Vikings

What Each Expert Has the Vikings Doing In the First Round

Photo Credit: Mike Carter (USA TODAY Sports)

As we come closer to the draft, it seems like every self-styled expert thinks they know the perfect player for each team. The Minnesota Vikings currently have the 14th-overall selection in this year’s draft, and while they have earned rave reviews nationally for their previous offseason moves, general manager Rick Spielman and head coach Mike Zimmer still have some gaping holes on this team to address.

Here’s a compilation of who the most notable experts have the Vikings taking in the first round in their latest mocks:

Mel Kiper Jr. (ESPN)

Vikings Move Up to 9 and Take Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon

With top offensive tackle Penei Sewell still on the board, I’m projecting the Vikings to move up five spots to get their instant starter at left tackle. That could cost a lot of capital. … This would likely cost at least Minnesota’s second-rounder in 2022 and likely more.

I like the fit here, particularly with Riley Reiff leaving in free agency. Sewell is an elite talent, and if this quarterback class wasn’t so strong, he might be a lock for the top five. The Vikings have had offensive line issues for years, but Sewell would plug their hole on the left side. An elite O-line covers up roster flaws, and this is a step toward improving the entire offense. If Minnesota stays at No. 14 or does the opposite approach and trades down, keep an eye on safety. With Anthony Harris gone in free agency, there’s a void there next to Harrison Smith.

Trading up for Sewell would be the dream scenario for many Vikings fans. Experts regard him as potentially the best tackle prospect in the last decade. He was so good in 2019 that he received multiple Heisman votes as an offensive lineman. If the Vikings were somehow able to land him in this draft, they would potentially have their bookend tackles of the future in Sewell and Brian O’Neill.

The only concern is that the Vikings would have to move up and potentially mortgage some of their future. Therefore, they would need to commit to building a win-now team instead of stockpiling picks for the future.

Todd McShay (ESPN)

Rashawn Slater, OT/OG, Northwestern

Slater is super versatile and could play any of the five positions along the Vikings’ line. That’s a good thing, because it has a lot of holes — Minnesota gave up 39 sacks in 2020, lost Riley Reiff, and added only Mason Cole to the mix in the offseason. After rebooting the secondary, the Vikings now have to be focusing on protecting Kirk Cousins and opening lanes for Dalvin Cook.

Slater would be yet another player who could help fix the flaws in the offensive line with his ability to play either tackle or guard at the next level. He would also be a great scheme fit given his athleticism and ability to run-block.

Slater also has a good enough anchor to be a solid pass blocker at the next level, something this team needs.

Mike Renner (PFF)

Christian Darrisaw, OT, Virginia Tech

It’s unclear what the plan is with tackle-turned-guard Ezra Cleveland going forward, but adding offensive tackles is never a bad thing. Darrisaw dominated a season ago, earning the highest grade in the Power 5.

Darrisaw is yet another player who would solve the Vikings’ need for offensive linemen, and his ability to play left tackle at a high level would be great for replacing Reiff. It would also allow Ezra Cleveland to master the guard position. The only spot that the Vikings will need to add is another guard to provide competition for Mason Cole and Dakota Dozier.

Cynthia Frelund (NFL Network)

Alijah Vera-Tucker, OG, USC

This is the same selection for the Vikings that I had in 1.0, but now Vera-Tucker looks like an even stronger fit with Minnesota, given Kyle Rudolph‘s exit and very few offensive adds. Unclear whether Kirk Cousins or Dalvin Cook will be happier with this one.

Tucker automatically fills one of the guard spots where the Vikings have been so sorely lacking for the better part of the last decade. With his ability to move to the second level and great run-blocking, he would be a perfect fit for the outside zone scheme that the Vikings have run since the days of Norv Turner and Pat Shurmur.

It’s notable that, in this scenario, the Vikings pass up on both Jaylen Waddle and Micah Parsons, who are widely regarded as better prospects than Tucker.

Adam Rank (NFL Network)

Kwity Paye, DE, Michigan

Here’s another raw pass rusher who is actually coming in at a pretty good value right here. If the Chargers ignore me (again, not offended) and go with Paye, I wouldn’t hesitate to rush the card up there for Rousseau. The thing is, Minnesota, you used to be really good on defense. Those days are over now. But Paye would help push you back in the right direction.

Here the Vikings would be opting to bolster their defensive line by adding Paye to play opposite the returning Danielle Hunter. While Paye is one of the top-two edge rushers in the class, the question that most fans would have to think about with this pick is if they are in a spot to go best-player-available? Or, given the offensive line, do they need to select a player for that position on Day 1?

Adding Paye to a revamped defensive line that features both Michael Pierce and Dalvin Tomlinson’s debut in the middle, the Vikings could quickly go from having one of the worst d-lines to having one of the best.

Chad Reuter (NFL.com)

Alijah Vera-Tucker, OG, USC

The Vikings released starting left tackle Riley Reiff before free agency began, so finding a new blind-side blocker for Kirk Cousins appears to be on the draft menu. 

Vera-Tucker’s arm length (32 1/8 inches) might force teams to rate him as a guard, but Indianapolis right tackle Braden Smith has shown arm length isn’t everything — he measured 32 1/4 inches at the 2018 NFL Scouting Combine, and he has since established himself as a successful member of one of the NFL’s top O-lines. 

Even if Vera-Tucker has to slide inside eventually, the Vikings could really use help there. If the Vikings find value in another tackle later in the draft (as I project in Round 4 of this exercise), they could push Vera-Tucker inside right away and play the team’s best five linemen.

Yet another person who has the Vikings taking Vera-Tucker in the first round. While this pick makes a lot of sense as a plug-and-play at guard, Reuter also alludes to the fact that he thinks that the Vikings will take Walker Little Jr. in the fourth round.

Little is an incredibly talented player and could have been a first-round pick if not for playing with an injury two years ago and opting out last season. However, starting two rookies on the offensive line is always risky.

Lance Zierlein (NFL.com)

Alijah Vera-Tucker, OG, USC

Vera-Tucker’s arms ended up being shorter than expected at his pro day, but he still gives the Vikings a much-needed addition with guard/tackle flexibility.

Zierlein also has the Vikings taking Vera-Tucker to boost what is by far the weakest part of an otherwise solid team. He brings up the length of Tucker’s arms potentially being a concern. But if the Vikings take him, they can move last season’s second-round pick, Cleveland, back out to tackle, which is his natural position.

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