With the NFL Draft less than 3 weeks away, and most of the free agency moves ahead of the draft completed, its time to take a closer look at who the Vikings may draft with the 12th pick at the end of the month.
But a key part of who the Vikings draft will depend on who’s available when they’re on the clock. This is an unusual draft because several teams have multiple picks in the first round. There are also several teams in need of a quarterback selecting ahead of the Vikings, but none of the quarterbacks in this draft class are ranked that high. There is some talk that NFL GMs may rank QBs higher than the media does, however, and some teams picking in the top ten may feel drafting a QB with their first pick is their only chance to get their man. The current over/under on QBs taken in the first round is 3.5, with strong bias to the under.
Additionally, there are some teams selecting behind the Vikings that have the draft capital to move ahead of the Vikings, should they choose to do so and can find a willing trade partner. So, with all that as an introduction, let’s take a detailed look at each team drafting ahead of the Vikings, and based on available information, make some insights into who they may draft.
The Jaguars have been heavily linked to DE Aiden Hutchinson, and oddsmakers have him as a heavy favorite (-300) to be the first player selected. The Jaguars biggest needs are at DE and OT, so Hutchinson fits for need as well as being the top ranked player on most media draft boards. Former first-round pick K’Lavon Chaisson hasn’t worked out after two years for the Jaguars (PFF grades in the 40s), so adding Hutchinson across from 2019 first-round pick Josh Allen would give the Jags a good pass rush combo off the edge.
However, the Jaguars have also done a lot of work on OT Ikem Ekwonu, also a top 5 ranked player in a position of need for the Jaguars. But the Jags have Cam Robinson and Jawaan Taylor at tackles, and although neither has been everything they’d hoped, they both still had low-to-mid 70s PFF pass blocking grade last season, so likely they stick with them for now. Robinson was franchise tagged, and still hasn’t signed it, so that creates a question mark at LT for the Jaguars. He wants to get paid, and the Jags just paid Brandon Scherff in free agency, so paying Robinson too will put the Jags well over $50 million in salary cap to their offensive line. Robinson’s value is debatable, so picking Ikwonu has some appeal for salary cap relief. However, Ikwonu’s strength is as a run blocker, with some work to do in pass protection, so that could weigh on his appeal for the Jags.
Pick: DE Aiden Hutchinson, Michigan. Unless Cam Robinson is looking to hold out, or they really think Ekwonu will be a significant upgrade, odds are on Hutchinson here as a bigger upgrade at DE.
The Lions have needs at quarterback, safety, edge rusher, cornerback, and wide receiver. They’ve been linked for most of the year to Kayvon Thibodeaux, but more recently there’s been doubt about the Lions taking him at #2. Oddsmakers currently have DE Travon Walker, who’s had visits with all teams picking in the top 5, as the Lions’ most likely pick (+200). Thibodeaux is at +450, and his over/under draft slot is currently 6. The Lions have done a lot of work on Thibodeaux, but there may be some doubt as to whether he’s the best fit for their scheme and Dan Campbell’s culture. There’s been some talk that Thibodeaux is over-confident to the point of arrogance, which doesn’t go over well and may have hurt his draft stock, and some question how high his ceiling is. The Lions have Romeo Okwara at one DE, and Charles Harris at the other. Okwara was on IR last season, but had been good prior to that, and Harris has been decent on the other side.
Travon Walker’s stock has been rising, and he may have overtaken Thibodeaux as DE2 in the draft. Walker is more of a 4-3 DE build while Thibodeaux is more of a 3-4 OLB build. The question for the Lions is whether he’s worth a #2 pick, and if he’s the highest on their draft board. Prior to his pro day, safety Kyle Hamilton was often mocked to the Lions, and certainly he fills a need. But is safety an important enough position to draft at #2? Most would say no. Hamilton is only +900 to be taken at #2. Additionally, while the Lions need a WR, no receiver is ranked that high either.
That leaves the door open for the Lions to potentially take QB Malik Willis, currently +400 odds to be taken at #2, as a better use of that pick for the Lions than Walker. The Lions haven’t had a lot of meetings with Willis, however. They had a formal interview with Desmond Ridder at the Combine, suggesting the Lions may be more inclined to use pick #32 or #34 on a quarterback, rather than their 2nd pick, which would make sense.
The Lions have also had private workouts scheduled with Derek Stingley Jr. and Ahmad Gardner. The Lions recently signed former Viking Mike Hughes to a one-year deal and have former #3 overall pick Jeff Okudah at the other CB spot. Okudah has been a bust so far, and Hughes may be only a short-term fix for the Lions at CB. They also have last year’s third round pick Ifeatu Melifonwu developing at CB. Both Okudah and Hughes have injury histories.
Pick: Ahmad Gardner, CB, Cincinnati. The Lions’ need at CB is at least as great as edge rusher, and Gardner is likely to be higher on most boards than Travon Walker. Gardner is only +1600 to be selected here, so this is a bit of a dark horse pick, but as the Lions’ have apparently cooled toward Thibodeaux, Gardner- a Detroit native - may prove to be the highest on their board and a valued position of need.
The Texans have needs everywhere, but none more than offensive line. The Texans appear to be willing to move forward with Davis Mills at QB, but will want to shore up his protection to better develop their young QB. And while the Texans have done some work on edge rushers Kayvon Thibodeaux and Travon Walker, they’ve also worked out OT Ikem Ekwonu, who could fit well for them at right tackle opposite Laremy Tunsil. Ekwonu is the favorite for oddsmakers here at +175, followed by fellow tackle Evan Neal at +275.
The Texans have two picks in the top 13, so part of the decision for them will be a consideration of which player(s) high on their board are more likely to fall to them at 13. Also, it wouldn’t appear that the Texans are looking to use a top pick on a quarterback. They have, however, met with 3 of the top cornerbacks in the draft - Ahmad Gardner, Derek Stingley Jr., and Kaiir Elam. This position may be more of a consideration at 13, however, as the top linemen will likely be off the board by then.
One other possibility here, given the Texans have numerous needs, is that they elect to trade down. A team such as the Saints, for example, could trade their two mid-round picks (#16 & #20) for Houston’s #3 pick. The Texans may not drive as hard a bargain in trading down as the Jets or Giants, given their particular needs. The Saints would likely want to jump ahead of the Panthers, if they want to be assured of their choice of quarterback. The Saints have met with the top four quarterback prospects, so there is interest. Whether they feel the need to trade up or not is uncertain.
Pick: Ikem Ekwonu, OT, North Carolina State. Assuming no trade down, the Texans need offensive line help badly, especially if they intend to develop a young quarterback. Ekwonu can play either guard or tackle- they need help at both- so that versatility is a plus. But he’ll probably start at tackle and fill a big need.
The Jets have two picks in the top ten, and have needs at edge rusher, tackle, wide receiver and linebacker. Jets head coach Robert Salah is keen to give his young QB Zach Wilson better protection to ensure his development, and has said that his two starting tackles- Mekhi Becton and George Fant, will compete at LT. Becton has been a disappointment over his first two seasons, especially having been drafted 11th overall. The competition at LT could result in the two tackles switching positions, or opening the door for a top draft pick to take over at right tackle.
Defensively, however, the Jets have shown a lot of interest in DEs Kayvon Thibodeaux, Travon Walker, and George Karlaftis, and CBs Ahmad Gardner and Derek Stingley Jr.. Also LB Devin Lloyd. But the Jets signed CB DJ Reed Jr. last month, so that may alleviate some of the need at cornerback.
Jets could also be a candidate to trade down here, perhaps with the Saints.
Pick: Travon Walker, DE, Georgia. Walker may be a better fit for Robert Salah’s defense, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he was higher on their board than Thibodeaux. Top DEs are more likely to go ahead of them at #10 as well, so taking one here ahead of a tackle or WR or LB makes sense.
The Giants also have two picks - 5 and 7 - in the top ten, and also have an interesting set of needs. And with Carolina looking like they’ll take a QB at #6, this slot could see some trading interest as well. However, the Giants could be looking for a QB as well, as Daniel Jones is on the last year of his rookie deal, and his 5th option unlikely to be exercised. New Giants head coach Brian Daboll may want to get his QB and pull the trigger right here.
The Giants also have needs at guard/tackle, edge rusher, cornerback and safety. The Giants have interest in offensive linemen likely to go in the first three rounds, so it’s not clear they intend to draft an offensive lineman with one of their first two picks, although that is a distinct possibility. Evan Neal and Charles Cross are possibilities. The Jets have interest in Kayvon Thibodeaux, and he may be in play here. And they also have interest in the top CBs - Gardner and Stingley.
Lastly, there could be trade interest in this pick as well, if the Giants are willing to trade down.
Pick: Evan Neal, OT, Alabama. Assuming the Giants don’t trade down, which is a distinct possibility, they’ll likely go with Neal here to solidify their offensive line, plugging him in at right tackle. They could just as easily go with Thibodeaux here, however. But with Panthers more likely to take a tackle than a edge rusher at 6- if they don’t take a QB- the Giants are better off taking the tackle first.
The Panthers appear to be targeting a quarterback here, to the point where it would be surprising if they didn’t take one. Oddsmakers have the Panthers at +150 to take Kenny Pickett here, with Malik Willis at +400. Matt Corral is also an option. Beyond that, if they don’t go with a QB, an OT is possible, but that seems less likely. The Panthers don’t pick again until the end of the 4th round, so it’s now or never for a QB for them in this draft. The Panthers don’t appear to be sold on Sam Darnold, who’s on the last year of his contract, so they take a QB here.
Pick: Kenny Pickett, QB, Pitt. The Panthers appear to like Pickett more than the others, although Malik Willis is a consideration here too.
7) New York Giants
The Giants are back with another pick, and once again could be a candidate to trade down with a QB-needy team, with the Falcons looking at a QB at #8. If no trade back, the Giants have a lot of good options here at high-value positions of need, but I expect they’ll focus on edge-rusher.
Pick: Kayvon Thibodeaux, Edge, Oregon. The Giants are happy that Thibodeaux fell this far, and it’s likely he’s highest on their board at this point, and they’re more needy at edge rusher than they are at CB.
Yet another QB-needy team, the Falcons have sent GM Terry Fontenot and OC Dave Ragone to all the top QB pro days. The Falcons signed Marcus Mariota on what is effectively a one-year deal, clearly a bridge to a new QB. The way the draft falls here probably means the leading non-QB candidates for the Falcons are already gone, clearing the way for a QB to be drafted here- if that wasn’t the clear intent to begin with.
Pick: Malik Willis, QB, Liberty. Assuming no team trades up for Willis, the Falcons will likely take him here. If he’s already been drafted, along with Pickett, they may go with Matt Corral from Mississippi State. Atlanta has two 2nd round draft picks, but their preferred QBs will likely be gone by then.
Seattle is still yet another QB-needy team, with Drew Lock their current starter. The Seahawks also need offensive linemen, but their main interest is in those likely to go in the second round, where they have two picks at 40 and 41. The Seahawks have shown interest in QB Desmond Ridder out of Cincinnati, but Pete Caroll isn’t likely to feel as much pressure to take a QB here, but I wouldn’t rule it out either.
Defensively, edge rusher is a bigger need than cornerback, and they could also use another safety, and a starting LB. The Seahawks have been pretty low-key about first-round prospects, however, and they can have some surprising picks too, so they can be a difficult team to predict.
Pick: Charles Cross, OT, Mississippi State. QB Desmond Ridder is an option here too, but Seattle needs multiple offensive linemen, and without them, which QB they have doesn’t really matter. Trevor Penning is an option here too, but Cross is likely higher on their board.
10) New York Jets
The Jets, having taken a DE earlier, go offense with this pick. They’ve met with several top wide receivers, and given the way the draft has fallen, a WR may be the highest on their draft board, although Robert Salah might be tempted to take LB Devin Lloyd here, who would fill a big hole in the middle of his defense. If the Jets trade down with their earlier pick, that could impact their choice here, however.
Pick: Devin Lloyd, LB, Utah. Robert Salah’s defense was ranked last in the league last season, giving up over 500 points, which was an embarrassment to him as a defensive coach. Lloyd is in the mold of Fred Warner, who Salah worked with in San Francisco and could have an immediate impact and become a cornerstone of his defense. A wide receiver would be an alternate pick here for the Jets, but they may look to a later draft pick to address that position. Another alternate pick here could be Derek Stingley Jr., but drafting Lloyd would also allow the Jets to move on from CJ Mosley and his $18MM cap hits after this season. Mosley has the highest cap hit for the Jets and has been a disappointment on the field. The addition of DJ Reed Jr. takes some need away from the CB position.
11) Washington Commanders
The Commanders acquired Carson Wentz in free agency, but their commitment is only for this season, as they could move on from him with no dead cap next year. He may well be a bridge QB for them. They could also use another WR, another CB, and a LB too.
Washington has been making the QB rounds throughout the pre-draft process, however, and have met with the top five prospects. But with most of the top QBs off the board already, Washington opts to give Carson Wentz another much needed weapon.
Pick: Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State. Washington would appear to prefer Olave to the other top WR prospects, in part perhaps because his comp is Terry McLaurin, who the Commanders know well and would play opposite him. Giving Wentz another weapon, along with a good offensive line already in place, may be the best way to help Wentz get back on track after a few years of decline.
And that gets us to the Vikings pick at #12.
The Vikings' biggest need may be cornerback, and there are two good ones available here: Derek Stingley Jr. and Trent McDuffie.
The reason for Stingley’s fall in the draft is that while he had an excellent freshman year at LSU, showing his promise as one of the best CBs in college football, injuries derailed his sophomore and junior years- he only played 10 games over that span - and didn’t perform quite as well. Stingley has prototype measurables, but his failure to follow-up his freshman season stronger along with some questions about every-play effort and injury concerns may have weighed on his draft stock.
The Vikings may be in the best position to evaluate Stingley, however, as Stingley’s defensive backs/defensive coordinator last season, Daronte Jones, is now the Vikings defensive backs coach. Jones will have been in position to evaluate Stingley last season, although he suffered a Lisfranc foot injury in practice before the season began, and only played 3 games. Justin Jefferson will also have known him from the 2019 season- Stingley’s freshman year where he played the most. Jones was in attendance for Stingley’s pro day.
Trent McDuffie is ranked ahead of Stingley on a couple boards (nfl.com, Dane Brugler’s Beast), but doesn’t have the length of the other top two CBs, but only an inch shorter than Stingley in arm length and height. He does have a complete tape through three seasons in college playing at a high level. He doesn’t have the ball skills the other two do, with fewer INTs and PBUs, so this could hurt his draft stock a bit too. But he’s smart and shows good technique, with good communication skills that coaches will appreciate.
Overall, Stingley is a bit riskier pick, given his injury history and lack of improvement on tape the last two seasons, but has a higher ceiling than McDuffie, given his ball skills, added length and overall athleticism.
In this draft scenario, the Vikings would also have the possibility of taking Kyle Hamilton, a safety out of Notre Dame. Hamilton is a top five prospect on most boards, despite a somewhat disappointing 40-time (4.59”), and the highest graded safety in several years. A couple boards (Draft Network, nfl.com) have him as the highest graded player in the draft. Hamilton is more of a Kam Chancellor-type of safety in that he’s big for a safety- 6’4”, 220 pounds, and can play anywhere on the field like Harrison Smith. But as a safety, it creates a dilemma for the Vikings as they don’t have an immediate need for a starting safety but could easily draft him to replace Harrison Smith in a year or two. He might also start ahead of Cam Bynum this season. But selecting Hamilton would leave the Vikings thin at cornerback.
Then there are wide receivers. The Vikings could pretty much have their pick of the top receivers in this draft with only one off the board here. Adam Thielen isn’t getting any younger and drafting his replacement here would not only (hopefully) secure that succession, but also help the Vikings now by having 3 good WRs on the field in 11 personnel- something Kevin O’Connell is likely to use more in his offensive scheme. Garrett Wilson. Jameson Williams. Drake London. All these would be available to the Vikings, who may also be willing to take a guy like Williams, who tore his ACL in January- which will turn some teams off with a need for an immediate starter- and bring him along gradually over the course of the season as a WR3. But whichever WR the Vikings would select here as Adam Thielen’s successor could prove to be a valuable pick.
With all these good choices available to the Vikings at #12, the option to trade down, if possible, looks attractive too. Houston picking immediately after the Vikings would likely take either Stingley or Hamilton, and the Ravens could take the other after the Texans. Beyond those two teams, the Eagles and Saints control four of the next five picks. WR is a need for both teams, and QB is a possibility too. The Chargers pick in between and would be delighted if OT Charles Cross was still available, even though he’s more a left tackle than the right tackle they need. Trevor Penning would be a good option for them too. CB Trent McDuffie could also be a good fit for the Chargers and likely near the top of their board here.
Considering all that, a small move back doesn’t seem like a great move for the Vikings- they could lose both top remaining defensive backs in the next two picks- unless they plan to take a wide receiver in that event.
A larger move back is also a consideration. For example, trading #12 for #29 & #30 with the Chiefs, who perhaps may want to move up for a wide receiver, for example. If Kwesi Adofo-Mensah made that move, that could lead to picks like CB Andrew Booth Jr. or Kaiir Elam, and another player like DT Devonte Wyatt, Jordan Davis or Travis Jones, or maybe a WR like Treylon Burks, maybe even Jameson Williams if he falls far enough due to his ACL, or George Pickens. Or a safety/slot nickel guy like Dax Hill or Jalen Pitre. These are all good options in a trade down scenario- guys that can both contribute now and replace a higher priced, older vet in time. The risk here is that just about every team picking between 12 and 29 needs a WR, CB, or both. That could mean that guys the Vikings hoped would fall to them may not, leaving them with maybe a defensive tackle and safety as their best options- which wouldn’t be ideal, even though they could both turn into good players. Trading back again with one of the picks into the early second round with a QB-needy team is also a possibility.
Assuming the option for a larger trade down like the above is offered to the Vikings, I suspect Adofo-Mensah will be open to it, given that analytics favor trading down, even with guys like Stingley and Hamilton on the board. But it really boils down to his draft board, and how much higher they rank the top tier prospects at needed positions relative to second-tier prospects. Is one top-tier prospect worth more than two second-tier prospects? Depends on the gap between tiers.
So what will the Vikings do?
Pick: Derek Stingley Jr., CB, LSU. Absent a trade down opportunity, Stingley represents the best player at a high-value position of need for the Vikings. Kyle Hamilton is probably of equal value here, all things considered, but the Vikings give Patrick Peterson his protege alum rather than Harrison Smith, as depth at safety in this draft class looks a bit better than at cornerback.
But should a trade down opportunity arise, I would not be surprised if Adofo-Mensah takes it, even with Stingley and Hamilton on the board.
If Derek Stingley Jr. and/or Kyle Hamilton are available at #12, should Kwesi Adofo-Mensah trade down?
This poll is closed