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It’s time for Mel Kiper’s first mock draft of the year

Mike Zimmer may be gone, but the memory remains

Syndication: Nashville George Walker IV / Tennessean.com

In much the same way that the salmon return to Capistrano every year, so too does the advent of mock draft season around the National Football League. With the Minnesota Vikings and their fans already looking ahead to this April’s selection meeting, it’s time to start monitoring what some of the experts are looking at for our favorite team.

Perhaps the most famous draft expert of them all, Mel Kiper Jr., has put together his first mock draft of the offseason. (It’s behind the great E$PN paywall, as you’d expect.) With the Vikings’ pick at #12, Kiper has them going in a direction that may seem very familiar to fans from the past few years. . .looking at the cornerback position.

Kiper has the Vikings selecting Cincinnati cornerback Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner in his first mock of the year. Here’s his reasoning behind the selection.

Since 2013, the Vikings have drafted four cornerbacks in Round 1 ... and not a single one of them is still on the roster. Coach Mike Zimmer and general manager Rick Spielman are out, and the new regime will inherit a good, not great, roster with a couple of significant voids, particularly at corner. Veteran Patrick Peterson was signed to a one-year deal last offseason, so he’s a free agent, and I’m not sold that Cameron Dantzler is a quality starter.

They should jump at the chance to take Gardner, a lockdown corner who presented problems for opposing offensive coordinators in 2021. He was targeted just 31 times as the nearest defender in coverage, and he allowed only eight catches for 60 yards. With Kirk Cousins not locked in long term, I thought about a quarterback here, but Gardner is too good to pass up for a team in glaring need.

Kiper only had one quarterback going ahead of the Vikings’ selection at #12, that being Liberty University’s Malik Willis, who went to the Washington Football Team at #11.

I’m sure that many folks hoped that the departure of Mike Zimmer might put an end to the team’s fetish with taking cornerbacks with high draft choices. However, a look at the roster. . .and keeping in mind that this is pre-free agency and whatever else. . .shows that the Vikings don’t have a whole lot of cornerbacks under contract as things stand right now. Cameron Dantzler, Kris Boyd, and Harrison Hand remain on the roster, but players like Patrick Peterson and Mackensie Alexander that signed one-year deals are destined for free agency again, so the position is definitely a need.

What do you think of Mel Kiper’s first mock of 2022 and the selection he’s made for the Vikings, folks?