EAGAN, Minn. (AP) — The Minnesota Vikings put the two picks they had in the first 108 selections in the 2017 draft to productive use.
They moved up in both the second and third rounds for running back Dalvin Cook and center Pat Elflein to obtain a pair of players expected to be long-term cogs in their offense.
They’ll be bargain-hunters again this time, with the 30th pick in the first round and thereafter.
Just like last year, the offensive line will be the point of emphasis.
After reaching the NFC championship game and going all in on quarterback Kirk Cousins in free agency, the Vikings could use some more protection for their new franchise player. So it’s up to general manager Rick Spielman and his staff to, well, find another Elflein.
With the retirement of right guard Joe Berger, there’s a vacancy for the Vikings to fill inside. Fortunately for them, the center-guard class is considered well-stocked. Will Hernandez (UTEP), Connor Williams (Texas) and Isaiah Wynn (Georgia) are viable options if they’re still available at No. 30 on Thursday night.
There are tackles to consider, too, a scenario that allows Mike Remmers to move inside as he did in the playoffs. If they go with a guard, Remmers can return to right tackle.
“When you have guys on your roster that can play multiple positions like that, that’s what gives you the flexibility to go with the best player,” Spielman said.
Cornerback, tight end and linebacker are other spots to consider for depth and beyond 2018.
“I know everybody in the mock world and the experts out there are saying it’s o-line, o-line, o-line, but when you look at your roster, you have to look at, ‘OK, where are some other holes that you’re going to have to fill?'”
Here are some other relevant angles to follow during the draft this weekend with the Vikings:
THIRTY, THAT’S SOMETHING
Standout players can be had with the 30th pick. Last year, Pittsburgh snagged Wisconsin linebacker T.J. Watt there.
The St. Louis Rams grabbed Georgia linebacker Alec Ogletree in 2013. The New York Jets nabbed defensive tackle Muhammad Wilkerson from Temple in 2011. In 2001, the Indianapolis Colts selected wide receiver Reggie Wayne out of Miami.
ON THE OTHER HAND
The Vikings were part of a league-high seven trades during the draft last year, which not only allowed them to move up for Cook and Elflein but netted them three extra picks on the third day for a total of nine players.
Picking 30th in a draft that’s deep at a position the Vikings could use puts Spielman in a prime situation to trade out of the first round and stockpile additional late selections while assumedly being no worse for the wear.
“If you can get that same player in the second round, but you have an additional pick, why wouldn’t you do that?” Spielman said.
The Vikings have been in their new headquarters for almost two months. One of the many state-of-the-art features of the new facility is the auditorium where Spielman and the scouts and the coaching staff will gather for the draft.
Instead of the standard white board with magnets for each player in the pool, they’ll use an all-digital, time-saving touch screen made up of 40 different 55-inch TVs.
“I was very nervous,” Spielman said. “It’s the first time in I think 30 years that I have never gone without magnets. But this board has been incredible.”
HITS AND MISSES
Most of Minnesota’s best players were drafted on Spielman’s watch, including seven starters on the defense last season that led the NFL with the fewest points and yards allowed and five starters on the most productive offense in four years under coach Mike Zimmer.
That group includes four straight first-round picks: safety Harrison Smith (2012), cornerback Xavier Rhodes (2013), linebacker Anthony Barr (2014) and cornerback Trae Waynes (2015).
Wide receiver Laquon Treadwell is the glaring whiff, with only 21 catches and 215 yards to show for the 23rd overall selection in 2016. Four guards and one tackle were taken over the next 33 picks that year.
The coaching staff has lauded Treadwell’s work ethic, but there’s not much time left for the Mississippi product to establish himself as a viable piece of the offense with Adam Thielen, Stefon Diggs and newcomer Kendall Wright in place.
Diggs came in the fifth round in 2015. Tight end David Morgan was a sixth-rounder in 2016. The Vikings need more third-day successes, though, with defensive tackle Jaleel Johnson (fourth round), linebacker Ben Gedeon (fourth round) and guard Danny Isidora (fifth round) presenting such potential from last year’s draft.
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