Pro Football Focus
WINNERS - MINNESOTA VIKINGS
Having multiple first-round picks makes it easy to overrate how strong a team’s draft class is. Sometimes too much credence is lent to the quantity rather than the quality. I don’t think that is the case here for Minnesota.
Justin Jefferson may not be the perfect fit for the Vikings with his slot-heavy profile at LSU and uncertainties about whether he can beat press-man coverage, but there is no denying his talent. He was a top-32 player on the PFF Big Board with clear strengths — absurd production at LSU in 2019, very strong athletic testing at the NFL combine and good hands to pair with obvious after-the-catch ability. The Vikings needed a difference-maker to pair with Adam Thielen after the loss of Stefon Diggs, and Jefferson figures to be that, even if we were a tad lower on him than most.
They followed the Jefferson pick by trading back from 25 to 31 (something that is never going to get a complaint from us) and filling another need with a good player fit and solid value — Jeff Gladney at cornerback. With more experience than just about any cornerback in the class, Gladney is battle tested. Not only that, but he has plenty of experience in quarters, something that meshes well with the two-high safety coverages that Mike Zimmer defenses tend to employ.
Gladney is an instinctual player who will take chances on some plays in front of him because he trusts his ability to recover, and for good reason. Gladney allowed just 19 receptions on his 78 targets 10 or more yards downfield over the last two seasons. Moving back and still getting that player at an area of need is a home run for Minnesota.
Day 1 grade and analysis: A
They acquired a first-round pick in the trade with the Bills for receiver Stefon Diggs and chose LSU’s Justin Jefferson with the selection. They could not have hoped for much more. Jefferson will be the outside threat that they needed. He can win jump balls and work over the middle. That’s a solid selection without having to move up. The team’s other big need was cornerback, and they found a feisty corner in Gladney after trading back with the Niners, picking up fourth- and fifth-round selections to drop only six slots. He’s a solid value at an important position. - Chad Reuter
BONUS: Vikings upgrade at WR?
The Minnesota Vikings taking LSU wide receiver Justin Jefferson with the 22nd overall pick was the best value of the first round. He’s perfect for Gary Kubiak’s offensive system, and he’ll end up catching a zillion balls for Minnesota. He’s so dependable, so reliable, and will always be where he’s supposed to be. He is going to get open, catches everything, and will be really good in the red zone. I wouldn’t be surprised if we look back after next season and say the Vikings upgraded over Stefon Diggs. - Daniel Jeremiah
While many people expected the Vikings to take a receiver and a cornerback with their two first-round picks, not many people predicted how Minnesota would be able to fill these spots on Thursday night. With the 22nd pick, the Vikings fell into selecting former LSU receiver Justin Jefferson, an extremely prolific college receiver who caught 111 passes for 1,540 yards and 18 touchdowns during his final season in Baton Rouge. The acquisition of Jefferson should help replace the loss of Stefon Diggs, who was traded to Buffalo earlier this offseason, and it comes after many people projected the talented receiver to be gone in the teens, and certainly after the Eagles had made their pick at No. 21.
Minnesota was then able trade their 25th pick to the 49ers in exchange for the 31st, 117th and 176th picks. With the 31st pick, the Vikings were able to select TCU’s Jeff Gladney, the sixth-best cornerback in CBS Sports’ prospect rankings. A first-team All-Big 12 selection last season, Gladney paced the conference with 14 pass breakups in 2019. He would have been a fine fit for the Vikings at No. 25, so to get him plus two extra picks is a coup. Minnesota will likely use at least one of the extra picks they acquired on Thursday night to further address their secondary, a unit that lost Xavier Rhodes, Trae Waynes and Mackensie Alexander during free agency. - Bryan DeArdo
WHICH TEAM BEST ADDRESSED A BIG NEED ?
Seifert: Minnesota Vikings. After trading away Stefon Diggs, the Vikings were down to one credible veteran receiver in Adam Thielen. If you are going to pay your quarterback $33 million per year, as the Vikings are doing with Kirk Cousins, you need to have multiple downfield threats. LSU’s Justin Jefferson was as pro-ready as any of the receivers in this draft.
WHICH RECEIVER WILL HAVE THE MOST IMMEDIATE NFL IMPACT ?
Graziano: LSU’s Justin Jefferson, Minnesota Vikings. With Adam Thielen on the other side, Jefferson won’t have to worry about excess attention from defenses. That was a slick move by Minnesota using the first-round pick it got for Stefon Diggs to draft his replacement.
Yates: LSU’s Justin Jefferson, Minnesota Vikings. I think he has the best route to be a top-two wide receiver, with an established quarterback and a No. 1 wideout who can draw attention otherwise in Thielen.
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Here are the winners and losers of the first day of the draft:
After losing Stefon Diggs and Xavier Rhodes, the Vikings filled both of their needs with top players in LSU WR Justin Jefferson and TCU CB Jeff Gladney. The 6-1, 202-pound Jefferson was the college football playoffs breakout star who showed surprising speed (4.42) at the combine. The 5-10, 191-pound Gladney (4.48) has solid coverage skills. Plus, by trading with the 49ers, they picked up a fourth-round pick. (and a 5th).