Yes I know it isn’t even December yet and I am looking at mock drafts, I know. Mock drafts at this point in the draft process, to me, are a vehicle to familiarize fans with prospects and analyze the rationale behind selecting a prospect or position. If you are not one of the people that love the draft enough to consume content in November, DailyNorseman has plenty of articles to get you ready for this weeks game.
Yahoo Sports: Christian Gonzalez, CB, Oregon
Doug Farrar has the Vikings targeting the cornerback position in the draft once again. After selecting two cornerbacks, Andrew Booth and Akayleb Evans, it would still make sense for Kewsi Adofo-Mensah to add even more talent to the position. Of the Vikings 8 currently rostered corners, 4 are free agents after this season and only 2 corners are under contract after 2023.
Led by Patrick Peterson, who found the fountain of youth, the Vikings corners have played well until injuries. While Peterson deserves an extension this offseason for his resurgence, he isn’t the long term answer at one of the most important positions. Cameron Dantzler is a tougher evaluation and his future warrants a much lengthier discussion. In short, Dantzler is a solid, but volatile CB2 that is bound to make a few mistakes along with a few plays. Rookies Booth and Evans have shown promise, but I don’t believe it’s enough so far to prevent the Vikings dipping back into a talented CB class.
Gonzalez is one of the top corner prospects this year and Vikings fans might want to get more familiar with him as April approaches. After transferring from Colorado, the 6’2” 200lb cornerback has balled out this year for Oregon. While Gonzalez might not fit best in Ed Donatell’s two-high scheme, I think he can find success in large part due to his athletic ability. He’s extremely fluid and excels pressing wide receivers out of their release. He is more than comfortable in zone where his physical tools and mental ability take away throwing windows. From what I’ve seen this early in the process, it looks like Gonzalez will be selected around the Vikings pick.
It’s time to put Christian Gonzalez’s name in the first-round chatter after today. He’s been so damn good and read-and-reacting in coverage ask season pic.twitter.com/vvTGNW6Y39— Cole Thompson (@MrColeThompson) November 5, 2022
CBS Sports: Jaxon Smith-Njigba, WR, Ohio State
Chris Trapasso has the Vikings taking a different approach in his mock draft, an approach I could see happening and would love. The wide receiver position has steadily become more valuable, and for good reason. A single star wide receiver can change an offense (see Justin Jefferson vs Buffalo) and so can quality depth at the position. In years past the Vikings have been in a really great situation wideout-wise, but that position is slipping. With Kevin O’Connell utilizing more 3 wide receiver formations, Adam Thielen’s production slipping, and KJ Osborn not taking the next step, the Vikings could turn to the draft.
Minnesota’s future at wide receiver –behind Justin Jefferson–is an area that can be improved, and in my eyes the draft would be the best possible avenue for improvement. Rookie wideouts have had tons of immediate success upon entering the league, something especially important as WR contracts keep rising. A decent portion of the Vikings offense stalling out can be attributed to KJ Osborn and Adam Thielen simply not doing enough. With a Justin Jefferson extension in the near future, it would make sense for the Vikings to be more cost-efficient at the WR position by taking advantage of a rookie deal.
Njigba reminds me a little bit of ex-Ram, Robert Woods, both have similar builds and win in similar fashions. The Ohio State wideout is extremely well refined technically and mentally with a transferable skill set. Playing in an Ohio State offense alongside several first round caliber wideouts where JSN was able to get a free release often could affect his evaluation. In his reps against press, Njigba demonstrated that he has the tools and technique to beat it. He’s dynamic after the catch despite not having elite top gear speed, which is made up for with his excellent lateral mobility. I believe Smith-Njigba would work so well as a compliment to Justin Jefferson and TJ Hockenson, further pushing the Vikings offense as one of the best.
Jaxon Smith-Njigba hit the BURNERS to score pic.twitter.com/TatHql3xZ6— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) January 1, 2022
TheDraftNetwork: Devon Witherspoon, CB, Illinois
Kyle Crabbs also took a cornerback in his mock draft, albeit his corner is projected to play inside at the next level. I mentioned how 4 of the 8 currently rostered cornerbacks are free agents this offseason, one of those 4 is nickel corner Chandon Sullivan. I’ll talk about it more in an article later this week, but personally Sullivan hasn’t done enough to warrant an extension, leaving a hole in the secondary.
Witherspoon is on the smaller side at 5’11” 180lbs, muddying his projection to the NFL as a boundary corner. This could work in the Vikings favor if they decide to target the slot corner position in the draft, an approach I don’t like very much. Witherspoon definitely has the skill set and mentality to play in the slot. He’s extremely physical and aggressive, and has great man coverage ability. Witherspoon possesses great ball skills, evident in his CFB-leading 16 forced incompletions. He’s played 105 snaps in the slot for Illinois this year, almost equalling his total from 2021 and 2020 combined.
Devon Witherspoon is a solid prospect, I don’t know if he’s a first rounder but he’s not far off. The biggest issue I have with this pick is addressing the slot corner position through the first round of the draft opposed to free agency or a mid-round pick. The Vikings have more pressing needs (DL, RG) and more valuable needs (CB, WR) to take a prospect that isn’t a clear cut first rounder.
Steelers fans, let me introduce you to a CB to know in the 2023 NFL Draft — Illinois CB Devon Witherspoon.— Nick Farabaugh (@FarabaughFB) September 3, 2022
This play showcases his physicality, but he’s versatile to play outside CB, Slot CB. He’s put together two good games. Fun player.
I’m starting my draft prospect breakdowns and I’ll be going by reader suggestions to determine what player I breakdown each week. So I ask what prospect do you guys want me to break down first? Hopefully by April I can cover basically every potential first round pick.
Thank you for reading and I hope you enjoyed the article! For more Vikings content, please follow me on Twitter here. SKOL!