The draft is done! Here are Luke Inman’s grades for the 11 position players taken (long-snapping scouting reports not included).
Round 1, Garrett Bradbury, C, NC State
You knew they would address the offensive line, but you didn’t know when and with who. Well, although it wasn’t sexy or splashy, now that the dust is settled the Vikings added the best center prospect we’ve seen in the last three drafts. Bradbury gives his new offense a consistent blocker with great power (34 bench reps) and near Pro Bowl-type athleticism and movement skills.
In a “win-now” year for the Vikings, they needed to bring in players that could make an impact their rookie year, and Bradbury is as polished as they come out of the college ranks. Between his polish, rare athleticism and consistency, Bradbury checks all the boxes and is a selection the team desperately needed as the former tight end should be a core piece of the offensive line for years to come.
Rookie Impact: Even as a rookie Bradbury is a day one plug-and-play starter, instantly improving the Vikings biggest weakness.
ROUND 2, Irv Smith Jr., TE, Alabama
Spielman let the board fall to him in round two where he was surprised such a high-end talent from a pristine program like Alabama was still available all the way at pick 50. Smith comes from great NFL bloodlines (father was a first round selection) and looks every bit the part of the new breed of NFL tight ends.
With his explosive movement skills Smith is dangerous with the ball in his hands and will be a mismatch weapon moved all over the field, both in the slot and out wide as a big bodied target. Best of all, Smith is just 20 years old, only scratching the surface of his monster potential. A great complement to veteran Kyle Rudolph, who is more of an in-line blocker. He can learn from one of the league’s best.
Rookie Impact: At just 20 years old the best bet is to ease him into the lineup while learning behind Kyle Rudolph his rookie year.
ROUND 3, Alexander Mattison, RB, Boise State
I don’t think fans realized how big of a need running back was heading into draft weekend after the loss of Latavius Murray to New Orleans. For the last two years it was Murray, not Dalvin Cook, who was the battering ram and tailback they counted on to wear down opponents, specifically in short-yardage situations.
Mattison fits the same mold as a short, thick workhorse that loves contact with his physical brand of running. While I think the position itself is watered down to the point I wouldn’t use anything more than day three picks, Mattison fits the build for what they desperately needed and instantly fills the big shoes left by Murray as their new short yardage and goal-line back.
Rookie Impact: Dalvin Cook hasn’t even come close to playing a full 16 games yet so having a serious backup option and change of pace man was desperately needed. Given the position doesn’t take a lot of learning curve, Mattison will be in line for at least a handful of touches right out the gate in week one.
ROUND 4, Dru Samia, OG, Oklahoma
With their offensive line need still in play, Samia was at the top of my list heading into day three given the remaining talent left. A key piece to one of the best units in the country, Samia was one of four Sooner lineman to hear their name called after blocking for back-to-back Heisman winners and number one overall picks (Baker Mayfield & Kyler Murray).
Even at 300 pounds Samia offers Kubiak the functional movement skills he covets to pull and get to the second level, and was by far the best remaining talent for his zone scheme. We could look back on this pick as the turning point of the Vikings 2019 draft that put this year’s class over the top.
Rookie Impact: He’s good enough to come in and make a strong push for the starting right guard spot against new free agent signing Josh Kline. If not, learning the ropes while building more NFL strength is not a bad Plan B.
ROUND 5, Cameron Smith, ILB, USC
Had the pleasure of sitting down with this young man at the Senior Bowl and he blew me away with his composure and football intelligence. Smith was as consistent as they come, starting all four years for the Trojans and eventually becoming a team leader and captain.
Smith was a tackling machine after leading the defense in tackles three seasons in a row. Those natural read-and-react skills combined with his consistent tackling ability will keep him in the NFL for at least a handful of years.
Rookie Impact: The cliche “special teams” contributor right out the gate as he eventually replaces Kentrell Brothers and pushes Ben Gedeon as the middle linebacker in Zimmer’s base 4-3 defense.
ROUND 6, Armon Watts, DT, Arkansas
More of a one hit wonder, Watts was a ghost until his senior season after tallying only 114 snaps in his career before that. Watts exploded onto the scene his senior season, though, putting together a rock solid final campaign with 7.0 sacks lining up all over the defensive line.
At 6-4, 300 pounds, Watts looked at his most natural as the team’s 1-Tech nose tackle where he anchored opposing players, opening up plays for his teammates. Saying that, I know the Vikings love that versatility and could likely develop him into a 3-Tech moving forward as they polish his surprisingly clean hand and feet technique.
Rookie Impact: He’s buried in a deep, young unit, but Watt’s offers some very appealing upside for Andre Patterson given how polished some of his pass rushing skills are. Like his collegiate career, I expect Watts to disappear for a few years before easing into the rotation as more current big-named starters depart.
ROUND 6, Marcus Epps, S, Wyoming
The biggest “unknown” in the entire group. It’s clear Mike Zimmer had had enough and just needed a new young defensive back to coach up. Epps didn’t wow with numbers throughout his collegiate career, but instead brings to the table a mix of leadership and passion for the game. Spielman mentioned his athletic numbers form the combine and the fact he was a very instinctual safety, specifically in the box against the run.
Epps received exactly zero scholarship offers and reluctantly walked on at Wyoming. Through years of hard work and patience, Epps was named captain of his team three consecutive years and will add to a locker room full of bright young men that all share one common trait.
Love for the game.
Rookie Impact: From a talent perspective I must be missing something because he lacks any one NFL trait that could help him stick around in the league. Looking ahead, however, the Vikings have two big-name free agents at the position in Anthony Harris and Jayron Kearse, meaning Epps could be in the mix in 2020. Special teams is where he must stand out in 2019.
ROUND 6, Oli Udoh, OT, Elon
Eerily similar to last year as we saw another huge run on offensive lineman heading into day three. Given the Vikings’ need to continue adding youth and talent at the position, drafting Udoh was the perfect selection from a developmental standpoint.
Udoh walks out onto the field as a physically imposing player who has all the size and length teams covet in the NFL. However, Udoh’s technique and polish are lightyears away from being pro-ready and his tenacity and aggression leave you wanting more far more times than not.
Rookie Impact: It’s all on coaches from here as Udoh has all the tools from insanely longs arms (86” wingspan) to a strong anchor and base. Don’t expect to hear his name for a year or two, though, as he learns the nuances of the NFL behind Riley Reiff and Brian O’Neill.
ROUND 7, Kris Boyd, CB, Texas
This has Mike Zimmer written all over it as Boyd has some great attributes that fit the NFL game like size, speed and aggression at the cornerback position, but has major concerns and red flags strictly from a technique standpoint.
Boyd gets burned by double moves and has been seen not always giving full effort when tackling. However, all Boyd’s major issues are correctable, giving Zimmer a fun new project to help harness some of his top-50 traits.
Rookie Impact: Much like his Longhorn teammate Holton Hill, Boyd will start low in the ranks throughout training camp and preseason games until he can prove to coaches he’s shedded some of his inexcusable mental mistakes. If all goes well, though, I see a scenario where Boyd becomes the eventual replacement for a guy like Trae Waynes or Mack Alexander, as he possesses the physical talents to play both outside and in.
ROUND 7, Dillon Mitchell, WR, Oregon
This kid was an absolute monster coming out of high school after he was named both “Mr. Football” and Tennessee Gatorade Player of the Year thanks to his 42 touchdowns as both a wide out and running back in his final two seasons. He was a standout athlete and point guard that could’ve easily played D1 basketball if he wanted.
Mitchell can put the pressure on coverage thanks to his athletic ability proven by his Pac-12 leading 1,184 yards receiving in 2018. He’s slides off would-be tacklers near the LOS thanks to great acceleration and short-area burst, making him the ideal candidate to push for a starting punt return job at some point down the road.
Rookie Impact: With 20 punt returns on his resume, Mitchell’s best bet as a seventh-round rookie will be to turn a few heads on special teams while he develops into a complementary target.
ROUND 7, Olabisi Johnson, WR, Colorado State
A far quieter resume from a statastical standpoint than his new peer Mitchell, Johnson instead was drafted thanks to his ever-rising draft stock as he improved in every single season, riding that momentum into the NFL.
While he never wowed with any one dominant trait, CSU coaches spoke highly of his work habits and hunger to constantly improve. Johnson is quarterback-friendly overachiever who will have a tougher time separating in NFL, but his football character gives him a solid chance to make it.
Rookie Impact: While Mitchell is set up to have more early success out the gate, Johnson feels like the player that will fly under the radar for a season or two (similar to his collegiate career) while he learns the nuances of the NFL.