Vikings

The Vikings Are Stuck Between A Rock and A Hard Place In the 2024 Draft

Photo Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL Draft is less than two weeks away, and the quarterback frenzy will continue to occupy the headlines until the Minnesota Vikings hand in their card on the night of April 25. Following Minnesota’s mid-March trade with the Houston Texans to pick up an additional first-round selection, Skoldiers have seemingly set the bar at “Trade Up (for a quarterback) or Bust.” After allowing Kirk Cousins to walk out the door and into NFC South with the Atlanta Falcons, trading up for a premier signal caller seems like the most obvious play.

But what if I told you that, regardless of which path the Vikings decide to take in the upcoming draft, they’ll be neglecting the most important component on one side of the ball?

Lost in all of the “Trade Up or Bust” mayhem is the fact that the Vikings have gone more than a decade since spending either a first- or second-round draft pick on their defensive front. Erasmus James in 2005 was the last time Minnesota spent either a first- or second-round draft pick on an edge rusher. Sharrif Floyd in 2013 was the last time the Vikings selected a defensive tackle with a first- or second-round draft pick. Considering that pass rusher and line play are the most important positions on the defensive side of the ball, it’s borderline organizational malpractice to have gone that long without spending a top resource through the draft on these positions.

But don’t just take my word for it. In 2024, if you sort by the highest-paid player by position, edge rusher (San Francisco’s Nick Bosa) and defensive tackle (Los Angeles Rams’ Aaron Donald) check in at No. 2 and No. 3 behind quarterback.

The 2024 draft presents a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” scenario for the Minnesota Vikings. If they decide to take the obvious path and trade up for a quarterback, they will have gone yet another year of overlooking their defensive front in the first two rounds of the draft. If they can’t find a dance partner to trade up with, then the pitchfork brigade will be out in full force because the Vikings couldn’t land a premier prospect at the most important position in all of sports.

Could the Vikings effectively check both boxes by getting a top-four quarterback and spend a first-round pick on their defensive front? As JP from Angels in the Outfield once said, “Hey, it could happen!”

Let’s dissect the two possible scenarios.

Suppose Drake Maye, Jayden Daniels, and/or J.J. McCarthy experience a slide and are somehow still on the board once the Vikings are on the clock at 11. Then count your lucky stars that Minnesota didn’t have to part with any resources to anoint their new face of the franchise. In that scenario, the 23rd-overall pick would be tailor-made for Texas defensive tackle Byron Murphy II, Illinois defensive tackle Jer’Zhan Newton, Penn State edge rusher Chop Robinson, or Missouri edge rusher Darius Robinson.

The 2023 Houston Texans present an interesting case study for the second scenario in which the Vikings could land both a quarterback and address the defensive front in the opening round of the draft. With the second-overall pick in last year’s draft, Houston rolled out the red carpet for the Carolina Panthers to pay a king’s ransom to the Chicago Bears for the No. 1 pick.

Houston stood pat at No. 2 and selected C.J. Stroud. The draft got even more interesting when Houston moved up nine spots to third overall to select edge rusher Will Anderson Jr. Houston parted with its 12th- and 33rd-overall picks in 2023, along with its first- and third-round picks in 2024, to pull off the trade.

If the Vikings decide to trade up for a quarterback, it will likely cost them both the 11th- and 23rd-overall picks. But if Kwesi Adofo-Mensah, Kevin O’Connell, and Brian Flores have a particular defensive front player identified on their board that they simply cannot be without, they could always trade their 2025 first-round pick and some sweetener to get back into the first round for a second selection during the opening round.

Like the Texans on draft day last year, Minnesota’s 2025 first-round draft pick has tremendous perceived value. The oddsmakers in Las Vegas have the Vikings pegged for 6.5 wins in 2024, with only the Denver Broncos, New England Patriots, and Carolina Panthers with a lower win total at 5.5. That means the Vikings are widely expected to be selected near the top of next year’s draft.

This particular maneuver couldn’t have worked out more favorably for the Texans. Stroud and Anderson won Rookie of the Year, were named Pro Bowlers, and helped lead the Texans to a divisional crown and playoff victory. Do you think the Texans give a damn about being without their first-round pick this year? Me neither.

Although there are two different slim-to-none scenarios in which the Vikings pull off the ability to address their two most glaring needs, which just so happen to be the two most important positions in football, I wouldn’t hold your breath on either scenario coming to fruition.

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Photo Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

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