Vikings

How Do the Vikings Address DT and Corner With Limited Draft Capital?

Photo Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

After Kirk Cousins signed with the Atlanta Falcons, the Minnesota Vikings worked quickly to bolster their defense through free agency. Blake Cashman, Jonathan Greenard, and Andrew Van Ginkel were their big signings this offseason, addressing positions of need at linebacker and edge rusher.

Still, they needed a defensive tackle and corner, so they signed Jerry Tillery and Shaquill Griffin on cheap one-year deals. But they still need to add depth at both positions.

The Vikings have limited resources. Their three highest picks are Nos. 11 and 23 in the first round and a fourth-round pick. They will likely use the first-round picks to trade up for a quarterback, leaving them seven picks, all fourth-round or later. Minnesota has $16.8 million left in cap space. Given that rookie draft picks take about $5-10 million to sign, they have limited capital to work with.

However, Mekhi Wingo is a potential late-round defensive tackle who could help the Vikings in the draft. He’s a little undersized at 6’2”, 284 lbs., but he makes up for it with explosiveness off the snap. Wingo is one of the more athletic defensive tackles in this draft. He recorded the second-fastest 40-yard dash time at 4.85 seconds and the fastest 10-yard split at 1.84 seconds.

In the clip below, Wingo exploded off the snap quickly, and the center and guard could not get a hand on him to stop his movement. He pressured the quarterback, preventing him from setting his feet and disrupting the play’s timing.

In the following clip, Wingo shows off his power with a bull rush against the right tackle. Even with his lack of length, Wingo gained power with his explosiveness and speed off the jump before making contact with the right tackle. He ultimately disrupted the pocket and forced the quarterback to escape.

 

Wingo isn’t built to be the typical run-stuffing defensive tackle that has become common in the NFL, but that’s okay. The Vikings need more interior pressure as a unit. Given his quickness, Wingo can use lateral movements to shed blocks and fill gaps, and PFF graded him as first amongst SEC defensive tackles against the run since 2022.

Free agent Stephon Gilmore is another option who could help the Vikings. Minneosta’s current corners are Byron Murphy, Andrew Booth, Mekhi Blackmon, and Shaquill Griffin, and Murphy is the only established player. Booth and Blackmon are young corners, and Griffin will be on his fourth team in three years.

Gilmore, 33, is a former defensive player of the year, but he was productive with the Dallas Cowboys last year. Gilmore allowed 54 receptions on 95 targets and deflected nine passes, his best totals since he won Defensive Player of the Year.

However, the Vikings would be spending a lot of money on a veteran player. It would probably take a one-year, $9 to $11 million deal to sign him. They could also try a $9 to $10 million base contract with incentives.

The Vikings have limited cap space to work with. But if they only take a few players in the draft, they may be able to manufacture cap space by offering to convert other players’ salaries to bonuses.

Gilmore would be a great addition because having an established presence on the other side of Murphy helps both corners and solidifies a group that looks like a weakness going into next season. They would both be able to take on WR1s, giving Flores flexibility in his blitzing scheme.

Gabe Hall is another player the Vikings could target. Listed at 6’5”, 290 lbs. out of Baylor, Hall’s draft stock has been rising through draft season after a great showing at the Senior Bowl. He’s a defensive tackle with 34.5” arms who uses his length and strength to win at the point of attack.

Hall is good against the run. Given his stature, opposing offensive linemen have trouble moving him one on one. He shows great effort on tape, showcasing discipline in the run game by staying in his gaps. Hall isn’t a great pass rusher, though. He doesn’t show great burst off of the snap and is late getting his hands on the opposing team.

He must also work on getting low enough in the trenches to gain leverage. Hall sometimes tends to stand too tall, which can get him pushed around. But given his frame and power, he has traits he can learn, allowing him to develop into a better player. Wingo, Gilmore, and Hall could help the Vikings in different areas without using significant draft capital, whether in the later parts of the draft or free agency.

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Photo Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

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