As we start to close in on the projected NFL draft date in late April, we see how teams are forming and workout out after their offseason signings and losses. The draft is giving teams the chance to enhance their teams at positions of need either due to the age of those who play that position or lack of talent. Many teams believe the draft to be more important than free agency, as it helps them to change the whole landscape of their team and bring in new, fresh, players. This year the Minnesota Vikings will be looking to make this become true, as they have lost a few key players due to not having enough cap space to bring them back. Minnesota will definitely need to fill in some holes with their draft picks, due to some of their major talents being traded or lost to free agency elsewhere.
Across what I have witnessed from Minnesota Vikings fans in the offseason so far, as well as mock drafts, cornerback seems to be the likely suitor for one of the Viking’s first-round picks. After the loss of veteran cornerback Xavier Rhodes in the offseason, and two of their other CBs (Trae Waynes and Mackensie Alexander) being free agents, a new look for the secondary is in order.Here is a look at some players the Vikings could take throughout the draft at this position…
C.J. Henderson – Florida Gators
C.J. Henderson has been impressive in almost every way you want your cornerback to be. He may not be the best tackling corner with only 38 tackles all season, however, he makes up for it in his ball-hawking abilities. In his sophomore year, he had two interceptions, two forced fumbles, seven pass deflections, on top of his ability to be on top of receivers in a moment’s notice. His NFL Combine Profile lists this as one of his biggest strengths, stating, “Reads quarterback’s eyes and plays with anticipation.” This goes to show that he is patient enough to follow through with plays and get in between the receiver and the ball. The Vikings have had struggles as of recent with breaking up passes, and Henderson would fit that role perfectly.
Jeff Gladney – TCU
Jeff Gladney is almost the polar opposite of C.J. Henderson. He has the ability to proficiently tackle (46 Freshman last year alone) and is quick to think and make decisions. This would allow the Vikings to have a more fast-paced, high tempo secondary that could be re-built around this pick. Gladney, however, is also good in his ability to play coverage, having an interception as well as a conference-high 14 pass deflections.
Kristian Fulton – LSU
If Kristian Fulton falls to either of the Viking’s first-round picks, he needs to be one of them without a doubt. Fulton was one of if not the biggest piece in the LSU secondary during their national championship-winning year. He is all around a top 3 corner coming out of this year, and he’s got the experience of being a senior with one of the brightest minds in college football, Ed Orgeron. Despite an injury sidelining him in 2017, Fulton came into senior year poised to continue his breakout college performance. He started all 15 games, had 38 tackles, an interception, and a team-high 14 pass deflections, which on a team like LSU is hard to come by.
The second biggest glaring hole with the Minnesota Vikings is their lack of receiver depth. After Adam Theilen (who was injured for a decent portion of last year) you fall into the depths of mainly WR3 or less material. Getting a solid replacement for Stefon Diggs will be certain with the depth at the WR position in this draft class. Also, considering the Vikings have 2 first-round picks, it should be easy to get a top tier receiver.
Justin Jefferson – LSU
Justin Jefferson, one of the biggest standout performers in the SEC this year, could likely fall into the Vikings range if they get lucky. Jefferson would be a perfect replacement for Diggs, as he has speed, amazing catch radius, and most importantly, he runs routes like no one else. Having someone like Justin Jefferson alongside healthy Adam Thielen would make Kirk Cousins‘ job a lot easier to manage rather than only having Thielen. Jefferson had 111 receptions last year for 1,540 yards and 18 touchdowns, which is exactly the production the Vikings need at this position.
Brandon Aiyuk – ASU
Brandon Aiyuk is a name few people have heard coming into the 2020 draft, however, it is one that Minnesota Vikings fans could hear with a later pick of theirs. Aiyuk is an all-around receiver, who last year had 65 receptions for 1,192 yards and 8 touchdowns. This also comes on top of his ability to return kickoffs and punts. In the return game as a whole, he had 28 returns for 672 yards and a touchdown. The most impressive stat with this is that on average, he ran kickoffs 39.2 yards from where he caught it. Brandon would be an interesting piece for the Vikings if they decide to draft WR in later rounds.
Jalen Reagor – TCU
Jalen Reagor is an interesting receiver from this draft class. He is similar to Brandon Aiyuk in that he can play as a returner, and do so proficiently, however, he has a different receiving ability than Aiyuk, Reagor can turn it loose. Jalen last year had only 43 receptions, however, he brought these downfield for 611 yards. This leaves the statistic that he had 14.2 yards per reception on AVERAGE. This is wildly impressive and shows how he can at the very least get you first downs on more than half his plays.
The Minnesota Vikings defensive line is going to be another point of emphasis, especially the defensive end. The reason for this is primarily the notion that the Vikings could be losing one of their major playmakers Everson Griffen to free agency. Being able to fill that gap with a rookie raw talent that won’t take up nearly as much cap room would be the ideal situation here.
A.J. Epenesa – Iowa
A.J. Epenesa is someone who has been climbing draft boards across the country, and it is simple to see why…his stats. Epenesa is an extremely proficient pass rusher and has the ability to disrupt quarterbacks all game long. Last year, in 13 games (not a full season) he had 49 tackles, 14.5 of them were tackles for a loss, 11.5 sacks, and 4 forced fumbles. These stats are very impressive for someone who still has things to learn at an NFL level, however, the raw talent of Epenesa should not be overlooked.
Yetur Gross-Matos – Penn State
Yetur Gross-Matos is by far one of the most impressive ends coming out of the 2020 draft class. He has had comparisons of looking like a young Jason Pierre-Paul or even Aaron Schobel. His stats also show his game immensely. Last season, he had 40 tackles, 15 tackles for loss, and 9.5 sacks. His ability to take on offensive lineman and still get to the quarterback is unparalleled, he can break through and pressure the quarterback a huge percent of plays. After an impressive combine performance at his position, he will definitely be in the top players at this position.
Who do you feel the Minnesota Vikings should target in the 2020 NFL Draft? Leave a comment below.
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