Mock draft season is upon us. The most ravenous of NFL fans can already be found hunched over their laptops, salivating at the very thought of devouring mocks from every corner of the interwebs. The goal: Model every possible scenario for their favorite team’s first-round pick – and far beyond the first round in some cases.
Of course, fans of the Minnesota Vikings are likely to skip ahead in every mock they consume. Sure, there might be a pause to review the first few overall picks with an eye toward trading up for a quarterback, but Rick Spielman wannabes everywhere will, more often than not, hastily fast forward to their spot at No. 14, not unlike Bono in U2’s “Vertigo.”
“Unos! Dos! Tres! Catorce!”
Side note: Nobody knows for certain why Bono said “unos” instead of “uno” or, more curiously, skipped from three to 14 in his Spanish countdown at the outset of their first single off their How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb album. Some suggest it was a play on words; others suggest religious connotations (as in John 3:14). The band simply admits they had a lot to drink while recording the track.
Another side note: If you are ever in a fantasy football auction with me, just know I relish every opportunity to increase the bidding to catorce — the only translation of 14 that I find acceptable in that setting. Again, drinking is sometimes involved in said festivities.
Nevertheless, you probably didn’t click on this article to learn about U2 songs or fantasy football auction idiosyncrasies. Let’s move on.
Before delving into the specifics of which players might be headed to which teams in this year’s onslaught of mock drafts, it might be helpful to consider the overall talent level usually available at the 14th overall pick. For such an endeavor, we turned to the vast resources of our Zone Coverage research team to do some digging into draft history. However, they were all busy doing far more important things, so I took it upon myself to investigate everything I could about the 14th pick.
RECENT 14TH PICKS
The Vikings have had the 14th overall pick in the draft just twice in 60 years. In 1986, they selected defensive end Gerald Robinson and then picked running back D.J. Dozier a year later. And if you find those picks uninspiring, check out the past five No. 14 overall picks in the NFL Draft:
- 2020, Javon Kinlaw, DT, San Francisco 49ers – Kinlaw showed some flashes as a rookie, starting 12 of 14 games and lining up on 53% of the Niners’ defensive snaps. He only had 1.5 sacks, but he mixed in 10 pressures, three tackles for loss and returned an interception 27 yards for a touchdown. His overall Pro Football Focus defensive grade in 2020 was 54.1, ranking 95th out of 127 ranked interior defenders.
- 2019, Chris Lindstrom, G, Atlanta Falcons – This pick actually hit the mark. Lindstrom assumed a starting job in 2020 and played 100% of the Falcons’ offensive snaps. His overall PFF offensive grade in 2020 was 77.2, ranking ninth among all guards.
- 2018, Marcus Davenport, DE, New Orleans Saints – Davenport started all 13 of the games he played in 2019 before being relegated to backup duty again in 2020. He has 12.0 sacks and four forced fumbles over 37 career games. His overall Pro Football Focus defensive grade in 2020 was 75.1, ranking 18th among edge defenders.
- 2017, Derek Barnett, DE, Philadelphia Eagles – Barnett has started the past two seasons. He has 19.5 career sacks over 48 games (30 starts). His overall Pro Football Focus defensive grade in 2020 was 67.9, ranking 45th out of 112 ranked edge defenders.
- 2016, Karl Joseph, S, Las Vegas Raiders – Joseph has started 49 of 63 career games and has five interceptions (exactly one each season). His overall Pro Football Focus defensive grade in 2020 was 52.2, ranking 80th out of 94 ranked safeties.
The positional breakdown of the 14th overall selections is more interesting and undoubtedly aligns with Mike Zimmer’s preferences. Since 2000, only six of the 21 picks selected 14th overall have been used on an offensive player: two offensive tackles, two tight ends, one guard and one wide receiver.
That means that 15 of the 21 picks at No. 14 since 2000 have been used on defensive players: five defensive tackles, four defensive ends, three safeties, two cornerbacks and one linebacker. Coincidentally, the Vikings are in the market for defensive line help and might be looking for a safety in the draft. Historically speaking, at least, there should be talent available at both positions with the 14th pick.
THE BEST 14TH PICKS
If you’re feeling underwhelmed by the above list of recent 14th overall picks or the Vikings’ storied history of two misses with pick No. 14, maybe the following list of stars taken 14th overall since 2000 will help re-whelm you:
- 2014, Kyle Fuller, CB, Chicago Bears
- 2011, Robert Quinn, DE, St. Louis Rams
- 2010, Earl Thomas, S, Seattle Seahawks
- 2009, Malcolm Jenkins, S, New Orleans Saints
- 2007, Darrelle Revis, CB, New York Jets
- 2005, Thomas Davis, LB, Carolina Panthers
- 2004, Tommie Harris, DT, Chicago Bears
- 2002, Jeremy Shockey, TE, New York Giants
The players above have combined for 11 First-Team All-Pro honors and 31 Pro Bowl selections. And once again, that’s a whole lot of defensive talent.
The following stars have also been selected with the 14th overall pick since the NFL-AFL merger in 1970:
- 1996, Eddie George, RB, Houston Oilers
- 1995, Ruben Brown, G, Buffalo Bills
- 1983 Jim Kelly, QB, Buffalo Bills
- 1978, John Jefferson, WR, San Diego Chargers
- 1974, Randy Gradishar, LB, Denver Broncos
- 1970, Doug Wilkerson, G, Houston Oilers
As impressive as that list is, there’s also been a lot of big misses at 14, just as there have been at any other pick. It might be more instructive to check out the first-round talent in recent NFL Drafts that was still available at 14 and slid down the board. That should provide a better understanding of what kind of players the Vikings might have to choose from in the middle of the first round.
AVAILABLE TALENT AT 14 IN RECENT DRAFTS
The cream of the crop will be off the board at No. 14, but there will still be players with big careers and All-Pro honors in their futures available when the Vikings are on the clock. It’s just a matter of making the right picks, extracting the most of their talent, and a little luck to get the best value. That’s all.
Here’s a snapshot of some of the first- and second-round talent that was still on the board at 14 in the three most recent drafts:
The returns are still early, but only one of the six first-round wide receivers was selected before 14 (Henry Ruggs to the Raiders at 12), meaning Jerry Jeudy (15), CeeDee Lamb (17), Jalen Reagor (21), Justin Jefferson (22) and Brandon Aiyuk (25) were still available.
Linebacker Patrick Queen didn’t go until 28 to the Baltimore Ravens, Gophers safety Antoine Winfield Jr. slipped to the middle of the second round to the Buccaneers at 45, and safety Jeremy Chinn lasted until 64 for the Panthers.
The 2019 draft has already produced 10 Pro Bowl selections. It may not the greatest barometer, but it’s a quick way to gauge immediate impact at a high level. Of those 10 selections, six were players picked after 14th overall. The list includes Raiders running back Josh Jacobs in the first round (24) and Green Bay Packers center Elgton Jenkins (44), Tennessee Titans wide receiver A.J. Brown (51), Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Mecole Hardman (56) and Seattle Seahawks wide receiver D.K. Metcalf (64) in the second.
Other early-round notables that dropped way past 14: wide receiver Marquise Brown went 25 to the Ravens, running back Miles Sanders went 53 to the Eagles, wide receiver Diontae Johnson went 66 to the Pittsburgh Steelers, running back Devin Singletary went 74 to the Bills, and wide receiver Terry McLaurin lasted until 76 for the Washington Football Team.
A lot of talent slid past 14 in the 2018 draft. In fact, a run of stars began right after the 14th pick with linebacker Tremaine Edmunds going 16th to the Bills, safety Derwin James at 17 to the Los Angeles Chargers, and cornerback Jaire Alexander 18th to the Packers. Calvin Ridley lasted to 26 for the Falcons, Nick Chubb slid to the Cleveland Browns at 35, and linebacker Darius Leonard went 36th to the Indianapolis Colts. Oh yeah, and 2019 MVP Lamar Jackson went 32nd overall to the Ravens.
POSITIONS SELECTED IN THE FIRST 14 PICKS
Another way to help set your expectations for which players could be there at 14 for the Vikings is to see any trends at positions of need in recent drafts. The Vikes will need a little luck for one of the top quarterbacks to fall into their laps at 14. Therefore, if you’re in the “take a quarterback in the first round no matter what” segment of the fan base, your favorite scenario would be a trade up.
If you’re more in the camp of best player available – as long as it’s a position of great need, however, your Vikings could be in luck, especially at spots like guard, safety or even center.
Here’s the positional breakdown of the players selected 1-14 in the past five NFL Drafts (2016-20):
- Quarterbacks: 14
- Defensive Ends: 9
- Tackles: 8
- Defensive Tackles: 8
- Cornerbacks: 7
- Linebackers: 7
- Running Backs: 4
- Wide Receivers: 4
- Guards: 3
- Safeties: 3
- Tight Ends: 1
- Centers: 0
Obviously, every draft is different and which positions happen to get drafted higher than others is primarily driven by the players themselves. However, it’s become pretty clear the top guards and centers tend to slide down the draft board along with safeties and tight ends. The Vikings’ need for reinforcements at guard seems particularly glaring. Thus, it’s noteworthy that the top guard didn’t go off the board until 39th in 2020, 38th in 2017 and 28th in 2016.
Before glancing at a single mock draft, such data could be construed as promising news for Vikings fans. For instance, one general mock plan could be to trade up for a quarterback without even considering individual players. But another, more likely, plan of attack might be to stand pat or even trade down and still get a blue-chip guard.
With the above information in your back pocket, you are hereby better prepared to cannonball into mock draft season. Have fun, but be careful not to get too attached to any specific player or scenario. The actual draft rarely bears too much resemblance to any mock drafts beyond the first few picks. Moreover, Spielman could very well trade out of the 14th spot, forcing mock draft consumers to recalibrate expectations.