The Vikings Could Go LB in the First Round of the 2023 NFL Draft

It’s no secret that the Vikings defense has had some struggles this season, and many of them can be traced back to the linebacker position. Eric Kendricks has fallen below his usual All-Pro level of play while Jordan Hicks has not exactly been elite, either.

Due to some of these struggles, it makes sense that the Vikings could address the linebacker spot in the draft this upcoming spring. Luckily for them, there are a plethora of choices that could be worthy of a Vikings first-round pick, especially in the latter half of the round.

Trenton Simpson (Clemson)

Trenton Simpson largely plays OLB for the Clemson Tigers, but he is their do-it-all man on the defensive side of the ball. With ideal size and speed at the position, he can line up virtually anywhere on the field. Clemson has used him everywhere from EDGE to MIKE linebacker, all the way to even a few snaps at strong safety.

That said, at just 225 pounds, he likely doesn’t have the strength to play EDGE on a consistent basis in the NFL in the way that Danielle Hunter or Za’Darius Smith do for the Vikings. Because of that, they could look to him as being one of their off-ball linebackers moving forward given his rare talents as a coverage man.

Assuming Brian Asamoah continues on his trajectory of development, a combination of these two young players could be a deadly duo for years to come.

Henry To’oTo’o (Alabama)

In the latest edition of ridiculously talented Alabama defenses, the Crimson Tide have first round talent at all three levels of their defense. Will Anderson is obviously the prize of the draft at EDGE, but he’ll be long gone by the time the Vikings are on the clock.

That said, Henry To’oTo’o is a very solid option in the middle of a defense. To’oTo’o remains the most prototypical off-ball linebacker prospect in this draft. He doesn’t quite have the size to mess around with EDGE as Simpson can, but he does just about everything else well. He stands strong in the box as a support for the Bama run defense, and he can occasionally be used as a delayed blitzer to provide a little pressure on opposing QBs.

There’s still some development to be done in pass coverage, but that can be said of most any linebacker prospect coming out of college. Simpson would certainly be my first choice, but if the Vikings are picking late enough that he’s off the board, To’oTo’o can be molded into a special player.

Noah Sewell (Oregon)

The Sewell name is college football royalty at this point between Penei and Nephi over the past couple years. Noah might not go as high in the draft as Penei did in 2021, but he should certainly be a top-50 pick if all goes well at the NFL combine.

Sewell is the largest player of the group mentioned here, standing at 6-3 and 250 pounds. This size makes him the biggest threat of the three in the box as a run-stopper. He’s a wrecking ball against opposing offenses and is plenty capable of wreaking havoc in the backfield. Watch #1 go to work on this play.

Sewell stands out because of his ridiculous motor every time he steps on the field. There are plenty of great athletes in this draft, but his ability to always be around the ball and make a play is what sets the Oregon linebacker apart. With veterans in the room, the Vikings could turn Sewell into a star in the same way the Detroit Lions have developed his brother.

Josh Frey is a Class of 2020 graduate of The College of Idaho with a bachelor’s degree in Creative Writing as well as minors in History, Human Biology, and Journalism. When he’s not writing about the NFL, Josh enjoys marathon training, playing video games, or rooting for the Milwaukee Brewers and Bucks. For more of his opinions, check out his Twitter account: @Freyed_Chicken.