There are two relatively grave needs for the Minnesota Vikings in this April’s draft – offensive line [in general] and EDGE rusher. In a press conference earlier this week, head coach Mike Zimmer hinted that the team will approach the draft with a best player available mindset, a tactic accepted by most folks as coherent.
Yet, if the Vikings sign no offensive line help, onlookers will be left wondering what the hell the plan may be for the trenches. The Vikings were the NFL’s fourth-worst pass-protection group in 2020, and to date, general manager Rick Spielman has not made offensive-line improvement a priority this offseason.
Instead, the organization has pursued defensive personnel – like bandits. Spielman has inked Stephen Weatherly (DE), Dalvin Tomlinson (3DT), Nick Vigil (LB), Patrick Peterson (CB), Mackensie Alexander (CB), and Xavier Woods (FS) — all defensive players.
The offensive line is a state of status quo, much to the chagrin of ornery fans. And that has led the masses to believe that Minnesota might trade up to land an offensive lineman like Penei Sewell from Oregon.
In Ragatz’s defense, this is just speculation.
But don’t count on Spielman doing any of this trading up stuff.
If Anything – Trade Back
When Spielman doesn’t any sort of “trading up” in the 1st Round of the NFL draft, it’s usually to sneak back into the end of the 1st Round. See: Teddy Bridgewater in 2014 or Harrison Smith in 2012. There is a reasonable chance that Spielman barters something late that Thursday night of the draft to grab two 1st-Rounders – he’s done it before.
But Spielman is more likely to be in the business of trading back – not ahead. He doesn’t have a 2nd-Round draft pick because that belongs in Jacksonville after the Yannick Ngakoue trade late last summer. This is problematic as Spielman has mastered the 2nd Round. In recent years, he has found men like Dalvin Cook, Eric Kendricks, Brian O’Neill, and Irv Smith Jr. in the 2nd Round. Spielman – to put it frankly – hasn’t missed in the 2nd Round since he took the main general management job in 2012.
Bet on the Vikings boss trading back – not up. Why? That’s what Spielman does. History is an indicator.
But There Is a Need for OL
The spirit of trading up for Rashawn Slater or Penei Sewell is righteous, though. Currently, the Vikings offensive line – if plopped on the field for action tonight – is worse than the 2020 edition. Riley Reiff walked away to the heart of Ohio to play for the Cincinnati Bengals. Dakota Dozier was re-signed earlier this week, and he is not a promised-land offseason move. Minnesota traded for Mason Cole with the Arizona Cardinals. Nobody knows if he’ll be any good.
Therefore, with the exodus of Reiff, the Vikings have no left tackle outside of Rashod Hill. Reiff and Brian O’Neill were the only two dudes on the Vikings offensive line that pass-protected better than they run-blocked. Without Reiff, the offensive line is worse – for the moment. Spielman could be sitting on a homerun of a plan where he signs Eric Fisher and Forrest Lamp. Then, with two strokes of a pen, things aren’t so grim.
Yet, this is a lot of ifs and maybes. Should Sewell or Slater fall to Minnesota organically at No. 14, either man would be too tantalizing to ignore.
Just don’t count on Spielman to mortgage the future via draft capital to get those two. He doesn’t enjoy doing that – and that’s why he doesn’t normally take such actions. The price tag for moving up is quite lofty inside the Top 10.
Stay Put or Trade Back
The Vikings will choose a new player at the 14th hole or move back some spots – just as they did in 2020 during a transaction with the San Francisco 49ers. Kyle Shanahan’s team received wideout Brandon Aiyuk while Spielman flipped the trade into Jeff Gladney, D.J. Wonnum, and K.J. Osborn.
The Vikings can probably slide back about 8-10 spots on draft night and snatch a 2nd-Rounder from a team craving the 14th pick. Then, offensive linemen like Samuel Cosmi or Alijah Vera-Tucker might still be there for the 1st-Round selection, and Spielman gets back into his round of dreams – the 2nd Round.
Also watch for this: If Rashawn Slater slides back to No. 14, he is probably the best player available on the board – and the best fit for Spielman’s roster need.