My newest weekly segment showcases five different draft day gameplans for Rick Spielman and the Vikings front office. During each new mock draft I will break down a different first round option, the thought process behind it and how it will ultimately have a snowball effect on the rest of their draft plans.

This is new territory for Rick Spielman, who’s been selecting in the 20s for the past few drafts. Now, sitting at pick 18, the Vikings will surely see a big name or two fall into their laps. The late teens and early 20s have always been the sweet spot for huge talent with red flags such as Randy Moss and Percy Harvin.

(The Vikings received three total compensatory picks in the later half of day three, giving Spielman enough ammo to continue to move up and down if he pleases with eight picks total.)

Mock Draft Test 1.0: Don’t Get Cute (Fixing the OL)

18) Jonah Williams, OT, Alabama

Luckily for Spielman, this is easily the best offensive line class we’ve encountered in at least the past three draft classes. I’ve got a total of SIX top-tier OL prospects that would all be a instant improvement and day one starters for any team, Jonah Williams being one of them. The Vikings have not invested a first-round pick into the unit since 2012 with Matt Kalil and are long overdue to stock back up despite it being the “boring and unsexy” route.

After investing in a pure pocket passer like Kirk Cousins, it’s now more vital than ever to give said quarterback his clean pocket needed to help maximize his skill set. This offensive line has been the clear weak spot of the team for a long time, but has been masked in large part because of the mobile scrambling and improv skills of Case Keenum during their 13-3 run in 2017.

Williams has the versatility to kick inside to guard and be rock solid, but in my opinion he could actually have a higher ceiling outside at tackle where the team could find even more value. No matter where he plays, he immediately adds more youth and power on top of good movement skills for Gary Kubiak’s zone scheme.

Having Williams be available at 18 would be a big treat. However, as we’ve seen in the past anything can and will happen on draft day, meaning guys like Cody Ford or Jawaan Taylor could be in play at 18, too. All three would be a “best case scenario” and should be at the top of every Vikings fan’s wishlist, helping turn a weakness into a strength with just one premium addition.

50) Erik McCoy, IOL, Texas A&M

Luke, another one?

If you’re asking me this right now I’d ask you, “How much Vikings football did you watch in 2018?” Easily one of the worst offensive lines in the league, again. As stated above, what makes matters worse is Cousins being a statue in the pocket, demanding time to scan the field and needing a clean pocket to step up into. Make no mistake, when he’s got time to dissect, Cousins is a top-10 quarterback from a mechanics and accuracy standpoint. However, asking him to move around and make plays on the move will never be his strong suit. If you’re going to spend almost $90 million guaranteed you better protect your investment, and give him the tools he needs to succeed for his specific skill set.

So why McCoy?

Outside of Garrett Bradbury, no one fits the athletic profile that new OC Gary Kubiak wants in his linemen like McCoy. An ultra-athletic center that not only has NFL strength that he put on full display against first-round picks Quinnen Williams and Dexter Lawrence (and 34 bench reps), but also ripped up the combine with the fastest 40 time of any interior lineman with a blazing 4.89 in that stout 303-pound frame. Whew!

Bradbury is my dream for the Vikings in round two, but make no mistake, fans should still be mighty impressed if the front office were to land McCoy on day two. With Pat Elflein and McCoy, the offense now has two of the youngest and brightest centers in the NFL. And for a soft interior unit that underwhelmed mightily in 2018, that’s a “problem” the Vikings would surely welcome with open arms.

Don’t get too stuck on having two starting centers. Remember, Elflein was one of the nation’s best guards before sliding into the middle and winning the Remington award.

Having added Josh Kline in free agency to be a likely starter — and now adding Williams and McCoy — the Vikings have real depth on the offensive line.

81) Kahale Warring, TE, San Diego State

Get to know this name now before it’s too late. A newcomer to the game, Warring only has a few full seasons of football under his belt after walking on his freshman season. With that said, Warring offers tons of attributes to work with and develop starting with a big 6-5 chiseled frame. At that size, Warring had a rock solid combine, posting upper echelon results in the 40, vertical and broad jump.

What’s most appealing to me is the effort coaches raved about in both the passing and blocking game. Finding someone to help create soft edges on the perimeter for Dalvin Cook is exactly what Kubiak will be looking for in his next tight end.

Warring gives you top-tier athleticism while being ultra raw as a football player. Huge upside for whichever team is willing to put in the time and effort to develop his unique skill set. While Kyle Rudolph’s age and contract continue to grow, the Vikings need to inject more youth and talent into their tight end group.

120) Kingsley Keke, DT, Texas A&M

Keke led his team in sacks while showcasing some freaky athleticism and movement skills for such a big man in the middle. From bend to flexibility you just can’t find defensive tackles that possess the natural, smooth ability to penetrate and get home to the quarterback.

Despite the athleticism he flashes, Keke doesn’t always display it full time. The explosiveness isn’t there and leaves you wanting more consistency as a player in general. With great ability to bend the arc, teams like the Vikings and Mike Zimmer should value his versatility and line him up both inside and outside pending the down and distance.

Nowhere near polished or refined in the large majority of the game, yet Keke has a few first-round traits that would be awfully exciting to see developed in the NFL.

190) Lonnie Johnson, CB, Kentucky

Mike Zimmer was spotted at the Kentucky pro day recently working out a handful of possible defensive options for the Vikings defense. Outside of Josh Allen, none of the Wildcat defenders have the size, length and speed combo like Johnson. One of the tallest, longest cornerbacks of the class, Johnson measured in at nearly 6-3, 203 pounds and blazed a 4.52 40 at the combine last month.

No sugar coating it, Johnson’s tape is very average and has some serious struggles in press coverage, specifically. However, you might not find a better ball of clay for the defensive back guru Zimmer, who could fall in love with Johnson’s raw and untapped length and speed.

 

209) David Long Jr, LB, West Virginia

The defending Big 12 defensive player of the year, Long wins with speed and acceleration proved by his 107 tackles, 19.5 TFLs and seven sacks in 2018. He’ll drop on draft weekend due to his smaller stature at just 5-11, but Long has a true knack for the ball and the football instincts a guy like Zimmer will enjoy developing behind starters Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks for some much-needed depth.

247) Ben Banogu, EDGE, TCU

A guy some will say flashed more in 2017, Banogu left scouts wanting more this season, posting just eight sacks in his senior year. However, Banogu possesses the length and athleticism Coach Zimmer is looking to develop. Similar to what he did with Danielle Hunter, a player that checked a lot of the pre-draft boxes but flew under the radar due to his lack of playing time at LSU.

Banogu looks stiff with little bend on tape, but again, it’s his quickness off the snap and into the gaps that will intrigue Zimmer enough to pull the trigger as another developmental lineman for Andre Patterson to start molding. While he didn’t display NFL strength, Banogu woke coaches up with his outstanding 4.62 40 at 250 pounds. Throw in nearly 34-inch arms and a wild 40-inch vertical jump and you’ve got yourself a big upside selection on day three.

 

250) Alex Barnes, RB, Kansas State

The Vikings backfield suddenly got thin, quick, after the departure of Latavius Murray to the New Orleans Saints. Not sure enough people realize how big of a blow losing him will be. Murray was a workhorse and the rock between the tackles for the Vikings offense, specifically during their 13-3 season after Dalvin Cook went down in Week 4.

Making matters worse, Cook has already missed 16 games in just two seasons, making many hold their breath in hopes of him finally playing a full slate. If Cook goes down again, the Vikings offense could be in serious jeopardy with virtually no game experience behind him.

While Mike Boone showed flashes last year and Ameer Abdullah offers you the potential for big chunk plays, there needs to be more talented options injected into their backfield.

Insert: Alex Barnes.

A thick and powerful runner at nearly 230 pounds, Barnes should transition smoothly into the NFL and into a Vikings offense that wants to be more physical in the trenches.

Barnes could be long gone after a killer combine with a running back-best 34 bench reps, showing his worth to any team looking to play more of a physical brand of football. Plus, Barnes moved very well for his strong stature, running a healthy 4.59 40 and posting a 38.5-inch vertical.

If you’re simply looking for a bruiser you can rely on to help break down defenses later in games, consider Barnes your guy to help ease the loss of Murray.


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