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Recap & Notes on the 2020 Vikings Draft

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Recapping all the Vikings moves and draft picks

The 2020 NFL Draft has concluded, and the Minnesota Vikings, entering the draft with a total of 12 draft picks, made a total of 15 selections, and 4 trades. They also acquired two draft picks in the 2021 draft - a 4th rounder from the Bears and a 5th rounder from the Ravens.

This was a historic draft for the Vikings, as their 15 selections breaks a record for most draft picks since the draft moved to the 7-round format.

Not only have the Vikings made the most draft picks in this draft, but they now have made the most draft picks in the NFL since Rick Spielman became GM back in 2012.

Recapping All the Moves and Picks

The Vikings began the draft with the following 12 draft picks:

First Round: #22, #25

Second Round: #58

Third Round: #89, #105

Fourth Round: #132

Fifth Round: #155

Sixth Round: #201, #205

Seventh Round: #219, #249, #253

And here is a recap of all the Vikings activity over the three days of the draft:

THURSDAY NIGHT, 4/23/20

1.22 (#22): Justin Jefferson, WR, LSU

Jefferson was Gary Kubiak’s favorite receiver in this deep class, and the Vikings, expecting the Eagles to potentially take Jefferson ahead of them, and Mike Zimmer said they attempted to trade up to get Jefferson ahead of them. However, no deal could be had. But the Eagles ended up going for Jalen Reagor, and so Jefferson fell to the Vikings anyway.

Jefferson meets an immediate need for the Vikings in filling the hole created by the Stefon Diggs trade, which is also how the Vikings acquired this draft pick. Jefferson is seen as one of the most pro-ready wide receivers in the draft, because of his route running ability.

Jefferson was the 8th ranked WR on the PFF big board, #32 overall.

1.25 (#25): TRADED DOWN

The Vikings traded this pick to the 49ers, for their picks #31, #117, and #176. The 49ers selected WR Brandon Aiyuk. Rick Spielman said Thursday night that they had a number of players available on their draft board that they could take at #25, so he felt okay trading back, knowing one of them would still be there. They said later that Jeff Gladney was #1 on their list.

1.31 (#31): Jeff Gladney, CB, Texas Christian (TCU)

Apparently Gladney was the top corner available on their draft board, and cornerback being a top position of need, the Vikings selected Jeff Gladney here. The Vikings had a video meeting with Gladney during the pre-draft process.

Gladney will compete for a starting CB job as a rookie.

Gladney was the 7th ranked CB on the PFF big board, #34 overall.

FRIDAY NIGHT, 4/24/20

Rick Spielman had mentioned the possibility/likelihood that the Vikings would move up on Day 2 of the draft, having accumulated additional draft capital and suggesting their was a lot of depth available at the top of each round - two and three. However, that was not to be.

2.26 (#58): Ezra Cleveland, OT, Boise State

The Vikings had been in trade talks with the Redskins for Trent Williams, including earlier on Friday, attempting to complete the trade. However, it was reported that Williams said he did not want to play for the Vikings (which he and his agent later denied), effectively killing any trade deal. Apparently the 49ers had also been in contract with the Redskins, and ultimately Williams was traded to the 49ers on 4/25/20.

But having had the trade deal with the Redskins fall through earlier in the day, the Vikings were forced into Plan B, drafting Ezra Cleveland with their 2nd round pick. Rick Spielman didn’t characterize it that way, however, saying the deal with Trent Williams fell through when they realized Cleveland would fall to them in the 2nd round.

The Vikings had a video meeting with Cleveland during the pre-draft process.

It’s not clear at this point if Cleveland will be ready to compete for a starting job this season, or whether he’ll be considered for only tackle or also a guard position. Cleveland’s arm length is less than optimal for a tackle, but otherwise his comparable at tackle is Brian O’Neill. As a guard his comparable is Joe Thuney. At the moment, play strength is a concern cited by many scouts - just as it was with O’Neill.

Cleveland was the 7th ranked tackle on the PFF big board, #58 overall.

3.25 (#89): Cameron Dantzler, CB, Mississippi State

The Vikings once again addressed the need at CB, after all three starting CBs departed this off-season, selecting Dantzler here. The Vikings had a video meeting with Dantzler in the pre-draft process.

Dantzler will compete for a starting outside CB job as a rookie.

Dantzler was the 9th ranked CB on the PFF big board, #50 overall.

3.41 (#105): TRADED DOWN

With one of the last picks in the 3rd round, a compensatory pick, Rick Spielman opted to trade down with the Saints, acquiring all of their remaining draft picks in compensation - #130 (James Lynch), #169 (Harrison Hand), #203 (Blake Brandel), #244 (Nate Stanley). The Saints selected TE Adam Trautman.

SATURDAY, 4/25/20

4.11 (#117): D.J. Wonnum, Edge, South Carolina

Apparently Wonnum had been scouted by Vikings’ DL coach Andre Patterson, in the course of watching tape on Javon Kinlaw, Wonnum stood out to Patterson and had the traits to develop, which led to his being drafted.

Wonnum will likely begin as third on the DE depth chart behind Hunter and Odenigbo.

Wonnum was not included in the PFF Top 250 big board.

4.24 (#130): James Lynch, DE, Baylor

The Vikings and Andre Patterson were also high on Lynch, whom they’d met twice in the pre-draft process, once at the Combine, and again by video. Rick Spielman said in his post-draft press conference that Lynch will be used primarily as an interior pass rusher initially.

If the Vikings move to a 4-3 under front, Lynch would likely play the 5T spot.

Lynch was the 14th ranked edge defender on the PFF big board, #99 overall.

4.26 (#132): Troy Dye, LB, Oregon

As far as I know the Vikings did not have any pre-draft meetings reported with Dye, who was the 3rd ranked LB on PFF’s big board - ahead of Kenneth Murray, who was a first round pick. Dye was #59 overall on PFF’s big board.

Dye is a modern linebacker/strong safety type player with the length and quickness to be a 3-down linebacker. He could also be used a big slot cornerback or strong safety. Dye has the potential to become the third linebacker for the Vikings as a rookie, and could also be a core special teams player.

Dye suffered a torn meniscus at the tail end of his last season at Oregon, so he didn’t do any drills at the Combine or his Pro day.

5.10 (#155): TRADED

The Vikings traded this pick to the Chicago Bears for a 2021 4th round pick. The Bears selected DE Trevis Gipson.

5.24 (#169): Harrison Hand, CB, Temple

Hand will likely compete as a depth player in the CB/S depth chart. He may be better at safety than cornerback, but will also need to make it as a special teamer first.

He was not included in the PFF Top 250 big board.

5.31 (#176): K.J. Osborn, WR, Miami

Osborn was drafted primarily as a special teamer who could take over both kick and punt return duties, as well as cover on the kick and punt teams.

As a depth receiver behind Thielen, Jefferson, Sharpe, and Bisi Johnson, he’s unlikely to see the field as a WR, particularly as the Vikings use more 2 TE and 2 RB sets these days.

Osborn was not included in the PFF Top 250 big board.

6.22 (#201): TRADED

The Vikings traded #201 and #219 to the Ravens for #225 (Kenny Willekes) and a 2021 5th round pick. The Ravens selected WR James Proche with #201, and S Geno Stone with #219.

6.24 (#203): Blake Brandel, G, Oregon State

Brandel is a likely guard in the NFL, although he played tackle in college. He’s a development project that will need time to add strength and improve technique. Most likely a practice squad guy.

Brandel was not in the PFF top 250 big board.

6.26 (#205): Josh Metellus, S, Michigan

Metellus will likely compete for a backup safety and special teamer spot.

He was not in the PFF top 250 big board.

7.5 (#219): TRADED - see 6.22

7.11 (#225): Kenny Willekes, DE, Michigan State

Willekes will likely compete with Wonnum for a depth spot at DE, behind Hunter and Odenigbo.

He was the 11th ranked edge defender on the PFF big board, #80 overall.

7.30 (#244): Nate Stanley, QB, Iowa

Stanley will likely compete for 3rd team duties with Jake Browning during training camp. Most likely a camp body, but a chance to make the practice squad if he beats out Browning.

He was not in the PFF top 250 big board.

7.35 (#249): Brian Cole II, S, Mississippi State

Cole will compete for a backup safety and special teamer spot with Josh Metellus.

Cole was the 28th ranked CB on the PFF big board, and #243 overall.

7.39 (#253): Kyle Hinton, G, Washburn

Hinton is a small school, traits-based pick with the strength and athleticism to develop - similar to Oli Udoh in that regard. He’s likely a year away from competing for even a primary backup role at this point, but could make the roster/practice squad if he shows good progress.

He was not in the PFF top 250 big board.

UDFA SIGNINGS

Following the conclusion of the draft, the Vikings signed the following college free agents (UDFAs):

  • Brady Aiello, OL, Oregon
  • Nevelle Clarke, CB, Central Florida
  • Quartney Davis, WR, Texas A&M (PFF #225 overall)
  • Myles Dorn, CB, North Carolina
  • Nakia Griffin-Stewart, TE, Pittsburgh
  • Tyler Higby, OL, Michigan State
  • Jake Lacina, OL, Augustana
  • Blake Lynch, LB, Baylor
  • David Moa, DT, Boise State

Other Notes

In his post-draft press conference, Rick Spielman addressed the offensive line, and whether he had done enough to address that position group in the draft. He mentioned that while he liked Ezra Cleveland, there were existing guys on the roster that the coaching staff were very high on, including Dru Samia, Oli Udoh, and Aviante Collins. Mike Zimmer had made a similar, but more general comment regarding promising offensive linemen on the roster earlier in the off-season. Notably absent from the offensive line comments was any mention of Pat Elflein. All that suggests the Vikings will likely find new starters at both guard spots from their existing roster.

On the defensive line, James Lynch could see significant reps at the 5T position if the Vikings go with a 4-3 under front, and he could end up being the starter there. The emergence of Armon Watts last season could help solidify the defensive interior, while a bigger, stronger Hercules Mata’afa could be more of a pass rush factor as well.

At the cornerback spot, there should be a good competition between Gladney, Dantzler, Holton Hill and Mike Hughes for the outside corner spots. My guess is that Hughes will be the primary slot corner, but he could also work outside in 2 WR sets. Gladney could also work in the slot, although I’m not sure how many reps he’ll get there in training camp, as they may want him to learn the outside first, and not inundate him with learning both positions.

Lastly, Troy Dye could prove to be an upgrade for the third linebacker spot. He’s smaller - only about 230 pounds - but so is Eric Kendricks. Dye has been a good run support at Oregon, but even better covering tight ends and as a blitzer.

At wide receiver, the Vikings should be pretty well set between Adam Thielen, Justin Jefferson, Tajae Sharpe and Bisi Johnson. I expect Jefferson will play both in the slot and outside, but will need to improve some against press coverage - as pretty much every college WR does.

But overall, between draft picks and mostly second-year veterans, the Vikings will have covered all the holes left in their roster this off-season, and may have upgraded a few spots. I would be surprised if fans and coaches end up missing Xavier Rhodes and Trae Waynes once the season begins. Diggs may be another story, but Justin Jefferson is as pro-ready as any WR in the draft, and was very productive at LSU last season - facing NFL-caliber competition. The key will be developing a rapport with Kirk Cousins.

Bottom Line

The Vikings had a historic draft in terms of the number of players drafted since the league began the 7-round draft format. But it wasn’t just quantity where they outperformed the rest of the league. They also graded the highest in initial assessments of any team in the league:

All that is auspicious for the future, as the Vikings reload after cycling through a number of long-time starters this off-season.