I really like the Minnesota Vikings 2019 NFL Draft class so taking exception with anything is a great challenge. With the interior offensive line representing its most glaring need, Minnesota snagged my top center in the class in Garrett Bradbury at No. 18 overall and the fit could not be more perfect projecting him to a zone blocking scheme. His arrival allows Pat Elflein to slide over to guard and it improves the offensive line in two spots. Doubling down on interior offensive lineman and grabbing Dru Samia at No. 114 was tremendous value. Samia was my No. 6 overall interior offensive linemen in the class and my No. 3 guard. He has a chance to contribute early on and provide Minnesota with a starter that was selected on Day Three.
Tight end was a sneaky need for the Vikings offense and Irv Smith profiles as a quality starter and great value at No. 50. I love how Alexander Mattison can step in and complement Dalvin Cook at running back. Minnesota’s Day Three picks are littered with high ceiling prospects.
Let’s examine general manager Rick Spielman’s 2019 haul in totality:
Round 1, Pick 18: Garrett Bradbury, C, NC State
Round 2, PIck 50: Irv Smith Jr., TE, Minnesota
Round 3, Pick 102: Alexander Mattison, RB, Boise State
Round 4, Pick 114: Dru Samia, G, Oklahoma
Round 5, Pick 162: Cameron Smith, LB, USC
Round 6, Pick 190: Armon Watts, DT, Arkansas
Round 6, Pick 191: Marcus Epps, S, Wyoming
Round 6, Pick 193: Olisaemeka Udoh, T, Elon
Round 7, Pick 217: Kris Boyd, CB, Texas
Round 7, Pick 239: Dillon Mitchell, WR, Oregon
Round 7, Pick 247: Olabisi Johnson, WR, Colorado St.
Round 7, Pick 250: Austin Cutting, LS, Air Force
Enough with the praise, it’s time to find something to gripe about and I have no other choice but to get nitpicky…
MY VIKINGS DRAFT MULLIGAN: LB CAMERON SMITH FOR WEST VIRGINIA LB DAVID LONG
You know I like the class when the one thing I would change if given the opportunity is by choosing a different linebacker in the fifth round.
In terms of processing skills, physicality and tackling consistency, Smith is a really solid prospect. And while those are great traits to possess, I have two major questions with Smith.
Unfortunately, the primary concern with Smith are his medicals. A torn ACL in 2015 required platelet-rich plasma and hyaluronic acid injections in the same knee in October of 2018. He also missed two games last season with a hamstring injury. While he did go on to start 35 games for USC on that knee post-injury, there is reason to be worried about it moving forward.
On the field, Smith has limitations in coverage. His mobility restrictions lead to struggles remaining connected in man coverage and he doesn’t show the natural route anticipation skills to thrive in zone drops. There is an apparent lack of instincts when it comes to his coverage drops. That, combined with modest range, suggests he’s a limited second-level defender. In today’s NFL where offenses challenge defenses with pace and space, more play speed and consistency in pass defense is preferred in linebackers.
While David Long doesn’t come without his own warts, I subscribe to his athletic profile and motor more favorably and how he can solidify the depth of Minnesota’s linebacking corps with a prospect that features a much higher ceiling. Long is among the more urgent defenders I studied for the 2019 class and he’s a superb blitzer. Day Three linebackers are likely to become special teamers and subpackage options so the superior athletic profile and blitzing skills of Long make him more desirable in my view than Smith.
Considering the upside of both prospects, I can envision Long’s hot motor, blitzing proficiency and play speed translating wonderfully to covering kicks/punts and making plays in space as a nickel/dime linebacker. For Smith, I see an early down base linebacker. There’s just more in Long’s toolbox.