After the NFL season finished anticlimactically with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers blowing out the Kansas City Chiefs in the Super Bowl, I thought it would be a perfect time to revisit Pro Football Network’s draft simulator to see what the Minnesota Vikings could anticipate come April 29th.
Pick 14: Trade
I could have easily stuck with this pick and landed my choice of Kwity Paye or Gregory Rousseau and solidified the edge rusher lining up alongside Danielle Hunter for years to come, but I decided that there were plenty of players on the board I liked who could potentially slip.
The Tennessee Titans seemed very eager to move up and offered me their first- and second-round picks to move up to No. 14. While I may have been able to squeeze a fourth-round pick out of them as well, I think that picks 22 and 53 are a good haul for No. 14.
Pick 21: Trade, Rashawn Slater, OT, Northwestern
As soon as I saw Christian Barmore, both the edge rushers, and Christian Darrisaw come off the board, I realized I needed to make a move before it was too late. I had my eyes set on either Samuel Cosmi or Rashawn Slater, so when I saw Cosmi go to the Chicago Bears at 20, I realized it was time for me to act.
I offered the Indianapolis Colts pick 22 and 90 to move down one spot, and they accepted. While this may have been a slight overpay, the reason why you stockpile so many mid-round picks is to give yourself some sort of maneuverability to land players you want earlier in the draft.
Slater is 6’4”, 315 lbs. and gives the Vikings either guard or tackle flexibility from Day 1. His athleticism makes him a perfect fit for the outside zone scheme the Vikings love to run, and in his last action in 2019 he put dominant reps on tape and proved 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 Cleveland 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.
Pick 53: Trade
While I could have also stuck with the pick here, I decided to take a risk and bet that the player I wanted would fall four picks. In return for my troubles, I added another mid-round pick at 108 to make up for dealing pick 90 away.
Pick 57: Daviyon Nixon, DL, Iowa
The Vikings haven’t had a long-term 3-technique since Shariff Floyd‘s career was cut short due to nerve damage. Iowa’s Daviyon Nixon could be the perfect interior pass rusher for the Vikings to play alongside Michael Pierce and Danielle Hunter.
Nixon is 6’5″, 305 lbs. and is quick for his size. He can make contact with interior lineman before they have a chance to get set in protection and tallied 5.5 sacks this season while frequently flushing opposing quarterbacks into the hands of oncoming defenders.
He has also proven that he is incredible against the run, totaling 13.5 tackles for loss, filling up gaps, and forcing opposing ball carriers to bounce to the outside for oncoming linebackers to clean up.
Nixon will help round out a defensive line that struggled mightily last season by providing a disruptive pass rusher from the inside.
Pick 78: Jevon Holland, S, Oregon
While I could have explored taking a high-end WR3 in this spot, I decided I could wait to address it later and instead decided to take a safety. It was a more pressing need with Anthony Harris likely leaving in free agency and Harrison Smith entering the final year of his contract.
Holland is one of the best safeties in this class. His versatility in coverage sets him apart. At Oregon, Holland demonstrated his ability to play both as a single-high safety and in the slot while covering tight ends and wideouts. This should allow the defense to stay in its base personnel when facing teams that prefer running three wideouts.
Holland is an excellent communicator along the backline in coverage, and his leadership skills will be welcome in a secondary that is composed of younger players. He will benefit from playing under Harrison Smith as he looks to eventually fill his role.
Pick 108: Hamilcar Rashed Jr., DE, Oregon State
For this pick, I will be sticking in the great state of Oregon by taking Hamilcar Rashed Jr. from Oregon State. The Vikings need a potential player for the future to line up across from Hunter, and while J.J. Watt is a free agent, he probably won’t be signing with Minnesota next year.
Instead, I have gone with multiple pass rushers to work on the other side of Hunter, with D.J. Wonnum and Rashed being the two to lead the opposite side. Rashed has a relentless motor and is willing to track down ball carriers no matter how far down the field they are. He’s also active in pass-rushing situations, using his athleticism and relentless movement to get in the backfield.
Rashed will need to work on adding pass-rushing moves and his technique at the next level, but once he sorts that out, I think he could be the starter for years to come.
Pick 119: Tommy Tremble, TE, Notre Dame
I was targeting Marquez Stevenson with this pick, but unfortunately he got selected just before my pick. While, yes, for his entire career at Notre Dame Tremble has been a TE two to both Cole Kmet and Michael Mayer, but that doesn’t mean that he won’t offer the Vikings significant value.
With Kyle Rudolph likely gone after stating he won’t take a pay cut, Minnesota will need to reinforce an already young tight end room, and Tremble is the perfect modern tight end.
He showcased his impressive run blocking during his time at Notre Dame, and he was primarily responsible for getting out to the perimeter and sealing the edges for his running backs. He is also incredibly athletic and shows a knack for getting separation over the middle of the field.
With their impressive athleticism and speed, Tremble and Irv Smith Jr. could be the tight end combination the Vikings have been looking for.
Pick 125: Shi Smith, WR, South Carolina
The Vikings need to address WR3 this offseason, and Shi Smith is a perfect example of how a player can fly under the radar. While his college stats don’t pop out — he never eclipsed 700 yards in his time with the Gamecocks — you have to consider the circumstances he played under.
Looking at his play during one-on-one drills at the Senior Bowl, it is clear to see that he can create separation against higher competition. He was able to shake free of the opposing corner and showed that he can get up and track a ball in the air, something that will be useful in the NFL.
He also adds a potential punt and kick returner who can actually be a positive on the offensive side, unlike K.J. Osborn who was just a returner.
Pick 134: D’Ante Smith, OT, Eastern Carolina
Even though I addressed the offensive line in the first round by picking Rashawn Slater, we can’t just act like one player will remedy the entire unit.
D’Ante Smith looks like the prototypical tackle that the Vikings would look to take in the mid-rounds with his length, good mobility, and athletic build. He need to add more strength to his frame, but that shouldn’t be too hard for him to do.
While I do think he could become an important piece of the offensive line in the future, I don’t think he should start within the first year or two. Instead, he should take Rashod Hill’s role and become the backup swing tackle.
Pick 143: Marvin Wilson, DL, FSU
After an impressive year two seasons ago, Wilson had a bit of a lackluster year for Florida State in 2020. While he showed flashes, he didn’t show an ability to maintain a consistent level of play. But I’m betting on both Mike Zimmer and Andre Patterson to maximize Wilson’s potential and have two 3-techniques that can be trusted. Right now they don’t have any.
I hope that Wilson and Nixon can usurp Shamar Stephen and Jaleel Johnson and create a rotational spot at 3-technique where they split snaps with forgotten man James Lynch and wear down opposing offensive lines without getting tired.
Pick 158: Deommodore Lenoir, CB, Oregon
The Vikings also need to address CB3. Mike Hughes is often hurt, Kris Boyd wasn’t great, and Chris Jones showed an unwillingness to tackle. Since an increasing number of teams are using three wideouts in their base personnel, it becomes imperative to have three corners you trust on the field.
While Lenoir might not be that right now, he provides cover in case any of the starters get hurt like they did last year. He is able to play both outsides and in the slot, showing his ability to diagnose routes.
Though he would primarily help in zone coverage, it’s good to have a corner who has Lenoir’s level of ball skills along with an ability to tackle.
Pick 172: Elerson Smith, DE, Northern Iowa
I am betting yet again on Patterson’s coaching to come through here. Elerson Smith has all the measurables you would want from a defensive end standing at 6’7″, 245 lbs. with incredibly long arms.
While his level of competition at Northern Iowa is a potential concern, I can somewhat look past it. What is more concerning for me is his inability to get off of blocks when facing the run. While he will need to add strength and refine his technique at the next level to become a true every-down edge rusher, I think that he could be an exceptional edge rusher in obvious passing downs.
201: Justin Hillard, LB, Ohio State
Yes, Hillard was Ohio State’s LB4 this year. However, I’m not bringing him in to be a starter. Minnesota needs linebacker depth: Eric Wilson is likely gone, Cam Smith is uncertain after his heart surgery, and Troy Dye didn’t have the greatest rookie year.
Hillard will likely be a core special teams player and take over Kentrell Brothers’ old role. Hilliard looks like a potential mainstay on special teams for years to come.
Pick 222: Dax Milne, WR, BYU
This is my sleeper of the class. Milne recorded 1,188 yards and 70 catches, but has been largely overlooked because of all the hype around Zach Wilson. Milne has defied everybody’s expectations during his time at Brigham Young, becoming their WR1 despite being a preferred walk-on three years ago.
Milne is a good route runner who can beat press coverage with his quick footwork and ability to win at the stem of the route, and he routinely made contested catches in college.
240: Rakeem Boyd, RB, Arkansas
Despite having a poor showing in 2020, Boyd’s stats in the past two seasons tells us he has NFL potential. He could add value to the running back group, especially if Ameer Abdullah leaves in free agency.
Boyd was also a receiving threat at Arkansas, showing an ability to bounce off tackles and gain yardage. While he likely won’t see significant playing time, he could be a great special teamer and third down running back.