Now that the major free agent signings have been finalized, the Last Word on Sports NFL department will be looking at the top three needs for each team heading into the 2017 NFL Drafts. Today, the Minnesota Vikings are the focus. The Vikings do not have a first round pick following the trade for quarterback Sam Bradford, but they do hold the 48th overall pick in the second round of the draft. General manager Rick Spielman will continue to fill out the Vikings roster after bringing in several quality free agents.
Minnesota Vikings 2017 NFL Draft: Top 3 Needs
Offensive Line (Interior)
The offensive line has headlined all lists of the top needs for the Vikings since before the season ended. Due to injuries and inexperience, the play of the offensive line was a major disappointment. After moving on from starting left tackle Matt Kalil, starting right tackle Andre Smith, and starting right guard Brandon Fusco, the Vikings were left with only two proven starters in left guard Alex Boone and center Joe Berger.
After bringing in the tough, durable (and expensive) tackle pair of Riley Reiff and Mike Remmers in free agency, the biggest hole remains at right guard. Berger has the flexibility to play any spot along the interior. Boone also has experience on the right side. Because of their flexibility, finding a player who can only play left guard or center should not be an issue. Further, the team does have young players like T.J. Clemmings and Jeremiah Sirles who may be able to provide competition in camp, but neither have proven they can be more than backup level NFL players.
The Vikings will probably target the offensive line in the second or third round. In the second round players like Indiana’s Dan Feeney, LSU’s Ethan Pocic, or Ohio State’s Pat Elflein should be available. In the third or fourth rounds, players like Pittsburgh’s Dorian Johnson or Miami’s Danny Isidora could be good fits. The team might trade up for a prospect like Western Kentucky’s Forrest Lamp if he slides on draft night.
Defensive Tackle (three-technique)
Headed into the off season, defensive tackle was not a position on Vikings fans’ radar as a serious need. Linval Joseph is known around the league as a premier run-stuffing nose tackle, and even without Sharrif Floyd last season, the play at the three-technique was serviceable. Now, however, after rumors that nerve damage will end Floyd’s promising career early, and with last year’s starter Tom Johnson going to be 33 before next season starts, the position has become a serious need. The team began to address the position in free agency, signing the versatile former first round pick Datone Jones away from the Green Bay Packers. But drafting a defensive tackle early should still be a major priority.
The defensive tackle position could be targeted anywhere from the second to the fifth round of the draft. Early options like MSU’s Malik McDowell and Florida’s Caleb Brantley are intriguing options in Mike Zimmer‘s defense. Later rounds could also provide quality players like Iowa’s Jaleel Johnson or an athletic freak like Notre Dame’s Jarron Jones.
Outside Linebacker (Weak Side)
After losing veteran leader Chad Greenway to retirement this off season, the Vikings did little to replace him at the WILL position. Greenway was on the team for over a decade. He led the team in tackles six straight seasons and led the NFL in total tackles in 2010. His production may have waned in his final seasons, but his leadership on and off the field was integral. Now, the on roster options for the Vikings include the relatively unknown pair of Edmond Robinson, an athletic freak, and Kentrell Brothers, a undersized but instinctive player. Veteran Emmanuel Lamur is also on the roster, but he may be more suited to the SAM role than the WILL.
In the draft, there are several players who could be good fits in for the Vikings in the mid rounds. LSU’s Duke Riley may be the perfect mid round pick for the Vikings, with athleticism and physicality to make up for his lack of length (much like current Viking Eric Kendricks). Northwestern’s Anthony Walker is another player who already knows he looks good in purple. If he falls into the late second round, Florida’s Jarrad Davis may be worth trading up for.