It’s mock draft season, people. Since our Minnesota Vikings are out of playoff contention (it’s hard to believe they were ever in contention), it’s time to take a look at the mock drafts. One thing to keep in mind: Rick Spielman doesn’t draft for need and he doesn’t draft for value. Spielman’s plan is always to marry need and value (see Jefferson, Justin). My hypothesis is that Spielman’s proclivity for trading back is the result of getting to his pick and feeling like there isn’t a prospect who sufficiently marries the two key factors. I’m still waiting for him to return my calls so he can confirm this theory (hit me up, Rick!). My hypothesis (conspiracy theory?) aside, let’s see what the draft experts are saying.
CBS: Alijah Vera-Tucker, OL
This pick makes sense. As CBS explains, “The Vikings have needs along the interior offensive line and Vera-Tucker, who is a stud on the interior but has starred at tackle this season for USC, has the versatility to line up anywhere.” If one thing is certain, it’s that Minnesota has some o-line uncertainty heading into next season. Vera-Tucker’s versatility is crucial. Having someone who can work around Ezra Cleveland – who will either be a LT or LG – is important. Vera-Tucker is 6’4, 315, and he seems to fit the mold of athletic linemen who Minnesota targets.
The Draft Network: Rashawn Slater, OL
The Draft Network pursues a similar train of thought. Slater is someone who, at least according to The Draft Network, “can play tackle, guard, or center.” Again, position flexibility is a priority. Garrett Bradbury is going to be the starting center, and Brian O’Neill should be kept at RT. Cleveland is a bit of a wild card, so having another lineman who can be shifted around makes a ton of sense. TDN lists Slater at 6’4, 315.
PFF: Gregory Rousseau, Edge
Mike Zimmer’s favorite website gives Minnesota’s defense some much needed help along the edge. PFF praises Rousseau for his athleticism and “ridiculous size and length for the position.” He is 6’6, 260, so Rousseau is definitely built like a NFL edge rusher. Similar to the o-line, Rousseau possesses position flexibility, demonstrating an ability to play “up and down the line of scrimmage.” Addressing the issues on d-line are a big priority for the Vikings in the offseason. Don’t be surprised to see Spielman go after multiple d-linemen in both free agency and the draft.
The Minnesota Vikings weren’t good enough in trenches, and the mock drafts reflect this reality. It’s worth keeping in mind that all three mocks prioritize players with position flexibility. The suggestion is that Minnesota is a team in transition. Drafting players who can solidify the lines while also giving the team options thus makes sense. Keep an eye on the mock drafts, folks. Things will change a lot between now and the draft. Monitoring the prospect hype is one of the best parts of the NFL offseason.