The super bowl is over and the off-season is in full swing. For the Vikings it’s gonna be a very long one. They are looking at parting ways with a lot of good players, to replace those players and stay relevant Minnesota is gonna need a good draft. Three of our writers try their hand at a pre-combine four round mock draft. Keep in mind the Vikings possess two fourth round picks this year, and have several holes to fill.
Round 1, pick 25
LT Josh Jones, Houston
Player comparison: Tyron Smith
The Vikings are suddenly adding offensive linemen early in the draft, selecting right tackle Brian O’Neill and center Garrett Bradbury within the first two rounds of the last two drafts. With the line improving as a unit and O’Neill playing better than expected, there’s no reason to think they’ll buck that trend.
Jones (6-5, 311) was a four-year starter for the Cougars at left tackle. He has adequate size and length for an NFL tackle, and his athletic ability makes him a natural fit for a zone blocking scheme. Jones takes pride in his pass-blocking, and it shows. During a three-year stretch in college, he allowed 18 pressures in 1,282 pass-blocking snaps.
If it works out financially, the team could keep Riley Reiff and redshirt the young lineman, but Jones could potentially start on day one if Reiff is cut or moved to guard.
Reiff has done a pretty decent job as a bookend, but in order for the Vikings to get over the hump, they need a true left tackle. Bolstering the protection on Cousins’ blindside could go a long way in making him feel more comfortable in the pocket, allowing the offense to further take advantage of the quarterback’s accuracy.
Jones’ recent performance during the Senior Bowl seems to have pushed his draft stock well into first-round territory.
Round 2, pick 58
OG, Jonah Jackson, Ohio State
Player comparison: Corey Linsley
I know, I know… Another interior offensive lineman from Ohio State. But hear me out, this prospect has been one of the nation’s best pass-blockers over the last two years.
Jackson (6-4, 305) is capable of playing all three interior line positions. He fits the Vikings’ zone blocking scheme. A transfer from Rutgers where he started 11-of-12 games at right guard in 2018, Jackson started every game at LG last season for the Buckeyes. He did well.
According to Arif Hasan of the Athletic, he gave up one sack over his last 1,000 pass-blocking snaps and in the last two years, he’s given up 17 pressures. Yet, Jackson may be even better at run-blocking.
He an athletic, powerful prospect who was part of an Ohio State team that scored 39 touchdowns on the ground in 2019. The Buckeyes were fifth in the nation with 266.8 rushing yards per game and running back J.K. Dobbins ran for over 2,000 yards.
As a person, I don’t know Jackson. But it’s safe to see he didn’t burn many bridges when he transferred. That has to count for something.
A strong performance at the senior bowl has his draft stock soaring. The NFL Combine, which begins on February 23rd, will provide some clarity on when Jackson will be selected. Lets hope for the Vikings sake he’s still around late in round two.
Round 3, pick 89
QB Jalen Hurts, Oklahoma
Player comparison: Tyrod Taylor
Hurts (6-2, 220) is a polarizing prospect. People seem to either love him or hate him. When it comes to being different than current starter Kirk Cousins, Hurts certainly fits the bill. He’s a dual-threat, mobile quarterback who’s capable of extending plays and excelling in off-script play creation.
Aided by the Sooners’ spread offense, Hurts had the highest completion percentage (69.7%) of all Big 12 quarterbacks in 2019. But he’s not known for his passing accuracy. He’s known for making plays with his feet. In the NFL he’ll make his money by extending plays and making plays outside of the pocket. And as long as he hangs onto the ball – Hurts fumbled eight times last season – he’s a threat to scramble for a touchdown at any time.
Hurts was responsible for 53 touchdowns in 2019 – 32 through the air, 20 on the ground and one TD reception. That’s one less total touchdown than his predecessor Kyler Murray had at Oklahoma in 2018. But what separates Hurts from better passers, on top of accuracy, is his lack of consistent downfield passing.
According to Pro Football Focus, despite an average depth of target of 11.5 yards downfield, Hurts made only 19 big-time throws this past season on 388 attempts. That figure ranked 39th among FBS quarterbacks in 2019 and paled in comparison to what Murray (29) and Baker Mayfield (35) did in the same Oklahoma offense the past two years.
So while there is plenty of room to improve, Hurts has already made significant strides as a passer since transferring to Oklahoma. After getting benched by Nick Saban in favor of Tua Tagovailoa in the 2018 NCAA national championship – a demotion which Hurts handled with class – his willingness to learn is paying dividends.
Hurts is a coach’s son. His father was his coach throughout his high school career. He’s mature for his age. Former teammates have described him as a great leader – a value all teams welcome in their quarterback.
So the question now becomes, would Hurts be a fit in Gary Kubiak’s offense?
Hurts has a lot of work to do to become a better passer. He has trouble making the most basic of throws sometimes. So in that regard, no, he’s not a fit at all. But, if the Vikings are thinking of adding a player whose skillset mirrors someone like Taysom Hill, Hurts might be the better and cheaper option.
While he needs continued development as a passer, Hurts would make the Vikings’ offense much more difficult to defend. As seen during multiple games during the 2019 season, opposing defenses were able to shut down the run and bombard Minnesota’s undersized offensive line, bringing so much pressure that it made life hell for an immobile quarterback. Hurts’ threat as a runner would make that task much more difficult. It would also give the Vikings another weapon in the red zone.
Historically, Kubiak has drafted pocket-passer quarterbacks. Going a different route at this point would seem unlikely, but seeing as Hurts could play a unique role right away, his potential should be intriguing enough for the Vikings to consider drafting and developing him into a gadget player or possibly even their future starter.
Round 4, pick 122
WR, Van Jefferson, Florida
Player comparison: Juju Smith-Schuster
Jefferson (6-1, 197) is a transfer from Ole Miss. After arriving in Florida he immediately became the Gators’ leading receiver. He caught 49 passes for 657 yards with six touchdowns in 2019. In 45 collegiate games, Jefferson recorded 175 catches for 2,159 yards and 16 touchdowns.
His quarterbacks were not elite, yet Jefferson was still able to put together quite the college highlight reel. Many big plays were created by his polished route-running. The 23 year-old is explosive out of his breaks and often shows off his good hands. He also brings added value as a gunner on special teams.
Jefferson had an excellent week at the Senior Bowl. Austin Gayle of PFF said Jefferson “showed off some impressive route-running ability all week. He was explosive and showed off quick feet with his releases at the line of scrimmage, and he had a handful of impressive moves at the route stem that helped create separation at the top of his route.”
Round 4, pick 133 (projected compensatory pick)
S, Jalen Elliott, Notre Dame
Player comparison: Andrew Sendejo
Elliott (6-0, 205) had a strong showing at the Senior Bowl. Austin Gayle of PFF said Elliott “was spectacular in the one-on-one drills against tight ends in Mobile. He’s an aggressive player with above average quickness in and out of his breaks. The tight ends in attendance really struggled to create separation against Elliott all week.”
A three-year starter for the Irish, Elliott had six interceptions, 11 passes defended and 172 tackles in 44 career games.
Elliott has the potential to play both free safety as well as slot cornerback. He’s a big-hitter that’s not afraid to throw around his body, but you’d like to see him become more fundamental with his tackling (wrap up and not hit high) as well as add functional strength. His burst and awareness stand out on tape, making him an effective defender against the pass.
The Vikings, who have an extensive history of drafting players from Notre Dame, met with the Irish defensive back during the week of the Senior Bowl.
Pre-Snap Read (@psrVikings)
My Philosophy For This Mock Draft: To go all in for Kirk’s final year under contract by improving both lines, adding weapons, and addressing the secondary.
Round One: Mekhi Becton, OT, Louisville
Pro Comp: Orlando Brown
Prospect Overview: Becton is an athletic specimen standing at 6 foot 7 inches and on the northern end of 350 pounds. His athleticism should not be as good as it is for someone of his size. Becton is immovable in pass pro and exceptionally mobile in Louisville zone blocking scheme, similar to OC Gary Kubiak’s system in Minnesota. His technique is also fairly good with the only drawback being his inconsistency at using his superbly powerful hands in both facets of the game. I will be doing a full scouting report later on this week taking a deep look at Becton’s best game (vs Syracuse), worst game (vs Boston College), and his matchup against Notre Dame’s edge rushing tandem Julian Okwara and Khalid Kareem.
Why It Makes Sense: With the likely release of underwhelming Riley Rieff to aid the cap strapped Vikings, the starting tackle spot opposite Brian O’Neil should be open. Becton will be a solid contributor from Day 1, having size and already good technique would help him in pass pro from the jump. Along with the familiarity with the zone blocking scheme at Louisville and great physical attributes, like mobility and strength, would make him one of the best run blockers on the O-line from the moment he suits up in purple.
Round Two: Justin Madubuike, IDL, Texas A&M
Pro Comp: Fletcher Cox
Prospect Overview: While reaching out to trusted, knowledgeable draft experts-and later doing some research on my own- a name that I heard often was Justin Madubuike. My friend Ryan Roberts (He is a must-follow for draft and scouting coverage on Twitter @RiseNDraft) actually did a full piece on Madubuike to which after reading I promptly put him on my radar. Quoting Ryan’s article, which you can find here, “I was expecting to see an elite athlete for the position, and I was not disappointed. The kid can scoot! The power he was able to generate, however, took me off guard. He is able to shoot his hands, establish inside leverage, and press offensive line man with ease with his raw power.” A converted Defensive End, Madubuike is already blessed with the athleticism of a DE, while being an ideal mixture of speed and power. He played a three technique D-tackle in TAMU’s 4-3, which would be his role for Zimmer’s defense in Minnesota.
Why It Makes Sense: Starting defensive tackles, Linval Joseph and Shamar Stephen are not getting any younger and, contractually, not getting any cheaper. The Vikings could turn to younger players like Jayln Holmes, Armon Watts, Jaleel Johnson, and Hercules Mata’afa. However, none clearly emerged as candidates to take over the starting spots, but they did flash their potential sporadically. Adding Madubuike into the mix would help reload and retool the perennially great Vikings defensive line, while also shoring up the defense of the ground game.
Round Three: Darnay Holmes, CB, UCLA
Pro Comp: Jaire Alexander
Prospect Overview: Holmes is gifted athletically, possessing physical tools that rival the top corners in this class. At UCLA, Holmes specialized in off man coverage, which the Vikings use fairly consistently. He is pretty raw as a prospect, with major potential with some ironing out of his technique. In Mike Zimmer’s defense the corner is asked to contribute in defending the ground game, something which Holmes has struggled at but also a relatively easy fix. Everything about him athletically is elite, from his footwork to his speed and acceleration. Ideally new defensive backs coach, Daronte Jones, is able to turn Holmes’ potential into talent and make him a top tier corner in Minnesota.
Why It Makes Sense: With Trae Waynes, Mackenzie Alexander, Xaiver Rhodes, Marcus Sherels, Andrew Sendejo, and Jayron Kearse all expected to hit the market this year, the Vikings need a youthful infusion into their secondary. Darnay Holmes is a corner who excels at what the Vikings utilize the most, and paired with a coach with a solid track record at developing players he can clean up his technique. Additionally, Holmes is a playmaker, something the Vikings have not seen at corner since Rhodes’ prime. I would not be upset at all if the Vikings trot out Mike Hughes, Holton Hill, and Darnay Holmes on defense in Week 1.
Round Four: Denzel Mims, WR, Baylor
Pro Comp: Kenny Golladay
Prospect Overview: A dynamic wide out at Baylor, showcasing his skills at the Senior Bowl last weekend. He displayed great route running, improved technique, and proved his excellent ball skills. A former track and field athlete, Mims has well above average athleticism.
Why It Makes Sense: It is no secret that Stefon Diggs’ status is heavily debated and unknown. While I hope he stays and is still content, you must prepare for the unexpected. Additionally, Adam Thielen battled injuries throughout the back half of the season and is nearing 30 years old. With no clear cut WR3, the Vikings could look to shore up the position and sign an interior offensive linemen to replace Pat Elfein, a potential release, at left guard.
Round Four: Damien Lewis, IOL, LSU
Pro Comp: Mike Iupati
Prospect Overview: Playing at LSU and in the SEC, Lewis has matched up against top prospects for his entire career. Lewis showed out at the Senior Bowl, displaying great strength, power, and technique. While he may not be the best scheme fit of the interior offensive lineman available, he is the most capable day one starter and he has the highest ceiling compared to other unselected interior offensive lineman.
Why It Makes Sense: Josh Kline was definitely serviceable last season, however, he is commanding a hefty salary for a guard in their upper thirties. On the other side, Pat Elfein was a constant liability especially in pass protection. While it is unlikely the Vikings release Elfein, even though they should, Lewis can provide competition in camp from the jump and even steal the starting spot. A offensive line with Becton, Lewis, an improved Bradbury, Kline, and O’Neil, would be the best unit the Vikings have had in ages.
Round 1 Pick 25: IDL Neville Gallimore, Oklahoma
Player comp: Eddie Goldman, CHI
With the 25th pick I expect the Vikings to go with the best player available at a position of need, unless someone unexpectedly slides. Gallimore can play both one and three tech which allows for much needed flexibility on the defensive line. He projects as. three down nose tackle with sufficient pass rushing skills. If the Vikings part ways with Linval Joseph, Gallimore can step in and start day one.
Round 2 pick 58: OT Prince Tega Wanogho, Auburn
Player comp: Brian O’Neill, MINN
Wanogho reminds us a lot of Brian O’Neill, and that bodes will for Minnesota. He’s much more technically refined than the other tackle we considered In Isaiah Wilson. He will need to add strength to create an effective anchor, but having the quickness to deal with speed rushers in the NFL gives him an an early edge.
Round 3 pick 89: OG Solomon Kindley, Georgia
Player comp: Kelechi Osemele, NFL
Kindley is an absolute mauler on the inside, and has enough quickness to fit Kubiak’s Zone scheme. He is projected as a late day two pick, but if he’s 40 time come back higher than expected the Vikings may have to reach for him on the second round. He would be a welcomed member of a unit that looks to add some strength on the inside.
Round 4 pick 122: CB Myles Bryant, University of Washington
Player comp: Donte Jackson, CAR
Myles doesn’t have Jackson’s length but their explosiveness is one in the same. He’s extremely fluid in his movement and will be dynamic in zone coverages. His size disadvantage will likely limit him to slot duties only, and his lack of man coverage skills will scare teams off. Here’s where the Vikings step in to clean up his press coverages and shadowing. Combining this with his elite athleticism will make for an interesting prospect to replace Mack Alexander.
Round 4 pick 133(Projected): WR Tyler Johnson, Minnesota
Player comp: Tyrell Willams, OAK
A Fan favorite among Minnesota sports fan, Johnson would fit the role of WR3 for the Vikings perfectly. He possesses the ability to play outside and in the slot, and has the physicality to beat smaller defenders to the catch point. A Savvy technician of the position that could Benefit greatly under the tutelage of Diggs and Thielen. He is currently rising very fast on many big boards So it’s hard to say if he will really be available at this pick.