In all the fun and excitement leading up to draft night tonight, I damn near forgot to complete the list of the Minnesota Vikings’ Top 5 draft needs that I had been working on. So far, we’ve looked at running backs, cornerbacks, and tight ends, but now we come to a spot where there’s a pretty serious hole, all things considered.
While the Vikings seem to have an endless supply of talented edge players, the same (at least at this point) can’t be said for the interior. Sure, Linval Joseph is great, but the loss of Sheldon Richardson is one that’s definitely going to be felt unless the Vikings make a move to fill that spot. Let’s take a look at what the defensive tackle position looks like for the Vikings right now and what they could do over the course of Draft Weekend.
Current Vikings defensive tackles: Linval Joseph (starter), Shamar Stephen (starter), Curtis Cothran, Jalyn Holmes, Jaleel Johnson, Ifeadi Odenigbo (I’m going to put him at tackle)
Joseph remains one of the best nose tackles in the league, but if the season were to start today we’d likely see Stephen getting the start at the 3-tech spot, and that really isn’t super ideal, I don’t think. I always thought Stephen was much better against the run than he was in trying to generate pressure, but maybe the Vikings are seeing something I’m not.
Holmes didn’t see a lot of action in his rookie season, but I still think he’s a better fit on the interior than he is on the edge. It seems like Jaleel Johnson spends the preseason destroying guys on the second team offensive lines of our preseason opponents, but to date that really hasn’t translated to the regular season. I’m actually pretty high on Odenigbo, and thought he should have made the team out of camp last season, but I’m happy he’s back and think he’s going to stick this time around. Cothran is probably headed for the practice squad again if the Vikings want to keep him around.
Who could they take and when. Since I don’t think Ed Oliver or Quinnen Williams is falling to #18, the guy the Vikings might be eyeing if they want to use their first round pick at the position is Christian Wilkins out of Clemson. Wilkins reminds me a bit of Kevin Williams, since he’s got pretty decent agility for a guy that weighs in at 315 pounds. Providing that the Vikings immediately address the offensive line in Round 2, I wouldn’t hate a pick of Wilkins at #18, I don’t think.
There are plenty of options if the Vikings want to wait until Day 2 as well. I don’t think the Vikings would be in on Mississippi State tackle Jeffrey Simmons or anything, given his injury and questions about whether or not he’ll be ready for the start of the season. Miami (FL) tackle Gerald Willis seems to be a popular player in the second or third round, as is Dre’Mont Jones of Ohio State. Khalen Saunders of Western Illinois could be a potential target, but he strikes me as more of a nose tackle than a 3-technique. It would be interesting to see what Andre Patterson could mold him into, though.
I think the Vikings will address the defensive tackle spot at some point in the first two days of the draft, but if they want to wait until Day 3 there’s still some intriguing players out there. Kingsley Keke of Texas A&M is someone that’s shown some pass rush ability on the inside, as is Terry Beckner out of Missouri. Beckner comes with some pretty significant medical concerns, though, as he’s tore the ACLs in both of his knees during his college career.
Obviously, there are significantly more players to keep an eye on for the Vikings than the ones I’ve just mentioned, but those are a few that I’ll be watching for when the Vikings want to address the defensive tackle spot in this year’s NFL Draft.