The Minnesota Vikings first pick in the 2017 NFL Draft isn’t until pick 48 on day two.
More than one position on the roster will be addressed. But it’s a good idea to address the safety position in the second round. The addition of another playmaker in the secondary could solidify the secondary as the best in the NFC North, bolstering an already dominant defense.
The Vikings already have one of the best safeties in the league in Harrison Smith. Starting opposite of Smith last season was Andrew Sendejo. While Sendejo has been pretty reliable at the position, he lacks the intangibles that could make him a game-changer. He is a pretty solid tackler, but he is not a ball hawk by any means and he doesn’t pose any threat blitzing. Sendejo could be a solid situational player for years to come. Having a proven, reliable backup in case of injury would also be a plus.
The Minnesota Vikings Should Draft Budda Baker
When the Vikings finally get there opportunity to welcome a new name to the big leagues, Budda Baker from Washington would be a perfect fit. This draft is looking highly impressive when it comes to prospects in the defensive backfield. Baker is near the top of my list. Lucky for Minnesota, there are multiple players likely to be taken before him at the same position. Most projections currently have Baker on the board in the middle of the second round.
Budda Baker is coming out of Washington following a trip to the Peach Bowl, the semi-final to the College Football Championship. He is a player that has played at a high level at the top tier of competition in NCAA football. He has started since he came to Washington three years ago. While not considered the number one prospect at safety in the draft, his potential in the NFL rivals that of any of his peers.
Baker has the physical skills to be elite. Many of his combine results were higher than expected top three pick Jamal Adams out of LSU. One of the biggest knocks on Baker is his size. He is only listed at 5’11”. While he doesn’t have prototypical size, he makes up for it in his tenacity.
Watching his game tape, Budda Baker explodes on the ball as fast as nearly any safety taken in the last few years. His football knowledge is high, and he is great at making reads. Compared to Sendejo, his playmaking ability off the blitz is elite. Sendejo has recorded a singular sack in his NFL career. Baker recorded three sacks and 9.5 tackles for loss in 2016 alone. His ability to come off of the edge will be a great fit in Mike Zimmer’s defense.
One criticism on Baker has been that he may not be able to bring down big running backs when they have a lot of momentum. This is an area that shouldn’t matter as much while looking at his potential. He has shown the ability to be an above average tackler throughout his days in the NCAA. His playmaking talents often put him on ball-carriers before they have the chance to reach full speed. Even in the circumstances in which he wasn’t able to make a solo tackle on an opponent, he doesn’t shy from contact which makes it easier for defensive help to arrive. Paired with the elite-level tackling of Harrison Smith, Baker should be able to bring down even the biggest of backs.
The Vikings already have one of the better secondary situations in the NFL. The team has two 2016-17 Pro Bowlers in Harrison Smith and Xavier Rhodes. Trae Waynes is primed to have a potentially career-changing season. They have a talent in Mackensie Alexander that could eventually grow to lock down the slot-corner role. They also have a veteran player with Pro Bowl experience in Terrance Newman. Having Newman has been like having an extra coach on the field. Adding another top-tier safety to play alongside this cast of talent could solidify the Minnesota secondary for years to come.
There are multiple positions that could use addressing and gaps on the team that may feel more urgent right now. Drafting a player like Budda Baker will outweigh the benefits of any other player that they could draft at number 48. Look at what the “Legion of Boom” did for Seattle. The Vikings could potentially have the next secondary of that caliber if they strike while the iron is hot.