Most Minnesota Vikings mock drafts entrust the team to remain stagnant at the No. 14 pick of the 1st Round. It is the easiest scenario to foresee when chronicling mock drafts as the author need not deal with the fallout of a hypothetical trade.
The 14th position in the draft is the highest that the Vikings have selected since 2015 when Minnesota chose Trae Waynes from Michigan State University. Waynes would play for 5 full seasons with the Vikings before a jaunt to Cincinnati in 2020.
On Monday, SI.com’s Zack Patraw took a different approach and slid the Vikings down the board via trade with the Cleveland Browns. General Manager Andrew Berry evidently bartered with Vikings boss Rick Spielman in efforts to secure defensive end Kwity Paye from the University of Michigan.
“MIN trades pick 14 to CLE for picks 26, 59 and a 2022 2nd round pick. Cleveland trades up here with the Vikings to select one of the better defensive ends in this class. The Browns could use some help on the edge and Paye also offers the supreme run-stopping ability.”
Cleveland lands a splashy pass-rusher – a man, Paye, frequently mock-drafted to Minnesota — while Minnesota stuffs its draft-capital war chest.
These are the spoils for the Vikings inside of Patraw’s prognostication.
Levi Onwuzurike (DT) Washington
Emphasis at the 3-technique defensive tackle spot for the Vikings during the last half-decade is limited. Head coach Mike Zimmer usually plops a man in the spot who is a serviceable player but not a hellraising pass rusher.
With the 26th pick from Cleveland, Onwuzurike is a step in the direction of changing that mentality.
For Onwuzurike, to mock draft notes:
“The Vikings’ defense wasn’t the same last year, with injuries plaguing their team and exposing their lack of depth. One big area of concern was their ability to get a strong pass-rush from the interior and the ability to stop running backs at the first level. Onwuzurike has been regarded as one of the best defensive tackles in the NFL Draft. This would be a considerable upgrade for the Vikings.”
This is one of the first credible instances amid mock-draft season that Onwuzurike has tunneled his way to Minnesota. So far, Spielman has landed Gregory Rousseau (DE), Christian Darrisaw (OL), Christian Barmore (DT), or the aforementioned Paye (DE) in most tenable mock drafts.
Onwuzurike opted out of his senior season at the University of Washington to prepare for the pros after the PAC-12 announced it would postpone the season (coronavirus). But from 2017 to 2019, he was a force.
Jaelan Phillips (DE) Miami (FL)
Then, due to wheeling-and-dealing with Browns, the Vikings hop back into the 2nd Round – a goldmine for Spielman during the last decade. With the pick, Minnesota chooses Jaelan Phillips from the University of Miami.
The scouting report on him is as follows, per SI.com:
“Excellent size and weight and already looks like an NFL player and his frame may not be maxed out; he’s long limbed with a good build and he possesses excellent athletic ability. Uses his quick lateral agility, burst, flexibility, and fast feet to help win at the line of scrimmage. Phillips is scheme versatile and can play in odd fronts as a stand up OLB and even fronts as a base end. Very quick first step and uses his excellent lateral agility to fake jab and attack the half man on the line of scrimmage; combines this move with a violent club/swim and dip to allude blockers and take advantage of them when they’re out of position. He employs this move inside and when no help is available to the tackles he has a good chance of dipping his outside shoulder and having a clear path to the quarterback.”
This is noteworthy because the Vikings would get wealthier in the defensive trenches. Last season, Spielman plucked Jeff Gladney and Cameron Dantzler from the draft, and they were not aided by any sort of pass rush.
Onwuzurike and Phillips is a combination that gets the Vikings closer to pass-rushing supremacy, at least on paper.
2022 2nd-Rounder as a Bonus
The other alluring aspect of the Browns deal is the future 2nd-Rounder. Minnesota would receive Cleveland’s 2nd-Round choice in 2022.
In the last decade, Spielman has pulled the following players out of the draft’s 2nd Round: Kyle Rudolph, Eric Kendricks, Mackensie Alexander, Dalvin Cook, Brian O’Neill, Irv Smith Jr., and Ezra Cleveland.
And those are in succession with no gaps since 2011. To be sure, Spielman does not miss in the 2nd Round. As it stands, he has no 2nd-Round selections in April’s draft because the team parceled the pick to the Jacksonville Jaguars for seven weeks of Yannick Ngakoue’s services.
Patraw’s deal does a lot to rectify that mistake – and then some.