The Minnesota Vikings entered the 2022 NFL Draft with glaring needs at several positions. On defense, safety and cornerback were positions where they were not only lacking depth, but also future starters. as several Vikings defensive starters will have their contracts expire at the end of next season. Depth at edge rusher and inside linebacker were also considered positions of need.
On offense, the biggest need was at wait, wait… don’t tell me. Ah yes, the offensive line. They do have their long-term bookend tackles in Christian Darrisaw and Brian O’Neill. And Ezra Cleveland made some great strides at the left guard position to help partially solidify the line. The oh-so-familiar weaknesses at the center and the right guard positions have continually kept QB Kirk Cousins on his rear-end too often in passing situations.
Captain Kirk 🖊️ pic.twitter.com/pPMSbOaD4H— Minnesota Vikings (@Vikings) March 16, 2022
With the loss of Tyler Conklin, tight end was also a position where they lacked depth. Behind starter Irv Smith, there are a lot of questions. Adding a quality player at the receiver position was also high on their wish list, due to the many three-receiver sets that new coach Kevin O’Connell likes to run. And Alexander Mattison’s contract expires meaning that Dalvin Cook’s backup in 2023 might not currently be on the roster.
So how did Minnesota fare in this year’s draft? The first wise thing they did was to trade down to increase the number of players that they could draft. Second of all, they did try very hard to address their defensive deficiencies early in the draft to try and avoid the porous defense of last season. So, let’s evaluate the Vikings’ player selections on all three days of the draft.
Great anticipation surrounded the Minnesota Vikings and their first-round selection. Having the 12th pick overall meant that the Vikings would be drafting a day one starter. Would it be cornerback Trent McDuffie from the University of Washington? Safety Kyle Hamilton from Notre Dame was sliding down the list. He and Harrison “Hitman” Smith would make for a sweet pair of safeties. Or maybe one of the quality wide receiver prospects that were still available?
But new GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah had some tricks up his sleeve. With the Vikings on the clock, they sent the number 12 and 46 picks to the division rival Detroit Lions for the Lions’ 32nd, 34th, and 66th picks. With the trade, they added an additional second and third-round pick. For a team with only eight picks entering the draft, and only three selections in the first four rounds, this was a smart move.
The Minnesota Vikings Made Smart Trades on Draft Day
It was smart because despite what some analysts and Minnesota Vikings fans think, the team is right to ten players away from being a Super Bowl contending team. Not three to four players as many people believe.
Anyway, with pick number 32, the Vikings drafted a blue-chip prospect at a position of need. They chose hard-hitting safety Lewis Cine from the University of Georgia. This speedster is a physical defender against the run, and a big play baller, who led the Bulldogs in passes defended in 2021. He will pair nicely with Smith next season and then will be his heir apparent in a year or two. Trivia: Cine was the fifth Georgia defensive player selected in the first round.
Before their pick in the second round, the Minnesota Vikings initiated another trade. This time, they swapped pick number 34 to the dreaded Green Bay Packers for the Packer’s 53rd and 59th picks. They then turned around and traded their 53rd, 77th, and 92nd picks to the Indianapolis Colts in exchange for Indy’s 42nd and 122nd picks
In a move that could make or break their draft, the Minnesota Vikings selected cornerback Andrew Booth Jr. from Clemson University. The oft-injured Booth is nonetheless, a first-round talent. Booth is an aggressive defender, who uses his long arms to disrupt passes. And with Cameron Dantzler being the only rostered cornerback under contract for 2023, this was indeed a smart pickup at a true position of need.
A Question Mark at Number 59
The Vikings’ pick at 59 was kind of a head-scratcher. The player they chose was at a position of need for the team. The lingering question is, did they draft the best player available at that position? The selection was guard Ed Ingram from LSU. A talented pass blocker, whose off-the-field issues have been replayed in the mainstream media ad nauseam. By all appearances, he has turned that corner. The question is, was he a better pick than say Sean Rhyan out of UCLA?
The Minnesota Vikings’ last pick of the day was one that I liked better than some of the other analysts. With pick number 66, they selected linebacker Brian Asamoah from the University of Oklahoma. Some of my analytical friends say that the Purple should have chosen an edge here. They tell me that inside linebackers are the easiest position to replace on the defense.
However, with this pick, they added some much-needed depth to their linebacking corps and probably drafted a future starter at the position. He, along with second-year man Chazz Surratt, and young veteran Troy Dye, will compete to backup All-Pro Eric Kendricks and recently acquired Jordan Hicks. Asamoah is undersized, but he pursues well sideline to sideline, he is an effective blitzer and is no slouch in pass coverage.
Before their first selection of the fourth round, the Vikings initiated another trade, and this time it facilitated a move up in the draft. They sent their 156th pick and 2023 fourth-round pick to the Cleveland Browns in exchange for the Brown’s selection at number 118. With this pick, they chose cornerback Akayleb Evans from the University of Missouri. He projects as a bit of a project, but the Vikings like his combination of speed, height, and athleticism.
But Krafty Kwesi was not finished with his wheeling and dealing yet. The Minnesota Vikings swapped their 122nd and 250th picks to the Oakland Raiders for Oakland’s 126th and 227th picks. They then promptly sent pick number 126 back to the Raiders for picks 165 and 169. Kwesi was done trading for the night, but my head was still spinning.
The Minnesota Vikings Pick a Golden Gopher
With their two fifth-round picks, the Vikings chose edge Esezi Otomewo from the University of Minnesota and running back Ty Chandler from the University of North Carolina. Otomewo is a project, but he has a good motor on him. He has time to develop with Danielle Hunter, Za’Darius Smith, and D.J. Wonnum ahead of him on the depth chart.
The choice of Chandler might seem odd with the Vikings stacked at running back. They currently have Dalvin Cook, Alexander Mattison, and Kene Nwangwu on the roster. And once again, Mattison becomes a free agent at the end of next season and the team may have difficulty re-signing him. And the team loves Nwangwu for his kick return abilities. Chandler is a multi-talented back who will be given time to develop in the system.
The Minnesota Vikings Draft for Depth
In round six, Minnesota chose offensive tackle Vederian Lowe from the University of Illinois and wide receiver Jalen Nailor from Michigan State University. With the departure of Rashod Hill, the Vikings lack quality depth at tackle so Lowe should help shore up that position immediately. Possession receiver Nailor will compete with Ihmir Smith-Marsette for playing time at the fourth receiver position.
With their final pick of the draft, the Vikings selected tight-end Nick Muse from the University of South Carolina. Muse will compete with last year’s rookie Zach Davidson, and veterans Johnny Mundt and Ben Ellefson for playing time alongside Irv Smith. Muse is a good receiver who will have a steep learning curve in his quest to be a competent NFL blocker.
After the draft, the Minnesota Vikings signed nine undrafted free agents. The one player to watch out of this group is Ryan Wright from Tulane University. He will be given every opportunity to supplant Jordan Berry as the Vikings punter and holder on placekicks.
Post-draft, I have heard a lot of chatter from so-called “experts” who proclaim that because of all the trades, Kwesi’s draft resembled the drafts of former GM Rick Spielman. The signature of those drafts saw the team moving back in the draft to acquire more picks. Unfortunately, all of these pundits missed a key element of this year’s draft.
As mentioned earlier, the Minnesota Vikings started the first day of the draft with three picks in the first four rounds, and five picks in the last three rounds. When the smoke cleared, the Vikings ended up with five picks in the first four rounds and five picks in the last three rounds. Further, their initial composite of late-round picks consisted of one fifth-round pick, three sixth-round picks, and one seventh-round pick.
At the end of day three of the draft, the team had drafted two fifth-rounders, two sixth-rounders, and a seventh-rounder. So, at the culmination of all of these moves, the Vikings ended up moving up in four of the rounds. They drafted in the same position in one round. And they moved back in the two other rounds. Doesn’t resemble a Spielman draft at all if you ask me. What are your thoughts?