Much like the groundhog making his appearance in Punxsutawney or the salmon returning to Capistrano, one of the surest signs that we’ve officially hit the offseason is the proliferation of NFL Mock Drafts. One of the first ones that we’re always keen on seeing comes from Mel Kiper. . .dramatic pause. . .Draft Expert of ESPN. Today, he’s put out his first mock of the year, and I’m guessing that the pick is going to be met with great consternation from a significant portion of the fan base.
Kiper’s mock lies behind the great E$PN paywall, but we can give you enough information to tell you that he has the Minnesota Vikings eschewing the quarterback position to take a defensive player, that being Clemson cornerback Nate Wiggins.
Here’s what Kiper has to say about the selection:
In my final mock ahead of the 2023 draft, I projected the Vikings taking a cornerback. Instead, they went with wide receiver Jordan Addison, who had a fantastic rookie season, catching 10 touchdown passes. That need in the secondary still exists. Minnesota ranked 28th in passing yards allowed to receivers last season (3,019), and 2022 second-rounder Andrew Booth Jr. hasn’t quite figured things out. Let’s go back to Clemson — Booth’s former school — with the selection of Wiggins here. Wiggins was a lockdown defender in 2023, allowing just 4.2 yards per attempt as the nearest defender in coverage.
Could the Vikings take a quarterback? For sure. Kirk Cousins is a free agent, and I don’t think rookie fifth-rounder Jaren Hall will be the guy long-term. At this point, though, the most likely option might be running it back with Cousins, so adding a starter on defense makes more sense. This obviously could change as we learn more about general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah’s plans.
I can understand the desire to upgrade the secondary in Minnesota. We saw what happened last year when Byron Murphy went down, and the rest of the depth chart at the position has been a bit underwhelming, as Kiper points out.
For the quarterback folks, Kiper has quarterbacks going with all of the top three picks, with the Bears, Commanders, and Patriots taking Caleb Williams, Jayden Daniels, and Drake Maye, respectively. He has just one other quarterback going in the first round, with the Seattle Seahawks taking Michigan’s J.J. McCarthy at #16. I don’t think I’d hate McCarthy at #11 or anything, but I would prefer it if he had someone to sit and learn under for a season or so before throwing him into the fire. I don’t know if the Vikings are going to go that route or not.
Also, Kiper’s mock isn’t projecting any trades. I don’t think his mocks generally include them, though maybe later in the draft season he could throw them in.
What do you think of the first Mel Kiper mock and his pick for the Vikings, folks?