Vikings

Five Targets the Vikings Could Trade Up for in the NFL Draft

Photo Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski (USA Today Sports)

With 12 draft picks in hand, the Minnesota Vikings have plenty of options as they look to fill a roster that seems to be creating new holes by the day. While it’s possible that all 12 will be used to create depth and address their shortcomings, there’s also an ability to be flexible in their approach.

One route that the Vikings can take is by trading up in the draft for an impact player. The Vikings’ most aggressive path to get a top-10 selection is by packaging their two first-round draft picks (Nos. 22 and 25 overall).

According to Draftek.com‘s trade value chart, that would get them the seventh overall pick, which is owned by the Carolina Panthers. This is also somewhat possible considering the Panthers are entering full rebuild mode under Matt Rhule and may want to accumulate picks. With all options open for the Vikings heading into the draft, it’s interesting to see which players they could hope to trade up for and what purpose they could serve on the team.

To do this, we used Mel Kiper Jr.’s latest mock draft (subscription required) to see who could be available if the Vikings traded up to the seventh overall pick.

1. Cincinnati Bengals – QB Joe Burrow, LSU
2. Washington Redskins – DE Chase Young, Ohio State
3. Detroit Lions – CB Jeffrey Okudah, Ohio State
4. New York Giants – LB Isaiah Simmons, Clemson
5. Miami Dolphins – QB Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama
6. Los Angeles Chargers – QB Justin Herbert, Oregon

With those six picks in the rear-view mirror, who of the remaining players could the Vikings be interested in? Plus, what could they bring to a team that is looking to rebuild on the fly in 2020?

Mekhi Becton, OT, Louisville

The Vikings’ top priorities in this draft class should revolve around cornerback, wide receiver and the offensive line. The 10-year odyssey to have a functional offensive line has reached a boiling point after the Kirk Cousins extension, and adding an offensive tackle with strong upside would go a long way in helping his inadequate pocket presence.

Enter Becton, who is a mammoth man at 6-foot-7 and 364 pounds but moves well enough to be a fit in Gary Kubiak‘s zone-blocking scheme. While Becton didn’t do much at the NFL Scouting Combine, he did record a 5.1-second 40-yard dash, which put him in the 81st percentile of this year’s class per MockDraftable.

With his size, there aren’t going to be many defensive linemen that can get around him easily. With his athleticism, he can get out into space and use his tenacity to bury defenders and open up lanes for Dalvin Cook.

This selection would likely move Riley Reiff inside to guard, but that wouldn’t matter much in this scenario. With a gigantic anchor on Cousins’ blindside, it should allow him to stop hearing footsteps and get the ball to his receivers.

Tristan Wirfs, OT, Iowa

Sticking with the theme of improving the offensive line, Wirfs would also be a solid pickup for an offensive line that needs help. Wirfs doesn’t have the size of Becton, but at 6-foot-5 and 320 pounds, he’s big enough to be effective while being a contributor in a zone-blocking scheme.

Which brings us to Wirfs’ athleticism. The former Hawkeye put on a show in Indianapolis last month, recording in the 99th percentile of this year’s class with a 121-inch broad jump and a 36.5-inch vertical. With a 4.85-second 40-yard dash that ranked in the 98th percentile, Wirfs can get where he needs to go and has the power to clear a path once he gets there.

The only drawback to getting Wirfs is that he’s played most of his career primarily at right tackle. The Vikings could rectify this by moving Brian O’Neill to the left side, but that requires two — and perhaps three if Reiff kicks into guard — different faces in different places on the offensive line.

For a team that has preached continuity all offseason, this may be a problem and could have the Vikings looking toward someone like Andrew Thomas, who has spent his entire career at left tackle.

Javon Kinlaw, DT, SOuth Carolina

The Vikings fixed one half of their interior defensive line with the signing of Michael Pierce, but there’s still the question of who will be his tag-team partner. The Vikings staff loves Shamar Stephen, but his pass rusher productivity rating (1.2, 178th in NFL) and run stop percentage (3.8 percent, 158th) suggest they can do better.

With Pierce able to collapse the pocket thanks to his size and strength, they’ll need someone that can get to the quarterback next to him. The best pass-rushing defensive tackle in the draft is Kinlaw, who collected six sacks in his senior season with the Gamecocks, despite playing out of position at nose tackle for much of the season.

Such a selection would help Zimmer’s defense, not only giving Kinlaw a chance to smash some quarterbacks but give his teammates an assist as well. With a suspect secondary that still needs to be addressed, a good counter would be making sure opposing QBs are on their backs before they can strike.

There are some concerns about Kinlaw’s footwork and technique, but those are things that defensive line coach (and co-defensive coordinator) Andre Patterson can clean up. While Kinlaw didn’t work out at the scouting combine, his performance on tape and at the Senior Bowl should give the Vikings enough to work with.

Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama

Because the Vikings jettisoned Stefon Diggs, many will want them to rectify their receiving situation immediately with a high pick in this year’s draft class. If the Vikings are looking for a copy of what Diggs brought to the table, Jeudy is a guy who incorporates many of the same traits.

Much like Diggs, Jeudy is a technician who gains separation through his routes and by mixing other moves into his arsenal. The difference between the two is that once Jeudy gets the ball into his hands, he has moves that help him get out into the open field and create big plays.

The Vikings offense isn’t one that pumps their wide receivers full of targets, but sharing the ball is something that Jeudy is used to thanks to the talent that Alabama had at wide receiver. With Henry Ruggs III and 2021 prospects Devonta Smith and Jalen Waddle on the field, Jeudy still produced alpha receiver stats with 1,163 yards and 10 touchdowns in his junior season.

With all the talk that the Vikings will come out of this class not missing a beat, Jeudy is an NFL-ready prospect that could help take heat off Adam Thielen. Another receiving addition in this deep draft class could come later, but Jeudy would be a fine start for life after Diggs.

C.J. Henderson, CB, Florida

Taking a cornerback not named Okudah in a trade-up scenario might be disappointing for the Vikings, but another name worthy of the seventh overall pick is Henderson. As a player who has started 27 games for the Gators, Henderson has plenty of experience to step right in and also has the size (6-foot-1, 202 pounds) Zimmer craves in his corners.

What should intrigue the Vikings is Henderson’s ability to make plays on the ball. Zimmer doesn’t like to see his corners taking too many chances, but many times that tactic resulted in players running stride-for-stride with opposing receivers and unable to break passes up.

That issue wouldn’t exist with Henderson, who recorded six interceptions during his freshman and sophomore season in Gainesville.

There are red flags with Henderson, such as a willingness to get too aggressive and his reluctance in stopping the run. But these are things that can be solved with coaching and a little motivation. While it may be more practical to wait until the 22nd pick or 25th pick and hope that Jeff Gladney or Noah Igbinoghene is there, Henderson would start right away on a defense that needs help on the outside.

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Photo Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski (USA Today Sports)

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