Just 12 more hours and the meaningless prognostication can end. It has been months and months of projecting and evaluating and profiling and wheeling and dealing and pretending but finally, day one of the draft is here. And we are no closer to answers as to what the Vikings are going to do with their 30th pick.
Even after the opening bell, there will still be hours before the Vikings have to make a decision. A lot can happen between picks one and 29 that can completely alter Rick Spielman and Company’s strategy. With that in mind, here are a few things to keep a close eye on in the selections leading up to the Vikings going on the clock.
A Run of Offensive Linemen
This year’s draft has decent depth of potential starters at offensive line, but there appears to be nine names that are consistently valued on a higher level. In no particular order, they are Quenton Nelson, Connor Williams, Mike McGlinchey, Isaiah Wynn, Will Hernandez, Kolton Miller, James Daniels, Billy Price and Frank Ragnow. Any of those nine could realistically go before the day is over. The general consensus is that the Vikings will look to select one of these players with their first pick. But the question is whether they will be able to trade back and still grab one of their targets.
With such a dearth of tackle talent especially, it stands to reason that a lot of interior linemen go off the board higher than expected. Most years, guards end up falling below projection. But this year figures to be different with so many teams in need of line help. If the draft enters the 20s with guards going like hotcakes, the Vikings will face some trade limitations, at least if they plan on getting one of those listed above. There will likely still be teams interested in moving up to the second, but the Vikings desire to do so could wane if the linemen options diminish. A run of linemen could also prompt the Vikings to trade up, something that has not looked like an option until recently.
Price and Ragnow have long been potential early-to-mid second round targets for Minnesota. But just in the past week or so, Price has been given the all-clear from his pectoral injury and Ragnow has shot up boards. It is possible neither will be available even come pick 30. Then again, it is also possible trends continue, guards fall and we learn to not over-value interior line on draft day.
How Draft Trends Could Affect Strategy
There is a similar possibility with defensive backs. Granted, the Vikings certainly have a greater need at offensive line than secondary. But the question could come down to comparing position availability. For example, say the 30th pick comes and the Vikings have the pick between Will Hernandez and Mike Hughes. Behind Hernandez there are Price, Ragnow and Williams still available. Behind Hughes, the next best defensive back available is Isaiah Oliver and then a big drop-off, since Jaire Alexander, Josh Jackson and Justin Reid all went earlier. The demand for linemen may be higher, but so is the supply. Whereas the demand for secondary is also high but with fewer options.
The point is that a lot could depend on the trend of the draft. We will know a few hours in which positions are in the highest demand. Therefore, we can get a better idea of how the Vikings will respond. Or, of course, Spielman could operate purely on the numbers next to the names and the scarcity of players at certain positions is irrelevant.
How Many Quarterbacks?
This one has only an outside chance of affecting the Vikings’ decisions tonight. That being said, it is always one of the draft’s most compelling stories. By all accounts, five quarterback are locks to go in the first. This could play into the Vikings hands if Mason Rudolph starts getting some buzz as a late first rounder. Most have him as a second. But if someone is looking to jump the Patriots at pick 31 to get him, the Vikings could potentially have a trade partner.
Sam Smith’s Final Prediction for Vikings Pick
I have been in the camp of trading back and still grabbing one of Price or Ragnow. But in the last few days, I have come around on the possibility of fewer guards than expected going early. As such, I believe the Vikings will stay at 30 and lock up a guard spot for the foreseeable future.
Pick: Vikings draft G Will Hernandez, UTEP with 30th pick
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