Vikings Draft Day: What will Minnesota do with the No. 23 pick?
MINNEAPOLIS (FOX 9) - After months of speculation and mock drafting, NFL Draft day is here.
The Minnesota Vikings, barring a trade, have the No. 23 overall selection in the first round Thursday night. That’s after winning 13 games and an NFC North Division title in the first year for Kwesi Adofo-Mensah as a general manager and Kevin O’Connell as a head coach.
The Vikings enter the NFL Draft with just five total selections, and two top-100 picks. What they do with that first pick will be telling for the franchise going forward, both with who the player is and what position Adofo-Mensah prioritizes. Here’s a look at that process:
The Vikings exercised a cap conversion on Kirk Cousins’ contract through the 2023 season. Reports have since emerged that the Vikings and 49ers talked about Trey Lance at the NFL Combine. Lance is a Marshall, Minn. native coming off a severe ankle injury two games into last season. Cousins and the Vikings also reportedly were unable to come to an agreement on another extension this offseason.
If the Vikings take a quarterback in the first round, that likely means the 2023 season is Cousins’ last in Minnesota, and they think they can get a franchise player on a rookie deal. It also likely means moving up from the No. 23 spot, which would be a bold move. It’s something Adofo-Mensah won’t be afraid to do if they like the player, as he traded his first round pick within the division last year before getting Lewis Cine.
The two names to keep an eye on in this scenario? Florida’s Anthony Richardson, and Tennessee’s Hendon Hooker.
The Vikings have the most needs in the secondary. While Harrison Smith and Cam Bynum are back at safety, the only defensive back with any significant playing experience on the roster is free agent signing Byron Murphy Jr.
Akayleb Evans, Andrew Booth Jr. and Lewis Cine all had rookie seasons marred by injuries. Cam Dantzler was released, and Patrick Peterson left in free agency. If the Vikings go defensive back at No. 23, the names to watch are Joey Porter Jr., Emmanuel Forbes and Deonte Banks.
The Vikings might be seeking a No. 2 receiver via the NFL Draft, if the right name is available with the No. 23 overall pick. Justin Jefferson is the unquestioned No. 1 receiver, and the Vikings picked up his fifth-year contract option on Tuesday while they also work on a long-term deal to keep him in Minnesota. Adam Thielen was released in a cost-cutting move, leaving the No. 2 job open for KJ Osborn to take.
If the Vikings go the wide receiver route at No. 23, the names to watch are Ohio State’s Jaxon Smith-Njigba, USC’s Jordan Addison and Boston College’s Zay Flowers.
The Vikings could face some future uncertainty along the defensive line, which might make them inclined to add beef up front with the No. 23 overall pick. Za’Darius Smith is technically an outside linebacker in the 3-4 scheme, but he’s an edge rusher, and between putting his Minnesota home on the market and tweeting a "thank you" to fans in the offseason, his days with the Vikings could be numbered. Also in potential limbo is the future for Danielle Hunter, who is due $4.9 million this season but wants more money down the line.
If the Vikings add to the defensive line at 23, the names are Clemson’s Bryan Bresee, Iowa’s Lukas Van Ness and LSU’s BJ Ojulari.
The Vikings’ offensive line might be the position of the most continuity on the team, with all five starters back from 2023 after Garrett Bradbury returned from free agency. Bradbury, Ezra Cleveland, Christian Darrisaw, Ed Ingram and Brian O’Neill are all back. That said, don’t sleep on the offensive line in the draft for the Vikings.
You can never have enough depth at the line of scrimmage with the potential for injuries. Kirk Cousins was also sacked a career-high 46 times last season. The name to watch if the pick is offensive line? Gophers’ center John Michael Schmitz. He’s been one of the best in the Big Ten, and can slide to guard in the NFL, so it wouldn’t impact Bradbury’s future.
FOX 9 SPORTS PREDICTIONS
Jeff Wald - Fox 9 Sports Digital: The Vikings stay at No. 23, and prioritize the secondary with Penn State defensive back Joey Porter Jr.
Dawn Mitchell - Fox 9 Sports: If they stay at No. 23, it's Maryland defensive back Deonte Banks. If they move up to get a quarterback, it's Will Levis or Anthony Richardson, depending on who is available.