As the Super Bowl grows closer and the Vikings’ unfortunately watch from home, fans and front office alike shift their eyes over to the draft. Sure, it is still months away. But that does not mean fans cannot get to know some of the potential future wearers of the purple and gold.
We ran a mock draft with the help of Fanspeak’s Mock Draft Simulator. Keep in mind, this draft was performed without potential trades, so the Vikings had just five picks in our mock. As trades and rumors unfold, our mocks will change along with them. We are hoping to release a new mock draft every two weeks or so, leading up to the April draft. Here are the results of the first.
Round 1 (30): DT Da’Ron Payne, Alabama
It may not be a pipe dream after all. Payne, Maurice Hurst and Taven Bryan were all available at this spot, against all odds. Any of those three would be a great addition to the Vikings’ line, but Payne got the nod. As we profiled yesterday, Payne has all the talent to be a top-15 pick. The only question mark about him is how his pass-rushing translates to the pro level. He excelled at Alabama, but primarily on athleticism. That will not work quite as well against NFL guards.
But imagine Payne, a dominant run-stopper, next to Linval Joseph, another dominant run-stopper. The Vikings would immediately be the best run defense in the NFL, a title they may now own anyway. If Payne can develop into a consistent pass-rushing tackle, the sky is the limit for him and the Vikings’ front.
Round 2 (62): C Frank Ragnow, Arkansas
The Vikings have their center of the future with Pat Elflein. However, they should be looking at every offensive line position to fill out the weaknesses next to Elflein. Nick Easton had a good 2017, but Joe Berger may retire this offseason. A mauler like Ragnow could fill the role Berger vacates. Ragnow is big (6-foot-5, 310) and finishes blocks with ferocity. He has good technique as a pass-blocker, sinking his hips well to counter his height. The issue with Ragnow is he is merely an average athlete, somewhat susceptible to quicker opponents. He also has spurts of clumsiness and ends up on the ground. But once engaged, the defenders struggle to break free of his block. Ragnow played center his senior year, but he also has a couple years of experience at right guard, the position he would likely play if the Vikings draft him.
Round 3 (94): QB Riley Ferguson, Memphis
Ideally, the Vikings would be able to wait for one of a handful of mid-round quarterbacks until round four. Unfortunately, at the moment they do not have a fourth round pick, and will likely have to use a third-rounder to get a quarterback with starter potential. In this particular mock, quarterbacks went like hotcakes. By the time the Vikings were on the clock in the third, the only quality names available were Ferguson and Kyle Lauletta. Between the two, Ferguson was the safer pick.
Ferguson has many of the physical tools to become a starter one day. He has good size (6-foot-4, 210), a strong arm and tremendous athletic ability. He is quick to scramble, but when he gets out of the pocket, his eyes stay downfield, rather than looking to tuck and run. At this point, he is very raw as he tends to have some gunslinger in him. He is accurate when he squares up and sets his feet. But too often, he trusts his arm strength over fundamentals. That can all be coached out of him, but it could take a few years. This is the issue with drafting quarterbacks this year: Fifth round talents are going to get selected in the third because of demand.
Round 5 (169): WR Jester Weah, Pittsburgh
Weah is the type of receiver that the Vikings were hoping Laquon Treadwell would turn into. He has size (6-foot-3, 210) and good straight line speed. He uses his size well to make plays in traffic, though his hands are only average at this point. Weah would absolutely be a pick on potential, as his production at Pitt was relatively limited. He caught 36 balls for 870 yards and 10 touchdowns in his junior year, but just 698 yards on 41 catches and four touchdowns this past year. Somewhat surprisingly, he lacks change of direction and starts routes slowly. But once he gets going, he can show off the track star speed. Weah would almost certainly be merely a vertical threat initially, at least until he shows the ability to run the route tree with consistency. But with dominant possession receivers like Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs on the roster, a pure downfield threat could spell trouble for opposing defenses.
Round 6 (207): G Skyler Phillips, Idaho State
We profiled Phillips a little over a week ago. He is a big, strong guard with good quickness and solid pass-blocking technique. Already about 330 pounds, he dominated lesser talent in the FCS. His size and strength translate well to the NFL. His primary issue is balance, as his tendency to fall led to him losing blocks a little too often. But he almost always gets the initial push, which creates space even on plays where he fails to sustain. His past as a tackle provided him with a good pass set, though his hands could use some work. At the very least, Phillips’ size and quickness make him a candidate to replace Jeremiah Sirles or Rashod Hill as the primary reserve lineman. Down the road, with some seasoning, Phillips could emerge as a starting guard.
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