By Jason Wisniewski
The 2019 NFL Draft is in the books and the Minnesota Vikings were able to come away with 12 draft picks. Let’s review the picks and analyze what type of roles we may be able to expect from each player.
Bradbury was arguably the best interior O-lineman in this draft and was hands down the best fit of any O-lineman for the Vikings new zone run blocking scheme. This pick has Gary Kubiak’s fingerprints all over it and Bradbury showed in college that he was able to dominate the top competition. If you look at this film above of him against Clemson’s Dexter Lawrence (a 340 lbs NT) and Christian Wilkins (lightning quick 3 tech) both of whom were also picked in the 1st rd you will see how Bradbury dominated them both. He used effective angle blocks against them both and actually flat out pancakes Christian Wilkins. Everyone raves about Bradbury’s athleticism and they should but this film also displays how strong Bradbury is. His 34 bench reps at the combine that led all interior O-lineman were no anomaly. Bradbury is the total package. He is likely the day 1 starter at Center where he played the last 2 years in college at an elite level. This will move Pat Elflein into a competition with Brett Jones & Dru Samia for the starting spot at LG. Bradbury instantly & massively upgrades the Vikings O-line in both pass protection and run blocking. Kirk Cousins & Dalvin Cook will be pleased!
Smith JR was an outstanding pick for this offense and also tells a lot about what Gary Kubiak & Kevin Stefanski are envisioning for the 2019 Vikings offense. Smith JR’s game is a lot like Jordan Reed’s of the Redskins whom Cousins had a ton of success with in his Washington days. The difference is Smith JR is a better blocker so he is likely a better all around player than Reed. Smith JR ran in the 4.6’s at the combine so he’s easily the fastest TE on the Vikings roster and what he does in the passing game is create a lot of yards after catch which is something the Vikings did not get from their other Tight Ends on the roster. Both Kubiak & Stefanski use TE’s a lot and I would expect to see a ton more 2 TE sets and even 3 TE sets with some having one of the TE’s (likely Smith JR) lined up as a FB which can lead to a lot of offensive disguises that are hard to defend (see Rams vs Vikings last year). The Kubiak offense is derived from Mike Shanahan’s offense so the Vikings & Rams offenses will have some similarities in play design which bodes well for Smith JR and the Vikings. I expect the Vikings will feature Rudolph & Smith JR as the top 2 primary TEs with Morgan sprinkled in here and there. Smith JR is likely TE 2 as a rookie but it will feel like he is starting because he will likely get a lot of playing time.
Mattison was selected with the Vikings 3rd rd pick and his role appears to be very clear. He was drafted as Latavius Murray’s replacement. He will be the Vikings “big back” in short yardage & goal line packages and will also be called upon to spell Dalvin Cook as a change of pack runner. Mattison rarely ever goes down on first contact as he breaks a ton of tackles and is a very physical RB. He also excels at catching passes out of the backfield and can line up in the slot. His pass pro is average and its an area he will need to work on but he has the physical strength profile to do it effectively his technique should get get fixed easily as he is a very smart player who will take instruction well (4.8 GPA in college). I expect he will be RB 2 for the Vikings and will be very productive as a rookie in this role.
The Vikings went back to the OL well in Rd 4 and selected Samia. He was a starting Guard in college on one of the best O-lines in college football and did a nice job at Oklahoma. Samia is another interior O-lineman who is tailor made for the zone scheme with his plus athleticism and ability to get to the 2nd level. He’s got some technique issues he needs to clean up but if the Vikings needed him to start he could likely do so at a pretty decent level as a rookie. He will likely battle it out with Pat Elflein & Brett Jones for the starting LG spot. If Elflein is healthy and returns to 2017 form Samia will likely be a backup but Elflein falters in camp Samia has a real chance to claim the job early on. Either way the Vikings will have a solid starter and solid depth at the position which is a massive improvement from a year ago.
Smith figures to be in the mix for the backup MLB spot as well as backing up the OLB spots as a rookie. He is likely a replacement for Kentrell Brothers who’s contract will expire after the 2019 season. Smith is more athletic than Brothers and his 40 time and vertical jump show that. He’s a hard nosed intelligent no nonsense type of player who is usually in the right spot on the field when he plays. He should excel on special teams and provide solid depth as a rookie at all 3 LB spots. He’s also got a chance to push Ben Gedeon & Eric Wilson for playing time at the 3rd LB spot should he really impress in camp & preseason.
Watts is a lot like Shemar Stephen in that he is a 3 tech who is very good at stopping the run. He also has some power rush ability & athleticism to his game as well with nice size at 6’5 that helps him bat down passes at the line and will at least fight for a roster spot in camp although it is my guess is that he will be on the practice squad as a rookie as he develops his game further as there are already some young promising DT’s on the Vikings roster (Jaleel Johnson & Jalyn Holmes…who bulked up to 300 lbs this off-season) that have an experience advantage over him. It will likely depend on how many D-lineman the Vikigns decide to keep on the 53 man roster. If they keep 10 he’s got a shot to make it. If they keep 9 he’s likely a practice squad guy as a rookie. Very nice upside for Watts.
Epps is an very speedy & athletic Safety who has a chance to challenge Derron Smith for the #4 Safety spot and work his way onto the 53 man roster as a rookie. If he cannot do that he will likely find himself on the practice squad unless the Vikings decide to keep 5 safeties on the roster. The good news for Epps is that the Vikings have had a ton of success with later Rd picks and UDFA’s at Safety in the past which bodes well for his future & development. The Vikings current starting SS and 3rd Safety (Harris & Kearse) were an UDFA & a Rd 7 pick respectively. If Epps makes the roster I expect he will see time on special teams.
Udoh is a massive RT who showcased athleticism in pass pro and pure power in the run game to move people in college. The issue is it was against mostly very inferior competition so the jump in competition is going to be a big one and Udoh might have to spend time on the practice squad for a year or 2 to develop his game before he cracks the roster. His traits warrant the investment though and it should be interesting to see how he develops over the next couple of years.
The Vikings may have gotten themselves another 7th rd steal in Boyd who was projected by some to be a 4th rd pick. He ran in the 4.4’s for his 40 yard dash and has the length and strength the Vikings like in their outside CBs. He’s also aggressive in run support which Mike Zimmer loves. He was also college teammates with Holton Hill at Texas. Boyd’s coverage technique needs work as right now he’s too inconsistent so he can come in as the #6 CB as a rookie as there is no rush to play him with the Vikings current CB depth & starters ahead of him. In a year or 2 though Boyd could see a much bigger role should he develop and play to his potential. For now he’ll likely get some special teams reps as a backup.
Mitchell is a speedy WR from Oregon that was a productive college WR who also returned Kicks & Punts so he has value there and should compete for a role as a return specialist as a rookie. As a WR his route running needs work and his hands are inconsistent so he’s going to need to clean some things up in those areas if he is to make the team. At best he is WR 4-6 and a return man. At worst he’s a practice squad candidate. Camp will tell all. If he plays up to his potential he might be able to fill the Aldrick Robinson deep threat role. Mitchell played as mostly an outside WR but has traits to play in the slot too.
The Vikings “doubled dipped” on OL earlier in the draft and they once again “double dipped” on WRs with Return man ability in Rd 7. Johnson is not quite as fast as Mitchell (though not slow either at 4.51) but he is a better route runner and has more consistent hands than Mitchell. He also has experience returning punts and kicks. As of now Johnson will compete with Mitchell, Treadwell, Taylor, Beebe, Zylstra, Badet and a slew of UDFAs for the Vikings WR 3-6 spots. Johnson’s hands and route running ability should give him a good chance to make the roster. He projects and describes himself as a slot WR.
Cutting attended Air Force academy and still has 24 months of service remaining to the US Armed Forces. The Vikings are trying to work out an arrangement with the Air Force that will allow Cutting to split his schedule between the Vikings season and serving out the remainder of his Air Force obligation. If that works out Cutting will likely be stashed on the practice squad as a rookie with hopes to challenge for a starting spot once current Vikings LS Kevin McDermott’s contract expires after the 2019 season.
The 2019 draft class certainly bolstered the Vikings offense landing them 3 players that will for sure see time as starters (Bradbury) and key role players who will see a ton of playing time in Smith JR, Mattison. They also added a 4th player (Samia) that has a chance to challenge for a starting spot and will at least provide solid depth if he does not land the starting job. The rest of the draft was mainly defensive depth (Smith LB, Boyd, Epps), a few projects (Watts, Udoh, Cutting) and a couple of special teams guys (Mitchell, Johnson). That’s a pretty nice haul which addressed team needs and also stocked the shelves for the future. Overall I will give this draft class a B+ in my way too early evaluation.
What do you think of the Vikings 2019 Draft class? Let me know in the comments section and if you’d like to see more of my content please follow Vikings Spin on Twitter, Facebook & YouTube as well as right here on Purple PTSD!