Needs: Offensive line. The Vikings need multiple new bodies up front, and they can’t skirt around the issue. Beyond that, depth issues at tight end, running back, defensive tackle, and wide receiver need to be addressed, but not until the Vikings have picked a lineman.
The Vikings don’t have a first-round pick, but that shouldn’t be an issue if they start their draft with a guard. There are several tackles who could slide to guard at the pro level, but the best true guard (meaning he won’t be playing tackle) is Johnson. The Pitt guard is a road grater in the best possible sense, and he would fit perfectly into Minnesota’s blocking scheme. There’s nothing sexy about this pick, but Johnson is a guy whom the Vikings should absolutely make a top priority if the top five tackles (Forrest Lamp, Taylor Moton, Ryan Ramczyk, Cam Robinson, Garett Bolles) are off the board.
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D’Onta Foreman, RB, Texas
Foreman is a tank and is more than capable of being a first- and second-down bell cow back. But Foreman is also stupid fast — running a legitimate 4.4 40-yard dash despite being 230-plus pounds.
The Vikings might have signed Latavius Murray this offseason, but he doesn’t profile as a No. 1 option for a team contending for the playoffs (There’s a reason the Raiders were fine in letting him walk in free agency.) While Minnesota has found value with third-down caliber guys, Foreman could be an immediate contributor to this run-first team.
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Carlos Watkins, DT, Clemson
Watkins is uber-athletic for a big man and profiles as a player who can contribute both at the nose and off the ball at the next level. He doesn’t stand out in any particular area of the game, which will be a positive down the line and gives the Vikings time to mold him into a replacement for Sharrif Floyd as part of a rookie-year rotation with Tom Johnson, Shamar Stephen and Toby Johnson.
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George Kittle, TE, Iowa
It’s a two-tight end league, so while the Vikings might have a viable No. 1 in Kyle Rudolph, it’s important for the team to find a viable No. 2 — particularly one that can be a positive as a blocker — in this draft. Kittle is just that. He profiles as a No. 2, blocking tight end, with a massive pass-catching upside. There aren’t many players with that profile coming out this year, so while Kittle profiles as a Day 3 pick, the Vikings might want to get ahead of things with a trade into the third round — Kittle might not be there at 120…
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Zach Banner, OT, USC
Banner entered the 2017 season with plenty of adulation, but ultimately his senior campaign was a disappointment. Banner doesn’t profile well as a guard and he’s certainly not a ready-made NFL contributor at tackle as a rookie, so he’s assuredly a third-day pick, but he could be as good as any tackle in the draft. Banner will need to drop weight — he played at least 15 pounds overweight at USC — but he has the prototypical left tackle frame and length and has enough flashes on tape to get teams excited. The Vikings need to add offensive line talent in as many places as possible in this draft, so a low-risk, high-reward player like Banner at any point on the third day is the kind of move they need to make.