The Minnesota Vikings are one of a handful of teams this offseason that are undergoing sweeping changes in the organization. Gone are general manager Rick Spielman and head coach Mike Zimmer, and with a new regime on the horizon, the future of quarterback Kirk Cousins is thrust into the spotlight. The Draft Network’s Justin Melo recently outlined three potential trade partners for Cousins, but with the cost-prohibitive contract that Cousins carries into 2022 (he has a dead-cap figure of $45 million according to Spotrac if released), it’s more likely that the Vikings’ next regime will use the 2022 NFL Draft to find a long-term option to replace Cousins in 2023 and beyond. It isn’t a foregone conclusion that the Vikings will target a quarterback in the 2022 NFL Draft, however. At least, not in the first round. Take TDN scout Joe Marino’s latest mock draft as an example. He has Minnesota taking Purdue edge defender George Karlaftis at the No. 12 pick.
The Minnesota Vikings didn't have a single standout pass rusher in 2021 but collectively performed well with Danielle Hunter back in the fray and DJ Wonnum showing some promise as a pass rusher despite plenty of inconsistency stopping the run,” Marino wrote. “But even with some of the other young developmental talent that the Vikings have at defensive end, it would be tough to pass up a talent like George Karlaftis.
Karlaftis is a heavy-handed pass rusher who plays with an unrelenting motor that knows how to reduce rush angles and make an impact. He would complete the Vikings' edge rusher situation and allow the team to focus elsewhere.No one would dispute Karlaftis as a great value for the Vikings in the first round, and if the 2022 NFL draft falls the way Marino predicts in this mock, there would already be three quarterbacks off the board when Minnesota is on the clock: Kenny Pickett (sixth overall to the Carolina Panthers), Matt Corral (ninth overall to the Denver Broncos), and Desmond Ridder (11th overall to the Washington Football Team). There’s almost no chance the Vikings will roll the dice on a player like Malik Willis or Sam Howell over Karlaftis… right? Well, a peek down the first-round order could make the Vikings flinch. Their NFC North rival Detroit Lions have another selection at the end of Round 1 that could very easily become a Willis or Howell-type pick. And the odds Minnesota lands a quarterback in the second round drop significantly because of teams like the New York Giants lurking ahead of them on day two. And don’t forget: quarterback-needy teams will be aggressive in their attempt to trade into those first few second-round selections as well. If the Vikings value any of this year’s quarterbacks as potential first-round guys, they’ll have no choice but to take a swing in Round 1. Sure, the Vikings could choose to kick the quarterback can down the road once again. They could value Cousins as a “could-be-a-lot-worse” option for a new head coach to inherit, and they wouldn’t be wrong. He finished ninth in the NFL in passing yards (4,221) and ninth in touchdown passes (33). Cousins was the fifth-highest graded quarterback in the entire league in 2021, according to Pro Football Focus. So, yeah, the list of passers who’d rank ahead of Cousins on a GM-next’s must-have list would likely be a short one. Still, we all know who Cousins is at this point. He’s productive in spurts and struggles to win meaningful games. He’ll always have a gig in fantasy football lineups, but the Vikings may just take the first step toward replacing him in theirs in this year’s NFL draft. And it may just happen in the first round.
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