With the Minnesota Vikings’ season coming to a disappointing end, fans can’t help but look to the future. General manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah has to make several decisions, and none may be bigger than how to handle this year’s draft. He maintains that a “competitive rebuild” is still the goal again next season. But with so little draft capital, it’s difficult to see how the Vikings can make good on the “rebuild” part of the promise.
Currently, the Vikings only hold four picks in the 2023 draft. According to Over the Cap, the team is expected to add another in the form of a compensatory pick for losing Tyler Conklin in free agency. Still, five picks and no second-rounder, which they traded to the Detroit Lions in the T.J. Hockenson deal, seems tough to work with. It obviously limits the number of new players coming onto the roster and also hinders many opportunities to trade up to select top talent. There projects to be a lot of talent on the defensive side of the ball around the 23rd-overall pick, but Adofo-Mensah likes to wheel and deal.
When asked about this challenge at Wednesday’s press conference, Adofo-Mensah didn’t seem concerned.
Last year when we talked about our plans, it was a two-year horizon. So last year, our class, I think was bigger than you normally would have expected, and I think we’ve got a lot of young, good contributing players out there, so I don’t think that we necessarily have…when you look at the ages of a lot of guys on sort of the back-end of our roster, we’ve got a lot of good, young, talented players. So I don’t see that as a limitation to us, but there’s obviously always ways to create more picks.
It seems he’s almost treating last year’s rookie class as a part of this season’s fresh crop, which makes a lot of sense. First-rounder Lewis Cine hardly saw the field after he lost a position battle to Cam Bynum and then suffered a lower-body injury. Andrew Booth had an early exit due to a knee issue. The Vikings shut Akayleb Evans down for good after a third concussion. And Brian Asamoah had very few contributions on defense while sitting behind starter Jordan Hicks. There are a lot of potential starters in that group, but the team has hardly seen any of them play. Minnesota may get really lucky — like “11-0 in one score games” lucky — and have all of these players competing at a high level in 2023 at a young age. Or maybe the Vikings are gonna Viking, and this class will be doomed from the jump.
Adofo-Men9sah acknowledges last year was a larger than typical class with 10 selections, so it’s not necessarily the worst thing to stab Rick Spielman through the heart and only have five this year. However, it certainly makes trading up a bigger challenge. If there were a player the Vikings wanted to move up and get, it would mean either giving away 2024 selections or established veterans. Given that the team has a lot of aging players with significant cap hits, it may not be out of the realm for Dalvin Cook or Danielle Hunter to be traded.
Staying competitive next year shouldn’t be an issue for the team. They have the best receiver in football, a solid quarterback, and a good coach. However, filling in the back end of the roster with talented players who will be ready to contribute when the Vikings ultimately move on from players like Kirk Cousins or Harrison Smith may be more troubling.
Adofo-Mensah mentioned a “talent threshold” several times in this same press conference. It’s not the first time he’s mentioned this as one of his tools in roster construction. In a July 2022 USA Today interview, Browns GM Andrew Berry had explained how impressed he was with Adofo-Mensah’s modeling. According to Berry, he had roster builds of NFL teams that recently advanced to the NFL playoff divisional round. He also assessed how the talent at different positions bolster a team’s chance at a Super Bowl title and half a dozen other models as well. So we can only assume that Adofo-Mensah will attempt to maintain the impossible goal of keeping a championship-level roster while also ensuring the back end of the roster remains young and talented.
It’s a tall task to run it back next season while also preparing for the future. With so few picks, the task becomes even harder. But with last year’s rookie class essentially starting fresh this year, it could lessen the burden of having just a few fresh faces in 2023. Adofo-Mensah doesn’t look worried, so fans shouldn’t be worried either…right?