As we get within two weeks of the NFL Draft and rumors, mock drafts, and speculation runs rampant on which team will pick which prospect- including speculation on who the Vikings will pick- it makes sense to take a look at which prospects the Vikings have been meeting with during the pre-draft process.
The Vikings have been remarkably secretive about any top draft prospects they’re meeting with, and I know of only three prospects they’ve met with a first-round grade- DT Devonte Wyatt, DE George Karlaftis, and WR Treylon Burks- and they’re more late first-round prospects than top-half of the first round prospects.
So far no meetings have been reported with guys like Derek Stingley Jr., Kyle Hamilton, or anybody expected to go in the top 15 picks. Keeping their cards close to their chest may be the modus operandi of the new regime under Kwesi Adofo-Mensah, and there’s nothing wrong with that as teams may plan trades to jump your pick if they covet the same player.
In any event, there have been reports of prospects the Vikings have been meeting with, just not a lot of the first-round variety. Here is a break-down by position group, along with a general draft day grade in parenthesis and any notes on the meeting(s).
Marcus Jones (2) - Top 30 visit.
Kaylon Barnes (3) - Top 30 visit.
Jack Jones (3) - Top 30 visit.
Mike Harley Jr. (3) - long meeting at Senior Bowl.
Tay Martin (3) - Top 30 visit.
Danny Grey (3) - Top 30 visit.
Corey Sutton (3) - Zoom meeting.
Romeo Doubs (3) - private workout.
Treylon Burks (1) - Combine.
Interior Defensive Line
Devonte Wyatt (1)
Travis Jones (2) - Combine.
Myjai Sanders (3) - formal interview at the Combine.
George Karlaftis (1) - formal interview at the Combine.
Alex Wright (3) - formal interview at the Combine.
Esezi Otomewo (3) - Top 30 visit.
David Anenih (3) - Top 30 visit.
Cameron Goode (3) - Top 30 visit.
Darien Butler (3) - Top 30 visit.
Percy Butler (3) - Top 30 visit.
Kerby Joseph (2) - Top 30 visit.
IOL Cole Strange (2) - Top 30 visit.
OT Rasheed Walker (3)
OT Aron Johnson (3)
OT Jarrid Williams (3)
Desmond Ridder (2) - formal interview at the Combine.
So What Can We Make From This?
Well, at first glance not much, to be honest.
But looking through it in more detail, and with a little bit of process of elimination, a couple things emerge. Keep in mind the Vikings have picks #12, #46, and #77 in the first three rounds. They don’t have a 4th round pick, but have a 5th, 3 sixth-round picks, and a 7th rounder.
- The Vikings interest in edge rushers looks to have been downgraded post-Combine, given the signing of Za’Darius Smith a couple weeks later. The guys they met at the Combine may no longer be of interest, while Day 3 edge rushers may still be in the mix.
- The Vikings look like they’ll take another flyer on a fast wide receiver at some point on Day 3- maybe with a 6th round pick.
- Cornerback could also be a Day 3 pick.
Among earlier round prospects, there are some interesting insights. The Vikings have met with two defensive tackles - Devonte Wyatt and Travis Jones- that look to go somewhere in the late first to early second round. The Vikings really don’t have a pick in that range- #46 is closer to mid-2nd round. With the move to a 3-4 base front, the Vikings need plenty of defensive tackles. They have two starters in Harrison Phillips and Dalvin Tomlinson, but they may not be as confident in Armon Watts or the other backups in a starting role. Watts has not been good against the run, and that is important for Ed Donatell, who isn’t likely to load the box. Instead he counts on his big men up-front to stop the run and set the edge, and for his linebackers to fill, and his safeties to come downhill. The Vikings don’t have much for cap space, so acquiring a Sheldon Richardson or Akiem Hicks may be difficult. And so they may look to fill that need in the draft. Wyatt is a versatile 3-down DT/3-4 DE that would fill the void for the Vikings very well. He’s seen as the DT1 on a lot of draft boards, ahead of Jordan Davis, because he’s more versatile and can stay on the field longer. Travis Jones is more of a NT build at 333 pounds (at Combine) but has played 3-tech as well. Additionally, WR Treylon Burks, whom the Vikings met at the Combine, is also a late first-round prospect.
What’s interesting here is that Wyatt and Jones (and Burks) are projected to be picked somewhere in the 20 - 35 pick range, where the Vikings don’t have a pick. That suggests the Vikings may look to trade down from their #12 pick or trade up from their #46 pick if they intend to land one of these defensive tackles.
The other interesting thing is the meetings with the CB/S prospects. It’s not a given that the Vikings will take a CB or S in the first round, even though they’re widely expected to do so. It could be that the Vikings will roll with their current starters, and look to guys like Kirby Joseph, Marcus Jones (slot CB/PR), and Kalon Barnes to develop into potential starters in time.
Lastly, there is the meeting with Cole Strange. He played guard in college but is seen as a center prospect in the NFL, and played center during the Senior Bowl. He’s a prospect the Vikings could target with their 3rd round pick as an eventual starter at center. He’s a perfect fit for the Vikings’ wide-zone scheme, and doesn’t have the short arms of a Garrett Bradbury or Tyler Linderbaum that are a definite disadvantage in pass pro.
While all prospect meetings do not necessarily mean the Vikings will actually pursue or draft the prospect, and the Vikings will likely have had some unreported meetings as well, there are some indications that the Vikings may be looking to trade down, based on the meetings we know about. Trading #12 for #29 and #30 with the Chiefs is a trade that is realistic. The Chiefs could easily move up for either a WR like Jameson Williams to replace Tyreek Hill, or a DE like Jermaine Johnson, should one or both be available at 12, which seems fairly likely. Chiefs GM Brett Veach has a history of trading up, and the Chiefs are loaded with draft capital this year, with two picks in each of the first four rounds.
If the Vikings did trade down, it appears they’ve done some work to fill needs later on in the draft, particularly at CB and S. CB Kalon Barnes could be available in the 5th round, and has elite athleticism for the position, including a 4.23” 40 time, and a 40” vertical jump. But his technique needs work, although he shows flashes of good ball skills. Kerby Joseph or Percy Butler are safety prospects that could become a starter in a year or two. Marcus Jones is a slot-only corner prospect and elite returner, but very small for a cornerback (5’8”, 185lbs.).
But just because the Vikings may have prepared for a possible trade down scenario doesn’t mean it will actually happen. The Vikings could have met with any number of first-round prospects, but did so under the radar. And they could still have meetings in the future, right up until the draft.
But assuming for the moment that the Vikings trade down, they could do something like this realistically, based on the meetings they’ve had:
Trade #12 and #191 for #29, #30, and #121 from the Kansas City Chiefs. This compensation is roughly in-line with the deal between the Saints and Packers in 2019.
#29: Andrew Booth Jr. / Dax Hill
#30: Treylon Burks / Christian Watson
#46: Davonte Wyatt / Travis Jones (could use a 6th to move up a couple spots)
#77: Cole Strange / Marcus Jones (could use another 6th to move up a few spots)
#121: Kalon Barnes / Kerby Joseph
#156: Esezi Otomewo / David Anenih / Cameron Goode
I’ll assume they needed their remaining 6th round picks to move up a bit, and their remaining 7th round pick they’ll target a likely UDFA they like that hasn’t agreed to sign with them if they go undrafted.
Alternatively, assuming no trade down, they could do something like this the first three rounds:
#12: Derek Stingley Jr. / Jameson Williams
#46: Davonte Wyatt / Travis Jones / Christian Watson
#77: Cole Strange / Marcus Jones / Kalon Barnes (trade back)
If they’re not able to draft a DT or C, they could finagle the salary cap a bit and find a way to acquire either a JC Tretter, or a Sheldon Richardson or Akiem Hicks, although that would probably mean converting some base salary to signing bonuses and kicking some cap into next year or further.
The more I think about it, however, the more I think taking a WR in the first round makes sense, even if it risks depth at CB. Having a Jefferson - Jameson - Thielen - Smith Jr. - Cook - Cousins skill group out there would maximize offensive firepower and be virtually impossible to defend every down.
Taking a chance on a Kalon Barnes later on at CB (4.23” 40, 5’11.5”, 185lbs.) being able to develop his technique to go with his near prototypical cornerback measureables maybe a risk worth taking. Barnes played a lot of man and cover 4 in college, so the Vikings’ new defensive scheme will be familiar to him.
The other thing about taking a WR in the first round is that gives the Vikings a 5th year option, which if they pan out would amount to a larger cap savings given the explosion in WR salaries lately. It also establishes a successor to Thielen, which is a big salary to replace with a cheaper rookie contract. And given that Kevin O’Connell likes to use 11 personnel (3WRs) a lot more than his predecessor, that makes it more worthwhile in terms of playing time now too.
But for now we’ll have to wait and see what more develops in the lead up to the draft, and ultimately what the Vikings choose to do once they’re on the clock.
Assuming no trade down, what position should the Vikings draft at #12?
This poll is closed
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