After a disappointing 7-9 season, most people who follow the Minnesota Vikings decided to look forward to the draft — including me. I decided to simulate my own seven-round draft with trades using the Pro Football Network’s draft simulator and explain what I would do if I were Rick Spielman and the board fell this way.
Pick 14: Trade
I had to make an important decision after seeing the board play out the way it did. Do I look to trade back and hope to land one of the elite offensive linemen still on board, or take a player right now and look to package picks to move up later?
After fielding offers from multiple teams, I decided to take the Arizona Cardinals’ offer and move back two spots to 16 and, in the process, get a second-round selection for pick 90. I realized that I would be fine if I got whoever fell to me between Rashawn Slater and Christian Darrisaw. I also was eager to reclaim a second-round pick that the Vikings lost in the Yannick Ngakoue trade earlier last season.
Vikings send pick 14 and 90 to the Cardinals in return for No. 16 and 49.
Pick 16: Christian Darrisaw, OT, Virginia Tech
After I traded back, the Cardinals used the 14th pick to select Rashawn Slater. I was sweating the 15th pick, but luckily for me, the New England Patriots took Gregory Rousseau.
Darrisaw is the perfect left tackle for the outside zone scheme that the Vikings run. He is athletic and very mobile, which are both qualities that they look for in linemen. He isn’t just a good run-blocker, but he also is exceptional in pass protection. His only real flaw is at times he gets beat by defensive end power, but that is the trade-off you have to make when you run an outside zone scheme.
He likely will force Riley Reiff off the roster, saving cap space with the amount of non-guaranteed money Reiff is owed.
This is how the rest of the round shook out:
Pick 49: Jayson Oweh, DE, Penn State
With the offensive line addressed in the first round, I decided to improve the other side of the trenches by taking Oweh.
The Vikings pass rush in 2020 was the worst it has ever been under Mike Zimmer, finishing 28th in sacks. A big part of this was Danielle Hunter being out all season, but this position still needs to be addressed.
Oweh is a physical freak. He can run a 4.33 40-yard dash and has a vertical jump that tops out at 36.5 inches to complement his 6’5″, 252-pound frame. I know, Oweh finished the season without a sack despite starting in seven games. However, his win rate (18%) was one of the highest in the Big 10, and he recorded career numbers in tackles (38) and tackles for loss (6.5).
He also improved while facing the run this season, something Vikings defensive ends had trouble with last season. With some coaching from Andre Patterson, Oweh could terrorize opposing quarterbacks for years to come, forming a lethal duo with Hunter.
He would likely not contribute very much in his rookie season, most likely playing rotationally on the line, but I think this pick can help a little now and a lot in the future.
Pick 78: D’Wayne Eskridge, WR, Western Michigan
The Vikings need a better third receiver. Chad Beebe is a safety valve who only can operate out of the slot; Minnesota needs to look for someone who can make a big play.
Eskridge is one of the biggest gems in this class. His draft stock has been hampered by his size (5’9″, 190 pounds), and because he comes from a MAC school. But he can play. He performed at the Senior Bowl, and with his ability to get up in the air and make plays on the ball, his height shouldn’t be much of a factor either.
Eskridge recorded 21.5 yards per catch last year, stretching the field at will. His speed allows him to get separation, and he could be a problem for opposing teams for years with the route running advice he’ll get from receivers coach Keenan McCardell, Adam Thielen and Justin Jefferson.
Taking him here might be ignoring other needs like safety or guard, but if the Vikings want to have a more explosive offense, they need to make a significant investment at receiver.
Pick 113: Tyree Gillespie, S, Missouri
Despite the insane amount of wideout talent on the board practically begging me to take another receiver, I decided to make the safe pick and grab a safety. With Anthony Harris’ likely departure, the draft might be the perfect place to grab his replacement.
Gillespie is a sure tackler who finished with 50 tackles, including four for loss. He is able to play the run, but he is most comfortable as a single-high safety, manning the middle of the field on deeper passes. He also finished this season with seven pass breakups and finished as the second-highest graded safety in the entire SEC, per PFF.
He would likely slide into the starting safety role, playing the deep middle part of the field like Harris often does, allowing Harrison Smith to play closer to the line of scrimmage.
Pick 119: Chuba Hubbard, RB, OSU
Yes, I understand that the Vikings have one of the best running backs in the league with Dalvin Cook, and the position isn’t that big of a need. But I picked up Hubbard here is due to my concerns with Cook’s health next season.
We saw plenty of times where Cook came off the field looking a bit shaken up. Yes, Alexander Mattison is a more than adequate backup, but his skill-set is so different from Cook’s that I don’t think he could ever successfully take the majority of carries while Cook is out.
Hubbard seems like an absolute dream in the outside zone scheme with his speed and ability to make cuts when needed to hit the hole. He is also a very patient runner who waits for the hole to develop before running into it. He could serve as the lightning to Mattison’s thunder if the Vikings were to have to play without Cook for an extended period of time.
Pick 128: Jaylen Twyman, DT, Pitt
The Vikings haven’t had a consistent player to fill the 3-technique role since Shariff Floyd‘s early retirement. Shamar Stephen had been offered this spot multiple times but has failed to impress. Given Minnesota’s noticeable inability to get consistent pressure, I think it’s long past time for them to try to take a player with high upside to fill the void.
With just how crazy this year has been with COVID opt-outs and no combine, we could see players with first-round talent slip to the third and fourth rounds. I think Twyman could be one of those guys: He opted out after an impressive sophomore season where he recorded 10.5 sacks and 12 tackles for loss.
This decision hurt him in the short term because recency bias has allowed players like Daviyon Nixon and Christian Barmore to jump ahead of him in defensive tackle rankings. However, he still could potentially be an exceptional pass-rusher next to Michael Pierce.
Pick 144: Drake Jackson, IOL, Kentucky
Jackson shouldn’t start this season, and drafting him shouldn’t allow the Vikings to shortchange the offensive line in the offseason again. But Jackson will hopefully provide cover at both the guard and center positions as an adequate depth piece. Hopefully, drafting Jackson will allow the Vikings to move on from both Dakota Dozier and Dru Samia.
He is athletic enough to play guard in the outside zone scheme and is a very good communicator with his fellow offensive lineman when picking up blitzes from the second level. He should be good depth behind Garrett Bradbury and Ezra Cleveland.
The main issue I have with Jackson is his arm length. He constantly gets bull-rushed by longer opponents who can use their long arms to expose his weaknesses, but in an outside zone scheme sometimes you have to sacrifice power for mobility.
Pick 158: Israel Mukuamu, CB, South Carolina
The Vikings need depth at cornerback. While Gladney and Dantzler lived up to their potential as rookies, the future at the third corner is uncertain. Mike Hughes has been unable to play for a full season because of neck and ACL injuries in the last three seasons.
Mukuamu might be the most overlooked player in this entire class. While all of the attention has gone to teammate Jaycee Horn, Mukuamu has been playing great football.
At 6’4″, he has all of the traits that Zimmer likes in his cornerbacks, with his long arms allowing him to play press coverage on opposing wideouts. Mukuamu was considered a potential first-round pick last year, but he was hampered by a hamstring injury in 2020, forcing him to play at safety for part of the season.
Mukuamu has excellent ball skills. In South Carolina’s game against Georgia two years ago, Mukuamu finished with three interceptions on Jake Fromm, one of which went for a pick-six and another that set up the game-winning field goal in overtime.
He also is a solid defender against the run, wrapping up ball carriers and bringing them to the ground.
Pick 178: Paris Ford, S, Pitt
I have no idea how Ford fell so low. In my opinion, he is the second-best safety in his class. This is a gift at No. 178.
Ford is 6’0”, 190 pounds, but don’t let his small frame fool you. He loves to lay punishing hits on ball carriers, flying down the field at a breakneck speed. Although Ford usually connects on these hard tackles, sometimes he whiffs on them, letting the ball carrier get free down the field.
He’s incredible in the pass coverage as well. Ford showed out in his redshirt sophomore season, recording 14 pass breakups and three interceptions. He was excellent in zone coverage, covering a lot of ground with his speed, disrupting passing lanes, and forcing quarterbacks to squeeze passes into incredibly tight windows.
He uses his incredible play recognition skills in tandem with his blazing speed to reach the ballcarrier and put them on the ground. Much like a linebacker, Ford can play from sideline to sideline, covering almost every single blade of grass if needed.
Pick 208: Cary Angeline, TE, NC State
With the Kyle Rudolph era likely coming to a close, it seems fitting to grab a late-round tight end to bolster the depth at the position.
At 6’7”, Angeline’s frame is a safety blanket against zone coverage, and he’s a decent pass catcher who’s mostly a red zone target. He doesn’t have an extended route tree, but he is able to use his size when he executes the routes he is familiar with.
He profiles to be a swing tackle who is excellent in both run and pass protection. With the Vikings’ long standing o-line issues, adding an extra blocker can’t hurt. He could potentially be to Kirk Cousins what C.J. Ham is to Dalvin Cook.