After a 7-9 season, the Minnesota Vikings need to find a spark in the NFL Draft. While it’s unrealistic to expect them to find another Justin Jefferson, a more reasonable goal is to find a player who creates excitement for the fanbase. Rick Spielman mentioned the need to “reconnect with the fans” during a press conference last month. While taking an offensive lineman would be a good place to start, the Atlanta Falcons’ recent offer could provide another avenue to accomplish that goal.
According to Adam Schefter, the Falcons are open to trading the fourth-overall pick in next month’s draft. While it would likely involve a team looking for a quarterback, the Vikings wouldn’t necessarily have to take a QB. However, if they trade with the Falcons, it would only be natural to think that Spielman was looking for a signal-caller. The Vikings fully guaranteed Kirk Cousins’ 2022 salary last month, but teams have been less willing to put up with average QB play.
While Cousins has the stats of a franchise quarterback, his inconsistent play and overall poise have left something to be desired. This class is a perfect opportunity to upgrade.
There’s a good chance that the first three selections of this draft will be quarterbacks and an even greater chance that Trevor Lawrence and Zach Wilson will be the first two picks in the draft. If the San Francisco 49ers follow through on drafting Mac Jones, that will leave the Vikings to choose between Justin Fields or Trey Lance.
Fields has been labeled as a system quarterback at Ohio State, but his stats are too good to ignore. He threw for 63 touchdowns and nine interceptions in two seasons with the Buckeyes. He ran a 4.4-second 40-yard dash at his pro day and would be the dual-threat quarterback the Vikings haven’t had since Daunte Culpepper.
Even if they’re not sold on Fields, they could take their chances with Lance. While there are questions about his accuracy and ability to transition from the FBS to the NFL, quarterbacks like Josh Allen have recently made the leap. And Lance is from Marshall, Minn., and the Vikings could have their own hometown hero to groom behind Cousins.
Both quarterbacks would fill a long-term need for the Vikings and energize the fanbase. But if there’s one thing we’ve learned this offseason, it’s that they want to win next year. Thankfully, several non-QB prospects can help achieve that goal.
The best way to do this is to target the best offensive lineman in the draft. While Rashawn Slater and Christian Darrisaw could be available at 14, the Vikings have been outbid and outfoxed recently when it comes to finding a franchise-caliber left tackle. A trade up to No. 4 would give them the chance to take Oregon’s Penei Sewell, who is seen as more of a surefire prospect. One of the youngest players in the draft class, Sewell could give the Vikings something they haven’t had since Bryant McKinnie retired, allowing them to focus on finding a guard.
There’s also the possibility of making Cousins’ life easier with more weapons. In this scenario, the Vikings could grab either Kyle Pitts or Ja’Marr Chase to make their offense even more explosive than last year’s.
Chase opted out of the last season but remains the top wide receiver in this class. The 21-year-old tested no worse than the 85th percentile in measurements recorded by PlayerProfiler. He also put up 1,780 yards and 20 touchdowns playing across from Justin Jefferson during LSU’s 2019 National Championship run. And don’t forget, Adam Thielen will turn 31 in August.
If the Vikings are still skittish about using three wide receivers, they could draft Pitts. At 6’6”, 245 lbs, Pitts is a freak athlete who also excels as a route runner. While the Vikings have Irv Smith Jr., taking Pitts would add another wrinkle for defenses to account for and open things up for Jefferson and Thielen.
Of course, any pick in this spot would have to be snuck past Mike Zimmer. After having the 27th-ranked defense in yards allowed and 29th in points allowed, Zimmer has dominated the offseason and is probably still thinking of adding an edge rusher or cornerback at No. 14. By trading up to No. 4, Zimmer could get his hands on an even better prospect. Kwity Paye or Jaelan Phillips could still be on the Vikings’ radar with the fourth pick, or even Micah Parsons, who could become a long-term replacement for Anthony Barr.
All of these options could be on the table for the Vikings at No. 4, but it remains a long shot. During Spielman’s tenure in Minnesota, the Vikings have never traded up with their original pick in the first round. But they don’t have a second-round draft pick because of the Yannick Ngakoue trade, and there’s little doubt that Spielman will be hell-bent on acquiring more draft capital.
That would be a traditional route for the Vikings: stockpiling late-round picks and trying to cash in lottery tickets. But fans aren’t going to flock to U.S. Bank Stadium in September to see a project defensive end who did a book report on Danielle Hunter in seventh grade.
The Vikings need to make a splash. By trading up to No. 4, they’d have a chance to do it.