MINNEAPOLIS - The virtual NFL Draft is in the books, and the Minnesota Vikings started the “evolution” of a roster with a record 15 selections over the course of three days.
General Manager Rick Spielman addressed specific needs with certain picks, while providing depth at certain positions as virtual off-season workouts began on Monday. The 15-player class is the most in the NFL since it went to a seven-round format in 1994, and it’s even more than the 12 they took last year. The 2020 class includes two wide receivers, three defensive backs, two safeties, two offensive tackles, two defensive ends, and one each of an offensive guard, defensive tackle, linebacker and quarterback.
Two significant moves were also ones that never happened. The Vikings didn’t trade for Washington Redskins offensive lineman Trent Williams, and they didn’t draft a single running back. Dalvin Cook is reportedly looking to stay in Minnesota long-term, and Alexander Mattison is the No. 2 for at least three more seasons.
With that said, here’s a look at the 15 newest Vikings from the NFL Draft, which most national experts are saying is among the best class in the league.
1 (22) – Justin Jefferson (LSU wide receiver)
The Vikings are hoping drafting Justin Jefferson with their top pick pans out better than the last time they took a receiver with their top pick, Troy Williamson. Jefferson tied for the FBS lead with 111 catches last year, and added 18 touchdowns. He’ll get the chance to replace Stefon Diggs, and the Vikings are excited about his speed after he ran a 4.43 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine.
1 (31) – Jeff Gladney (TCU defensive back)
The Vikings traded back in the first round, and got what they hope will be an impact player in the secondary in TCU’s Jeff Gladney. He’s a physical player in the secondary who had 31 tackles last season and led the Big 12 with 14 pass break-ups. He’ll get every opportunity to compete for a starting role with Xavier Rhodes, Trae Waynes and Mackensie Alexander all gone from the defensive backfield.
2 (58) – Ezra Cleveland (Boise State offensive tackle)
The Trent Williams sweepstakes ended for the Vikings after they took Boise State offensive tackle with their second round pick Friday night. Minnesota selected Ezra Cleveland out of Boise State, and he will likely compete for a starting spot on the offensive line. He wowed scouts after the 6-6, 311-pound tackle ran a 4.93 40-yard dash. He also got 30 reps on the bench press at the NFL Combine.
3 (89) – Cameron Dantzler (Mississippi State defensive back)
The Vikings got another potential starter in the secondary in the third round Friday night, taking Mississippi State defensive back Cameron Dantzler. He had 40 tackles, eight pass break-ups and tied for the team lead last year with two interceptions. He also allowed just one touchdown combined his last two collegiate seasons. He got the nickname “The Needle” in high school. He says it’s because while he’s skinny, he makes it hurt when he hits people.
4 (117) – D.J Wonnum (South Carolina defensive end)
The Vikings needed impact players on the defensive line with Everson Griffen, Linval Joseph and Stephen Weatherly gone in the offseason. They think they got one with fourth round pick D.J. Wonnum out of South Carolina. He started all 12 games last year and made 37 tackles, 9.5 for a loss and 4.5 sacks. He’s 6-5, 258 pounds and ran a 4.73 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine.
4 (130) – James Lynch (Baylor defensive tackle)
The Vikings added another potential defensive line starter 13 picks after Wonnum, taking Baylor defensive tackle James Lynch at the No. 130 pick. Lynch was a dominant force last season for the Bears, finishing in the top 10 nationally with 19.5 tackles for a loss and 13.5 sacks. He also had five pass break-ups, forced three fumbles and blocked two kicks in 14 starts.
4 (132) – Troy Dye (Oregon linebacker)
The Vikings ended the fourth round adding depth to their linebacker corps with Troy Dye out of Oregon. Dye led the Ducks in tackles four straight seasons, and was named Second Team All-Pac 12 last season. He finished last season with 84 tackles, 9.5 tackles for a loss and 2.5 sacks in 13 games. Dye could have a bigger role on defense this year if the Vikings go to a 3-4 scheme.
5 (169) – Harrison Hand (Temple defensive back)
Mike Zimmer loves molding defensive backs, and he started the fifth round of the NFL Draft by taking Temple’s Harrison Hand. In 12 starts last year, he had 59 tackles, four for a loss and led the Owls’ defense with three interceptions. He’s athletic, running a 4.52 40-yard dash and had a 41-inch vertical at the NFL Combine.
5 (176) – K.J. Osborn (Miami wide receiver)
The Vikings added receiver depth and a potential special teams weapon in the fifth round with Miami receiver K.J. Osborn. He led the Hurricanes in receiving last year with 50 catches for 547 yards and 10 touchdowns. He also had 16 punt returns and averaged nearly 16 yards per return. Osborn had 10 kickoff returns, and averaged 20 yards per return.
6 (203) – Blake Brandel (Oregon State offensive tackle)
Offensive line depth was key for the Vikings after they moved on from Williams. He was a four-year starter at Oregon State and played at both left and right tackle. He played left tackle his last three years and at 6-7, 307 pounds, can manhandle a defense. He was a Second Team All-Pac 12 player last season.
6 (205) – Josh Metellus (Michigan safety)
Josh Metellus was all over the secondary for Michigan in the Big Ten last season, and the Vikings think they got a good one in the sixth round. Metellus had 74 tackles, four tackles for a loss, two interceptions and had five pass break-ups in 13 starts. As a junior, he had 48 tackles, 3.5 for a loss, three interceptions and returned one for a touchdown. He ran a 4.55 40-yard dash and got 20 reps on the bench press at the NFL Combine.
7 (225) – Kenny Willekes (Michigan State defensive end)
Kenny Willekes has the potential to make an impact on the defensive line, and the Vikings took the Michigan State defensive end in the seventh round on Saturday. He made 78 tackles last season, including 16 tackles for a loss and 10.5 sacks. He showed his strength at the NFL Combine, tying for second on the bench press with 32 reps.
7 (244) – Nate Stanley (Iowa QB)
The Vikings added another player to the quarterback room in the seventh round with Nate Stanley out of Iowa. He’s played in plenty of big games with the Hawkeyes and set career-highs last season with more than 2,900 passing yards and 16 touchdowns. He had 26 passing touchdowns as a junior.
7 (249) – Brian Cole II (Mississippi State safety)
Brian Cole joins teammate Cameron Dantzler as a member of the Vikings’ 2020 draft class. He started 12 games last year and had 67 tackles, 7.5 tackles for a loss, two sacks, one interception and two pass break-ups. He’ll give the Vikings depth in the secondary, behind Anthony Harris and Harrison Smith.
7 (253) – Kyle Hinton (Washburn guard)
The Vikings used their 15th and final pick of the draft on offensive guard Kyle Hinton, A Division-II talent out of Washburn College. He made 10 starts at left tackle last season and earned All-America honors. Two years ago, he started 11 games on the blind side and was named first team all-conference.
In addition to drafting 15 players, the Vikings signed 12 undrafted free agents after the draft. The Vikings roster sits at 87 players as they begin the virtual off-season program.