2017 NFL Draft: Grades for Every Minnesota Vikings Pick
Even with no first-round pick, the Minnesota Vikings didn’t have much trouble earning outstanding grades for the 2017 NFL Draft haul.
The 2017 NFL Draft is in the rearview mirror, and the Minnesota Vikings have walked away with yet another impressive haul. General manager Rick Spielmand worked his usual magic, making significant upgrades in a number of areas despite not owning a first-round pick.
So how do the Vikings’ 11 selections grade out now that the draft is in the books?
Before I answer that question, I want to clarify how exactly I determined by grades. I considered two key factors when determining my grades for Minnesota’s haul: the value based on the point in the draft, and whether or not the selection addressed some sort of need for the current roster.
Don’t take the grades too seriously, though. Remember that they are rather subjective, and are based solely on my opinions of the prospects and the Vikings’ current list of needs. Everyone is going to value different players differently, so I wouldn’t expect my grades to match the grades of other analysts out there. We also have to keep in mind that no one knows what these players will look like once they hit an NFL field.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at my Vikings draft grades for the 2017 NFL Draft. Overall, it was an outstanding weekend for this Minnesota team, although there were a couple of questionable calls in the later rounds.
Running Back, Florida State
Solely from a value standpoint, this is an excellent addition for the Vikings. Dalvin Cook was seen as a first-round talent coming into the draft, but watched injury and character concerns drop him out of Day 1. Hence, the Vikings moved up to No. 41 to bring him to the Twin Cities.
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It’s uncertain what Minnesota’s plan for him is, but my first guess would be that a competition is set to ensue between Cook and Latavius Murray. It seemed the Vikings were set with the former Oakland Raiders starter after signing him this offseason. However, with the former Seminole now in the mix, he’ll have to battle for every touch he gets.
When you put on the film of Cook, you see an explosive running back with the tools to be an every-down back in the NFL. He shattered the record books at Florida State, using his absurd elusiveness to eat up big chunks of yards. On top of that, Cook is an exceptional receiver out of the backfield — a skill Adrian Peterson never developed.
Apart from the health concerns and red flags off the field, my biggest worry with Cook is his penchant for fumbles. He had 14 during his college career, which will make Vikings fans wary. Still, the overall talent is there for him to be Minnesota’s workhorse with game-breaking abilities. Especially if he can beat out Murray, Cook will be well worth the move up the draft.
Center/Guard, Ohio State
Here’s another home run for the Vikings. I’m a huge fan of the former Buckeye (I mocked him to Minnesota at least a few times), and believe he can walk in the door and make a difference along this rebuilding offensive line.
The Vikings went out during free agency and fixed the offensive tackle position with the additions of Riley Reiff and Mike Remmers. Now they’ve turned their attention to the interior, and landed a potential long-term plus starter in the process. Put simply, Pat Elflein is an excellent value in the third round.
A three-year starter at Ohio State, Elflein excelled at guard his first two years as a starter before transitioning to center as a senior. While anchoring the front five, he shined just as bright, putting his outstanding leadership skills and intelligence on display. Between his versatility, power and relentless motor, Elflein has the makings of an outstanding interior blocker.
With Brandon Fusco gone and Joe Berger nearing the end of his career, Elflein makes perfect sense for the Vikings. He can compete for a starting job from the get-go, with the chances being high that he can beat out Willie Beavers for the right guard spot. Don’t be surprised to see the former Buckeye atop the depth chart by the time Week 1 arrives.
Defensive Tackle, Iowa
This is a tremendous value pick atop the fourth round. The Vikings needed to find another capable three-technique with Sharrif Floyd facing a questionable future. The addition of Jaleel Johnson gives them a promising young option at defensive tackle who simply outworks opponents.
While the Iowa product failed to impress at the Combine, it’s easy to see when you watch the tape that Johnson can be a playmaker. He’s got excellent quickness off the snap, allowing him to work his way into the backfield and disrupt opposing offenses. You can see the impact he made with the 12 sacks he notched during two seasons as a starter for the Hawkeyes.
What really stands out for Johnson on film is his effort and ability to win with his hands. Opposing blockers often appeared overwhelmed while trying to wrangle the relentless defensive tackle, allowing him numerous opportunities to make quarterbacks uncomfortable. Adding some strength at the next level will help him stand out as a run defender as well.
Will Johnson ever be a dominant starter in the NFL? Probably not. What he can do, though, is give the Vikings solid snaps as a rotational defensive tackle who can provide the occasional pass rush from the inside. Especially with players like Everson Griffen, Danielle Hunter and Linval Joseph by his side, Johnson shouldn’t have too much trouble making plays in Minnesota.
Inside Linebacker, Michigan
Every year it seems, the Vikings look to add developmental linebackers who display solid athleticism, intelligence and tenacity. Ben Gedeon certainly fits the bill as a quality prospect, but I don’t believe they needed to reach for him in the fourth round.
While the former Wolverine has the look of a tough, physical linebacker, his ceiling appears relatively low. He’s a decent athlete who produced well in limited starts, but doesn’t have the short-area quickness or reaction time needed to develop into an annual starter in the NFL.
Instead, Gedeon will likely earn his money at the next level as a special teams ace. Especially after the departure of Audie Cole, the Vikings were in need of a capable backup who can make an impact in kick coverage. Considering the Michigan product’s solid speed, toughness and determination on the field, he seems like a good fit for the role.
I’m not saying Gedeon was a bad pick, I just don’t think the Vikings need to fill this role this early in the draft. They’ve routinely done that in the later parts of Day 3 in previous years, so why jump the gun in 2017 and spend a fourth-round pick on a limited prospect? Good thing the rest of their draft has been outstanding up to this point…
Wide Receiver, USF
Realistically, I didn’t believe that wide receiver was a significant need for the Vikings. They’ve got Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen leading the way, with Laquon Treadwell and Jarius Wright providing considerable depth.
So why grab a sleeper of sorts in the fifth round? Well there are some things to like about Rodney Adams, who many considered a potential seventh-round option or priority undrafted free agent. He showed good abilities as a receiver at USF, and also brings value as a return specialist. Maybe his drafting was an opportunity to replace Cordarrelle Patterson?
In terms of cons, though, there are a couple worth noting with Adams. He sports a thin, wiry frame that can be susceptible to injury, and has a history of drops. Tie those in with his raw route running abilities and the Vikings have a definite project on their hands.
Considering some of Minnesota’s other needs, this seemed like a reach to me. Chances are Adams will be no better than fifth on the Vikings’ receiver depth chart, and that’s assuming nothing comes of Moritz Boehringer. The only hope Adams has of making an impact relatively soon is on special teams.
Guard, Miami (FL)
Honestly, I’m not a huge fan of this pick. However, considering the issues the Vikings currently have along the interior of the offensive line, I’m going to give them the benefit of the doubt. Realistically, they could have done worse with this pick.
The thing with Danny Isidora is he doesn’t do anything particularly well. Sure, he was a three-year starter for the Hurricanes and did a great job of holding his own during that time. However, he lacks the athleticism needed to make plays in space but doesn’t quite have the power to hold up against bigger interior defensive linemen.
So how does he fit into the equation for Minnesota? I’m not entirely sure he does, but Isidora at least brings capable depth at guard to this rebuilding front five. He’s got the experience to step in and not crumble if called upon. Plus, once he hits an NFL weight room and gets stronger, there’s a chance he can develop into an adequate spot starter.
I know it’s the fifth round and this 2017 offensive line class is awful. That’s why I decided to give this pick a C+ as compared to my original gut reaction, which was leaning more towards a D+. At this point, the Vikings just need as many bodies as possible if that offensive line is going to get better.
Tight End, Virginia Tech
Following the departure of Rhett Elllison this offseason, the Vikings were left a little thin at tight end in terms of proven talent. Behind Kyle Rudolph, Minnesota’s roster boasted little more than a couple of late-round picks with limited upside.
While Bucky Hodges is also a late-round pick, his upside is through the roof. The former Hokie boasts ridiculous athleticism from the tight end position, using it over the last three seasons to wreak havoc on opposing ACC secondaries. However, there is one caveat to his potential success at the next level.
Hodges is more of a big-bodied slot receiver than he is an in-line tight end, at least at this point. His strength at the point of attack and technique as a blocker is a work in progress. While David Morgan II will likely serve as the Vikings’ blocking tight end in 2017, it would be ideal to see Hodges develop into a more well-rounded option.
The tools are there, though, for him to do so. If he can get stronger and show more consistent effort as a blocker, the Virginia Tech product could quickly emerge as a rising star at tight end. He’s got the receiving skills and big body to victimize secondaries in the red zone, and all over the field for that matter. After a couple of years of development, I’d imagine this will turn out to be a huge steal for the Vikings.
Wide Receiver, Miami (FL)
Didn’t the Vikings already use a draft pick to strengthen an already-strong wide receiver depth chart? I believe they did, and yet they decided to spend another on another pass catcher. In the seventh round, though, taking fliers at any position isn’t really an issue.
Stacy Coley is exactly that—a flier. The former Hurricane showed well during his college career, making several big plays with his blend of quickness and route running. However, injury issues and passion for the game have come into question, which is why we saw him coming off the board in the seventh round.
At the next level, Coley figures to slide inside as a sparkplug out of the slot. He doesn’t possess the size or strength to battle with bigger corners on the edge, which will limit the ways the Vikings can use him. He does, however, offer some potential as a special teams contributor–both as a returner and a gunner.
It all comes down to whether or not Coley can commit to being a quality piece of this Minnesota passing game. He’s got the skills to warrant a spot on the receiver depth chart, but must convince this coaching staff he wants it. Otherwise, the Miami product could be out of the league within a couple of years.
Defensive End, Northwestern
With Brian Robison nearing retirement and depth a scarcity at defensive end, the Vikings could use another edge rusher or two. Well they definitely added an intriguing one with the selection of Ifeadi Odenigbo here in the seventh round.
The Northwestern product showed a knack for getting to the quarterback during his two seasons as a starter, evidenced by his 23.5 career sacks. To cap off his NFL resume, he shined during the Combine, displaying good speed and exceptional athleticism for a 6-3, 258-pound defensive end.
Right now, though, Odenigbo is little more than a project. Luckily, the Vikings don’t necessarily need someone who can step in and make a big impact as a rookie. They’ve already got three starting-caliber edge rushers who get the job done. In a year or two, though, quality depth will be a need for this Minnesota squad.
The former Wildcat has the potential to fill that role well, assuming he continues to develop at his current pace. Even then, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him emerge as a special teams standout in Year 1 who could see some defensive snaps if injuries occur.
Outside Linebacker, Kansas State
Personally, I love this pick. For a seventh-round selection, Elijah Lee brings a tremendous amount of value for a team that covets quality backup linebackers. General manager Rick Spielman couldn’t have asked for much more out of his annual seventh-round project linebacker.
The former Wildcat has all of the athletic traits you’re looking for in a playmaking outside linebacker. From his speed and short-area quickness to his instinctive play in coverage, Lee always seems to stand out on tape. Honestly, it’s surprising he lasted this long considering the potential he offers.
And yet, it should turn out to be a blessing in disguise for the Vikings. More than anything, he brings that “it” factor to the field as a guy who’s always making the big plays when they’re needed. Throughout his career at Kansas State, Lee racked up 11 sacks, five interceptions and three forced fumbles. He has a nose for the football, and is never afraid to use it to turn the tide of the game.
Chances are he starts out as a special teams standout during his time in Minnesota. With some refinement of his technique and more work in the weight room, though, I could see Lee eventually earning a starting job as this defense continues to focus on finding athletic playmakers at the second level.
Cornerback, NC State
In two of the last three seasons, the Vikings have made a point to grab a developmental defensive back in the seventh round. Last year, it yielded the talents of Jayron Kearse, an size/athleticism freak with some significant upside.
This year, though, Minnesota didn’t get that same type of promise with the selection of Jack Tocho. Now that’s not to say the NC State product couldn’t eventually grow into a capable contributor for this franchise, but I don’t foresee him ever being anything more than a special teamer and backup in the secondary.
Why? Well, the awareness and intelligence in coverage are absolutely there. Unfortunately, they aren’t accompanied by the type of athleticism and speed typically found in cornerbacks who see significant snaps. Because of that, there’s a decent chance the former Wolfpack standout could find himself making the transition to safety in the Twin Cities.
Tocho could turn out to be a quality locker room addition who provides decent depth on the back end. Based off his overall talent and athletic traits, though, his ceiling is rather low. For now, though, we’ll wait and see what the future may hold for the smart, productive cover man.