If one was convinced before Wednesday afternoon that the Minnesota Vikings would assuredly select an offensive lineman in the 1st Round of the 2021 NFL Draft — it’s time to formally rethink that hypothesis.
Head coach Mike Zimmer met with media on Wednesday and offered excitement on the team’s defensive free-agent moves, issued a wait-and-see disclosure on the offensive-line final product, and dropped this morsel about Minnesota’s draft philosophy.
And that’s actually quite newsworthy.
Because the Vikings have made so few moves pertaining to the offensive line — in a free agency stuffed full of good guards — it seemed like the team was heading toward an offensive lineman pick in the 1st Round of April’s draft.
But Zimmer said not so fast on that mindset. He either knows that general manager Rick Spielman has additional plans to find 1-2 more offensive linemen via free agency — or Zimmer and Spielman are content with the current personnel. The latter theory is mystifying because the team would essentially field a lesser-good group of men in 2021 than 2020. Too, the 2020 offensive line was meager.
Zimmer could also be speaking mistruth as a mode of misdirection. It is rather obvious that the Vikings largest roster need at the moment is offensive line. Hell, Spielman let left tackle Riley Reiff walk away to Cincinnati with no proven team exit strategy for 2021.
Something’s gotta give. As a matter of common sense, it is impossible that Zimmer and Spielman would “run it back” with a fivesome of men that was demonstrably bad in 2020. If they did, job security would tighten immediately.
If the Vikings do ink an average-to-decent guard in the coming days — like Forrest Lamp or Trai Turner — then Spielman has a common-sense-based greenlight to choose the Best Player Available in a few weeks during the draft. But that’s a big if. The transaction has to materialize for the strategy to add up.
After that, the BPA names are supremely intriguing. Devonta Smith, a wide receiver from the University of Alabama, sometimes falls to the Vikings in mock drafts. Instantly, Minnesota’s WR corps would include Adam Thielen, Justin Jefferson, Devonta Smith, and Irv Smith Jr. That’s delicious.
A linebacker from Penn State, Micah Parsons, could slip down the board. Pro Football Focus says about Parsons:
“The Penn State linebacker earned the second-highest run-defense grade we’ve ever given to a true sophomore. What the 240-plus-pounder can do as a blitzer is going to be a weapon in the NFL.“
There’s also quarterback. Should Spielman envision life-after-Cousins, perhaps Minnesotan Trey Lance will fall all the way to the Vikings. PFF says of Lance:
“The tools are prodigious. Offensive coordinators must salivate watching him flick it 60-plus yards downfield one play then outrun a safety on the next. But with just one season in a run-heavy offense against FCS competition, Lance is still a massive project as a passer.“
Stranger things have happened, especially with the New York Giants picking three spots ahead of Minnesota. The Giants are usually good for one draft head-scratcher.
All in all, if you believe Zimmer — another big ask because team leaders often bend the truth as a matter of strategy — the Vikings have every intention of finding the best player available in the draft. Not necessarily an offensive lineman because the roster needs it.
Interestingly, offensive lineman Rashawn Slater from Northwestern, could aptly marry Roster Need and Best Player Available schools of thought.