With the 14th pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, the Minnesota Vikings select…hopefully not a bust. Whether they trade up, down or pick the perfect prospect to win now, fans will be quick to draw conclusions. But, what is the absolute worst-case scenario when pick 14 comes?
Here are three ways the Vikings could fail the 2021 draft:
They reach for a need
It’s a draft day rule that general managers absolutely should not reach for a need on Day 1 or 2. Remember when they reached for Laquon Treadwell on Day 1 in 2016? Not great. But they needed a wide receiver, and the two teams right before them grabbed wideouts.
I think Treadwell is generally regarded as a panic pick. Reports later came out that they actually wanted Josh Doctson, who was taken by Washington one pick ahead of them.
The Vikings eventually reunited Doctson with Kirk Cousins after the Washington Football Team terminated his rookie contract, but that didn’t amount to anything. Regardless, they reached for a need at the time and ended up with nothing to show for it, except for perhaps the best rookie highlight reel of all time.
Since it has happened before, you can’t count the Vikings out to reach for what may be one of the biggest needs the team has seen in years. If the top two or three offensive linemen are gone before pick 14, they may consider reaching for one. But if they don’t have a starting-caliber lineman available at 14, it would be a mistake.
In that situation, trading back into the first isn’t a bad idea. But there are other positions the Vikings could go for at 14. If second-tier offensive line prospects like Alijah Vera-Tucker (USC) or Christian Darrisaw (Virginia Tech) are gone, their only other first-round options are defensive end or quarterback.
Kwity Paye is a great pick here if there isn’t the right lineman available. But I’m not sure there is another pass rusher I’d want the Vikings to take at 14 if Paye is gone, and it’s another position where they could be tempted to reach.
And yes, I said quarterback. If one of Justin Fields or Trey Lance is left, I would be pretty thrilled with the pick, even though it would be an exception to my next point. Lance would have to sit behind Cousins for a season, but I’m on board with Spielman drafting Fields and shipping off Cousins for a late first-rounder.
They draft a non-starter
Yes, I already broke this 2021 ‘guideline’ by mocking Lance in the first, but it was for a good cause and the future of the franchise. Exceptions aside, I don’t think the Vikings can in good conscience draft a player who isn’t expected to start in the trenches.
If they are going to put off drafting an offensive lineman until the third round, I would consider that a failure. The team is in win-now mode and needs to shore up the offensive line if they want to win against strong defensive lines — unlike last year.
It’s certainly acceptable for the team to start the draft with a pass rusher or a player that would start somewhere else, but if an offensive lineman isn’t taken with the intentions of starting them in Year 1, how do they expect to protect Cousins? And they can do that if they manage to pick someone up in the late first or on Day 2 after picking a defender in Round 1.
Ideally, the team starts with a lineman at 14 or around there and picks up a pass rusher next, but without knowing who will be there, it’s hard to say what their options are. The only way I don’t see them taking an offensive lineman early is if they find a different way to improve the line. And that could be with a mobile quarterback like Fields. But that is little chance of that actually happening or any guarantee that is the right pick.
This is not the year to pick a developmental player to ride the bench. If the team is going to make a Super Bowl run, and it sure seems that way with the way free agency played out, they need players that can make an impact now.
Patrick Peterson may very well only be a one-year rental, and I doubt Xavier Woods is a long-term solution at safety. Cousins may not be on the team past his current contract, and Adam Thielen is 30-years-old. Those are just some of the key positions that the Vikings can’t rely on upon forever.
They don’t move back into the second round
Spielman has made some of his best picks in the second round over the years. It’s a spot in the draft to get some value, especially if the team is forced to draft for need in the first round.
If there is even the slightest chance the team can get another Eric Kendricks caliber player in the second, they need to move into that. After losing the second to the failed attempt to shore up the defensive line last year with Yannick Ngakoue, it could come back and haunt them next year.
Besides, the team has the following picks to move up in the draft with No. 14: two third-round picks, four fourth-rounders, two fifths and a sixth. A pretty good amount to work with in a year that they should do everything they can to draft players who can make an immediate impact.
Even players like Danielle Hunter, who were drafted in the third round, aren’t usually instant-starters. But players like Ezra Cleveland, Brian O’Neill, and Kendricks were able able to play right away. If the Vikings can get at least one offensive lineman and defensive lineman in the first two rounds, I would be over the moon.
The Vikings clearly know how to draft, so without discussing busts before draft day even happens, they should know what they’re doing. Spielman will surely do his draft day special and move around, but hopefully, he’s able to move up this year instead of garner four more sixth-rounders to take flyers on.