The picture of the Vikings draft plans is coming into focus. Slightly.
As much as people like to preach BPA and as much as GMs are forced to quote best player available, it simply isn't true. Any GM who truly went by BPA would quickly lose their job. Just as they do not go best player available during free agency, so too, they do not in the draft.
It's a fallacy anyway as no one truly knows the best player available. They only have a guess, one that other teams disagree with or the player probably wouldn't be available. Most often, the predicted difference between the 15th best player and the alleged 23rd best player is negligible while the difference between filling a position of need as opposed to adding a player to an already filled position is huge. It's never whether a player can be good or useful. It's whether they can be most useful and that means filling needs. With free agency and the salary cap, all teams have needs and have a gulf between their best positions and worst positions.
Now, as with anything, there are exceptions and, as always, exceptions simply prove the rule, the truth. They prove it by being exceptions. There are times when events will lead to a big differential between player value and draft spot, so big that it justifies neglecting filling needs. Randy Moss is an example of that. A Top 5 player available in the 20s. Hey, if Stroud or Bryce Young or Jalen Carter are still there when the Vikings pick at #23, I'm fine with it. More than fine. But if it's TE Dalton Kincaid and our scouting department says he is the 15th best player and the best remaining player at #23, I am NOT fine with BPA. It would be utterly ridiculous. No GM would be so foolish as to be so totally true to BPA that they'd take Kincaid at #23 while having Hockenson and now Oliver.
Recent moves and initial losses and signings by the Vikings give us some clues as to the draft.
*We cut Kendricks but kept Hicks. We plan on Asamoah starting. You don't keep Hicks for millions to be a back-up and you don't draft an ILB in Round 1 to have them sit on the bench. Round 1 is about the only round where you can plan for the player to start more likely than not. It doesn't always work that way and QBs are often an exception but it is the ideal of a number one draft pick working out.
#We will not draft an ILB in Rd 1 or Rd 3. It is hard to justify a 1st round pick on one just generally speaking anyway. I do like Trenton Simpson but I don't see it happening.
*We cut Adam Thielen and signed Josh Oliver at TE. It was time to move on from Thielen, though we will always remember him fondly. Osborn outplayed him last year and is deserving of the #2 WR spot. Contrary to popular opinion, we do not truly need a new #2 WR. That is Osborn. We do then need a #3 WR but that assumes no one on the roster is ready for that role and no one should use a 1st round pick on a part-time player. Osborn may leave in FA after this year but he will for sure leave if we don't give him a chance to start. If he is worthy of the #2 and performs well this year, we have plenty of cap space to re-sign him after this year. If we draft a WR at #23, we are betting Osborn is not good enough to be #2 WR. We are betting against our own roster and what we saw on the field last year. And we are using our draft pick for a role player this year (#3 WR) who may or may not become a starting WR next year.
#It looks like Smith-Njigba and Quentin Johnston will be selected before our pick. Any other WR could last until Rd 2 -- Addison, Flowers, Hyatt, whoever. We can't get value for a WR at #23 and it is not a true need or not as much of a need as other spots. Oliver was not signed to back-up Hockenson. I think our predominant offense will be 2 TE, an offense I love. Hockenson is such a receiver, he may be our true #2 receiver. When he is on the field it is already like we have three WRs out there. Our need for a third WR may be less than any other team after the Oliver signing. I think Kwesi sees JSN and Johnston will not be there at #23, Hockenson is better out catching passes, and no other WR is worth our #23. Unless JSN or Johnston unexpectedly slide down us, I do not see any way we take a WR at #23. I certainly hope not!
*Za'Darius Smith wants to be released and we signed Marcus Davenport. This is a push situation. They cost about the same and both have injury issues and both have played great. Smith is aging and Davenport is young but Smith has had greater success in the past. But he was invisible for about the last half of last year. We may have been better off if he was not on the field. We can't make Smith play for us if he is unhappy. The move to get Davenport was deft and wise.
#We are unlikely to draft an EDGE player at #23. Hunter is still young, Davenport is young and may prove himself and we'll have plenty of cap to sign him after this year if we want to. There isn't any real reason or priority to take an EDGE player at #23. As well, it looks like Nolan Smith and Miles Murphy and Lukas Van Ness will all be taken before our pick. If they are gone, there will not be a value pick at #23 as per edge player.
*We lost PP to the Steelers. He is aging out anyway, though.
#CB is a clear need and this is a deep draft for CB. There will certainly be a few available that are well worth the #23 pick. Gonzalez, Porter, Witherspoon, and Banks would all be steals there and Cam Smith and Ringo are well worth that pick. I still feel like we will sign an FA at CB and probably bring back Duke Shelley. As well, with Booth and Evans healthy, it is almost like extra 2nd and 4th round picks at the position. Also, Kwesi may be getting a bit desperate for some success from his first draft class. Open spots that fall to them automatically put them in a better position to succeed and make Kwesi look good. I get the feeling our #23 pick will not be a CB but I'm good to great with taking a CB there depending on the player, which of the above it is.
*We lost Dalvin Tomlinson.
#This one sure hurts but there was no way we could pay him that much money. 14.25 million per year? Sheesh. It sure makes Spielman's signing of Tomlinson look fantastic for the price point he got him at.
#This leaves a crater of a hole on the interior D-line. We have Phillips and Tonga but they are more functional than excellent. They are not difference makers. Jalen Carter will be well-gone before our pick. There are four players probably worth the #23. AA also known as A Squared because of his difficult name, Calijah Kancey, Mazi Smith, and Bryan Bresee. I'd be more than fine with any of them but we need more run stopping that Kancey can supply. I'd put him 4th and be a bit disappointed to take him at #23. Smith is the size of Tomlinson but a lot more athletic. Bresee, if not for hardships and bad luck, would be in the Top 10 and competing with Carter to be the top DT pick. Bresee has a chance to be a big steal.
Based on these early moves I think we are most likely to take a DT-type or a CB.