The Vikings finished last season with a winning record but under-performed with the talent on their roster. Kirk Cousins was supposed to be the missing piece to a team that was hot in 2017. Instead, the offense was stuck in the mud with poor offensive line play and the deep defense wasn’t good enough to carry them the rest of the way.
Team Needs Going Into the Draft
This team has a pretty talented roster, but it’s pretty clear that the big thing that was holding them back last year was offensive line play. Mike Zimmer wanted to be a running team and the problem was exacerbated because of the poor offensive line. Zimmer fired a good coordinator in John DeFilippo because of the lack of focus on running, but DeFillippo was likely trying to mask the oline problems. It’s clear the Vikings want to upgrade the line and really run the ball this year.
- Tackle starters are just ok, center could be upgraded, but both guard spots were awful last year. They got rid of their guards from last year and this needs to be addressed badly. They could draft a new tackle or center and move existing ones to guard, or just draft guards.
- They lost Sheldon Richardson to the Browns and Tom Johnson is unsigned, so defensive tackle could be upgraded.
- Latavius Murray signed with the Saints and Dalvin Cook has had health issues, so running back is a target too. Again, they want to run the ball.
- Kyle Rudolph is in the last year of this contract, he appears to be on the downward trend, and they have little depth behind him, so a tight end of the future makes sense too.
- George Iloka left and they could use an upgrade next to Harrison Smith.
- They have little wide receiver depth behind Diggs and Thielen. Both of these big name receivers have recent expensive contracts, and they are looking for inexpensive rookie contracts to provide depth at the position.
Pick 1: C/G Garrett Bradbury (Round 1 – #18 overall)
Bradbury was considered the best outside zone blocking interior lineman in this draft, and that’s what the Vikings are going to do this year. This is a prime example of getting a great player at a position of need. To make it even better, he can play center or guard and gives them flexibility to find the best fit in camp.
Pick 2: TE Irv Smith Jr. (Round 2 – #50 overall)
Another example of a good player at a position of need. They have their heir apparent to Rudolph, and he can likely help right away.
Pick 3: RB Alexander Mattison (Round 3 – #102 overall)
I know that many people view Mattison as a reach, and I did too… at first. I didn’t rank a slow running back very high on my list. This player represents a difference that fans don’t always see: how players actually fit specific teams and the corresponding result on their rank on their draft board. In this case, the Vikings want to be a smash mouth running team, and they couldn’t have gotten a better fit. This guy is a wrecking ball, and he will stand up to the rigors of high carries.
He can absolutely be their lead back. If Cook isn’t healthy, they will give this guy all of the carries and it he will do exactly what Zimmer wants: pound the rock. He has good feet, power in short situations, and even likes to hurdle people. For more information on this guy, check out this thread: https://twitter.com/PFF_AustinGayle/status/1104144723755847680. It talks about his high GPA/intelligence, being a wrestler and track guy, and how amazing his 10 split is. Oh, and some highlights of what he does with the ball. Even though Mattison isn’t a good fit for most teams, this is a sneaky good pick for the Vikings.
Pick 4: G Dru Samia (Round 4 – #114 overall)
Back to offensive line. This time they traded up because he is such a great match for what they are looking for. He has that nasty element that Zimmer wants and they really needed guards. They wanted him through the whole draft process and they got him. I expect he will be their starting right guard of the future. This is perfect value in the 4th.
Pick 5: LB Cameron Smith (Round 5 – #162 overall)
A non flashy middle linebacker in the mold of Blake Martinez or Joe Schobert. More of a tackling machine that acts as a glue value. Solid but not flashy pick.
Pick 6: DT Armon Watts (Round 6 – #190 overall)
They needed depth at defensive tackle, and they got great value again. He has the physical characteristics, but needs development. With that development, he can be a solid rotation guy and perhaps even a starter. Great value in the 6th round.
Pick 7: S Marcus Epps (Round 6 – #191 overall)
More needs being met on day 3. He wasn’t at the combine but had a good pro day. A depth guy at a position of need picked late in the draft. Makes sense.
Pick 8: T Oli Udoh (Round 6 – #193 overall)
Back to the offensive line again. In this case you are getting a bit of a project with great size. He was on my late round list of guys to take chance on. He can be good in both the running game and passing game. Good value at the end of the draft.
Pick 9: CB Kris Boyd (Round 7 – #217 overall)
Decent height and good speed guy that is more of a tackler than a coverage guy. More depth late in the draft.
Pick 10: WR Dillon Mitchell (Round 7 – #239 overall)
6’1” guy that ran a 4.46 40 and set team records at Oregon. He had 10 plays over 30 yards last year too. This is exactly the type of value they are looking for behind the 2 starting receivers.
Pick 11: WR Olabisi Johnson (Round 7 – #247 overall)
He had the 5th best 3-cone at the combine and runs a 4.51 40 with a 38” vert. Another productive receiver in college.
Pick 12: LS Austin Cutting (Round 7 – #250 overall)
Getting your long snapper at #250 is a good move when you’ve already addressed all of your other team needs.
Undrafted Free Agents
As well as they did at finding good players in the draft, I don’t think they did much with their free agents. Perhaps the free agents saw better fits with other teams because the Vikings roster is pretty deep.
The Vikings may be one of the best examples this year of how to match players to a team’s style and needs. They also had lots of selections… and I’m a big fan of “taking more swings at the plate.” Offense was the biggest problem and the first 4 picks will help fix that. They addressed all of their team needs, and they hit the most important one 3 times. Very, very solid.
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