Welcome to My Mock Draft v2
Below was my original plan for certain cuts. The restructures etc. were all much more fluid. I was going to let pretty much all of our free agents walk except the ST guys, Shelley, and Mullens. Interesting to see which ones panned out:
Cut the following players:
Kendricks – frees up 9.5M
- Hicks – frees up 5M
- Ham – frees up 3M
- Cook – frees up 6M
- Blacklock – frees up 1.7M
What we actually did:
- Kendricks – 9.5M Savings
- Thielen – 6.4M Savings
- Dantzler – 2.7M Savings
- Reed: Pay cut that knocked his cap hit down to 1.75M for 750k savings.
- Hicks: Saved 1.5M in cap space.
- Cousins: Pushed money down the road, freeing up 16M.
- Blacklock: Basically took pay cut down to vet minimum, freeing up 700k.
- Harrison Smith: Restructured for a possible last year in purple, saving roughly 6.7M in cap space.
- Ham: 2 year extension?
- Bradbury: 3 year 15.75M deal with limited guarantees. Essentially a prove-it deal, where his ’24 salary is only guaranteed for injury or if he’s on the roster on the 3rd day of the new league year. His cap hit this year is less than 3M. Very much still leaves Center as a draft possibility.
- Mattison: 2 year, 7M. Don’t really understand this one going into a strong RB draft with Cook still on the roster, but assuming that this means Cook is done.
- Schlottman: Cheap IOL depth, assuming he is roughly vet minimum. Was at least capable when we had to start him.
- Udoh: Re-signed for 2.75M. He’s serviceable at tackle and that’s about it.
- Mullens: 2 year 4 M. Cheap backup QB.
- Kicker and Holder: Don’t remember the exact numbers but like 2-4M each.
- Marcus Davenport: 1 year, 13M. Versatile power DE, had a really good year in 2021, and a significant drop in production for 2022. He posted double digit sacks in 2021, but only half a sack in 2022. Still young at only 26. Seems to be a one for one replacement option for ZDS potentially, but haven’t seen any movement on ZDS. Could potentially be viewed as an attacking 3-4 DE too. Intention may be to limit ZDS’ snap count while maintaining production. One year deal means we could re-sign him or potentially benefit from a comp pick if he has a rebound.
- Dean Lowry: 2 year, 8M. It wouldn’t be a Vikings offseason if we didn’t sign an ex-Packer. Another example of Kwesi maybe trying to buy the dip. He had a strong 2021, racking up 5 sacks and 42 pressures. Since then he’s faded and had a much more limited impact. He’ll replace Tomlinson, and while definitely a step down in run defense, he’s roughly equal in pass rush at like a quarter of the cost.
- Byron Murphy: 2 year 22M. Flexibility – Murphy has played in the slot and outside, fits the mold of being a younger player with upside, and brings solid starting experience to our CB room. I think his slot/ outside experience is a huge bonus because it gives us the maximum flexibility moving into the draft and camp. Maybe he’s outside and Booth/ Evans/ Cine/ Bynum/ Metellus gets a chance in the slot. Maybe Booth/ Evans/ early draft pick rookie lock down the outside and Murphy can actually be a talented slot corner, which we haven’t had in some time.
- Troy Reeder: An athletic LB who started or rotated in LA the last few seasons, most notably grading fairly well on pass rush. Not a starter, but upgraded depth over Dye.
- Brandon Powell: Punt return WR who had a limited role on the regular offense in LA. Reagor apparently isn’t it for the punt return job, which moves that trade up into Herndon territory. Oh well, he’s a sunk cost at this point.
FREE AGENCY SUMMARY –
Seems like the overall theme for Kwesi’s free agency is to get younger, buy low on guys who had a down year, and just generally patch the holes. I think there were several splashier options readily available to really improve the roster, but that would have required some additional gambling and reliance on draft picks.
I know it’s early, but so far, I don't love the picks. I understand the strategy of patching as many holes as possible so you're not pigeonholed into a certain pick come draft time, but at some point we need to roll the dice on some high end players. If you look at the draft, the strongest position groups are probably DE, CB, TE, C, RB. Our free agency acquisitions/ re-signs so far are a DE, CB, TE, C, and keeping ALL the RBs. I have no issue with the addition of Murphy, but the rest are a little confusing to me. Why are we bringing in the position groups that are strongest in the draft?
We brought back a center who has one above average season as a pass blocker after three seasons of being one of the two worst pass blocking centers in the league, signed a blocking TE on a 3 year 21M deal, and our RB room currently is set to have a 20M cap hit. I know a lot of the Cook situation is Spielman’s fault, but still. Paying our RB2 AND keeping Cook AND Ham just doesn’t seem to be all that efficient, which flies in the face of the idea of having the "analytic" GM. If we’re keeping Cook, why did we pay Mattison? There’s a reason the two teams in the super bowl were paying their RB room less than 5M total and all the RB contracts getting handed out for STARTERS are like 6M or less (not counting the couple of franchise tags).
We’ve gone out and brought back ALL of our IOL depth/ starters, without any meaningful upgrades. While he didn’t spend a ton on anyone, we basically just kicked the can and decided to run it back with the same group. The Guard class in the draft isn't very deep, so I thought we would add someone in free agency. I really liked the idea of bringing Graham Glasgow in as a C/G option. Glasgow signed a 1 year 4.5M deal in Detroit. Even his worst year pass-blocking was as good as Bradbury’s best, and he could potentially replace Cleveland as well if we ended up drafting a center. Or Isaac Seumalo. He signed a 3 year 25M deal in Pittsburgh, and would have been an instant upgrade at guard (and potentially center – he played it some in college). The 2023 cap hit for either of those would be under 5M, which is roughly what we’re spending on Reed and Bradbury.
Same for LB. There are quite a few other guys out there that were better and didn’t sign outrageous deals that we could have signed for a lower cap hit than the savings of cutting Hicks. It was a VERY deep FA class, so I thought that cutting Kendricks and Hicks were the biggest no-brainer moves we could make on defense. TJ Edwards, Azeez Al-Shair, Kyzir White, Germaine Pratt, LVE, and Kaden Elliss all signed for deals with a cap hit of roughly 5M or less this year and were graded higher than Hicks last year. But maybe Flores thinks Hicks can be better in a more blitz-heavy scheme. We’ll see I suppose!
On the DL, we didn’t make a move for the Dre’Mont Jones, Zach Allen, Dalvin Tomlinson level guys, which is at least more understandable since they are garnering a much higher premium than the OL. So at least that one I understand. The Lowry deal is a good value, and the Davenport one is a bit of a risk for a guy with a bunch of injuries AND a down year.
Enough about Free Agency. Let's get to the good stuff.
TO THE DRAFT!!:
Starting draft picks: 23, 87, 119, 160, 211
TRADE RULES – I generally keep any trade within 5% of equal value based on the old charts, and I try to make trades that at least logically make sense to me from both sides.
TRADE – Rams
Rams send 36, 77, and 171 to the Vikings for 23 and 211
Rams don’t have a first round pick, but have 12 total picks. They desperately need to add an edge rusher or an OT early. They jumped up here to take Nolan Smith, banking on his physical traits to become a solid 3-4 OLB.
Round 2 Pick 36:
Jalin Hyatt, WR. Tennessee. 6 foot, 176 pounds.
According to half of what I saw on Twitter, Hyatt somehow hurt his stock at the Combine by "only" running a 4.41 40 yard dash. He’s a legit burner with a strong track background and is a real deep threat that we don’t have. His biggest value doesn’t show up in his combine measurements – by being a legitimate speed threat he’s going to help JJ get open by forcing defenses to play more honestly. No more triple coverage on JJ.
He got a lot of free releases at Tennessee with stack formations, so how he holds up to press coverage is a bit of a projection, but his ability to take the top off a defense adds a multiplicative value to our passing game. KJ steps into AT’s old role of solid possession/ safety valve route runner, and Hock is a great option in the middle. Especially with Thielen gone, our WR room gets REAL empty in 2024. Currently the only other WRs on the roster for 2024 are JJ and Nailor.
Round 3 Pick 77:
Julius Brents, CB. Kansas State. 6’3, 198 pounds.
While Murphy is a great pick-up, the only other CBs currently under contract are Booth, Evans, and practice squad guys Tay Gowan and Kalon Barnes. That’s a scary room, especially when you factor in that Booth and Evans have struggled with injuries and I don't think Gowan or Barnes got a single regular season snap last year and we had 3 CBs spend significant time on IR. Murphy may play slot or may play outside. I think that flexibility is a big reason why they targeted him in the first place.
Brents looked great at Senior Bowl, but with a very deep CB class, there’s at least a slim chance he’s available at the beginning of the 3rd. He was here for me, but that may just be because the boards are still fairly fluid. He posted an elite RAS in everything except the 40 yard dash, and even that was a solid 4.53. His broad jump and vertical were top 2 of all CBs at the combine, and he looks great and physical on tape. He comes down to make a tackle like a missile, and has shown really solid ball skills, especially going up and high-pointing the ball (which makes sense with a 41" vertical). Our CB room needs more young, physical talent. I doubt he’s still here come draft day, but I’d also be happy with Darius Rush or DJ Turner here.
TRADE – 49ers
49ers move up, sending 101, 155, and 164 for pick 87
49ers have 11 total picks, but don’t have a pick until 99. After losing McGlinchey they desperately need to address OT, so they jumped up to grab the last solid tackle on the board in Tyler Steen. After Steen it's a BIG drop down to the next OT.
Round 3 Pick 101:
Emil Ekiyor Jr., G/C. Alabama. 6’2, 317 pounds.
Ekiyor is one of those guys that’s been flying under the radar a bit. He was a 3 year starter at guard for Alabama, playing both RG and LG. At Senior Bowl, he got a fairly extensive run at center and played very well. I think he’s a solid developmental chess piece. He’s good enough to compete for a starting spot right now and would be valuable depth across the entire IOL.
He’s a short, stout lineman with good leverage who pulls well and has vise grips for hands. I think Cleveland is gone after this year, and if you go back and watch our runs last year, we did a LOT more inside zone and duo blocking assignments than the strict outside zone we used to run. That fits Ekiyor’s strengths much better than an OZ scheme. I also think that with the way Bradbury’s deal is structured we could either keep him for a reasonable cost if he continues to improve, or if next year looks more like his first 3 years we can say that 2022 was a fluke and move on for good.
Round 4 Pick 119:
Noah Sewell, LB. Oregon. 6’2, 253 pounds.
Sewell blasted onto the national scene as a freshman, instantly getting hyped as a future first round pick. Since then, he’s slowly slid down the boards as more athletic/ versatile linebackers overtook him. I think he slides more than people expect from someone with his name recognition, but I think generally he’s put on some bad weight and it has hurt his game. He was closer to 240 as a freshman, and I don’t think the extra bulk has done him any favors. Even just looking at his 2021 vs 2022 tape, he moves better in 2021. He’s still decent in coverage, and is a good athlete, but he has a bad habit of watching the QB too long. He does however, excel as a run defender and blitzer. He’s very patient at the LOS in run defense, watching and wading through the traffic to make a solid stop. He can stack and shed and has the strength to take on offensive lineman in space. And when he hits the ball carrier, it’s usually a stop right there. I think he could be a solid option to develop behind Hicks for a year, get him trimmed down a little with some NFL conditioning and pair with Asamoah. Asamoah would be the primary coverage LB and Sewell brings a level of physicality and size that Asamoah lacks.
Round 5 Pick 155:
Chandler Zavala, OG. NC State. 6’5, 325 pounds.
Surprise, surprise, MOAR OL. I will bang this drum til the day I die. The trenches are the foundation of a championship caliber team. Our IOL starters are still the weak link on this offense, and our depth lacks any sort of developmental upside. Ingram had an awful rookie year, and Cleveland just hasn't improved as a pass blocker in 3 years. Our backups are all veterans who have hit their ceiling - they're only ever going to be backups.
Zavala is a physical dude in the trenches, and some people see him as a day 2 pick. Personally I think he has too many warts to be a day 2 guy right now, but has great upside. In a weak OG class he may absolutely go earlier though. He has good to great play strength, and has some excellent mobility for wide zone, pulls, etc. They ran a little of all of it at NC State, and Zavala passes the eye test physically. Where he falls short for now is on vision, especially on wide zone runs. He’ll get out too far on his blocks and open up the back door and get undercut for the tackle. He can also get too focused in on one guy in pass protection when he’s uncovered and may miss a stunt or late rusher. That’s all coachable though. You can’t coach his size and mobility. He’s played LG, RG, RT, and has repped C in spring training. Versatility is a big boon for these later round guys (like my dude Jamaree Salyer last year).
Round 5 Pick 160:
Kobie Turner, DT. Wake Forest. 6’3, 290 pounds.
I’m going to start this one by saying that Kobie Turner is crazy slept on. I never see him mentioned anywhere, and he’s one of my favorite early day 3 picks. He’s an A+ effort story, getting zero college offers and walking on at Richmond, where he earned a scholarship and was a stud for 4 years before going to Wake as a grad transfer to improve his NFL draft resume. That effort shows up clearly on tape. This dude plays like a banshee. There are numerous examples of him not giving up and chasing the ball carrier down either on the other side of the field or 5-10 yards downfield. You don’t see a ton of DTs doing that. He's also very good at attacking the ball as he goes for a tackle. He’s got a stout lower body and plays with a naturally low pad level. He can get a little too far out over his feet and have balance issues, but when the ball is snapped he’s moving FORWARD. I think he’s exactly the type of player we want in a single-gap attacking scheme like the one Flores runs.
Round 5 Pick 164:
Ochaun Mathis, DE/ OLB. Nebraska. 6’5, 250 pounds.
A transfer from TCU, Mathis is a solidly built 3-4 OLB. He’s primarily an edge rusher, but has shown some ability to drop in coverage. I would say he’s generally an average to above athlete, but he plays much more physically than someone with his athletic profile. He plays with a relentless drive and has quick hands and long arms. With his frame, I’d like to see him add a bit more muscle if he can to help with his run support. His pass rush is pretty dang solid, and while we’ve currently got a pretty full DE room, we need some developmental guys in there. He’s VIOLENT when bringing down a QB or ball carrier, and is one of those guys that just knows how to put a hit on someone.
Round 5 Pick 171:
Riley Moss, CB/ S. Iowa. 6’1, 194 pounds.
People are split on if Moss will stay at corner or move to safety in the NFL. His 4.45 at the combine tells me he’s fast enough to hang on the outside at corner. It’s hard to tell if he has the physicality to hang in Flores’ press-man system, since he doesn’t press a lot on tape. I think that may be one of those things where he CAN, he just wasn’t asked to at Iowa. At the end of the day, he’s got the measurables and has great ball skills. He seems to always be around the ball and his play recognition is great – his tape has numerous instances of him anticipating and jumping routes. I wanted to end with another CB since our CB room currently has a LOT of question marks, and it is a really deep class of tall, fast corners. Who knows, maybe he ends up moving to safety and we move Cine into the slot. Maybe Booth and Evans work out. Maybe they are always injured and Moss develops into something good. Either way, it’s another dart on the board.
That’s all she wrote! The second Mock of the season. Hopefully addressed the main issues on the defense, and in keeping with Kwesi’s "competitive rebuild" strategy, I snagged the guys who I thought had room to grow if they sat behind our stopgap free agents for a year. It’s starting to look more and more like 2024 is the year we finally turn the rest of the roster over, so I didn’t want to JUST address immediate needs.
I think our clear biggest needs (both now and in 2024) are WR and CB with IOL just behind. We just need more bodies in those rooms, and I put a pretty hefty premium on speed. We dumped Dantzler and PP because they just don’t have the speed to hang in man (or at least that’s what I’m assuming was a significant reason). I thought about another WR late, but the guys I like/ know were already gone by that point. Definitely went more defense-heavy this time around, and while I wasn’t able to add too many high-end picks, I think those early Day 3 guys absolutely have enough upside to flesh out this roster a bit more.
Thoughts? What do you like and what don’t you like? Did I trade down too much?