Based on the latest rumors making their way around the league, the Minnesota Vikings could go a number of directions once they’re on the clock during the 2017 NFL Draft.
There’s a lot of pressure on the Minnesota Vikings right now. After looking like a team on the verge of contention early in 2016, they watched injuries and pitiful offensive line play keep them out of the playoffs. Can they do enough during the 2017 NFL Draft to get over the hump?
The latest coming out of the rumor mill would suggest the Vikings have some big plans for draft day. Despite not having a first-round pick, they appear to be targeting a number of impact players who can step in and shine from the get-go. Considering the modest amount of moves made during free agency, Minnesota absolutely needs a few impact additions during the draft.
Don’t get me wrong–the Vikings made a couple of key signings this offseason. The additions of Riley Reiff and Mike Remmers will definitely help this offensive line improve. However, there are still a number of holes on this roster that must be addressed. That’s what Minnesota plans to do with their eight current draft picks.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at the latest rumors surrounding the Vikings’ plans during the 2017 NFL Draft. These don’t necessarily paint a clear picture of general manager Rick Spielman’s approach, but they’ll definitely help you better understand which players Minnesota has its eyes on.
Following the loss of Rhett Ellison via free agency, the Vikings are looking a little thin at tight end. Sure, Kyle Rudolph is a capable starter, but the depth behind him is far from impressive. The best backup option is David Morgan II, a 2016 sixth-round pick whose primary strength is blocking.
So it makes perfect sense why the Vikings have shown interest in Mo Alie-Cox, who could be the NFL’s next Antonio Gates. The former VCU basketball standout has decided to take his talents to the gridiron. He recently worked out for a number of scouts, and it just so happens the Vikings were in attendance (via WTVR’s Lane Casadonte).
Based on his workout numbers, Alie-Cox has the makings of an uber-athletic receiving tight end. While making the transition to football won’t be a simple one, the upside is there for him to emerge as a playmaker somewhere down the line.
However, it is worth mentioning that he is technically a free agent right now. He was eligible for the 2016 NFL Draft, but obviously never heard his name called. If he is signed before April 27, it could change the Vikings’ plans. On the other hand, they could also opt to avoid drafting a late-round tight end if they believe Alie-Cox has a future in the NFL.
I’ve long been a proponent of the Vikings finding a replacement for Andrew Sendejo. I don’t think he’s worth the amount of money they’re paying him to start across from Harrison Smith. Although he can make plays against the run, he’s too much of liability in deep coverage.
Could the Vikings try to find a new starter at strong safety during the 2017 NFL Draft? It’s going to be difficult to get that lucky without a first-round pick, but Minnesota can certainly try. Josh Jones may just be the guy to get the job done, if the Vikings actually liked what they saw during their visit with the NC State product (via NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport).
There’s a lot to like about Jones. He’s got a great mix of size, speed and physicality, but can scare some teams with his tendency to play with reckless abandon. If Minnesota likes what it sees, though, they could consider taking him off the board on Day 2.
Is he the answer to upgrading on Sendejo? I’m not entirely sure about that, but the potential is there. He’s an impact player from the safety spot and could definitely warrant some serious consideration from the Vikings if he’s still available in the second or third round.
Amy Smotherman Burgess/Knoxville News Sentinel via USA TODAY NETWORK
3. Vikings Targeting Alvin Kamara on Day 2?
When the Vikings let Adrian Peterson walk this offseason, they knew they needed to make some upgrades at running back. The addition of Latavius Murray via free agency was a great start, but Minnesota doesn’t appear done. In fact, they seem primed to add a young back during the 2017 NFL Draft.
One guy who has garnered some significant attention from the Vikings is Tennessee’s Alvin Kamara. Although some consider him a potential first-round talent, it seems more likely he’ll fall into the second round. If that’s the case, Minnesota could be hoping he’ll slide to them at No. 48.
According to 1500 ESPN’s Darren Wolfson, the Vikings have already hosted Kamara for a visit. The former Volunteer seems like a solid candidate to tag-team with Murray as the leaders of this new-look Minnesota backfield. He shows good vision and explosiveness on film, and would absolutely flourish in a time share with the potential to take over as the featured back in time.
It’s unclear at what point the Vikings plan on adding a running back. However, based on the players they’ve shown interest in, it looks like it’s on their to-do list. If he’s there in the second round, Kamara could easily be the choice for Spielman and Co.
We all know Minnesota needs more help along the offensive line. They sported arguably the worst front five in the NFL in 2016, and the recent additions of Reiff and Remmers may not be enough. I’d anticipate them adding at least one or two more blockers during the draft.
Instead of settling for what’s available in the second round, though, the Vikings may consider trading up. More specifically, Spielman could be targeting Forrest Lamp, one of the 2017 class’ top offensive lineman, if he starts to slide into the latter parts of Day 1. At least, that’s the belief of Draft Analyst’s Tony Pauline at this point.
Based on draft value charts, it would likely take at least the Vikings’ second- and third-round picks to move into the mid-20s from No. 48. However, considering the fact that Minnesota owns two picks in both the third and fourth rounds, I wouldn’t put it past them to jump at the opportunity to secure the talents of Lamp.
The Western Kentucky product would likely slide in as the Day 1 starter at right guard. The top spot on the depth chart is currently owned by Willie Beavers, who struggled mightily when forced into limited action during his rookie 2016 season. Lamp would be a huge upgrade for the Vikings if they can find a way to move up for him without selling the farm.
If Kamara isn’t an option in the second round, maybe Joe Mixon is? There’s a lot of speculation regarding when the Oklahoma product will come off the board, but one thing is apparent — the Vikings are interested in acquiring his services (via the Star Tribune’s Michael Rand).
In fact, according to Rand, the Vikings are among the “most interested” teams. The other three teams mentioned as serious players for Mixon are the Cincinnati Bengals, New Orleans Saints and Oakland Raiders. All have some sort of need at running back, but the Vikings appear to be seriously considering bringing him aboard.
Minnesota has experience with former Sooners with character concerns. Peterson dealt with his own off-field issues, and also hails from Norman. Despite his issues, he turned out to be one of the best backs in NFL history. Could Mixon yield similar results if the Vikings are willing to take that type of risk?
For all we know, the Vikings are happy with Murray and are simply doing their homework on Mixon. However, based on all of the interest they’ve shown, I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s more than just smoke. Look for Minnesota to keep a close eye on the Oklahoma running back on Day 2.