The 2021 NFL Draft is ten weeks away, and the Minnesota Vikings will choose a player unusually high in this year’s edition. Minnesota was beset by a down season in 2020 — one plagued by injuries, a nonexistent homefield advantage, dastardly special teams, and a shell corporation defense.
About three pimples are noticeable on the roster – offensive line, defensive line, and free safety. If the Vikings retain left tackle Riley Reiff, general manager Rick Spielman will need one guard on the offensive line to trot into 2021 with some optimism. The defensive line needs either a ferocious, pass-rushing defensive tackle or a likeminded defensive end opposite Danielle Hunter. For safety, Anthony Harris will likely cash in with another NFL franchise. Minnesota has no game-ready replacement on the roster at the moment – unless a cornerback like Harrison Hand is converted to safety.
Surely the Vikings will address these needs with their 14th overall pick in April, right? Not according to the voice of the Vikings, Paul Allen.
Allen – a Kirk Cousins enthusiast – takes a stick to the sand here. Based on his daily radio show, playcalling of the games, and relationships with the team, Allen knows the franchise intimately. This is not a Cousins detractor “looking to move on.”
His musings should not be interpreted as gospel for what the Vikings will actually do, but the opinion is surprising because it denotes less than a full-throated endorsement of QB1.
Commitment to Cousins but Not Blind Faith
To be clear, Allen’s choice at No. 14 is not a slight aimed at Cousins. It is more aligned with future planning in a contingency realm. What if Minnesota defecates out of the gate – like the team did in 2020 – and dodges the postseason all together? Foremost, a new coach would take control of the team. The general manager will do the toasty-buttocks thing. And Cousins’ massive 2020 cap hit will be skewered in the court of public opinion – even more so than it is now.
Allen’s proclamation for a quarterback in the first round starts the rebuilding process before it is even identified. Call it macro planning. The Vikings would have a 2021 win-now, Super Bowl-or-bust expectation with hypothetical Boy Wonder quarterback in waiting, just in case.
This may also have the Rodgers-Love effect. That is – put the heat on Cousins as did Jordan Love with the Packers and Aaron Rodgers in 2020. It’s not a stupid idea.
But it does have flaws. Not seismic in nature, but eyebrow-raising.
What about Other Holes?
So – Minnesota has a 20-something quarterback motivating Cousins to bring out the Pro Bowl stuff in 2021. Great. What about the rest of the roster? Cousins is a terrific quarterback most of the time, but he does not play defense, nor does he pass block for himself.
At the 14th hole of the draft, a quarterback will emphatically not be the best player available, unless something very weird transpires on draft night. In fact, No. 14 is probably “reach” territory for a quarterback. Think Mac Jones or Kyle Trask.
Allen does mention trading around to land the future franchise quarterback, so that is in play. The Vikings have oodles of 4th-Round picks to barter. Those alone probably won’t move the needle for trading up in the 2021 NFL Draft, but they can be used as sweetener.
The philosophy outlined by Allen – although not foolhardy – ignores major roster holes in lieu of longterm planning. Should the team assume 2021 will go pear-shaped? Or is it intelligent to trudge the “just in case” route while passing up a defensive lineman or offensive lineman? Those are the stakes for the Paul Allen draft recommendation.
QB at #14 Establishes Cousins’ Shelf Life in MIN
A side note to this theory: The selection of a quarterback by the Vikings in the 2021 NFL Draft certifiably tips the hourglass upside down on Cousins tenure in Minnesota. In theory, Spielman could reverse course and trade Unnamed Quarterback Prospect if Cousins plays like a maniac in 2021 (in a good way), but that is rabbit-hole thinking.
Choosing a Trey Lance, Mac Jones, or Kyle Trask in April punctuates the commitment to Kirk Cousins. Fans would start biding time until the young quarterback takes over. Hell, they do that now. Each miscue that Cousins prosecutes on the field would exacerbate his benching in favor of the rookie. It will be exhausting.
But that’s how it goes. If Allen is correct – with his desire or prognostication – Cousins’ final run with the Vikings would be no later than 2022.