Vikings

Arif Hasan's Vikings 2024 Mock Draft 1.0: Trading Down For Value

Photo Credit: Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Vikings hold the 11th-overall pick, along with eight other picks, in the 2024 NFL Draft – but with only two selections in the top 100, most of their value is concentrated in that single Round 1 choice. The volume they have on Day 3 will look good when listing all the selections but might not result in the roster turnover the Vikings will need to continue their rebuild from the Rick Spielman era.

The solution to that problem might be to find ways to concentrate more picks in the top 100. Using Fanspeak’s Mock Draft Simulator and an uploaded big board meant to represent the current consensus on NFL draft prospects, I was able to approximate a mock draft that captures that idea.

In this scenario, I assume that the Vikings agreed to short-term deals with Kirk Cousins and Jordan Hicks and long-term deals with Danielle Hunter and Justin Jefferson. Abstractly, one might envision a bridge at left guard, whether that was Dalton Risner or someone else.

If the Vikings want to maximize their Day 2 returns – where NFL fans tend to argue the value of the draft is, then they can trade down with the 11th pick and trade up with their Day 3 picks. Let’s see what that looks like.

Round 1, Pick No. 11: Trade Down from No. 11 to No. 16

It was admittedly difficult to trade down from the first pick – on the board were Rome Odunze, Laiatu Latu, Jared Verse, and Terrion Arnold. But that was also a reason to trade down – one of them was likely to fall to me if I only dropped down a few spots. On top of that, Kool-Aid McKinstry and Nate Wiggins were on the board as well. If I wanted a cornerback, I was in a good spot so long as my trade wasn’t too dramatic.

I negotiated down the board but ultimately settled on a trade with the Seattle Seahawks to move down to pick No. 16 and take up their third-round selection, 78th overall. By the traditional chart, this is a minor loss – equal to about a fifth-round pick. By more analytically inclined charts, this is an enormous win, worth about an extra fourth-rounder.

I decide on that trade, willing to take whoever falls to me.

Round 1, Pick No. 16: Trade Down from No. 16 to No. 20

Seattle took Jer’Zhan Newton, a defensive tackle. Almost every one of the players I was targeting fell to me. I think it’s worth a trade down again. A team trading down multiple times isn’t unheard of in the first round of the draft, so I engaged with the Pittsburgh Steelers. They’re a little less willing to play ball, but in real terms, I don’t think I’m losing that much value.

So I’m willing to take a strategic loss to move down four spots again. I give up a fourth-round pick, a sixth-round pick, and a seventh-round pick in return for a third-round selection. This is a loss by every measure – analytically and by the traditional trade chart. But I am confident I’ll get a player regularly mocked in the top 10 at the 20th pick and secure a third-rounder while doing so.

Round 1, Pick No. 20: CB Terrion Arnold, Alabama

Terrion Arnold’s average draft position is 11th, according to Grinding the Mocks, and he’s often the first cornerback off the board. He’s often mocked to the Vikings at 11, so getting him here is a steal.

I wanted to give the Vikings the ability to transition into a man-coverage scheme under Brian Flores, as has been his forte in the past. Arnold could be a big part of that; he’s a lengthy and physical corner who can play press-man but also plays off with incredible efficiency. His fluidity stands out on film, and he’s shown tremendous growth an the position over the years. He’s scheme-versatile, young, and capable. Easy choice.

Round 2, Pick No. 42: ED Christian Braswell, Alabama

I didn’t mess around too much with Minnesota’s second-round pick and selected Christian Braswell from Alabama. I was able to watch a little bit of him at the Senior Bowl – a common refrain for all of the prospects that follow from here on out – and I was impressed.

My choices otherwise weren’t wonderful position fits, and choosing Braswell didn’t require me to reach on the board; it was a good fit. Picking between tackle Kingsley Sumataia, receiver Adonai Mitchell, tackle Patrick Paul, nose tackle T’Vondre Sweat, and receiver Ja’Lynn Polk would be difficult for most teams, but not here for the Vikings.

Braswell isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. He’s a bit short for an edge rusher at 6’3” and primarily rushes with power without demonstrating enormous flexibility or bend. I wouldn’t be a buyer in most schemes, but Flores has shown a tremendous capacity to maximize one-dimensional pass rushers. I trust him to do the same with Braswell.

He knows how to win. Braswell led the SEC in “true pass set” pressures, ranking third among Power 5 pass rushers.

Round 3, Pick No. 78: DL Braden Fiske, Florida State

I didn’t want to ignore defensive tackle, either. Braden Fiske was impressive at the Senior Bowl. Most of what was written up about him concerns the game itself – he had to switch teams at the last minute to even out the numbers and performed spectacularly – but he was outstanding all week.

That’s one reason I selected him over choices like defensive lineman McKinnley Jackson, safety Javon Bullard, cornerback Mike Sainristil, and receiver Johnny Wilson.

I wouldn’t have minded adding a nose tackle at some point, but I have more confidence in Harrison Phillips than any other defensive lineman on the team. I wanted a pass-rusher, and Fiske is certainly that. While Braswell was leading edge rushers in the SEC in true pass set pressures, Fiske was leading interior defenders in the same.

Fiske is a bit of a tweener as a potential five-technique rusher in addition to his potential role as a three-technique, and that’s fine with me. Though their scouting reports aren’t alike, the usage pattern for Fiske could look much like that of Deatrich Wise Jr., who played both three-technique and five-technique for the Flores Patriots.

Wise and Fiske both share uncommon strength and incredible motor but share concerns about lateral agility. While Wise excellently leveraged his length, Fiske does a better job using his pad level, with a larger range of pass rush moves available to him. There’s room for him in this defense.

Round 3, Pick No. 84: OG Christian Haynes, Connecticut

Using those two trades to add two third-round picks felt enormously helpful. Adding Christian Haynes to this group feels like the perfect value opportunity. Haynes had a great Senior Bowl and was able to showcase his combination of size and athleticism that’s generally difficult to find at guard. There are technical issues to clean up – hand usage, pad level, and footwork – but the base capability is there to be an elite player if he can develop.

Even with his raw technique, he demonstrated the ability to pass protect and run block by virtue of his raw strength and athleticism. The 2024 class isn’t lacking in strength along the defensive line, but Haynes more than showed his own going toe to toe with them.

Picking him above Bullard, guard Zak Zinter, safety Jaden Hicks, running back Audric Estime, and cornerback Max Melton was relatively easy.

Round 4, Pick No. 108: QB Spencer Rattler, South Carolina

I’m not ignorant to the fact that the Vikings will want to move on from Kirk Cousins sooner or later. Adding a fourth-round pick to compete with a fifth-round pick might not seem like the kind of competition that people want, but Spencer Rattler is more than just a fourth-round option at quarterback.

He was the most consistent QB at Senior Bowl practices and adapted quickly to the NFL concepts given to him – far better than the other quarterbacks on his team. “Freedom” is the easiest way to describe Rattler’s skillset; he has the freedom to do whatever he wants. He has the requisite release, arm strength, and platform independence to throw from any angle to any spot.

That doesn’t mean he has the howitzer like Patrick Mahomes or Josh Allen do, but it gives him many more options on the field than most quarterbacks. On top of that, he plays well in structure with rhythm and precision. He happens to fall this far in the draft because he has the tools to improvise but really struggles with execution off-script.

This isn’t too unlike Brock Purdy coming out of the draft. Purdy was an elite anticipator with a lot of natural ability in a timing offense that happened to play a lot of sandlot football. If Purdy can be harnessed, so can the more physically talented Rattler – though his eye discipline and vision may not be on par with Purdy’s.

It wasn’t much of a reach to select Rattler here. However, I had to sacrifice some players I was interested in at positions of need, like cornerback Cam Hart, safety Tykee Smith, and linebacker Tommy Eichenberg.

Round 5, Pick No. 158: RB Rasheen Ali, Marshall

This was a difficult set of decisions to make. Running backs Kimani Vidal and Jawhar Jordan were ranked ahead of Rasheen Ali. I also see that I sacrificed the ability to draft Jordan Travis at quarterback, but I prefer Rattler anyway. On top of that, I had to give up on intriguing tight ends Jared Wiley and Theo Johnson.

Nevertheless, Ali makes sense to me. He’s a decisive runner familiar with the type of running demanded of backs in the Vikings scheme. Cast as a smaller back, he weighed in at 204 lbs. at the Senior Bowl and moved naturally at that size. He was a fantastic pass catcher at the Senior Bowl, something we can see in his college film.

I like his ability to take on contact, and though his vision could be an issue, it’s nothing like the problems with vision we see from Kene Nwangwu or other faster backs. I think Ali could be fantastic as a complement to Ty Chandler.

Round 5, Pick No. 167: S Jaylin Simpson, Auburn

Listed as a cornerback in some places and safety in other places, Jaylin Simpson is the kind of player looking for a home in a defense that values versatility instead of punishing it. With the departure of Harrison Smith looming in the distance, the Vikings need to find ways to add to the back end of their defense.

That doesn’t mean finding a one-for-one replacement. But Simpson has tremendous versatility as a back-end player, with box safety roles on his resumé​ and nickel corner and free safety roles in his future. He closes down as a high safety quickly and can secure single-high or two-high coverages.

The Vikings already have a player in this prototype in Jay Ward. That’s fine – they can have two and let the better one win out.

Still, that redundancy does make it a difficult choice over grabbing a second cornerback like Johnny Dixon, a second guard like Ladarius Henderson, or a second edge defender in Zion Tupuola-Fetui. I was also tempted to take Iowa’s punter, Tory Taylor. Without another linebacker on the roster, I also considered Tyrice Knight from UTEP.

Nevertheless, I thought depth along the secondary demanded an upgrade.

Round 6, Pick No. 187: TE AJ Barner, Michigan

Again, I really wanted a linebacker, and Nathaniel Watson was there. It was a tempting potential selection, as were offensive linemen Layden Robinson and Trevor Keegan or a more traditional safety like Josh Proctor. But AJ Barner impressed me too much to ignore. He was an impressive blocker at Michigan who demonstrated underneath pass-catching capability.

He showed off an expanded route tree in Senior Bowl practices, and I thought he could be a true do-everything tight end. The depth the Vikings have at tight end was a concern last year, and this could go a long way to resolving it.

Round 7, Pick No. 242: WR Jha’Quan Jackson, Tulane

I probably should have picked a linebacker. David Ugwoegbu from Houston was there, as was Edefuan Ulofoshio from Washington. But Jha’Quan Jackson was such a fun receiver at the Senior Bowl – no one could stop him on underneath routes, and he has a lot of big-play capability as an after-catch receiver.

With Jordan Addison and Justin Jefferson on the roster, there’s no need to go overboard finding a starting receiver. But adding new elements to the offense, like a YAC maven with special teams usage seems pretty smart.

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