The 2019 NFL Draft is just over five weeks away. With a week of free agency in our pocket, the path is slightly clearer for the direction the Minnesota Vikings are taking.
Mock drafts prior to the new league year are fun but tough. Trying to pinpoint what a team does in free agency first and drafting off of assumptions is tricky. The Minnesota Vikings didn’t make much noise through the first week of the new league season, but we have a slightly more precise picture of what they’ll do in the 2019 NFL Draft.
Anthony Barr, whom many didn’t think general manager Rick Spielman would be able to retain, is coming back. After initially agreeing to a deal with the New York Jets, Barr changed his mind and took less money to play somewhere he now calls home. That fills a hole many thought Spielman would have to fill early in the draft.
Aside from Barr, Spielman brought back Shamar Stephen on a three-year deal after a season with the Seattle Seahawks, On the offensive side of the ball, the biggest need going into the offseason, offensive line, is without one of last year’s starters: guard/tackle Mike Remmers was cut, saving over $4 million in cash.
Will pro days in full swing, let’s take a look at the direction you might see Minnesota go in April.
Round 1, Pick 18: Dalton Risner, OL, Kansas State
Zimmer needs help for quarterback Kirk Cousins in the worst way. Not out wide so much, but up front. The amount of money invested in Cousins makes it crucial the offense clicks this year.
Along with Cousins, Dalvin Cook needs some beef up front to help open up blocking lanes. Dalton Risner is a retro lineman that wants nothing to do but put the man in front of him on his back. His versatility to play either tackle or guard plays large here, increasing his value as a top 20 selection in this draft.
Round 2, Pick 50: Charles Omenihu, DL, Texas
Like Risner, Charles Omenihu is a versatile prospect. The only difference is he’s on the other side of the ball. At Texas, he played both edge and on the interior, excelling at both. The loss of Sheldon Richardson presents a need for an interior presence here, regardless of their plans for Jaleel Johnson this upcoming season. At the same time, Omenihu could be ready to take over for Everson Griffen if he’s cut after the 2019 season.
Round 3, Pick 81: Dru Samia, OL, Oklahoma
The Vikings offense played with eight different offensive line combinations in 2018. Ask any coach, and they’ll say that’s a recipe for disaster. Communication up front is key to moving the ball consistently.
If you’re a Kyler Murray fan, tip your hat to his blockers up front. Dru Samia, a guard by trade, was one piece that made up the best offensive line in the NCAA last season. Doubling down up front is not out of the question for Minnesota through the first two days of the draft.
Round 4, Pick 120: Miles Boykin, WR, Notre Dame
Day three of the draft is about finding depth, developmental talent, and hidden gems. Whichever one Miles Boykin will be at the top level is yet to be determined, His combine performance, however, tells us there’s a high-ceiling prospect waiting to be discovered.
Round 6, Pick 190: Devine Ozigbo, RB, Nebraska
Devine Ozigbo is a prime example of people overlooking a quality draft prospect on an underwhelming Nebraska Cornhuskers team. At 230 pounds, Ozigbo got shafted after he wasn’t invited to workout at the NFL combine. He’s the perfect complement to spell Cook.
Round 6, Pick 209: Terrill Hanks, LB, New Mexico State
Re-signing Barr was crucial for Spielman. That doesn’t mean the draft need at linebacker is gone. Depth at the pro level is vital. Terrill Hanks projects as a weakside linebacker at the next level, a similar role to what Ben Gedeon was. His primary role will be special teams while pushing Gedeon for snaps in Zimmer’s base 4-3 defense.
Round 7, Pick 247: Corey Ballentine, CB, Washburn
Don’t look at Washburn and automatically discount Corey Ballentine’s potential. He didn’t play top competition at the Division II level, but the athletic traits are there. With an invite to the NFL Combine, he ran a 4.47 40-yard dash, had a 39.5” vertical, and broad jump of 135”. All placing in the top half of cornerbacks invited. Special teams will be his priority with the hopes that he can progress and become a contributor on defense in year two.
Round 7, Pick 250: Dakota Allen, LB, Texas Tech
If you’re an avid Netflix binger and sports fan, you probably first heard of Dakota Allen on Last Chance U. A bad mistake in his first go-around at Texas Tech turned into a humbling experience for a great football player. With his former collegiate coach now the head coach for the Arizona Cardinals, he may be a late day-three target to stay south, but Spielman shouldn’t balk at the idea of bringing him in for depth and special teams purposes.