The crushing loss to the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC Championship Game exposed a few holes in the Minnesota Vikings top-rated defense. First, inadequate depth on the defensive line as Danielle Hunter and Everson Griffen has a dip in pass rush at the end of the season. Second, and the most important, lack of pressure on the quarterback coming up the middle.
3-Technique Free Agents
There are not many 3-techniques on the market to choose from. But there are two that the Vikings should have interest in.
Richardson was one of the top three defensive tackles in the NFL his first three seasons. The last two, however, were not as impressive. He also comes with some off-the-field baggage, having multiple contacts with police. Even so, Richardson still has the ability to be a force in the middle of the line. The question for the Vikings would be if the off-field problems and salary (potentially $10 million) are worth it. If Richardson stays out of trouble and returns to form, he could be an excellent signing.
Irving is a restricted free agent with tha Cowboys. He played his first three seasons there after being selected 13th overall in 2015. Irving notched seven sacks in eight games in 2017 after missing eight games to suspension and a concussion. It is likely that the Cowboys would want Irving back but they have not offered in a first round tender yet. The first round tender would be around $4.3 million. In Minnesota, Irving would provide some much needed quickness and pass rush from the defensive tackle position. He could also come at a discount relative to Richardson.
The 2018 NFL Draft has several interesting prospects for teams looking for a 3-technique tackle. There are two that will be of interest to the Vikings with their first round pick.
Taven Bryan, Florida
Bryan, at 6-foot-4, 291 pounds is one of the more athletic tackles in the the draft. He posted the fastest 40 time (4.98) of the defensive tackle class, along with the best three-cone and broad jump. Most notably, Bryan shows impressive timing and explosion off the line and a good motor.
Bryan lacks consistency, but this may be partially due to being a relative new comer to fundamentals. He admitted that in high school there was very little technique being taught at his school. As a result, the learning curve was quite a bit higher for him than most top recruits going into college. While this is a downside, it also shows that, with better coaching, he could reach a much higher ceiling
Maurice Hurst, Michigan
Hurst comes in at 6-foot-2, 282 and, like Bryan, a good athlete for the position. Unfortunately, he did not perform at the combine due to a heart condition diagnosis. It is not clear at this time what the issue is or how serious it might be. But he was cleared to play by doctors while at Michigan. Time will tell what this does for his stock; heading into the combine, he was viewed as a late first round prospect.
Hurst looks further along technique-wise than Bryan and has a better first step. The knock on Hurst is he is not stout against the run and is small for the position.
Later Round Prospects
In the second and third rounds, there are several tackles that fit the Vikings’ needs.
Harrison Philips: Lunchpail kind of player said to be the kind of guy NFL teams want but lacks athleticism to thrive. Well, he showed up at the combine and put up better-than-expected numbers. Philips produced in college with 14.5 sacks and 144 tackles in his final two seasons with Stanford. He could go as high as end of the first but is likely a second rounder.
R.J. McIntosh: Another athlete like Bryan and Hurst but lacks strength and is easily bullied in the run. McIntosh is leaving Miami after his junior season so he has potential to get stronger and more technically sound. But there is no denying the quickness and athletic ability. He will probably be available in the third round.
Derick Nnadi: Nnadi will be a bit of a project but may be worth it. He reminds of another Vikings project, John Randle. Randle was a small, fireplug sort of defensive tackle. Nnadi may be able to develop into that style of player. He is stout and hard to move off the line and most of the time, pushes his blocker back. He has good quickness and instincts. The part that makes him a project is working on his pass rush skills. Nnadi could also gain some quickness going down to 290 pounds. He is likely a third to fourth round prospect.