ESPN 2024 Mock Draft Sends Vikings Top Defensive Prospect

Nov 6, 2021; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini defensive lineman Jer'Zhan Newton (94) reacts to a missed stop in the third quarter at Huntington Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

With the NFL regular season behind us, many major publications have begun rolling out 2024 mock drafts.

The Vikings hold the 11th overall pick in the 2024 NFL Draft, and they are in prime position to add a top playmaker. While many have pegged the Vikings as a landing spot for a quarterback, ESPN’s Jordan Reid took Minnesota in a different direction with his first mock draft by sending them Illinois defensive tackle Jer’Zhan “Johnny” Newton.

ESPN 2024 Mock Draft Sends Vikings Top Defensive Prospect

Mock Draft
Oct 21, 2023; Champaign, Illinois, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini defensive tackle Jer’Zhan Newton (4) tackles Wisconsin Badgers running back Braelon Allen (0) during the first half at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ron Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Reid defended the selection by writing, “The Vikings are a prime candidate to take a QB, and I almost made that move here. But there’s a good chance Kirk Cousins will return to Minnesota, giving the Vikings the chance to instead take one of the best defensive players in the draft. Outside of Danielle Hunter — who is a free agent this offseason — Minnesota had a severe lack of talent along its defensive front.”

It’s worth noting that, not only is Hunter set to hit free agency, but joining him on the open market will be Jonathan Bullard, Marcus Davenport, and D.J. Wonnum. Minnesota certainly needs to address their defensive front at some point this offseason whether it be through free agency or early in the draft.

While defensive tackle still isn’t the flashiest position in the NFL, it shouldn’t take away from Newton’s presence on defense. He is a spectacular prospect who can impact a defense both as a pass-rusher and defending the run.

Sep 17, 2021; Champaign, Illinois, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini defensive lineman Jer’Zhan Newton (94) sacks Maryland Terrapins quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa (3) in the first half at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ron Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Reid added on Newton, “One of my favorite overall prospects in this class regardless of position, Newton is a disruptive 3-technique who finished the season with 42 pressures, 7.5 sacks and an 11.4% defensive pressure rate. And he simply doesn’t come off the field; his 715 snaps ranked seventh among all FBS defensive linemen in 2023. Newton can play from multiple alignments, and he can be included in creative third-down packages because of his versatility and explosiveness as a pass-rusher.”

There is also a pretty good chance that Kirk Cousins will be back in a purple uniform for the 2024 season, as Reid suggests. The Vikings will have to pay $28.5 million in dead money if he is no longer on the roster, providing further incentive for Minnesota to keep him around for a season rather than let him walk for nothing.

The QB was also playing some of the best football of his career before suffering his torn Achilles, so the Vikings have a very interesting decision to make regarding Cousins.

NFL: San Francisco 49ers at Minnesota Vikings
Oct 23, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) signals his team against the San Francisco 49ers in the third quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

We should also keep in mind that, even if the Vikings don’t take a quarterback in the first round, it doesn’t completely take them out of the running to select a prospect at that position. Unlike last year, they hold another top-50 pick (No. 43 overall in the second round), which could also result in a quarterback prospect.

Overall, we are still very early on in the draft process, and there will be multiple months of rumors before we officially arrive at the event. For now, though, Reid suggests that the Vikings may look at positions outside the QB room in the first round.

Josh Frey is a Class of 2020 graduate of The College of Idaho and managing editor of 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.