One last look at the Minnesota Vikings for the 2017 NFL Draft with our final seven-round mock draft for the Purple and Gold.
Minnesota Vikings fans find themselves picking for the first time midway through the second round of the draft, barring general manager Rick Speilman making any trades to move up or down. The needs for Minnesota are obvious: everything! No, but seriously, those never-mentioned guys in the trenches may be the most crucial to this physical NFC North team.
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The Vikings find themselves in need of a defensive tackle, a guard or swing offensive tackle, wide receiver, and running back. Those are some heavy shoes to fill with Adrian Peterson, Cordarrelle Patterson, Brandon Fusco, and Matt Asiata all leaving town, but Minnesota can fill those very needs in the draft.
Obviously it’ll be hard to land a running back that did as much as Peterson did for Minnesota, or the kick return ability of Patterson. The Vikings lost key contributors for an already mediocre offense, Spielman must solve the riddle on offense or his job could very well be in jeopardy.
Without anymore time wasted, we elevator pitch Rick Spielman into letting us create the Rubik’s cube to solve this purple and gold dilemma.
Even though Minnesota fans are mixed on this selection, this should almost be a no-brainer for the Vikings if Joe Mixon is on the board when they’re on the clock with their second-round pick. Offensive line, defensive line, outside linebacker, and running back are all in play with this pick, even the possibility of a tight end is there. But if a pure game changer is on the board, Minnesota must do what they can to bolster their offensive production.
The more and more I hear about the Latavius Murray signing, the more I feel like it’s a rental signing more than anything. Minnesota is returning their focus on getting young and Murray will be 28 years old in January. His contract is for three years, but with a first-year option. And he’s coming off ankle surgery. If Murray under-performs, I bet the Vikings would much rather spend their money on extensions for Xavier Rhodes or possibly a Anthony Barr.
Mixon could potentially be the best overall running back in the draft, not lacking in one specific area when it comes to on-field performance. He can catch the ball, run routes, pass protect, and be a much-needed three-down back that would only leave the field for a breather.
Like the New England Patriots, some teams are concerned with his character and rightfully so. Mixon has not made good decisions off the field. So, the Vikings will need to dive into this man’s personal affairs outside of the football field if they were to decide on selecting him. He made a positive step in the right direction towards the end of last week, let’s see if he continues to progress in that aspect.
With Dan Feeney off the board at this stage presumably, Pat Elflein is the type of offensive lineman the Vikings need in the third round.
Mike Zimmer continues to express his desire to be a better running football team. The Vikings went out and paid a premium for two tackles that excel in run blocking, now they draft one of best run blocking interior lineman in the draft with Ohio State’s Pat Elflein.
This former team captain of the Buckeyes immediately brings in a strong character guy on the offensive line, who can also play multiple positions. His work ethic and motivation to get better may push him in the running for the starting guard gig.
The Vikings released former starting right guard Brandon Fusco a few months ago, along with Mike Harris, leaving the position wide open for new suitor. Elflein intelligence and smarts are off the charts, though his pass blocking needs much improvement.
The only concern worth noting thus far with these Minnesota moves along the offensive line is their ability to protect Sam Bradford. Bradford isn’t exactly spry on his feet, nor does he have the ability to break the pocket like Bridgewater and pick up yards. A selection like this and their recent signings should hopefully influence a better ground attack led by Latavius Murray and hopefully the first selection of this article, Joe Mixon.
Spielman would immediately fill two holes if he were to draft Carlos Henderson, giving them the flexibility to go best player available with the remaining draft. Minnesota just hopes he drops that far to be able to grab him.
Minnesota currently is short two roster spots on the wide receiver depth chart, and also allowed their two-time Pro Bowler kick returner, Cordarrelle Patterson, to walk. Not the smartest of moves from the purple and gold, but Henderson could at least fill the gap being an accomplished kick returner himself.
Some teams are worried about his smaller frame and his one year of production, but his competitive nature and mindset to play bigger than he really is, al-la Steve Smith, really should have teams like the Vikings just smitten to get him.
Henderson is explosive off the line of scrimmage, has really good hands,and knows how to high-point the ball on streaks and fades in the end zone. He needs better technique on his routes, and will need to adapt to press coverage as he didn’t receive much in college. 82 receptions, 1,500+ receiving yards and 19 touchdowns with an additional four touchdowns rushing and returning kicks should remind Vikings fans of the production of Percy Harvin without the headaches, constant injury issues, nor the locker room disruptions.
This is just wishful thinking that the right tackle out of Western Michigan, Taylor Moton, drops to the early fourth round — because the Minnesota Vikings will be sitting there with open arms to welcome him to the team. Another diverse tackle that has the ability to play the right side or swing inside to guard provides Minnesota yet again with another player along the offensive line that can play multiple positions.
After his solid performance during the Senior Bowl, Moton’s stock has done nothing but increase and advance his draft position. Another benefit to participating in events like these, the coaches and scouts get a better perspective on the player and his overall attitude/performance.
Fortunately enough for Minnesota, defensive coordinator George Edwards had the opportunity to coach one of the Senior Bowl teams and had the opportunity first hand to see what Moton’s strengths and weaknesses were.
Moton has the size and strength to explode on the line and move defenders, but he remains inconsistent with his hands and his footwork lacks speed. Can he block in open space? Can he correct his technique when getting out on the edge versus the pass rush? Tony Sparano will need to work on these things with him.
So you are telling me that the Minnesota Vikings can get a defensive tackle that accumulated 10.5 sacks last season on Day 3 of the 2017 NFL Draft? Sign me up.
Mike Zimmer wants a better pass rush from the tackle position, and has really relied on Tom Johnson to come into the game on passing situations to provide that spark. When you look at a guy like Linval Joseph, or Toby Johnson and Shamar Stephen, neither of those three really provide that collapsed pocket from the interior that Zimmer would like to see in passing situations.
Joseph was brought up by the head ball coach specifically that’d he would like to see more rush from, and former first-round pick Sharrif Floyd may never play another down in purple and gold. The case of Floyd has just been unfortunate, dealing with a nerve issue in his knee from a previous surgery. With no return in sight for Floyd, Minnesota may have to invest into another tackle.
A defensive team captain on a National Championship team, Watkins led his team in sacks from the defensive tackle position. Watkins doesn’t come without his own injury concerns, having missed the most of his first three years of college football, but finally showed his potential in his final season.
An All-ACC selection this year and a National Champion, Watkins would bring some winning swagger to the defensive line, while also pairing him with a former teammate, Mackensie Alexander.
Mike Zimmer loves his athletic, long and agile players on the second level. Elijah Lee would provide an immediate boost at the outside linebacker position. After losing defensive stalwart, Chad Greenway, to retirement, Minnesota must find a worthy fill in at the position and there will be multiple suitors for the opportunity.
Elijah Lee stands 6-3 and weighs about 230 pounds. In order to play the outside linebacker position at the next level, he will need to bulk up. And if he does, Lee could potentially become a three-down starter and a value pick for the Vikings.
Lee is great in open space, has sideline to sideline speed for the next level, while possessing exceptional ball skills for a linebacker. His pass rushing ability is underrated, having notched 11 sacks in three years at Kansas State. This pick would just be an absolute steal while resolving a need immediately.
Guys like Emmanuel Lamur, Kentrell Brothers, and Edmond Robinson will all be competing to replace Greenway. It’s not the weakest position by no means for Minnesota, but in Round 5, it should be best player available coming off of the board.
No matter the circumstance, the Minnesota Vikings need to create as much competition as possible at the quarterback position.
Sam Bradford enters the season as the starter. The former No. 1 overall pick from 2010 draft has had a rocky career thus far marred by injury, but really shined last season under a Pat Shurmur led Minnesota offense. The Vikings cannot forget the fact that Bradford has missed massive amounts of time before, and they currently have a first-round pick in Teddy Bridgewater that’s on the mend from his own serious injury.
This now leaves the newly signed Case Keenum, and the fourth-year undrafted free agent, Taylor Heinicke to battle for that third roster slot. Minnesota was hoping to see a progression in Heinicke’s game, and potentially name him the back-up quarterback over Shaun Hill last year, it just didn’t pan out when Heinicke injured himself in the offseason. Subsequently, Spielman should draft a quarterback, and the athletic Jerod Evans is the guy to snag later in the draft.
Evans would bring in his pro-ready size, strength, and active arm to Minnesota, though it’s only one year of collegiate production. His one year at Virginia Tech was a remarkable one, as he proved to be one of the better prospects in college football, and showed to most that he’s a leader among men.
As a big physical specimen playing quarterback, it gets brought up often that Evans could potentially emulate Cam Newton with his arm capabilities and willingness to run when needed. At the next level, Evans just needs to improve his accuracy and footwork, along with progressing with his reads quickly. The NFL is a different beast, but I think Evans could handle the stress and make the transition to the pros within a couple of seasons.
Another athletically gifted receiver not given the credit he’s due, Minnesota should jump all over this offensive weapon if he’s available in the last round.
Standing at 6-3, running the 40-yard dash in 4.40 seconds, with a vertical jump of 41 inches, many have compared Robert Davis to Julio Jones. Obviously if that were the case, there would be no way this receiver makes it past the first round of the draft.
Unfortunately for Davis he may be overlooked for the simple reason of playing at a smaller school that wasn’t very successful during his four-year tenure. A player of his stature one would figure that he would dominate the lesser competition, and he did to an extent earning All Sun-Belt Conference three times in four years.
There isn’t much weakness in this guy’s game, it would be nice to see him attack the ball with his hands more and be a bit more explosive coming out of his routes. He likes to transition out of his breaks with little urgency which leaves a sliver of opportunity for opposing corners to jump the route.
Other than that his sheer size and play making ability should be considered by the Minnesota Vikings. They have two roster positions open that potentially he and Carlos Henderson could be vying for before the season starts.