The one offseason event that every fan looks forward to is the spring’s NFL Draft. Some fans, namely those whose teams are already eliminated from playoff contention, are looking at potential draft prospects wondering, wishing and hoping that a particular college talent will soon be wearing their team’s NFL colors in 2018.
As good as the Vikings have been this season, the draft is still on the radar of at least one Viking: general manager, Rick Spielman. His detailed building process over the past four offseasons is paying off in 2017 as the Vikings currently hold the top seed in the NFC at 10-2 with four weeks remaining.
With one of the deepest rosters in the league, the Vikings have little in the way of noticeable deficiencies at any one position. Still, there are always places on every roster where a team can get better, and not even the Vikings are an exception to that rule. With that in mind, Full Press Vikings writers Clayton Brooks and Sam Smith will take their first crack at deciphering who the Vikings could end up drafting in 2018.
Projected number of 2018 Free Agents: 20 (2 exclusive rights, 3 restricted, 15 unrestricted)
Projected Roster Weaknesses
Clayton: Defensive line (three-technique tackle), Offensive line (guard), cornerback
Looking at the Vikings’ upcoming free agents list, these are the spots I thought were most likely to need addressing between free agency and the draft. Even though two of the free agent offensive linemen (Jeremiah Siriles and Nick Easton) are restricted, this is still a unit in need of further enforcement. The Vikings could use another talented three-technique defensive tackle to put next to Linval Joseph, especially if Sharrif Floyd is unable to come back and the Vikings let both Tom Johnson and Shamar Stephen walk. Cornerback is a spot that could use some depth if they lose Terence Newman, Tramaine Brock and Marcus Sherels.
The odd part of the Vikings possible weaknesses is that these weaknesses are not such that they necessarily need to address them early in the draft process. If they can level out the depth with cheap free agent additions and keep a number of their own, they will be able to draft the best player available, regardless of position.
Sam: Wide receiver, guard, defensive tackle, nickel corner
Defensive tackle is the primary concern because the Vikings currently feature a three-man tackle rotation. Two of those, Tom Johnson and Stephen, are unrestriced free agents after this year. The coaching staff would probably like to feature Jaleel Johnson a little more in 2018 after his strong preseason, but his game time has been sparse this year. Tom Johnson has had a resurgence in 2017 and recouping that production will be vital. At 33, it is unclear whether or not they resign him. Stephen is a little more desirable since he is just 26 and has a full year as a starter under his belt. As for Floyd, his injury seems career-ending. I would not count on him going forward.
At receiver and corner, the Vikings are set at the top two. In fact, they are among the best in the league at those spots. But depth moving forward is a concern. They do not get much receiver production outside of Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs. The guy who is, theoretically, the three, Michael Floyd, is an unrestricted free agent. As for corner, Terence Newman is still playing well but he is 39. Tramaine Brock has been suspect in his limited time and when he has played, he has mostly played outside. With Mackensie Alexander locked in, a fourth corner has to be on their radar.
With the guards, I think they like Easton a lot and he will re-sign. If Sirles leaves, they have rookie Danny Isidora who is uber-athletic and played well in his one start this year. The issue for me at this position is 35-year-old Joe Berger, who is unrestricted. Despite his solid play this year, I have a hard time imagining the Vikings re-upping him at this age.
Top 3 First Round choices
Clayton: 1.) S Ronnie Harrison, Alabama. 2.) G Martez Ivey, Florida 3.) G Billy Price, Ohio State
After running three mock draft simulations, these were my choices for each of them. In all of them, none of the defensive tackles I was looking for were available. Ronnie Harrison would further strengthen what is already one of the top defensive backfields in the NFL. With the possible retirement of Berger, addressing the guard position early is a great possibility. Price played alongside Vikings center Pat Elflein when he was at Ohio State. Their familiarity could not only avoid a potential drop off from a Berger departure, but may further upgrade an already improved offensive line.
Sam: 1.) DT/DE Taven Bryan, Florida 2.) DT Vita Vea, Washington 3.) OT Chukwuma Okorafor, Western Michigan
The Vikings are in a position where they do not have to draft by need. They can just take the best player available. With that in mind, while Clayton is going realistic, I am going pie-in-the-sky. My picks are three players who could, but probably will not drop to the back of the first. But if they do, the Vikes have to grab them.
Bryan is a hybrid who pass-rushes from the three-technique but can also bump outside. The combo of Joseph as the run-stopper and Bryan the pass-rusher inside could be lethal. Vea’s chances of falling are less because he is massive and shockingly quick. For 340 pounds, he is a dangerous as they come with the bull rush. As for the offensive tackle, yes, I know the Vikings are largely set there. But a lot of great interior linemen are converted tackles: Zack Martin in Dallas and Brandon Scherff in Washington to name a few. Okorafor is an elite run-blocker and just a decent pass-blocker so the move to guard seems inevitable.
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– Clayton R. Brooks II writes for Full Press Coverage and covers the Minnesota Vikings. Like and follow @ClaytonRBrooks2. Like and follow @fpc_vikings on and Twitter and Full Press Vikings on Facebook.