but doubtful -- Minnesota turns to defensive end here and grabs Sweat. Even though the Vikings have Danielle Hunter and Everson Griffen (who is 31) off the edge, you can never have enough pass-rushers. Sweat impressed at the Senior Bowl and has some great takeoff quickness.
Yeah, so this might be the point where pitchforks and torches come out at the draft party, but let’s look at a couple things before we burn Minneapolis to the ground. McShay projects that the top three offensive linemen are already off the board, and that changes things for me. Right now he has T Jonah Williams (Alabama) to Tampa Bay at five, T Jawaan Taylor (Florida) to Buffalo at nine, and T Cody Ford (Oklahoma) going 11th to Cincinnati. That would be the second year in a row the Bengals nab an o-lineman the Vikings are looking at (last year they drafted Billy Price), and it would irritate me more than Skyline Chili irritates my insides.
So, that said, Sweat isn’t a bad play here. McShay is right in that you can’t have too many defensive ends, and with Everson Griffen’s future a bit murky, Sweat can come in and push for a starting job against Stephen Weatherly. At a minimum, you’d expect him to be a solid guy in the d-line rotation, and McShay projects no other offensive linemen to go in the first round.
If the draft board unfolds this way, and the Vikings are focused on one of Williams, Taylor, or Ford, a trade down seems like a viable option as well. If they stay at 18 though, here are some other options still on McShay’s board the Vikes could also consider.
T.J. Hockenson, TE, Iowa: McShay projects him 19th to Tennessee. Like Griffen, Kyle Rudolph has a big contract number that most folks expect to get re-worked. If it isn’t, and the worst case scenario of Rudolph being released materializes, Hockenson would be a good pick, although a bit surprising. A lot of folks think he’s the best TE in the class, and is almost as good a run blocker as he is at catching passes.
Devin Bush, LB, Mich[That Team Up North]an: Barr’s contract status is even more in flux than Rudolph and Griffen. He’s set to become an unrestricted free agent, and unless Barr and the Vikings can come to terms, I think he walks. Over The Cap has projected the franchise tag number for 2019 at over $15 million for a linebacker, which is a big deal. If Minnesota tagged Barr, that would hurt the Vikes in terms of having cap space for possible free agents, regardless of what contracts they re-work or players they release.
All in all, it could be worse. I’d prefer an offensive linemen, as I think most fans would, but reaching for a guy at 18 just to get one while passing over a better player at a different position isn’t a smart strategy. In this scenario, Sweat seems like a good pick here.