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Breaking Down Day One of the Vikings Draft

2021 NFL Draft Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

The first night of the NFL Draft is in the books, and as always, contained a number of surprises, one or two bold moves, a couple head scratchers, but mostly fairly sensible picks given team needs and draft slots.

In his post-pick press conference, Rick Spielman said they had began to hit the phones looking to trade up from #14 after the 3rd pick by the 49ers was announced. It was unclear who they were looking to trade up for- some reporting from Tom Pelissaro indicated they may have been after one of the top tackles - Penei Sewell or Rashawn Slater - but the possibility that they were chasing a quarterback not named Mac Jones was a possibility as well, or perhaps another position such as wide receiver, although that would seem less likely. In any case, it didn’t work out, and the only QB that they may have been after- Justin Fields - was drafted by the Chicago Bears, who traded up to #11 with the Giants. The Bears coughed up their 2022 first- and fourth-round picks, along with #20 and #164 this year. That’s roughly 1075 Jimmy Johnson trade value chart points for a 400 point move up. So yes, Chicago paid a big premium to move up 9 spots to get Justin Fields. Not sure if Fields was a target for the Vikings. I suspect Rashawn Slater may have been, but either teams wanted more than the Vikings were willing to pay to move up (quite possible) or in the case of the Lions, weren’t willing to trade with a division rival.

But when the Vikings were finally on the clock at #14, Rick Spielman did secure a trade down with the New York Jets at #23, picking up the Jets’ #66 and #86, in exchange for the Vikings’ #14 and #143. The Jets gave up a total of 1,180 Jimmy Johnson draft value points to get 1,134.5 points from the Vikings, so the Vikings came out ahead on that deal- roughly the equivalent of an extra mid-4th round pick using the Jimmy Johnson chart.

The Vikings then selected LT Christian Darrisaw at #23, which was also a good value as many had Darrisaw going in the mid-teens. The Vikings were considering him at #14, so getting him at #23 was a good value as well. Nothing against either the player or the pick, but I got the impression in their post-pick press conferences that both Spielman and Mike Zimmer may have been a bit disappointed, suggesting there may have been another player they were hoping to draft at #23 that was selected earlier. Zimmer seemed to indicate that they had other players they were targeting as well, and I wouldn’t be surprised if DE Jaelan Phillips may have been one of them. That was my impression, although I could be wrong about that.

But drafting Darrisaw at #23, and picking up basically two third-round picks in the process of trading down, was a good outcome both in value for the prospect selected at 23, and in the trade compensation for doing so. Darrisaw was the 3rd ranked tackle prospect on most big boards, and one of the only top tackles with 34+” arms, which is prototypical, and that played last season, which is also a plus for a player they hope to start in September.

Early reaction to both the trade and selection have been very positive, as media outlets compile their instant grades, based mostly on the value of the pick relative to where they had them on their big board, and perception of how they fit Vikings’ needs.

PRO FOOTBALL FOCUS: ELITE (A)

Trading back from No. 14 and still securing Christian Darrisaw — a top-15 prospect on PFF’s Big Board — is a massive win for Minnesota. Darrisaw is fresh off a season in which he recorded the second-best single-season PFF grade by a Power Five offensive tackle in the PFF College era. He oozes power and plays with the physicality that NFL scouts and coaches dream of.

JAMES DATOR, SB NATION: A

This is a solid pick made great by the fact the Vikings traded back and acquired more value. It’s completely conceivable the team would have been okay staying at No. 14 and taking Darrisaw, but they were willing to take the risk and move back. Minnesota needed trench help on both sides of the ball, and Darrisaw will play LT from day one.

LUKE EASTERLING, USA TODAY: A

The ideal scenario for any team that trades back is to add picks, and still end up with a player that would have been worth your original selection. That’s exactly what the Vikings did here, moving back nine spots and still landing a starting-caliber left tackle that would have already been a fantastic value at their original spot. He fills a huge need, can start immediately, and he’s a huge bargain this late in the first round.

PETE PRISCO, CBSSPORTS.COM: A

I love this pick. I believe he will be the best tackle in the draft. It fills a need in a big way. Prisco had Darrisaw #5 on his draft board.

CHAD REUTER, NFL.COM: A+

One of the least surprising moments of the first round was the Vikings trading out of the 14th overall spot once the Chargers selected Rashawn Slater at No. 13. Acquiring two third-round picks from the Jets (and sending back a fourth-rounder) to move down nine selections was clearly the right move, and looked even better when they found the left tackle they needed in Darrisaw at 23. Scouts did not like his inconsistency finishing plays, but he has the athleticism and strength to make it at the next level. His potential as a long-time starter at left tackle makes him a perfect fit for the Vikings.

DANNY KELLY, THE RINGER: A+

This is exactly why I didn’t like the Jets’ decision to trade up earlier in the round. Even after moving back and picking up a pair of third-round picks, Minnesota gets incredible value in grabbing Darrisaw here. The Virginia Tech standout fills a big need, bringing pass-protecting chops and the athleticism to block well in the run game.

LORENZ, LEINWEBER, SI.COM: A

The strong Hokie makes playing left tackle look much easier than it is. Darrisaw possesses plenty of power to prevent rushers from going through him. In the run game, he creates movement on a consistent basis, opening up running lanes. His foot speed is just average, which could be a concern if he’s unable to continue improving technically. This is a great pick for the Vikings, who upgrade their left tackle spot with a player who should be long gone at 23. Darrisaw has the makings of a quality starting tackle in a league that’s starving for talent at the position.

SHEIL KAPADIA, THE ATHLETIC: A

GM Rick Spielman once again maneuvered well, picking up extra draft capital while still landing a strong prospect at a position of need. Darrisaw (6-foot-5, 322) was a rock-solid left tackle for the Hokies, starting 35 games over the past three seasons. He did not allow a sack or a hit on 293 pass-blocking snaps last year, according to Pro Football Focus. Darrisaw should play tackle for the Vikings, but he has the versatility to play guard down the road. The Vikings moved back from 14 to 23 and picked up picks 66 and 86 (they gave back 143). Minnesota would’ve been justified in taking Darrisaw at 14. But the trade sets them up now with five top-100 picks. This worked out great for them.

I’ll to a separate breakdown of Darrisaw in the coming days.

Poll

How would you grade the Vikings trade down from 14 to 23?

This poll is closed

  • 79%
    A - Great Value & Still Got Our Man
    (644 votes)
  • 16%
    B - Good Value, Worked Out Fine
    (135 votes)
  • 2%
    C - Was Okay, Picks are Good but Might Have Missed Out on Another Player
    (17 votes)
  • 0%
    D - Blew a Better Opportunity for Another Player and Wasn’t Well Compensated
    (3 votes)
  • 0%
    F - Blew a Better Opportunity, Wasn’t Well Compensated, and Picked a Bad Player too.
    (7 votes)
806 votes total Vote Now