No second-round pick, two third-round selections, and four fourth-round picks? The Minnesota Vikings are interesting to draft for.
Trading around notwithstanding, the Vikings have the capital necessary to infuse this roster with a ton of developmental youth, owning eight selections on a 90 pick stretch between Nos. 78 and 168. I went heavy on the defense there, as I don’t think head coach Mike Zimmer will stand for the poor defense his team put on the field in 2020 and will demand better play across the board.
Don’t worry, fans of points! I did spend five picks on offense as well. (Three on the offensive line. Let’s run the rock, baby.)
ROUND 1 (NO. 14 OVERALL): Alijah Vera-Tucker, IOL, USC
This may be a common pairing, but I’m not afraid of being hackneyed when the player is this good. The NFL views Alijah Vera-Tucker as a top-15 player; I personally view him as the same, and even as the OL2 in this class behind only Penei Sewell out of Oregon. For a Vikings team that needs at least two new starters on the offensive line, and could need a tackle and a guard conditional on how they view 2020 second-round pick Ezra Cleveland, a player with Vera-Tucker’s versatility is ideal.
The Vikings would like to kick Cleveland to left tackle to replace Riley Reiff, leaving either left or right guard for Vera-Tucker—most teams in the league view him as a guard anyway. Vera-Tucker can clearly executive the athletic requirements of a wide zone system, but also brings good size to a generally light interior offensive line group; this is a great pick.
ROUND 3 (NO. 78 OVERALL): Dayo Odeyingbo, DL, Vanderbilt
Dayo Odeyingbo is a great Zimmer EDGE. While he didn’t get to test following an offseason Achilles tear that will likely have him falling in the third round at a discount, he clearly has plus explosive traits coiled up in his 6-foot-5 frame; and he’s carrying 270-plus pounds and 35-plus inch arms to boot. The big fella’ is ready to take over the Everson Griffen role as the big end—well, not really.
Odeyingbo moved around a ton on Vanderbilt’s defensive line, so I don’t think he’s particularly polished yet as a rush 5-technique. But at No. 78, Minnesota is happy to grab a player with such potential and just have him rotate and grow in Year 1.
ROUND 3 (NO. 90 OVERALL): Tyree Gillespie, S, Missouri
Tyree Gillespie gave me some Anthony Harris vibes on film, so I think this is an appropriate spot, as the Vikings lost Harris in free agency and only acquired Xavier Woods as a replacement. Gillespie isn’t a high-impact single-high safety due to limited range—just as was true of Harris—but he’s well strapped together, willing to play physical downhill, and has a consistent body of work as a tackler.
I would have liked to go safety earlier, but the strength of this safety class is in its late Day 2-early Day 3 depth, so waiting on it is appropriate. But then again, this team has four fourth-round picks, so trading up won’t be that hard.
ROUND 4 (NO. 119 OVERALL): Robert Rochell, CB, Central Arkansas
The Vikings went heavy on cornerback last year with two picks in the first three rounds, but with ex-first round pick Jeff Gladney’s current legal situation considered, this position remains shaky, even after the free-agent signing of Patrick Peterson. I can get away with the young players I have now, so I waited until the fourth round; but now’s a good time for a gamble.
Robert Rochell is a small-school prospect, but he’s been on the NFL radar for years and played at the Senior Bowl, showing off some of that top-flight athleticism (with a 43-inch vertical, 4.41-second 40-yard dash, 11-foot-1 broad jump, and a 6.84-second 3-cone) that has him as a desirable developmental press corner. I don’t think the fourth round is too high for those testing numbers.
ROUND 4 (NO. 125 OVERALL): Sadarius Hutcherson, IOL, South Carolina
Before Sadarius Hutcherson tested, I would have told you that he was too plodding a player to make the Vikings’ board. South Carolina asked him to dominate in a phone booth, and while he was better climbing to the second level than I expected for a 320-plus pound player, I didn’t think he was that spry.
But Hutcherson tested great, which now forces an interesting conversation for the Vikings. Will they take a swing on a much thicker guard than they typically have seen on the interior offensive line, taking the risk that he won’t be a perfect wide zone scheme fit? Given their recent failures with lighter players (like Pat Elflein and Dru Samia), this is an appropriate pick. Hutcherson fights for a starting guard spot in Year 1 along with Vera-Tucker and Samia.
ROUND 4 (NO. 134 OVERALL): Brenden Jaimes, OT, Nebraska
I’ll triple up on offensive linemen here as the Vikings still need depth on top of starting-level players. Brenden Jaimes was a multi-year starter at left tackle for Nebraska but may be a guard convert for the NFL given his quickness on the outside, which is just fine but not particularly eye-popping. For the Vikings, who ask their offensive linemen to play with quickness, Jaimes is probably an OL6 backup type player, but that’s still an important role—especially if you back up both guard and tackle spots.
ROUND 4 (NO. 143 OVERALL): Frank Darby, WR, Arizona State
For the last fourth-round pick, the Vikings finally add some wide receiver depth. Some folks may think this is too late for a receiver, but it’s as deep of a class as it usually is, and WR3 simply does not see enough targets in the Minnesota offense to warrant an earlier investment. I’d rather go late for a do-it-all tool and continue to rotate between options on the depth chart. That’s Frank Darby. He’s got solid testing numbers, is willing to block (which matters for this team), and can play all across the formation, which is again important for sticking in this group. Developmental WRs are important as Adam Thielen crests 30.
ROUND 5 (NO. 157 OVERALL): Daelin Hayes, EDGE, Notre Dame
I’ve already taken an EDGE, I know! But besides the cut of Griffen and the tricky contract situation with Danielle Hunter and the failed experiment with Yannick Ngakoue, the Vikings also lost depth! Ifeadi Odenigbo left this season for New York, so starting-caliber talent and depth are both needs at the position. DJ Winning is fun, but he doesn’t stop Minnesota from adding competition.
Daelin Hayes is a pro-ready run defender with a good frame, and while he won’t be a feature pass-rusher, he’s a Zimmer guy in terms of length and strength. He can stand up on the outside, too—that’s a big deal.
ROUND 5 (NO. 168 OVERALL): Khalil Herbert, RB, Virginia Tech
It’s not that the Vikings need a running back—it’s that they love the position and have a good fit here in Khalil Herbert. Herbert’s got a bowling ball frame and can work a slasher in the same mold as Dalvin Cook and Alexander Mattison, who sit on the depth chart ahead of him. They rostered four backs last season, losing longtime depth piece Mike Boone in free agency to the Cincinnati Bengals to open up a spot on that depth chart. Herbert fills those shoes.
ROUND 6 (NO. 199 OVERALL): Ernest Jones, LB, South Carolina
The Vikings let Eric Wilson walk in free agency last year, and while the linebacker room is still one of the league’s best with Eric Kendricks and Anthony Barr in hand, as well as some exciting young players in Troy Dye and Ryan Connelly, an addition could stick on the roster. Ernest Jones is a smaller, quicker linebacker in the Wilson mold who could fight for weakside reps while sticking on special teams early.