With less than two weeks before the Cleveland Browns are officially on the clock to start the 2018 NFL Draft, scouting departments, GMs, and coaches are debating how their boards are to look for the draft. While it can be easier separating players in the same position, it becomes a bit harder when trying to compare whether this guard or that cornerback should be above each other on the board when they have very similar grades. While the analytics can speak to the athleticism of a player and the tape shows their technique, the debate can quickly become about the immeasurables – things like cultural fit, scheme fit, football IQ, etc. – that can’t be as easily evaluated. But yet it’s this mix of athleticism, technique, and fit with a prospect that should give a sign as to whether or not this player can succeed in the NFL and whether or not they should be drafted by that specific team.
It’s that mix that I am trying to nail down for the Minnesota Vikings; what players give great value with talent while also being perfect fits for this organization that came so close to the Super Bowl last year. This will be a three part series breaking down all three days of the draft (so you don’t have to read a 10,000 word article – you’re welcome). Without further ado, here is part one – five players on day one that I believe would be great picks for the Vikings during the 2018 NFL Draft.
Isaiah Wynn, OG, Georgia
Consensus Big Board: 29.7
My Grade: 7.71 (Mid Round 1), #11 OVR (#2 OG)
NFL Player Comp: Zach Martin
Meetings with Vikings: None.
I’m going to say this here, but it will apply to the other interior lineman I have as a first round fit. I think Wynn is more likely than most think to be available near or at our pick because of the NFL’s lack of emphasis put on interior offensive linemen in round one of the draft. Since 1994, only once have three guards or more gone before the 30th pick in the first round (2013 with two top ten guards and one going 20th, two of which have been busts) and only two other times have two guards gone before the 30th pick (2001 and 2012). The fact is that many mocks will likely be wrong if they have four guards gone before the Vikings pick in round 1 (Nelson, Wynn, Hernandez, and Price have all been consistently mocked in the first round, and depending on if you view Connor Williams as a tackle or guard, he would be the fifth guard mocked in the first). Worst case, the Vikings should still have our choice between two of the first round guards at our pick.
As for Wynn specifically, the dude is an absolute stud. He’s a former tackle with the arm length to play tackle in the NFL in a pinch, but better suited size wise to be a guard. He is one of the most technically sound offensive linemen in this draft with a wide base, great body control, quick and fluid feet, and a good first punch with his hands. He has great power and burst off the line as well as a solid anchor in pass protection. He excels at both pass protection and run blocking as he has the necessary blend of strength and leverage and the athleticism needed to pull and move to the second level. He’s a competitive guard who always looks for work as the play progresses.
In terms of how he fits with the Vikings, he fits our zone blocking scheme perfectly and looks to be a year one starter (which is needed at guard) and can be the building block of the offensive line in just a few years. His competitiveness also fits the style that they’ve started to look for on the line and he has the athleticism the Vikings have favored in the draft in recent years. If Wynn is there at #30, it would be an absolute home run to pick him with his ability and fit and with the need.
Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame
Consensus Big Board: 26.9
My Grade: 7.70 (Mid Round 1), #12 OVR (#1 OT)
NFL Player Comp: Jake Long
Meetings with Vikings: Private Workout (Official 30)
While some might look at the Jake Long comp and cringe, he looks to be less like the Jake Long of recent years, and more like the Jake Long of the first four to five years of his career (Pro Bowler from 2008-2011, All-Pro in 2009 and 2010, etc.) Unlike Long, McGlinchey has no injury history at all, which bodes well for a longer career than Long had. In terms of offensive tackle prospects, both McGlinchey and Connor Williams are about tied for me and I think Williams might go first of the two, although because of how quickly tackles seem to go in round 1, I don’t know if either will get to the Vikings at pick #30, but he’s been falling to around our range in mocks so it’s possible.
McGlinchey is a right tackle in the NFL and excels at the point of attack with explosive hands and active feet as a violent mauler in the run game. He has exceptional technique and power in the run game while also being an aggressive pass protector. He works from a wide base while having some foot quickness to help mirror defenders. He can struggle occasionally out of deeper sets on offense, although if the offense looks a bit like the one DeFillipo was with in Philly, there likely won’t be a whole lot of deep sets, so that’s not as much of a concern with the offense. He can struggle at times with quicker pass rushers due to occasional slower hand technique, but he has an incredibly strong anchor and great success against B-gap defenders. He has the athleticism required for pulls and for getting to the second level, and when he does get to the second level he absolutely attacks the linebackers. He’s consistently looking for work and will ensure that his man is out of the play before progressing to the next block.
McGlinchey has the power and athleticism to be able to be featured in any blocking scheme, so fit for him isn’t a concern. Like Wynn, his competitiveness, desire to keep working (instead of being ‘done’ after his first block), and athleticism seem to fit what’s been looked at in offensive linemen since Zimmer has been the coach. It’s clear there is some interest here in the Vikings part as well as they brought McGlinchey in for a private workout as a part of the official 30 prospect visits. He has the ability to step in at day one and has the potential to be the right tackle for the next ten years here.
Connor Williams, OG/OT, Texas
Consensus Big Board: 36.7
My Grade: 7.66 (Mid Round 1), #13 OVR (#2 OT)
NFL Player Comp: Joe Staley
Meetings with Vikings: Private Workout (Official 30)
Williams has been a player that has been a topic of debate regarding his position. Some think his 6’5” and 300 pound body indicates that of a tackle, others argue his arms are too short (33 inches) and that warrants being moved inside to the guard position. Either way, the Vikings could use him, but I have him pegged as a tackle in the NFL.
Williams is somewhat the antithesis of McGlinchey: he excels in pass protection, especially against speed rushers but struggles with his technique at times. Williams is an incredibly smooth pass protector with quick feet, good mirroring technique, and a strong anchor to combat any type of pass rush especially in deeper sets. He does really well getting a good punch on the defender, while keeping his feet and hips fluid. He’s aggressive and has a bit of a mean streak (which again seems to fit with what’s been looked for on the line) and is the type of player to lead and set the tone for the entire line. He has great mobility in zone runs while also showing notable power in the run game. Like the previous two linemen, he is really competitive in looking for more work as the play progresses (sensing a theme here?). His one downside is that he needs work on his balance – because of his shorter arms, he can often be found leaning or reaching to get his hands on the defender. Being more patient can solve his reaching issues, although if that becomes an issue in the future, he can always be moved inside to the guard position, where I think he would transition nicely.
In terms of blocking schemes, Williams likely needs a zone blocking scheme (or maybe a power gap scheme) to play into his athleticism and to succeed in the NFL. This scheme fit along with his short arms may lead Williams to drop a bit in the draft, but the Vikings should have no hesitation taking him with their pick, as he fits their offensive line scheme perfectly.
Josh Jackson, CB, Iowa
Consensus Big Board: 24
My Grade: 7.60 (Mid Round 1), #14 OVR (T-1 CB)
NFL Player Comp: Josh Norman
Meetings with Vikings: None.
‘But Micah, why would we draft an outside corner in the first round?’ Hear me out. Depending on whether or not the Vikings keep around Waynes for what he will cost, or if they want a third corner for depth that they can rely on and then teach up for the future as well, Jackson is well worth the #30 overall pick. He may not be here by this pick, but his stock has dropped a bit in part because of Denzel Ward’s 4.32 40 and Jaire Alexander’s freakish athleticism. Because of that, he has dropped (at least in the media’s eyes) enough that you’re starting to see him go anywhere between 18-35 instead of the 8-15 range he was previously.
He’s a little raw as he’s only played corner for two years but has shown premier ball skills and is good in man but is truly great in zone. He is a patient corner who started at Iowa as a wide receiver and has good understanding of both sides of the secondary. He uses his eyes well to bait quarterbacks and has excellent ball skills. He’s not great at tackling or run support, which is a bit of a concern, but shows an effort at making plays throughout the field. He’s very physical in coverage (but not handsy) and has the strength to be a good press corner. His hips looked stiff occasionally, but it wasn’t a consistent issue. He has good measurables (not a freak athlete, but definitely a good one). He has a good football IQ and was a Jim Thorpe finalist after only his second year at corner, so that tells you about his ability to grasp the position quickly. Iowa coaches are also on the record saying he is a quick learner and listens well, another plus for a defense that can be so complex with Zimmer.
As for his fit, Jackson needs a few things in a defense in order to excel and hit his ceiling. The first thing he needs is a defense that runs primarily zone coverage and considering the Vikings ran zone coverage nearly two-thirds of the time last year, it’s a pretty good fit. The second piece that Jackson needs, given his tendency to be aggressive when the ball is in the air, is a versatile free safety that can not only play in the box but also be a deep coverage player. See: “Harrison Smith” (need I say more?). Add in the bonus of Zimmer being a defensive back whisperer who can teach up a raw, but obviously talented corner in Jackson and he has the ability to become a shut down corner making several Pro Bowls, if not being an All-Pro for a few years, at the level of a Josh Norman. He would be an absolutely killer piece in this defense.
Maurice Hurst, 3-Tech (DT), Michigan
Consensus Big Board: 32.9
My Grade: 7.58 (Mid to Late Round 1), #15 OVR (#1 DT)
NFL Player Comp: Geno Atkins
Meetings with Vikings: None.
Hurst would be a dream come true for Mike Zimmer in his defense. Obviously there are medical concerns (a heart issue which came up at the combine, but was cleared by multiple doctors before his pro day), which is the same reason he could drop down to the Vikings at pick #30, but Hurst would provide an explosive 3-tech with good pass rush abilities. He would give Zimmer the defensive tackle that he successfully utilized in Cincinnati with Geno Atkins – whom I believe is a perfect comp for Hurst.
Hurst is a slightly undersized DT who has shown incredible athleticism and burst on tape. His first step is incredibly quick and that quickness often times can get him into the backfield before offensive linemen can get their hands on him well enough and into position. He’s added a variety of moves to get past linemen in addition to his quickness. Much like recent signee Sheldon Richardson, Hurst is aggressive in pursuit and has the speed to do so. He is great in a single gap role and has power in getting into the backfield, although he struggles at times with his anchor and gets uprooted when he doesn’t have the necessary leverage. He’s extremely flexible and can bounce around to where he needs to go at the line in order to stop the ball carrier. He does struggle at times with tackling, although he is a powerful tackler when he does wrap up. Sometimes he will aim to take out the legs as opposed to the waist, which allows some backs to get past him.
In terms of fit, Hurst can play in about every position on the defensive line but would be most successful in a 3-tech role as a part of a 4-3 defense where he can utilize his explosiveness, pass rush abilities, and gap penetration skills. This would make a lot of sense for the Vikings considering that is exactly what has been missing since Floyd was hurt. His ceiling is one of the top 5 defensive tackles in the NFL and it would make perfect sense to draft Hurst and let him become a rotational player with Richardson this year and then let Hurst take over after that.
First Round Fits Honorable Mentions (in order of grade):
Billy Price, OG, Ohio State
Dallas Goedert, TE, South Dakota State
Mike Hughes, CB, UCF
For the rest of this series, use the links below: