An Underrated Draft Need for the Vikings in 2023

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Feb 28, 2023; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Minnesota Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo‐Mensah during the NFL combine at the Indiana Convention Center. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports.

The Minnesota Vikings are in the middle of what looks to be a very interesting offseason. They are in flux between trying to stay competitive and living up to the “championship standard” that they’ve established for themselves while also trying to inject young talent to replace a few aging veterans.

The main way that the Vikings can look to find youth for their roster is through the 2023 NFL Draft. Currently, there are a few positions that have been the biggest talking points regarding this draft including cornerback, linebacker, quarterback, and wide receiver. However, an underrated draft need for the Vikings could be the safety position.

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Sep 19, 2022; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Minnesota Vikings safety Harrison Smith. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports.

Currently, the Vikings employ four players at safety: Cam Bynum, Lewis Cine, Josh Metellus, and Harrison Smith. Smith is obviously the most proven player of the group, being a six-time Pro Bowler over his 11-year NFL career.

However, Smith is also now 34 years old, and he could be on his final legs as a player that can be relied upon consistently in the secondary. The veteran intercepted 5 passes in 2023, but he also allowed a 79.5% completion percentage when targeted. It was the second consecutive season where his allowed completion percentage sat above 70%.

Smith is also due a whopping $19.1 million in 2023, $19.2 million in 2024, and $22 million in 2025. The Vikings can obviously restructure this deal to make it more cap-friendly heading into 2023, but there is very little reason to believe that they will be paying a 35-year-old safety upwards of $20 million next season. This could very well be the final year that Smith suits up in purple if he is not cut during the 2023 offseason.

Dec 9, 2021; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings safety Harrison Smith (22) celebrates a sack during the second quarter against the Pittsburgh Steelers at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Behind him, Bynum stepped up in 2022 as a starter, but there were certainly struggles on his end as well. Meanwhile, we know very little about what 2022 first-round pick Lewis Cine can actually bring to the table, and Josh Metellus is a career backup who also hits free agency at the end of the 2023 season.

Because of this, there is a very real possibility that only Bynum and Cine are the remaining safeties on the Vikings roster from the current group. Luckily, the safety group in this year’s draft class has a number of intriguing prospects. We’ve gone into depth on Alabama safety Brian Branch on this site before, but there’s a decent chance he goes in the middle of the first round.

An Undderated Draft Need for the Vikings in 2023
Sep 18, 2021; Gainesville, Florida, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide defensive back Brian Branch (14) against the Florida Gators at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Other players to keep an eye on could include another Alabama safety Jordan Battle, Boise State safety JL Skinner, Illinois safety Sydney Brown, or Florida State safety Jammie Robinson. Don’t be surprised if the Vikings use a middle round pick on one of these players.

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.