I’ve seen some rumblings on Vikings Twitter that Minnesota should consider tanking 2020 in hopes of snagging a top 5 draft pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. It’s an interesting prospect for a team that just lost one of its top offensive weapons, has an entirely new starting secondary, and a defensive line that only boasts one solidly above average player.
First, I think it’s important to look at next year’s draft class to see if it would be worth it from a talent stand point. The, presumed, number one overall pick will be Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence. A player who many consider a generational talent and has garnered comparisons to John Elway.
However, unless they really try to lose every game, which you really shouldn’t and can’t do in the NFL, the Vikings are unlikely to snag the top overall pick. Not to mention that they have their guy in Kirk Cousins right now. Nobody drafts a quarterback in the first round when you have your guy already, right?
So, no Lawrence, but there are still some other interesting options in the top five. Oregon’s Penei Sewell could be the future of the franchise at left tackle and would give the Vikings a rich depth of young offensive lineman after the last couple of drafts.
They could also target LSU’s Ja’Marr Chase to go next to his former teammate Justin Jefferson. With Stefon Diggs’ departure, and an aging Adam Thielen, they could lock down the receiver duo of the future.
On the other side, they could take Miami’s edge rusher Gregory Rousseau and pair him with Danielle Hunter to get another great defensive end tandem. Or perhaps snag Florida State’s Marvin Wilson to shore up the interior defensive line.
Of course, all those guys are great on paper, but are they worth throwing an entire season for? The short answer is no. Of the players I’ve listed, Lawrence is the only one that I would ever consider trying to lose many games to get.
However, if the Vikings start the season on a slide, say they lose four of their first five, I think you evaluate, from the front office, what this season means. You don’t telegraph it to the coaching staff or players, but you seriously consider your chances to snag a playoff spot in a stacked NFC, and specifically an NFC North that should be pretty good.
If you hit week eight sitting at one and six or two and five, you might sit down with your head coach and tell him that it’s more important to get your young players involved. That’s code for “try not to win too much.”
Only in the last few weeks of the season do you even consider making serious plays on the field to lose the game. Even then, it would need to be subtle. An overthrow here, a dropped pass there.
This is assuming that this is how it works in the NFL, but I don’t think it does. Sure, maybe a few times in league history a team has said “we’re not gonna try because it’s week 17 and we have nothing to gain and could lose position if we won.” It’s uncommon though. Mostly because of the competitors on the field. Could you imagine trying to tell prime Adrian Peterson to not run hard every time he got the ball? He would probably crush your hand with his vice-like handshake.