The Minnesota Vikings are heading into the 2020 NFL Draft with a few more needs than they were expecting to have. It is easy to see that NFL free agency has not been kind to the team. Over the past few weeks alone, they have somehow found themselves down guard Josh Kline, receiver Stefon Diggs, defensive tackle Linval Joseph, defensive end Everson Griffen, and cornerbacks Xavier Rhodes, Trae Waynes and Mackensie Alexander.
The first version of this mock draft was focused heavily on the defense. After free agency, team needs have changed and the Vikings have added two high draft picks to help replenish their roster. Using this updated seven-round Vikings mock draft, the team tries to balance a fine line of starting to try and rebuild, while also making another run at the playoffs.
Like I said above, the Vikings have a number of needs they weren’t expecting to have. With only a little over $12 million in cap space available, they will need to bring in rookies with high potential and could be day one starters. After losing three CBs to free agency, the Vikings now have seven cornerbacks on their roster, and just two of them have started an NFL game (Mike Hughes and Holton Hil). This is will be their top priority in the NFL Draft.
Outside of CB, the team will also need to look at the safety position. There are apparent contract discussions with Anthony Harris for a long term deal, however, they lost both Jayron Kearse and Andrew Sendejo in the last few weeks. Harrison Smith is the only safety guaranteed to return in 2020. The team will need to focus on depth here, and with the 2020 safety class being so deep, they will be able to target someone in the middle to later rounds.
Offensively, the team will look to bring in another wide receiver to go alongside Adam Thielen with the departure of Diggs. Even before losing Diggs, the Vikings were looking to add some more WR depth. The team suffered from injuries all last season with Thielen missing a number of weeks. They did sign Tajae Sharpe, but he is unlikely to replace the production that Diggs provided.
Originally, I had the Vikings taking a late-round shot on a young QB prospect who could learn behind Kirk Cousins if the Vikings decided to not extend him after next year. That will no longer be necessary because the team decided to sign him to a two-year extension that will carry the QB through 2022.
Round 1, Pick 22: Jeff Gladney, CB TCU
The Vikings will be targeting a cornerback early in this draft and will find a gem near the end of the first round. TCU’s Jeff Gladney is an athletic cornerback who will bring some much-needed youth and cost savings to this Minnesota secondary. His numbers speak for themselves as he tallied a grand total of 146 tackles, 38 passes defended, and five interceptions in his four-year college career. Gladney was also named to the First team all-Big 12 for his efforts in his 2019 Senior season.
As a three-star recruit out of high school, Gladney was not expected to be a first-round talent. His performance on the field skyrocketed his draft capital. He’s fantastic in man coverage but also had success in zone as well. He isn’t the size that head coach Mike Zimmer usually likes to go after, but he plays like he is much bigger. At only six feet tall and 185 pounds, his dedication and physicality will be what help him convince the Vikings to make him their first-round selection. His physicality and ability to utilize every bit of the first five yards of contact to disrupt the receiver in their routes make him a special talent. He will make a fine addition to this Vikings secondary.
Other considerations: EDGE Yetur Gross-Matos, WR Laviska Shenault Jr., OT Austin Jackson
Round 1, Pick 25: Justin Jefferson, WR LSU
With the hole left by the Diggs trade, the Vikings will use their second pick in the first round to try and replace the embattled receiver. With the big three – CeeDee Lamb, Henry Ruggs, and Jerry Jeudy – being taken earlier in the first round, the team will still be able to land an immediate first-day starter in LSU’s Justin Jefferson.
Jefferson was Heisman Trophy winner Joe Burrow’s favorite target in 2019 and dominated from the slot during LSU’s National Championship run. He caught 111 passes for 1,540 yards and 18 touchdowns. He effectively works his hands to separate from defenders, runs sharp routes, and comes back to the ball to make himself an available target. He will quickly become a favorite of Cousins.
Other considerations: DL Neville Gallimore, OT Isaiah Wilson, CB Bryce Hall
Round 2, Pick 58: Raekwon Davis, DL Alabama
The Vikings have an excellent defensive line with players like Shamar Stephen and the newly signed Michael Pierce. However, the departure of Griffen could be a massive loss for this team and they will need to find a way to stop the bleeding. Enter versatile Alabama DE/DT Raekwon Davis.
Davis is a dominant presence both on the interior and edge of the defensive line. He had 11.5 sacks during his college career and was the standout star of Alabama’s 2017 national championship run. He possesses a rare combination of strength, size, and speed that could end up being a nightmare for opposing offensive lineman. Adding him to this defensive line would be a huge addition to a defense that really came into form near the end of the 2019 season.
Other considerations: OLB Zack Baun, ILB Logan Wilson, DE Jabari Zuniga
Round 3, Pick 89: Gabriel Davis, WR UCF
UCF saw a little bit of a drop off in production this past season, but that did not stop the speedy WR Gabriel Davis from having an excellent year. He set career highs across the board in 2019 with 72 receptions for 1,241 yards and 12 touchdowns to earn first-team All-AAC honors.
Davis has good height and length at 6-foot-3 and possesses excellent hands and ball-tracking ability. His speed is a potential issue, running a 4.54, but that is something he can work on. Pro Football Network’s Senior Draft Analyst Tony Pauline is quite high on the potential of this young player.
“Davis has displayed consistent improvement over the past three years and possesses the skills and ability necessary to line up as a No. 2 receiver in the NFL. He has speed limitations, but other aspects of his game are worth getting excited about, and Davis comes with a tremendous amount of upside.”
The Vikings will be using this draft to bring in high potential players who could make impacts right away. Davis fits this mold.
Round 3, Pick 105: Terrell Burgess, S Utah
The Utah Utes shocked the college football world last season and were one game away from a College Football Playoff invitation. Their success was in large part thanks to the performance of their defense. One of the pieces of said defense was safety Terrell Burgess.
After appearing in just 15 total games in the first three seasons at the University of Utah, Burgess started in all 14 games of his fourth and final season in Salt Lake City. Burgess racked up an impressive total of solo stops for the safety position with 50 in 2019, 7.5 of his tackles came behind the line of scrimmage. He also had his first interception.
With the safety position being such an issue for the team, Burgess will help solidify this defense. Burgess plays fast downhill and reacts quickly to what is happening in front of him. His strengths strongly outweigh any weakness that he has. At this year’s Reese’s Senior Bowl, PFN Draft Analyst AJ Schulte names Burgess as one of his risers after a strong showing.
“Burgess flashed on days one and two in Mobile and finally put it all together for a good showing on day three, resulting in an interception of a Shea Patterson pass today. I was a fan of his tape coming into Senior Bowl week and he finally showed off his skill set.”
Other considerations: LB Malik Harrison, CB Amik Robertson
Round 4, Pick 132: Nick Harris, IOL Washington
Minnesota was the eighth-ranked rushing offense in the NFL last season, averaging 128 yards per game. That success was in large part due to a combination of strong offensive line play and their talented duo of running backs. With the team likely to continue wanting to pound the rock, they will need to bolster their o-line. In their playoff loss to the San Francisco 49ers, they were beaten upfront in the trenches. Washington’s Nick Harris is the kind of player that can help in that regard.
Harris was originally projected as a potential first-round talent. After a very poor showing at the Senior Bowl, his draft stock has continued to slide. The PFN Draft crew had this to say about how poorly it went in Mobile:
“One of the worst weeks among all prospects, Nick Harris’ stock started dropping on Tuesday and it never stopped. Harris weighed in poorly and on the field was constantly lost in reps. He was beaten with power and finesse, and it’s starting to seem like he’s destined to underperform the expectations many had for him. Bad week for Harris.”
As bad as his performance was, he still has some very impressive tape from his time at Washington. He is a strong, versatile player who has experience playing at both center and guard. He thrives when in a zone run scheme and will help the Vikings in the trenches.
Other considerations: EDGE D.J. Wonnum, OT Alex Taylor
Round 5, Pick 155: Charlie Heck, OT UNC
The reality is that you cannot have enough offensive line talent and depth. This is especially the case for Minnesota now that they made the surprising decision to let go of veteran guard Josh Kline. Both Kline and fellow guard Pat Eflein had underperforming years, but Kline was still very capable.
Now, the team brings in Charlie Heck to help block and create lanes for the talented Dalvin Cook. Heck is a terrific position blocker who stays square and seals defenders from the action. He played left tackle with UNC but has shown that he is versatile enough to play on either side of the line. He can be an immediate starter on the offensive line.
Other considerations: OT Terence Steele, OT Alex Taylor, ILB Evan Weaver
Round 6, Pick 201: Khaleke Hudson, ILB Michigan
Enough cannot be said about the loss of Griffen, but with some of the defensive taken that the Vikings will be able to draft, his loss should not be as impactful. One of those players will be Michigan’s Khaleke Hudson.
Hudson was a three-year starter who earned second-team All-Big Ten honors as a sophomore in 2017 and as a senior in 2019. He set a career-high with 101 tackles (three for loss), added 1.5 sacks, and three PBUs last year.
During this year’s combine, Hudson was being compared to one of his favorite players growing up, Troy Polamalu.
“I liked Adrian Peterson a lot,” Hudson said. “He was my favorite player of all time — him and Troy Polamalu. I watched Adrian Peterson at Oklahoma, and he went to the Vikings so I became a Vikings fan. Even when he left, I still liked the Vikings.”
So, not only will the team be getting a solid defensive player, but a fan of the team as well.
Other considerations: CB Josiah Scott, LB Cameron Brown
Round 6, Pick 205: Terence Steele, OT Texas Tech
We talked about how the Vikings wanted to get bigger in the trenches, well Texas Tech’s Terence Steele and his 6’6″, 312-pound body will certainly do that. Steele shines most in pass protection but can be effective in run blocking as well. The biggest knock that he has so far is his strength. This is something he will be able to work on, and if he has a good showing at the NFL Combine, he could see his draft stock skyrocket.
PFN’s Draft Analyst Tony Pauline spoke about Steele in one of his recent articles. He believes that if he does perform well at the combine, we would likely be over-drafted. However, getting him the seventh round is about where he should be going.
“Steele is a big, athletic tackle who will test well at the combine and very much looks the part. On film, he’s stiff, bends at the waist, lacks balance, and doesn’t play like a big, athletic tackle.”
Other considerations: DL Benito Jones
Round 7, Pick 219: Thakarius Keyes, CB Tulane
The Vikings will continue to add some CB depth with a late-round flyer on Tulane’s standout CB Thakarius Keyes. Pauline had this to say regarding Keyes and his potential in the NFL.
“Keyes has been a solid player for Tulane and has the measurables necessary to play at the next level. He needs to polish his game, but he has potential as a dime back in either bump-and-run or man-off coverage.”
With a bit of coaching and development, Keyes could find his way into the starting lineup come next season. The addition of Keyes will bring the CB count to nine for the Vikings roster, and they will be able to start trying to develop some guys to replace the losses they suffered this offseason.
Other considerations: OT Calvin Throckmorton, IOL Darryl Williams
Round 7, Pick 249: Michael Divinity Jr, EDGE LSU
Bringing in some more talent to rush the QB, with their third pick this round, the Vikings take a chance on LSU’s Michael Divinity Jr. Divinity had 22 tackles with three sacks and a forced fumble in 2019. After serving a six-game suspension, Divinity was cleared to play in the National Championship. He also was suspended for two games earlier in the season.
Divinity’s draft stock has taken a hit with all of the suspension and character issues he had in 2019. He is a third or fourth-round talent, but the Vikings will likely be able to grab him here. The only way Divinity can boost his draft stock is with a strong NFL Combine showing, especially his character evaluation.
Round 7, Pick 253: Omar Bayless, WR Kansas State
Continuing to add depth at the wide receiver position, the Vikings select Kansas State standout Omar Bayless. Bayless was an All American his senior year and was one of the top receivers in the country. He led the Sun-Belt in receiving yards, touchdowns, and receptions. He was second in all of the FBS with 1,653 yards and third in TDs with 17.
His skill-set complements the weapons they have already added, his biggest strength is his route running. He seems to run all his routes well and is able to find the open spot in the zone or after the play breaks down. He is able to track the deep ball well and strives when making catches down the field. Grabbing him at this point in the seventh round is a complete steal for Minnesota.