Rick Sosa’s Territory Journey: Up Close and Personal with the ‘21 Vikings Draft Picks
The rain and a cold breeze welcomed me as I arrived in Cleveland for draft night along with a flock of NFL fans ready to enjoy a league event with less Covid restrictions and plenty of attractions like the NFL Draft Experience. One of my favorite parts of my stay in Ohio was seeing families and fans at large enjoy themselves at the shores of Lake Erie during the event and when I visited The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Back at the TCO Performance Center in Eagan the Vikings were all business preparing for their selections with a war room full of scouts, coaching staff, management and ownership. This year Rick Spielman needed to deliver and cap a very good free agency period with a good draft.
OT Christian Darrisaw
After the Vikings watched former Ohio State QB Justin Fields fall on the board they began to see the possibility of landing him at #14 or perhaps mull a potential trade up to select him. According to reports opinions were divided in the war room but in reality Rick Spielman first choice was to trade back and accumulate more draft capital. The Vikings did just that. The Chicago Bears traded up to #11 and drafted Fields clearing the path for the Vikings to have an easier decision and trade back. Alijah Vera-Tucker was not going to be their target as he will likely play guard at the NFL level and there was more value by trading back. The Vikings found a trade partner in the New York Jets at the very same time I was interviewing their brand new phenom QB Zach Wilson at the podium. The Jets selected Vera-Tucker and Minnesota gambled by moving to #23 collecting two 3rd round picks. I still believe Rick Spielman’s man was either DE Kwity Paye or Jaelen Phillips but after both were selected he “settled” for option B with the OT from Virginia Tech. Either way it was a monumental win for the Vikings in the first round turning one player into three.
QB Kellen Mond
The shock of the entire draft weekend came on the second night. The Vikings selected Texas A&M QB Kellen Mond with their first third round selection (#66) acquired from the Jets. A move that was unexpected but very smart as the team was able to position itself with a plan B rather than be kept hostage to the current NFL quarterback market which Kirk Cousins has taken full advantage of. A four year college player, Mond comes after a good showing at the Senior Bowl and holding several passing records with the Aggies. His mobility will add another dimension to his potential and Mond arrives at the perfect situation in Minnesota not having to carry with the responsibility of being a starter but instead develop into a future NFL signal caller.
LB Chazz Surratt
The head scratcher came right after the Mond selection. North Carolina LB Chazz Surratt was selected with the 78th pick when perhaps other players in different positions were available. Surratt a converted QB to LB after two years in college arrives at 24 years of age seeming a bit of a gamble but the Vikings did their homework and felt this was a value pick looking at the possibility of Anthony Barr departing after the 2021 season. Surratt will compete with Nick Vigil and Troy Dye for a starting spot on the team.
OG Wyatt Davis
Perhaps the best pick of the weekend only because the selection number it came with. Former Ohio State OG Wyatt Davis was selected # 86 with the second pick acquired via the NY Jets. A bigger but yet athletic offensive lineman was demanded by Mike Zimmer. Assuming the Viking medical staff continues with their success of helping players recover from ACL knee injuries Davis was without a doubt the best interior guard of the class. Mike Zimmer got his wish. This selection can single-handedly transform the Vikings offensive line into a very good unit in the NFL.
DE Patrick Jones II
With the 90th overall pick the Vikings selected the former Pitt edge as a developmental project similar to that of D.J. Wonnum and Danielle Hunter. Jones has all the physical tools to be successful in the NFL and will have to work with coach Andre Patterson on his technique.
RB Kene Ngwangwu
With the 119th overall selection the Vikings selected the kick returner from Iowa State as a replacement for Mike Boone on special teams and to compete for the KR position with Ameer Abdullah. Speed is the name of the game with this selection.
S Camryn Bynum
With a true Safety in Indiana’s Jamar Johnson still on the board the Vikings once again unexpectedly selected the Cal CB Bynum and will convert him to safety. We will have to trust the scouting department as they see more physical tools in Bynum but I have my doubts that Johnson was the better pick here.
DE Janarius Robinson
Rumor is coach Andre Patterson “pounded the table” for Robinson as his annual project to develop. The Seminoles edge also comes with many physical attributes and having been working under several coaching changes in Florida State diminished his college potential. But when coach Patterson calls for a player Rick Spielman listens.
WR Ihmir Smith-Marsette
The most intriguing selection of the draft. Underutilized as a WR with the Hawkeyes Smith-Marsette has incredible potential and with the WR3 spot wide open in Minnesota I am projecting he will be lining up next to Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen on week one in Cincinnati. He will also return kicks.
TE Zach Davidson
At 6’7 Davidson from Central Missouri arrives trying to compete for a spot in the practice squad. Oh and he can punt the ball too. So he is two players in one.
DT Jaylen Twyman
Another Pitt arrival with the famous Tom Brady # 199 pick. Twyman will look to impress in training camp and compete for a practice squad roster spot and perhaps challenge James Lynch and even Jalyn Holmes for a 53 man roster spot. Holmes is a cut candidate so don’t be surprised to see Twyman around into September.
The Vikings overall did well filling needs with value selections and have assembled one of the most complete rosters in the NFC. I give them an A+ for a draft grade. Training camp is just around the corner.