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Which Vikings would you protect from a potential expansion draft?

It’s something worth debating

NFL: Player Headshots 2020 Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

In case you’re not one for following hockey, the NHL officially gives birth to its 32nd franchise today, as the new Seattle Kraken are taking part. . .or have already taken part. . .in their expansion draft, providing them with their first 30 players.

Prior to the expansion draft, each NHL team had to submit lists of players that were off-limits to the Kraken, leaving the rest of their players as fair game to be selected by the new club. In light of that, the folks from Pro Football Focus presented us with this question on the Twitters:

Which three non-quarterbacks would you protect from your team if the NFL did an expansion draft?

Now, this is quite a bit different from how the NFL usually does expansion drafts. When the Houston Texans joined the league in 2002, each team listed five players that the Texans could select, many of which were veterans on huge contracts that the teams didn’t want to deal with anymore. The Texans then either had to select 30 players or around 40% of their salary cap space in contracts. If the NFL were to do an expansion draft the way that PFF proposes, the resulting expansion team would be ridiculously loaded.

Nevertheless, this is a fun little thought exercise, so here are the players that I’d pick from our Minnesota Vikings.

  • Danielle Hunter - Sure, he’s coming off of the injury, but his contract issues have been re-worked, and 26-year old pass-rushing stars aren’t just growing on trees out here or anything. Hunter would be the cornerstone of a lot of defenses around the NFL, and there wouldn’t be any point in letting him get away.
  • Justin Jefferson - Another obvious choice, given that he’s probably the best young wide receiver in the NFL coming off of a record-setting rookie campaign. Jefferson got All-Pro consideration in his first year, and given that he’s still on his rookie contract, the team will have him at a reasonable price for at least the next couple of years.
  • Dalvin Cook - Now, this is the one that I actually had to debate over. Yes, I know that Cook is incredibly talented and on the shortlist of the best all-around backs in the NFL. However, if you’re a part of the school of thought that running backs don’t mean a whole lot, this might seem like an odd choice. This is the selection I made in my Twitter response, though after further review I could probably be talked into Brian O’Neill at this spot. I might even think about Cameron Dantzler here.

This would leave a lot of big-name Vikings exposed, to be sure. However, there are a few of them. . .notably Harrison Smith, Eric Kendricks, and Adam Thielen. . .that are getting a little bit up there in age and wouldn’t be quite as vital to protect as the players that I’ve listed.

To me, Hunter and Jefferson were absolute no-brainers. The third spot was a little trickier, and I wound up going with Cook ahead of the other possibilities.

What do you think, folks? Which three non-quarterbacks would you choose to protect if the NFL expanded again and held another expansion draft?