Minnesota Vikings 2023 NFL Mock Draft: Clark Phillips III Locks Down a Suspect Secondary

    After their playoff defeat to the Giants, this Vikings NFL Mock Draft looks ahead to April to see how Minnesota might proceed in the 2023 NFL Draft.

    The Minnesota Vikings‘ propensity for one-score games finally came back to bite them in the NFL playoffs, with a 31-24 defeat to the New York Giants ending their season. With their season behind them, this Vikings NFL Mock Draft seeks solutions to some of their problems ahead of the 2023 NFL Draft in April. In this scenario, simulated trades were active among other teams via the Mock Draft Simulator, but the Vikings held steady and did not make any moves.

    Latest Minnesota Vikings 2023 NFL Mock Draft

    Clark Phillips III, CB, Utah | Round 1, Pick 23

    Kirk Cousins is an extremely polarizing quarterback, and there are many Vikings fans who would like to see the franchise move on from the current incumbent under center. However, the 2023 NFL Draft isn’t likely to be it, for several reasons.

    Chief amongst them, picking in the early 20s — as the Vikings are in this mock draft — they’re simply not going to be in a position to select one of the top QBs. Secondly, is the sheer amount of money tied up with Captain Kirk.

    The Vikings are a team tight on budget, and their quarterback accounts for $36.3 million of their cap figure. Like it or not, that money is probably going to prevent Minnesota from moving on from Cousins anytime soon. With limited capital in the 2023 NFL Draft currently, the Vikings need to make savvy moves this offseason.

    There can be no savvier move for Minnesota than finding solutions to some serious issues in the secondary. The Vikings ranked in the bottom 10 of the NFL this season for multiple passing defense metrics, including QB completion percentage allowed, average depth of target, air yards allowed, and yards after the catch. Several players in the secondary, including Patrick Peterson, are also set for free agency.

    That’s why Minnesota strikes for Utah cornerback Clark Phillips III with the first pick of this Vikings NFL Mock Draft. While there are concerns about his diminutive stature, Phillips can play inside and out at the NFL level. He’s a ferocious run-game defender, with excellent speed and fluidity in all phases of the game. In coverage, he possesses impressive ball skills and the vertical explosion to mitigate any height concern.

    Ivan Pace Jr., LB, Cincinnati | Round 3, Pick 87

    In his recent look at the Vikings’ offseason plan, Pro Football Network NFL Director Adam Beasley labeled linebacker Eric Kendricks as a potential cut candidate. Parting ways with the veteran LB would save Minnesota around $9.5 million in cap space, a considerable chunk of change for a team struggling to balance the books.

    Although they added Brian Asamoah II last cycle, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Minnesota strike for a linebacker at some point in the 2023 NFL Draft. In this Vikings NFL Mock Draft, the board falls perfectly for them to make the move in the third round.

    MORE: Top 10 Cornerbacks in the 2023 NFL Draft

    Former Miami (OH) RedHawk Ivan Pace Jr. used his one college football season with the Cincinnati Bearcats to establish himself as one of the most impactful linebackers in the nation.

    Pace by name, pace by nature, the Cincinnati LB flies into the backfield with ludicrous speed and ferocity. The 6’0″, 239-pound prospect is also extremely adept as a coverage linebacker, giving Minnesota a quality all-rounder in the third round of this Vikings NFL Mock Draft.

    Trey Dean III, S, Florida | Round 4, Pick 116

    The injury to Lewis Cine in London deprived Minnesota of a key piece of their plans in the secondary. That certainly didn’t help with their issues in the passing game this season. The former Georgia Bulldog’s return for next season should see a significant upgrade at the safety position.

    That said, don’t put out Minnesota adding another safety this spring. Harrison Smith is a potential departure. Showing the veteran the door would free up around $7.5 million in cap space that could be better utilized elsewhere.

    MORE: 2023 NFL Draft Big Board

    With this in mind, Minnesota adds Florida safety Trey Dean III in this Vikings NFL Mock Draft. The Gators defensive back adds an impressive coverage safety for a defense that desperately needs it. Dean boasts the size, length, and strength to contest at the catch point, while there are few safeties in the class that can match his ferocity as a tackler.

    Parker Washington, WR, Penn State | Round 5, Pick 155

    Minnesota has one of the best wide receivers in the NFL in Justin Jefferson, and Adam Thielen has been a reliable weapon for them in recent years. However, it’s time to inject some new life into the receiving group, which the franchise is clearly desperate to do, given the addition of misfit pass catcher Jalen Reagor.

    With the final pick of this Vikings NFL Mock Draft, Minnesota snags Penn State pass catcher Parker Washington to bolster their WR room. While he’s only 5’11”, Washington regularly competes passionately at the catch point, using his strong hands to pull off highlight-reel plays. He adds a dangerous after-the-catch threat, with the speed and contact balance to also be used on special teams.

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