(WCCO)- The NFL Draft gets underway Thursday night with the first round beginning at 7 p.m. CST. The Minnesota Vikings, thanks to the Stefon Diggs trade, now hold two first round picks Nos. 22 and 25 overall. So, what should they do with those picks?
It wasn’t just Stefon Diggs that left town during the league’s free agency period. Corners Trae Waynes, Xavier Rhodes and Mackensie Alexander all signed elsewhere. Defensive tackle Linval Joseph and safeties Andrew Sendejo and Jayron Kearse left town. The defense, long a strength of the team has plenty of holes to fill. Offensively of course, there’s the hole left at receiver by Diggs’ departure.
The organization did replace Joseph with defensive tackle Michael Pierce from the Baltimore Ravens (3-years $27 million). But outside of that, it was smaller moves around the edges. With Thursday rapidly approaching, it feels like the defensive side of the ball will be addressed with at least one if not both picks. Here’s what the experts think.
Ryan Wilson & Josh Edwards (CBS Sports)- Justin Jefferson, WR, LSU
Jefferson is part of a loaded wide receiver class that could see as many as six guys come off the board in the first round. While he appears to be a tier below Jerry Jeudy and CeeDee Lamb, there is still plenty to like and he’s measured as a likely starter in the first two seasons by NFL.com.
He exploded along with the rest of the Tigers offense in 2019, putting up 111 receptions for 1,540 yards and 18 touchdowns. At 6’1″ 203 pounds, he ran a 4.43 40-yard dash at the Combine, impressing scouts. With solid but not burner speed, Jefferson is more likely to be a contested catch guy who can thrive in traffic. He worked well out of the slot with the Tigers and could open some intriguing possibilities there with Adam Thielen on the outside.
Chris Trapasso (CBS Sports)- TRADE up to 17, K’Lavon Chaisson, DE, LSU
The next three experts have the Vikings moving up to various spots to claim a variety of prospects. Here, they would be grabbing a guy they hope would be the next great pass rusher. With Everson Griffen’s status still up in the air, adding Chaisson would in theory give you a strong option opposite Danielle Hunter.
The question is Chaisson’s productivity as a pass rusher as he snagged just 9.5 sacks in his college career. But, that was the same question people had of Hunter coming out of LSU in 2014 (4.5 college sacks) and he’s developed well in Mike Zimmer’s system.
R.J. White (CBS Sports)- TRADE up to 13, Jedrick Wills Jr, OT, Alabama
Though the Vikings ranked 6th in the league in fewest sacks given up (28), tackle has been a sore spot for the team in recent years. Riley Reiff is entering the final two years of his contract, and at 31, is on the back end of his career. So, moving up and getting one of this draft’s top five tackles may make some sense. But, it feels like there are other bigger positions of need for the team to address.
Tom Fornelli (CBS Sports)- TRADE up to 11, Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama
In this scenario, the team swaps picks with the Jets (along with other draft considerations) to snag the top receiver on the board. Jeudy is a polished route runner that also happens to have run a 4.45 at the Combine. He went over 1,000 yards in each of his final two seasons with the Tide totaling 24 touchdowns in that time. While he’s not the burner that his teammate Henry Ruggs III is, he makes corners look silly with the precision of his routes and he’s strong enough to win some battles for the ball as well.
Will Brinson (CBS Sports)- Ross Blacklock, DL, TCU
This pick is interesting because it adds another strong interior presence to the defensive line. While adding Pierce in free agency is a strong step, there is still the need to add quality presence on the defensive line, particularly in today’s NFL. Blacklock at 6’3″ 290 pounds, put together a solid Combine and was also a solid two year starter for TCU with 15.5 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks.
He did suffer an Achilles injury in college which forced him to miss a full year, which could lead to questions about how he holds up at the NFL level from a durability standpoint.
Mel Kiper Jr. (ESPN)- Brandon Aiyuk, WR, Arizona State
Aiyuk is another of the receivers expected to be in play in the first round on Thursday night. He broke out as a senior for the Sun Devils averaging 18.3 yards per catch and going over 1,000 yards on the season. He ran a 4.5 at the Combine which may have come in slightly slower than what people expected but, he was a wizard after getting the ball in his hands in college. The 18.8 yards per catch wasn’t simply a by product of him blowing by guys, he did a lot of work making defenders miss.
Ryan Wilson & R.J. White (CBS Sports)- Jeff Gladney, CB, TCU
The 25th pick seems to have more consensus among the experts over what position to look at. Six of the seven have the team taking a corner in this spot, just differences in opinion on who. Gladney redshirted his freshman year then proceeded to see a lot of the field for the next four years. He competed at the Combine with a torn meniscus and still ran a 4.48 40 time. The meniscus has since been repaired and he is expected to be ready in time for the season.
Chris Trapasso & Will Brinson (CBS Sports)- Noah Igbinoghene, CB, Auburn
Igbinoghene converted from wide receiver to corner while at Auburn and started 22 of 26 games over the final two years of his career for the Tigers. He is a physical player that doesn’t mind filling in the run game to bring down opposing backs. A track runner at Auburn as well, he has plenty of speed, the concern is more technique at the corner position since he is still on the newer side to it.
Tom Fornelli (CBS Sports) & Mel Kiper Jr. (ESPN) – Jaylon Johnson, CB, Utah
Johnson saw playing time in all three years of his career with the Utes tying for the team lead in passes defensed as a freshman (6) despite starting two of 12 games. He then led the team in passes defensed as a junior in 2019 with 11. He was constantly around the ball making life difficult for receivers in college, the same is expected in the pros with Lance Zierlein of NFL.com comparing him to Shaquill Griffin of the Seahawks.
Josh Edwards (CBS Sports)- Neville Gallimore, DL, Oklahoma
Like the Blacklock pick from Brinson above, this is about filling out the defensive line depth for the team. Gallimore is a big body in the middle of the defensive line (6’2″ 302) but is still plenty explosive (4.79 40). He racked up 17.5 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks in his career with the Sooners.