Vikings Mock Draft: Minnesota Takes Explosive EDGE in Round 1

Minnesota Takes Explosive EDGE in Round 1
Nov 6, 2021; Athens, Georgia, USA; Georgia Bulldogs defensive lineman Travon Walker (44) reacts with linebacker Nolan Smith (4) after a sack against the Missouri Tigers during the second half at Sanford Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

We’re down to the wire in terms of NFL Draft season for 2023. The draft is just two and a half weeks away, and in order to get familiar with some of the prospects that could be on the Minnesota Vikings radar, we’ve been conducting mock drafts every Monday here on PurplePTSD. This latest mock sees the Vikings going in a bit of a different direction, selecting an explosive edge rusher with their first-round selection. Let’s get into the mock and see how this could happen.

Day 1

Mar 2, 2023; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Georgia defensive lineman Nolan Smith (DL45) participates in drills during the NFL combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Round 1, Pick 23: EDGE Nolan Smith, Georgia

Nolan Smith is one of the fastest rising players on many draft boards this spring. He is an elite athlete who put together ridiculous marks at the combine, including a 4.39 40-yard dash.

This position is certainly one of the more unlikely scenarios for the Vikings right now, but Smith has the potential to go within the top 10. The ‘best player available’ model may have Smith at the top of the board if he falls to the Vikings selection at No. 23.

In addition, there is still lots of uncertainty regarding this spot for the Vikings right now. Marcus Davenport was acquired in free agency, but it is still up in the air as to how productive he can actually be in Minnesota after some inconsistent years with the New Orleans Saints.

Za’Darius Smith also asked to be released earlier this offseason, and we can’t rule out a potential Danielle Hunter trade before he hits free agency in 2024. Nothing should be ruled out in the first round for Minnesota.

Day 2

Nov 12, 2022; Houston, Texas, USA; Houston Cougars wide receiver Nathaniel Dell (1) celebrates his touchdown during the fourth quarter against the Temple Owls at TDECU Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Maria Lysaker-USA TODAY Sports

Round 3, Pick 87: WR Tank Dell, Houston

This is a spot where we see Tank Dell go quite often. The Vikings missed out on the OBJ sweepstakes, and despite some potential faith in K.J. Osborn as the WR2 for this team, Minnesota could still use more depth behind him and Justin Jefferson at the position.

Dell is a speed threat that played both out wide and in the slot throughout his collegiate career with the Cougars. He can beat defenses down the field, and he was a touchdown machine in his four years of college, finding the end zone 29 times in the past two seasons.

Day 3

Nov 26, 2022; Stanford, California, USA; Stanford Cardinal quarterback Tanner McKee (18) throws during warmups before a game against the Brigham Young Cougars at Stanford Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

Round 4, Pick 119: QB Tanner McKee, Stanford

Tanner McKee may not ultimately end up being the Kirk Cousins replacement that fans are hoping to find, but stranger things have happened. McKee is a bit of a statue in the pocket, but he has a strong arm, delivers accurate passes, and showed great poise throughout his collegiate career.

His numbers don’t necessarily back up the praise he receives, but a simple answer to why that is can be found in the quality of players he was passing the ball to. You’ll be hard-pressed to find anyone projecting a Stanford receiver to go near the top-100 picks.

Additional hope for McKee can be found in the fact that Stanford is a program that historically has pumped out NFL quality quarterbacks, and the most recent example is Davis Mills. While Mills isn’t necessarily the type of QB that NFL fans want as a starter, he is far from a bust out of the third round. Other QBs from Stanford include John Elway and Andrew Luck.

Round 5, Pick 158: CB Mekhi Blackmon, USC

The best quality of Mekhi Blackmon as a corner is his versatility, and that tracks with the type of player Kwesi Adofo-Mensah has liked drafting throughout his career. Blackmon has experience in both the slot and as a boundary corner, and that will be very useful in a thin Vikings CB room.

Additionally, he showcased some tremendous ball skills in 2022 with USC. He defended 12 passes and intercepted 3 over the course of 14 games for the Trojans. This type of playmaker would be a welcomed addition to Minnesota to help replace Patrick Peterson’s production.

Round 6, Pick 211: IOL Henry Bainivalu, Washington

No matter how you slice it, the Vikings still could use some extra depth on the interior of their offensive line. They went into the 2022 season with very few guards and found themselves about one injury to Ed Ingram away from needing to find some emergency interior offensive linemen.

Henry Bainivalu shows inconsistencies in his blocking that need to be fixed, but at 6’6 and 306 pounds, he has the NFL measurements to find some sort of success. He is a great option towards the end of the draft.

Josh Frey is a Class of 2020 graduate of The College of Idaho with a bachelor’s degree in Creative Writing. When he’s not writing about the NFL, Josh enjoys running, gaming, or rooting for the Milwaukee Brewers and Bucks. Check out his Twitter account: @Freyed_Chicken.