The Minnesota Vikings have already been the subject of a mock-draft bonanza because, to put it simply, it’s that time of year. NFL analysts, writers, and fans all possess thoughts on what each team will do on draft night in two months.
Some forecast that the Vikings will strengthen the offensive line – an intelligent strategy as Minnesota’s pass-protection acumen has floundered for about a decade. The only “problem” with an offensive lineman at Minnesota’s No. 14 spot is draft positioning. The Vikings need guards – and offensive tackles are typically the hot draft commodity early in the 1st Round. In theory, general manager Rick Spielman could scoop the best offensive lineman available and deal with his placement of “where” on line later. Or the team could defy traditional draft logic and pick a guard earlier than usual, although this is a longshot.
Minnesota also needs a free safety, but not many 2021 safeties climb up to the No. 14 rung on the ladder in terms of draft projection.
Choosing a quarterback would assuredly be exciting, yet the Vikings have one of those – a consistent one – in Kirk Cousins. The selection of a quarterback in the 1st Round of the draft would spell the end for Cousins with the Vikings – at least for long-term planning.
That’s why defensive end is the consensus as of now for Minnesota in the 1st Round. A few analysts send Michigan’s Kwity Paye to the Vikings, a choice that would be delectable. His draft stock is accredited and escalating.
But most credible mock drafts continue to send Miami’s (FL) Gregory Rousseau to the Vikings. And he’s a player that could start opposite Danielle Hunter on day one.
Bleacher Report Is the Latest
Bleacher Report’s Brad Gagnon authored another mock draft on Monday. The trend continued as Rousseau was the selection for the Vikings. On Rousseau, Gagnon asserts:
“Without Danielle Hunter and Everson Griffen and with only a cameo from Yannick Ngakoue, the Minnesota Vikings defense ranked in the bottom five in terms of sacks and pressure rate in 2020. Hunter might be back from a herniated disk in 2021, but for the defense to get back on track, another pass-rushing weapon might be necessary. The Vikings will likely be too cap-strapped to add one in free agency, but they’re lucky to have Rousseau still on the board. The converted wide receiver and safety has a smaller-than-ideal frame at 265 pounds, but his ceiling is extremely high because of his length and explosiveness, and he put up 15.5 sacks and 19.5 tackles for loss in 2019 before opting out in 2020. Rousseau could need a little time to get acclimated, but that’s what makes this a good spot. Hunter and Ifeadi Odenigbo can take a lot of pressure off of him early on.”
Rousseau has the tool bag to excel in head coach Mike Zimmer’s system – and probably every team’s system. Last season, Minnesota navigated the losses [for various reasons] of Everson Griffen, Danielle Hunter, and Yannick Ngakoue.
The result was vomit-inducing.
EDGE at 14 Blends “Need” with BPA
Rousseau – if he falls to No. 14 – successfully marries two draft philosophies: Team Need vs. Best Player Available. Of course, no one can know right now how the draft board will flush out in late April. A player like DeVonta Smith, Trey Lance, or Ja’Marr Chase may unexpectedly tumble. Yet, generally speaking, Rousseau is the type of player that deserves to be picked in the 10th-15th range. And wouldn’t you know it – the Vikings need an EDGE rusher.
The more that a Vikings fan can adjust to the idea that the franchise will select a defensive player in the 1st Round – the less shocking draft night will feel. Foremost, Zimmer is a defense-always coach. Left to his own devices, he would probably choose a defender every year in the 1st Round.
But this edition is a different beast. The Vikings were a bad defensive team for the first time since 2013. For Zimmer, that is unacceptable. He has a built-in “excuse” to think defensively on draft night. So, be prepared.
More Pass Rush Needed
Per Pro Football Focus, the Vikings had the worst pass rush in the NFL during 2020. On the rare occasions that Zimmer’s defense did generate a pass rush, it felt like Christmas morning.
Rousseau is the granddaddy of them all for pass-rushing Christmas gifts – or so the scouting reports claim. The pairing of Rousseau and Hunter can be aptly described as frightful for opposing teams.
The Miami Hurricane’s name continues to grace Vikings mock drafts because of one simple, irrefutable reason: Minnesota ranked 29th in points allowed during 2020. A pass rush is needed to bolster the development of a young secondary.
Snatching Rousseau in April fits if Minnesota makes no free-agent defensive end signings during free agency.