Continuing along our list of the Top 5 draft needs for the Minnesota Vikings in advance of the 2019 NFL Draft, we move on to another position. I know that a lot of people aren’t going to want to hear this, but it would appear that Mike Zimmer’s favorite defensive position is, in fact, an actual need for the purple at this point. How much of a need could depend on the happenings over the course of draft weekend.
Coming in at #4 on my list (just ahead of running back, which was at #5), we have the cornerback position. Let’s examine why.
Current Vikings cornerbacks: Xavier Rhodes (starter), Trae Waynes (starter), Mackensie Alexander (nickel), Mike Hughes, Holton Hill, Craig James, Duke Thomas
There’s no denying that the Vikings have a ton of talent at the cornerback position. Rhodes and Waynes, when healthy, are among the best starting cornerback tandems in the league, and Alexander was outstanding at the slot corner position in 2018 after fighting the transition from outside corner for his first two seasons. Hughes has first-round pedigree, and Hill turned out to be an undrafted steal. On paper, the Vikings are as deep at corner as they are at any other position.
But, if we add a little context. . .
- Rhodes is coming off of an injury-plagued season, and is approaching age 30. Can he bounce back?
- Waynes is in the final year of his contract, and has had trade rumors swirling around him since the Combine.
- Alexander is also in the final year of his rookie contract.
- Hughes missed over half his rookie season with a torn ACL and there haven’t been a lot of updates on his rehab.
- Hill is going to miss the first four games of this season, and is likely one slip up away from missing significantly more time.
So, while the Vikings have a lot of talent at the cornerback position, they also have a lot of questions. They’re going to have to address those questions at some point on Draft Weekend.
Who could they look at and when. This depends on one thing: Are the Vikings going to deal Trae Waynes over the course of the three days of the 2019 NFL Draft?
With the cap situation the Vikings are in, a trade of Waynes would be beneficial on that front. Waynes’ full $9 million cap hit would immediately be taken over by his new team in the event of a trade. However, if the Vikings do decide to deal Waynes, they would have to have a replacement for him waiting immediately. With the questions currently surrounding Hill and Hughes, you couldn’t just deal a starting cornerback without having someone waiting in the wings to take his spot.
With that said, it doesn’t appear that the value would be there to take a cornerback in the first round. There’s been some buzz around the draft community that there might not be a cornerback taken in the first 25 selections this year, which would be the first time that’s happened in a long time.
If the Vikings were to deal Waynes away, I would like to think they could get a second-round pick for him. If that was the case, they would likely have to use one of their second-round picks (whether it’s #50 or the pick they acquire in a Waynes trade) on a cornerback that could step in and start right away. If that was the plan, they could replace Waynes with another Michigan State alum in Justin Layne, who fits the profile of a press-man Mike Zimmer corner. Notre Dame cornerback Julian Love could be a consideration at that spot as well.
If the Vikings choose to wait until later on, they’re less likely to get a starting-type corner right away, which would be a huge risk to take with things the way they are right now. If they did that, however, a couple of the names they could focus on in the third/fourth round range are Lonnie Johnson out of Kentucky or Isaiah Johnson from the University of Houston. Someone like Joejuan Williams from Vanderbilt strikes me as a Zimmer-type of corner, too.
I think that Vikings’ social media outlets would melt down if the Vikings used yet another first-round pick on a cornerback, particularly given their other needs. However, the cornerback position is something that needs to be addressed at some point in this year’s draft, and it’s something they’re likely going to have to address sooner rather than later.