After a disappointing 7-9 season, most people who follow the Minnesota Vikings decided to look forward to the draft. I know I did. How does the draft shake out before Minnesota picks at 14? Who do the Vikings take?
Here’s my first crack at it:
1. Jacksonville Jaguars: Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson
This one should be obvious, Lawrence has been the presumptive No. 1 pick for this class since his freshman year when he led the Clemson Tigers to a win over the Alabama Crimson Tide in the championship game.
He’s the reason why Urban Myer decided to come out of retirement, and he will be the face of the Jaguars for years to come.
2. New York Jets: Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State
The Jets could go almost anywhere with this pick with the number of needs they have, but I have them taking Fields.
After hiring new head coach Robert Saleh, it’s only fair that they let him get his choice at the team’s most critical position. While I had some concerns about him playing down to his level of competition this season, he removed all of that doubt with a 49-28 demolition of Clemson in a playoff game where he got hurt.
I like BYU’s Zach Wilson more than Fields, but I think the tape of him against Clemson is too tempting to pass up.
3. Miami Dolphins (via Houston): Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon
The Dolphins will use the pick they got from the Texans in the Laramy Tunsil trade to solidify their offensive line by taking a once in a generation offensive tackle to protect quarterback Tua Tagaviloa’s blindside. While there are some rumors about Miami packaging this pick and Tua being for Deshaun Watson, I don’t think it happens.
Tua has an injury history, and I think the best way that Miami could serve their quarterback for the future in this position is by drafting the 6’6″, 331-pound protector for the blindside. While fans might cry out for Devonta Smith, there is plenty of wideout talent that will fall to their next pick. Sewell is by far the best tackle in the class.
4. Atlanta Falcons: Zach Wilson, QB, BYU
Here is where the draft gets interesting. The Falcons are much better than their draft position would suggest, and while they could add to an already stacked wideout room and find a future replacement for Julio Jones, Wilson is a steal here.
Some experts feel he’s better than Fields, and Matt Ryan, 35, is clearly on the back end of his career. Atlanta can have him sit behind Ryan for a season or two, letting him gain experience under the former MVP while giving new coach Arthur Smith his guy from Day 1.
5. Cincinnati Bengals: Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida
Things are finally looking up for the Bengals. Quarterback Joe Burrow proved that he is the man to lead the Bengals in the future, despite his major knee injury last year. They also hit on wideout Tee Higgins, and before Burrow went down, Tyler Boyd was having a career year.
While they could stand to upgrade their offensive line and give Burrow more protection in the future, I have them taking the ultimate mismatch weapon in Kyle Pitts. His ability to win jump balls should pair well with Burrows’ gunslinger attitude, and we could see plenty of highlight plays from these two.
6. Philadelphia Eagles: Devonta Smith, WR, Alabama
The Eagles’ ownership and GM Howie Roseman seem committed to keeping Carson Wentz as the starter for the future despite Jalen Hurts’ solid play last year. To give Wentz a chance to regain his MVP form, the Eagles give him the Heisman winner to satiate the need for a wideout.
While I could see them drafting Ja’Marr Chase at this spot, I think Philadelphia is afraid of another meme pointing out the fact that they would have drafted the wrong wideout three years in a row.
7. Detroit Lions: Trey Lance, QB, NDSU
Lions management and head coach Dan Campbell have already told Matt Stafford they plan to trade him. The new front office will probably use the draft to take the player they believe will be their quarterback of the future.
Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones will likely leave in free agency, so Detroit could target a receiver here, but it seems much more likely that they take a young quarterback and rely on this wideout class’s depth to grab someone in the middle rounds.
8. Carolina Panthers: Micah Parsons, LB, Penn State
While Parsons is very immature by all accounts and not the easiest player to coach, he has a ton of talent. In this scenario, the Panthers would have likely been targeting Trey Lance to replace Bridgewater and just missed out on him.
Carolina adds Parsons to an already young and explosive defense headlined by Jeremy Chinn, and it could quickly be one of the most feared in the NFL, headlined by these two explosive athletes who can seemingly do it all.
9. Denver Broncos: Caleb Farley, CB, Virginia Tech
Former Vikings assistant general manager George Paton finds himself in a difficult spot here. He could take the undisputed No. 1 edge rusher in Kwity Paye to pair with a returning Vonn Miller and Bradley Chubb, or he could fill another need at cornerback — a position of weakness since Chris Harris Jr. departed.
While Patrick Surtain II would also be a good pick here, I have the Broncos taking Farley. He excels in press coverage, which is a handy tool to have when playing for a Vic Fangio defense that often likes to play aggressive on that side of the ball.
10. Dallas Cowboys: Kwity Paye, DE, Michigan
The Cowboys need a lot of help on the defensive side of the ball. While they could also grab Surtain at this spot, I think the future at edge should take priority.
Paye is the best edge rusher in the class and provides a player to line up alongside Demarcus Lawrence for the future. While Aldon Smith played decently, he isn’t the future there. Grabbing a pass rusher for the future will ultimately help the secondary.
11. New York Giants: Ja’Marr Chase, WR, LSU
Last season Giants quarterback Daniel Jones showcased significant growth despite the absence of all-world running back Saquon Barkley. While New York could grab a cornerback here, I think they take Chase, the 2019 Biletnikoff winner, to serve as a true WR1.
Some draft experts consider Chase to be even better than Smith, and he could add the big-play element that the Giants have been missing since they traded away Odell Beckham Jr.
12. San Francisco 49ers: Patrick Surtain II, CB, Alabama
San Francisco so much better than where they are selecting, but a season plagued with injuries has allowed them the luxury of such a high pick. While they could grab a lineman or even potentially Mac Jones, I think they address the cornerback position with Richard Sherman‘s upcoming free agency.
Surtain would thrive in the Niners’ system since he probably won’t have to defend for very long given how well their edge rushers get pressure on the opposing quarterbacks.
13. Los Angeles Chargers: Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama
Jaylen Waddle is an outstanding athlete who could add another element to the Chargers offense with his ability to take the top off of defenses. While they could also look to select an offensive lineman, I think that Waddle’s value here is too good to pass up.
14. Minnesota Vikings: Rashawn Slater, OT, Northwestern
6’4″, 315 pounds Slater gives the Vikings either guard or tackle flexibility from Day 1. With his athleticism on the offensive line, he’s a perfect fit for the outside zone scheme the Vikings love to run. In his last action in 2019, Slater put dominant reps on tape and proved that he can play at the NFL level.
The only question is if you would play him at left tackle or kick him inside to guard like what Ezra Clevland did last season. I think Slater can play both positions and gives the Vikings leverage to restructure Riley Reiff‘s deal again, saving them more cap space.
With this pick, the Vikings now have four young offensive linemen to solidify the trenches for years to come.