Ask and you shall receive. After being told by the football world throughout the offseason that the eternally cornerback-thirsty Minnesota Vikings needed to make even more investments at the position, Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and the front office obliged. Despite spending second- and fourth-round picks in the 2022 NFL Draft on Andrew Booth Jr. and Akayleb Evans, along with signing presumptive CB1 Byron Murphy in free agency, the Vikings allocated another Day 2 draft pick to USC corner Mekhi Blackmon. And then they doubled down on the position with their first selection on Day 3 with LSU nickelback Jay Ward.
Now that the Vikings are five-deep with Round 4-or-better cornerbacks, I don’t want to hear another word about needing another corner until 2027.
Put aside the fact that there’s no actual blueprint in the NFL that lends itself to believe that this type of commitment to the cornerback position is a prerequisite to winning in January. Yes, the Vikings have been a complete dumpster fire at defending the pass. Over the past three years, they’ve ranked 25th, 28th, and 31st in passing yards allowed. And they’ve ranked 29th, 24th, and 28th in points allowed over that span. Significant improvements for Minnesota’s pass defense, and their defense as a whole, have been long overdue.
But if you’re of the belief that simply going overboard at cornerback is the way to approach this fixer-upper, the NFL’s actual contenders have other ideas. The reigning NFC champion Philadelphia Eagles and general manager Howie Roseman understands that to sustain an elite defense, it will always come down to his dudes up front. After trading up for Georgia defensive tackle Jordan Davis in the 2022 NFL Draft, Roseman again traded up for Georgia defensive tackle Jalen Carter in last month’s draft. And when fellow Bulldog edge rusher Nolan Smith slipped in the first round, Roseman scooped him right up.
How about the Dallas Cowboys? Despite already having one of the game’s best fronts, along with one of the biggest game-wreckers on the planet in Micah Parsons, Jerry Jones and his front office re-invested in their front four with the first-round selection of Michigan defensive tackle Mazi Smith.
Let’s talk about the Super Bowl Champion Kansas City Chiefs. Even though they spent a first-round pick on edge rusher George Karlaftis in last year’s draft, not to mention already having the game’s best defensive tackle in Chris Jones (sorry, Aaron Donald), Brett Veach and the Chiefs prioritized their front by spending another first-round pick on Kansas State edge rusher Felix Anudike-Uzomah.
Yes, the decision to select Jordan Addison in the first round was warranted. The former USC receiver should step in from Day 1 and make life considerably easier for Kevin O’Connell, Kirk Cousins, Justin Jefferson, T.J. Hockenson, and the Vikings’ offense. But with the defensive line help that Adofo-Mensah and the front office passed on to make that selection, it serves as a reminder that the Minnesota Vikings haven’t spent a first- or second-round draft pick on its defensive line since 2013.
And with yet another draft in the rearview mirror where contenders continuously use their top resources to strengthen their respective defensive fronts, it’s more than fair to ask why the Vikings have gone an entire decade by intentionally neglecting theirs in the draft.
Is there reason to be encouraged about fifth-round pick Jaquelin Roy, the former LSU defensive tackle? Absolutely. To be fair, that was about as good of a find to be had for the Vikings on Day 3.
The Vikings are no longer in a position to be satisfied with simply winning the Aaron Rodgers-less NFC North and bowing out after the first or second weekend in the playoffs. Instead, this franchise is competing with the heavyweights of the conference in Philadelphia, Dallas, and the San Francisco 49ers to punch their ticket to this team’s first Super Bowl appearance since 1977.
Is Minnesota’s competition in the NFC building out their defenses by frantically targeting cornerbacks seemingly every year in the draft? Nope. Instead, all three organizations make it a priority to use their top resources every single year on making their nightmarish defensive fronts even scarier. No, the 49ers didn’t have a first-round pick this year due to the Trey Lance trade with the Miami Dolphins in 2021. So Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch made up for it by signing defensive tackle Javon Hargrave to a four-year, $84 million deal on the first day of free agency.
Regardless of level, defensive football will always start and stop up front. Minnesota’s biggest threats within the NFC have known this for quite some time. And until the Vikings follow suit and make it a priority of their own, they will never be taken seriously as an actual threat in the conference.