FoxSports‘ Peter Schrager understands the Minnesota Vikings. Either that — or he has been wildly lucky over the past couple of seasons.
Two years ago before the 2019 NFL Draft, Schrager sent center Garrett Bradbury to Minnesota in his final mock draft of the year. As a standalone prediction, that was not otherworldly because several football minds forecasted Bradbury to Minneapolis. Still, it was commendable.
In 2020, Schrager proceeded to accurately nail the Vikings 1st-Round pick — again. That one was up for strenuous debate via mock draft as there was no consensus that Jefferson would land with the Vikings. But he did. And Schrager was right.
Then, he got damn close to making it a trifecta. He correctly assumed that general manager Rick Spielman would select a cornerback with his second pick of the 1st Round in the same season. The name was not right, though. Schrager said Kristian Fulton from LSU — Spielman said Jeff Gladney of TCU.
In light of this week’s events, perhaps Fulton would have been a wiser choice.
Regardless, it’s mock draft season yet again, and Schrager released his first full set of prognostications on Thursday.
With the 14th pick, Schrager says it’s Kwity Paye from Michigan to the Vikings.
Rapidly, Paye is becoming the most mock-drafted name to the organization — as a healthy debate surges about whether head coach Mike Zimmer needs an offensive lineman or an EDGE rusher. Paye would fill the EDGE need. That would occur immediately if the scouting reports are accurate.
Lance Zierlein of NFL.com says on Paye:
“The explosive testing will surely get teams and evaluators excited, but it might be hard to bang the table for him based on the tape. Paye’s traits and potential should not be discounted, as he’ll continue to be skilled up in technique and fundamentals. However, he’s a choppy-stepping short-strider who doesn’t play with the feel and instincts of an NFL playmaker. He can overcome his lack of stride length as a rusher with a more focused, upfield attack and better hands at the top of his rush, but he might be better-suited as a reduced rusher on passing downs, where his quickness could overwhelm guards. The traits and explosiveness are enticing but the film says “good” rather than “great” at this time.”
The only true-blue knock on Paye is a noteworthy one. He only played 19 football games at a collegiate level. Some players participate in double that number of games prior to NFL entry. Therefore, Paye has a small sample size.
That does not scare many NFL pundits, though. Paye is a mandatory shareholder in the 1st-Round of the draft in virtually every mock draft. Sometimes, he climbs toward the 10th hole; on other occasions, he’s a 20-something selection.
If the Vikings do opt for Paye to finalize Zimmer’s 2021 defense, it will be a quasi-historic event. Minnesota has not drafted an EDGE rusher in the 1st Round since 2005 — the day Aaron Rodgers was drafted. On that night, the Vikings infamously chose wideout Troy Williamson with the 7th overall pick to replace the recently-departed icon, Randy Moss. Eleven spots later, Erasmus James was selected by then-general manager Rob Brzezinski. That was the final time to date that team went with a defensive end in the 1st Round.
The year before, however, 2004, the Vikings grabbed Kenechi Udeze with the 20th pick in the draft.
Udeze was out of the league by 2008.
All in all, if one believes in the gridiron balance of nature, it’s probably time for Minnesota to audition a defensive end from 1st Round. Schrager thinks Paye will be the choice, which holds merit based on his relatively pristine track record over the past couple of years.