We sit on the morning of the 2020 NFL Draft filled with hope, or perhaps it’s dread. After watching our beloved Minnesota Vikings go “all-in” the last couple of seasons behind the highest paid quarterback in Vikings history. For that strategy they have one season of missing the playoffs, one season with a playoff win but a loss to the eventual Super Bowl loser, and missing a ton of key pieces from the 2017 NFC Championship squad. Most notably the miracle man, Stefon Diggs. Now would be the time to make yourself an irish coffee, screwdriver, bloody mary, or perhaps mamoosa, if you’re feeling fancy, because if you’re like me, today is going to be a roller coaster.
Because of management’s spending spree over the last couple of seasons, the team is saddled with a good chunk of dead money and no cap space to make any splash moves. That means that with several holes to fill, they need to hit home runs on most of their 12 picks that they currently hold to compete in 2020, assuming that COVID doesn’t put the whole thing on pause.
If you’re an optimist, you might be excited about the prospect of Rick Spielman with so many picks and are ready to see “Slick Rick” do his thing. Unfortunately, it seems that two of the positions of need are chronic problems for Spielman’s teams. That would be the offensive line, go figure, and receivers.
The harder core of Vikings faithful may now yell at me for saying that receiver has been a problem because of Thielen and Diggs. Consider the high draft picks at the receiver position in the last decade for Minnesota Cordarelle Patterson and Laquon Treadwell. It’s a tired take, but Spielman’s track record for receivers is littered with mediocrity and disappointment. It also includes two of the biggest diamonds in the rough.
So, I wouldn’t be excited about seeing the Vikings take a pass catcher today, especially if one of the top players isn’t sliding. They’re in an awkward spot where they probably don’t have the leverage to move up and nab a top guy, but it’s going to be too early to start reaching for some of the early second round talent. Perhaps we’ll see a trade back out of the first to get Thielen’s understudy, but we probably won’t see them go for a wide out at 22 or 25.
Besides the team has bigger fish to fry, like what they’re going to do to handle their left tackle position, and for that matter left guard, in the long-term. I’m a huge fan of Brian O’Neill, and his tape shows me that he is the best lineman currently on the squad, but I don’t think he has what it takes to be a left tackle and anchor that side for the next 10 years. That’s the kind of guy that the Vikings should be looking for if they want to attack the offensive line in the first.
It’s normally tough to get that kind of guy in the late first, especially in years that the offensive line class is a tad thin. However, this year the Vikings benefit from a couple things. First, there is a second-tier of first round tackles that should be available in the early twenties and best of all, with all the focus on a historically good skill position draft, we could see a top talent slide to around 15 and see Spielman work some magic to nab him.
This is perhaps the most exciting and best scenario to me. We’re a bit more used to seeing Spielman slide back to get guys, but if there is a franchise left tackle available, we could see a move. Much like how we saw him make a move for their assumed franchise quarterback in Teddy Bridgewater.
Now I’m not forgetting about the defense, and there’s a strong case to be made for the Vikes going cornerback at 22, especially if Fulton or Henderson are available. I’ll absolutely LOVE to read Vikings Twitter if that happens. It would make sense though. Normally, we see Zimmer hold defensive backs out a year or two to learn his system, but this year we don’t have that luxury. If they make a high pick for a cornerback, he’s going to play immediately.
I’ve seen a lot of mocks, less in recent weeks though, with the Vikings taking Iowa’s AJ Epenesa at 22. Now, I don’t want to say Epenesa is a bad player, he certainly dominated his fair share at the college level. It would break the Zimmer mold for defensive ends though. A bit slow, not as long as you’d like, and his combine really hurt him. The production was there, but I don’t see Spielman going after him until the second, if at all.
Speaking of the defensive line, there is a need for defensive tackles. However, if the Vikings don’t see Derrick Brown or Javon Kinlaw on the board at 22 or 25, they should wait to shore up that position until the middle rounds. A lot is made of how the 49ers ran all over the defensive front to end the Vikings season, but they did that to almost everybody, and reaching for a defensive tackle isn’t going to change that.
Okay, now that I’ve got my practical side out, lets go. Get excited for the stupidity of the draft. Watch Mike Mayock and John Gruden make the most confusing choices for the newly minted Las Vegas Raiders. Kick back and enjoy the greatest holiday on the NFL calendar. Remember that any player the Packers take is automatically trash, and remind your Chicago buddies that they traded a ton of capital for Mitchell Trubisky. Finally, remember that in the end, it’s not how the team does on the field, it’s the game and the fandom of the Vikings that ties us together. But it would be nice to finally win a damn title. SKOL!