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Minnesota Vikings Draft Analysis

Warren takes a look at how the team did on Draft Weekend

NFL: NFL Draft-City Views Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL Draft has been concluded, yielding a total of twelve draft picks for the Vikings, and included six trades.

To recap, the Vikings drafted:

1.18 - Garrett Bradbury, C, North Carolina State

2.50 - Irv Smith Jr., TE, Alabama

3.102 - Alexander Mattison, RB, Boise State

4.114 - Dru Samia, G, Oklahoma

5.162 - Cameron Smith, LB, USC

6.190 - Armon Watts, DT, Arkansas

6.191 - Marcus Epps, S, Wyoming

6.193 - Olisaemeka Udoh, OT, Elon

7.217 - Kris Boyd, DB, Texas

7.239 - Dillon Mitchell, WR, Oregon

7.247 - Olabisi Johnson, WR, Colorado State

7.250 - Austin Cutting, LS, Air Force

Starters on Offense, Backups on Defense

Looking at the Vikings draft overall, it’s clear they were looking to draft starters on offense - particularly offensive line, and backups on defense - where starting jobs are pretty well set.

In terms of immediate impact, Garrett Bradbury, Irv Smith Jr., and Dru Samia may be the most important draft picks for the Vikings, with Alexander Mattison perhaps playing a complimentary role to Dalvin Cook at RB - similar to Latavius Murray last season.

The rest are all potential upgrades to the depth chart.

Vikings Offensive Line May Have Three New Interior Linemen This Season

In terms of top draft picks, the Vikings chose to go with interior linemen and not another offensive tackle that would potentially have Riley Reiff move inside to guard.

Both Garrett Bradbury and Dru Samia are very good zone run blockers, which is the run scheme the Vikings will use, which sets them up to be early starters. Moreover, drafting guys that won’t have a big position shift (Samia may have to switch sides at guard though) also makes it more likely they’ll be starters week one.

Given that, the Vikings new offensive line may shape up as follows:

LT: Riley Reiff | LG: Dru Samia | C: Garrett Bradbury | RG: Josh Kline | RT: Brian O’Neil

Of course there will be competition, - particularly the left guard spot - which could include Pat Elflein, Brett Jones, and Aviante Collins. Collins could be a potential swing tackle candidate as well.

Overall, the offensive line looks the most primed for improvement in many years.

Tight End Position Group Looks Pretty Solid

Contrary to speculation, I think the Vikings keep Kyle Rudolph, and perhaps even extend him. Having Rudolph and newly drafted TE Irv Smith Jr. in double tight-end sets makes a lot of sense in Kubiak’s scheme, as they’re both legit receiving threats and Smith can be moved around as an H-back type guy - in-line TE, slot, backfield or out wide. Smith is a good blocker so that works on running plays as well. With David Morgan and Tyler Conklin as #3 and #4, that’s a pretty solid group overall. Smith’s skill set both complements and adds another dimension to the Vikings TE group.

I would not be the least bit surprised to see the Vikings run more double TE sets this season, as opposed to 3 WR sets, with both Smith and Rudolph out there, as a way to both strengthen the run while also getting a mismatch in coverage. Among the top 3-4 tight-ends in the draft this year, Smith may be the best fit, outside of maybe Hockenson.

Mattison Looks Like A Good Replacement For Murray

RB Alexander Mattison, who the Vikings picked at the end of the 3rd round, combines power with elusiveness. He’s capable of being a 3-down bell-cow too as he has good receiving ability out of the backfield. But where he’s most effective is in the money situations - in the red zone and 3rd down. He has a high rate of attempts that turn into first downs or touchdowns.

And like Murray, he should be able to rotate with Dalvin Cook in any situation, which should help keep Cook healthy and fresh.

Day 3 Picks Most Likely To Make The Final Roster

I doubt we’ll see any starters this year among the defensive picks - pretty tough to crack into those ranks - but we could see a handful of the Day 3 picks make the final roster. The more likely candidates:

  • Cameron Smith. If he can show up well on special teams he could make the team and even become the primary backup. He graded very well against the run and in coverage at USC.
  • Olabisi Johnson. He’s a lot like Adam Thielen in terms of his skill set, measurables and character. And he could end up making the team the same way Thielen did - as a special teamer (both gunner and punt returner) and promising receiver. Dillon Mitchell has more flash, but also more drops and questions about his work ethic and ability to take coaching. Not sure he adds much as a special teamer, which makes his path to make the team more difficult.
  • Austin Cutting. It seems his biggest obstacle to making the team is his Air Force service commitment. Apparently he’s the Michael Jordan of long snappers, with rifle-like velocity, spin and accuracy. Some think spending pick 250 of 254 on a premier long snapper a foolish extravagance, but apparently the Broncos were poised to sign him as a UDFA, so Spielman sniped him with his last pick. For those who are curious, there is precedent for this type of pick. Bill Belichick spent a 5th round pick (#166) on a long snapper from the Naval Academy in 2015 with the same service commitment issue. He’s been their long snapper ever since.

New Coaches Got Their Guys

It’s also clear that the Vikings indulged their new coaches with top draft picks:

  • Gary Kubiak and Kevin Stefanski got the Vikings first four draft picks
  • Rick Dennison got three new offensive linemen
  • Brian Pariani got a new tight-end
  • Drew Petzing got two new wide receivers
  • New special teams coach Marwan Maalouf got a long-snapper
  • Even QB coach Klint Kubiak got something - UDFA QB Jake Browning.


Overall the Vikings look to have filled their most immediate needs reasonably well:

  • The offensive line interior has been upgraded with the addition of Bradbury and Samia
  • Alexander Mattison should work out well as a replacement for Latavius Murray
  • Irv Smith Jr. should prove a valuable addition to a key position group in Kubiak’s offense

I’m not sure how well the Vikings addressed the defensive tackle position need after the departure of Sheldon Richardson - Armon Watts is not an immediate starter. But there are a couple veterans Andre Patterson has been developing that could be ready to step up into a starting defensive tackle role. We’ll see.

Beyond that, we’ll have to see how well the rest of the picks compete for depth roles.


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