Vikings

What Could the Vikings Draft Look Like If They De-Prioritize Corner?

Photo credit: Robert Sheer-Indy Star via USA TODAY Sports

Luckily for the football world, the mock draft overload will soon be in the rearview mirror. And as someone who has speculated about the upcoming draft for the past several weeks, Thursday night can’t get here soon enough.

With mock drafts, it’s imperative that the author is transparent with their intentions. Is this a mock of what you think said team SHOULD do? Or is this what you think they WILL do?

To be perfectly clear, today’s seven-round mock draft has every intention of being a blueprint of how I believe Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and Kevin O’Connell will approach this weekend’s draft.

As a refresher, here’s what led me to these conclusions.

Back in late March, I wrote about how cornerbacks are quietly becoming glorified role players for the most successful defenses in today’s NFL. Although the NFL has morphed into a league full of dynamic aerial attacks, the teams that have boasted the best defensive units have instead decided to prioritize their front four over their secondary.

For example, during Adofo-Mensah’s final five seasons in San Francisco’s front office, the 49ers spent first-round picks on four different defensive linemen.

Just last season, the 49ers made their second NFC Championship game in three years with starting cornerbacks that were comprised of two undrafted free agents (Emmanual Moseley and K’Waun Williams) and a fourth-round pick (Dontae Johnson).

And San Francisco wasn’t alone in this philosophy. Fellow NFC heavyweights the Los Angeles Rams and Tampa Bay Buccaneers were defined defensively by their ability to dominate up front, both in the run and pass game. In 2021, these three NFC teams combined for nine former first-round picks across their respective defensive fronts and just one former first-rounder at corner (Jalen Ramsey).

With Adofo-Mensah’s experience in helping build San Francisco into the defensive juggernaut that they are today, it shouldn’t come as a surprise if the Vikings decide against spending their top resource in the draft at cornerback.

And although the Vikings had the 28th-ranked pass defense last season, the culprits that were largely responsible for that level of futility — Bashaud Breeland and Mackensie Alexander — are no longer on the roster. As it stands now, Minnesota’s top three corners boast extremely impressive win rates at defending the pass.

In Patrick Peterson‘s debut season in purple, he had a better completion percentage allowed, yards per target allowed, and passer rating when targeted than in 2018 — which just so happened to be his most recent Pro Bowl selection.

Cameron Dantzler led all NFL cornerbacks last season with 4.7 yards allowed per target. He had a highly respectable 74.7 passer rating when targeted — in just his second year as a pro.

For context, Dantzler outperformed Denzel Ward — the most recent recipient of the highest-paying contract for a corner in NFL history — in both metrics.

While the critics are clamoring for the Vikings to draft a corner with the 12th-overall pick, I have a difficult time seeing an analytics-driven GM in Adofo-Mensah operating in a matter that would lead him to believe that replacing Dantzler is necessary. And by drafting a corner at 12th-overall, that player should have every intention of providing an immediate impact on this roster.

Not to mention that Adofo-Mensah also identified a potential diamond in the rough in nickelback Chandon Sullivan through free agency. Over the past 49 games since 2019 in Green Bay, Sullivan has combined for an excellent 82.1 passer rating when targeted.

I just can’t picture a rookie corner replacing either Peterson or Dantzler in the starting lineup next season. And if the goal is to find Peterson’s successor for 2023 and beyond, that player can be found later in the draft or even next offseason. At the moment, the Vikings currently have three starting cornerbacks who have a lot to be encouraged about in 2022 with Peterson, Dantzler, and Sullivan.

Which leads me to my seven-round mock of how I believe Adofo-Mensah will attack the upcoming NFL draft for the Minnesota Vikings.

1st Round — 12th Overall: Jordan Davis, defensive tackle, Georgia

Last week I wrote about why Davis is the most logical pick for the Vikings at this particular juncture. With the secondary already in good hands — despite what the outside noise claims — Minnesota takes a page out of San Francisco’s playbook and decides to build a menacing front four spearheaded by the most dominant player in all of college football. With the addition of Davis, the Vikings would turn their 26th-ranked run defense from last season into a real strength overnight.

At 6’6″, 340 lbs., Davis is truly a unicorn with his combination of size, power, and 4.78 40-yard-dash speed. And with Davis as the anchor of the Vikings’ front four, it wouldn’t take long for the 21st Century Purple People Eaters narrative to circulate with Danielle Hunter, Za’Darius Smith, and Davis leading the way.

2nd Round — 46th overall: Quay Walker, linebacker, Georgia

While most of the draft speculation has been built around finding long-term solutions to replace aging stars at cornerback (Peterson) and wide receiver (Adam Thielen), the Vikings’ inside linebackers will both be entering their age-30 seasons in 2022.

Unlike his fellow Bulldog linebacker Nakobe Dean, Walker doesn’t present any concerns with his size. At 6’4″ and 240 lbs., Walker has the frame to be a disruptive force against the run and uses his 4.52 40 speed to make plays from sideline to sideline.

With Championship DNA to boot, Walker could be Minnesota’s green-dot linebacker as early as 2023.

3rd Round — 77th overall: Wan’Dale Robinson, wide receiver, Kentucky

A few weeks back I wrote about how Robinson tore up the Southeastern Conference while playing in Liam Coen’s version of Sean McVay‘s scheme with the Rams. Robinson became just the fifth player to record 100-plus catches in the SEC, joining the likes of DeVonta Smith, Justin Jefferson, Amari Cooper, and Jordan Matthews.

Undersized at 5’8″, 178 lbs., Robinson will never be an alpha receiver in the NFL. However, when paired with a game-breaker like Jefferson and having familiarity with the Rams’ scheme — Coen has since returned to Los Angeles and replaced O’Connell as the Rams’ offensive coordinator — Robinson is exactly the kind of ancillary piece that creative play-callers yearn for.

5th Round — 156th overall: Montaric Brown, cornerback, Arkansas

The Vikings finally address the secondary with their first pick of Day 3. As a testament to the sheer depth of corners in this year’s class, Brown recorded five interceptions last season while playing in the best conference in America. And he can be had in the middle of Day 3.

At 6’0″ and with a 31 1/4″ wingspan, Brown has the necessary length to be an encouraging developmental piece for Minnesota’s defense down the road.

6th Round — 184th overall: Dohnovan West, center/guard, Arizona State

6th Round — 191st overall: Christopher Allen, edge, Alabama

6th Round — 192nd overall: Amari Carter, safety, Miami

7th Round — 250th overall: Josh Jobe, cornerback, Alabama

There you have it, Skoldiers. With stability in the Vikings’ existing cornerback room, look for Adofo-Mensah to address Minnesota’s front seven before spending a premium pick on Patrick Peterson‘s future replacement — especially if a playmaker like Quay Walker is still on the board with the 46th-overall pick on Day 2.

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Photo credit: Robert Sheer-Indy Star via USA TODAY Sports

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