Imagine the excitement right now if the Minnesota Vikings had drafted Jameson Williams at 12. Or what if they had taken Christian Watson with pick No. 34? The NDSU faithful would be scouring the internet for every OTA update, visualizing Watson creating the next triple threat with Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen.
Instead, Lewis Cine (32nd overall), Andrew Booth (42), and Ed Ingram (59) are Minnesota’s first three picks. Cine is a corner; Booth is a safety. Both are hard-hitting players who should fill out a depleted Vikings secondary. Ingram is a guard, albeit one with a concerning past, who fills another position of need.
The Vikings’ draft strategy isn’t an issue here. Kwesi-Adofo Mensah acted like a commodity trader, reducing risk at 12 and taking three players who could help fill out the roster. First-round receivers are a dime a dozen. For every Justin Jefferson, there’s a Laquon Treadwell. One year you might get Randy Moss; the next, you end up with Troy Williamson. There’s nothing wrong with a GM mitigating risk.
But nobody is following OTAs solely to check in on Cine, Booth, or Ingram. Cine and Booth exemplify Minnesota’s new draft profile – fast, physical, and violent. However, they can only display one aspect of their game: speed. It’s generally frowned upon to lay out your new teammates, risking injury before the season starts. Similarly, every Vikings fan knows how important the offensive line is. Still, it’s one of the most challenging positions for the average person to evaluate.
Most people have a two-step process for following OTAs and mini-camp. First, they check in on the stars. Did Player A live up to draft expectations? Will Player B be a game-breaker? Then they lock into the biggest battles. Who will fill various positions of need? We may spend more time breaking down various camp competitions and speculating about who will be Mr. Mankato. But it’s the stars who drive engagement.
It’s still hard to grasp how Adofo-Mensah will approach the draft in the future. We know what he did this year. We also are familiar with his Wall Street background and that he likes to use analytics to influence his decisions. But he inherited a roster that was already pretty filled-out. Adofo-Mensah and Kevin O’Connell seem to have concluded that all they need is some supplemental players. A modern offense and a 3-4 scheme will take care of the rest. Therefore, we don’t know how they would have treated a barren roster.
The new Vikings regime may unintentionally weed out the casual fans until the season starts. Anyone can get excited about a new receiver. Unlike Cine, Booth, and Ingram, a receiver could display most of his repertoire in OTAs. We’d see his speed, catch-radius, and route running. Defensive players can’t lean into their physicality in the offseason. It’s harder to evaluate a guard’s anchor and punch.
That’s not to say there isn’t anything exciting going on now. It looks like the new regime will use Dalvin Cook more as a weapon, and there’s a legitimate right guard battle. Gone are the days of running Cook into the ground or hoping that a converted tackle or center can play guard. At least, hopefully that’s the case. And that’s exciting for die-hard fans. Still, it’s not the same as speculating whether the Vikings drafted the next SuperFreak.
Adofo-Mensah and O’Connell may have taken over a team that feels stale, but they didn’t use the offseason to build hype. No matter how great Jefferson was last year, Minnesota’s old-school tactics and constant shortcomings turned fans off. Adofo-Mensah could have burned the roster down, which would have been cathartic for some. Others would have felt an adrenaline rush if the Vikings had taken Williams or Watson. But, ultimately, the best thing the new regime can do is win. And, say it with me, nobody picks up wins in May.
When judging the new regime, focus more on how their moves help build out their roster. Seek out people who can evaluate Cine and Booth in coverage or how Ingram keeps defenders in front of him. Speculate over how Chris Reed or Jesse Davis could contribute to protecting Kirk Cousins and how Cook will look in a modern offense.
Most importantly, hold the new regime accountable. Did they fill holes in the roster? Are they maximizing Jefferson, Cousins, and Cook? Have they shored up the defense? We’re all going to have to move from Step 1 to Step 2 quickly. The Vikings already have stars; they needed a complete roster. Drafting a wide receiver would have been a luxury. Rounding out the defense and the O-line is a necessity.