Grading the Vikings Draft
The NFL draft has come and gone.
For the Minnesota Vikings, it’s another year of building through the draft.
The Vikings originally began with eight picks, but after some reeling and dealing from “Slick Rick”, the purple gang came with a dozen picks that seemed to fill every glaring hole on the roster.
The Vikings made the following selections:
1st Round (18th Overall)- Garrett Bradbury, C, North Carolina St.
The Vikings had a huge need on the offensive line before the draft, particularly at both guard spots.
That changed with the Bradbury selection.
The selection of Bradbury (who will play center), moves Pat Elflein to guard which is a more natural position. While at Ohio State, Elflein was a first-team All-American, first team All-Big-Ten, Big-Ten Rimington-Pace Offensive Lineman of the year, and winner of the Riminton Trophy (awarded to the nations best center in college football) in 2016.
That leaves one more guard spot open for the Vikings to be able to hold an open competition for during training camp and the preseason.
2nd Round (50th overall)- Irv Smith Jr., TE, Alabama
Let’s face it, Kyle Rudolph isn’t getting any younger.
Though Rudolph has been a big part of the Vikings aerial attack in the past
(Rudolph leads all Vikings tight ends with 41 career touchdowns), he has never
had 1,000 receiving yards, 10 touchdowns, or above 85 catches in a single
Don’t get me wrong, Rudolph has been worth his second-round selection in the 2011 NFL Draft. However, he has by no means been a number target for the Vikings and recently finds himself helping pass block on account of the Vikings below average offensive line play.
The addition of Bradbury helps Rudolph in this aspect, but Irv Smith Jr. poses an immediate threat to him.
The Alabama pass-catcher caught seven touchdowns last year and can flat out run. Smith Jr. also ran a 4.63 40-yard dash at the combine which only exemplifies his speed. While Smith Jr. might not be brought in to block (his blocking needs a little work), he should count on 35-50 targets next season.
This will cut into the number of targets that Rudolph will get, but at the end of the day, it’s about winning games for the Vikings. Smith Jr. gives them a better chance to do so.
3rd Round (102nd overall)- Alexander Mattison, RB, Boise State
The Vikings lost running back Latavius Murray to the Saints in free agency. That left a big void in the backfield.
With the 102nd overall selection, the Vikings selected Alexander Mattison out of Boise State. Mattison ran for 1400 yards last season and scored 17 touchdowns for the Broncos.
Aside from dominating during the season, Mattison ran a 4.67 40-yard dash which isn’t impressive. However, Mattison caught 55 passes over the last couple seasons for Boise State and proved to be an effective short yardage back.
However, there were better running backs on the board and most draft analysts had Mattison going anywhere between rounds four and five. The Vikings could have gotten another quality offensive lineman, but instead chose to reach for a running back.
Granted, the Vikings did need a running back but they could have done better or drafted Mattison later.
4th Round (114th overall)- Dru Samia, G, Oklahoma
The Offensive line was a major issue for the Vikings last season. The team continued to help remedy the problem by selecting Dru Samia in the fourth round.
Samia may not be an all-American, but he proves the Vikings with a promising young player that could develop into a quality starter. Samia has terrific size (6’5’’, 305 pounds) and was a four-year starter for the Sooners (Samia appeared in 52 games in his career at Oklahoma and started 48.)
The Sacramento native has a mean streak, which can prove to be a little too excessive. In some cases, Samia seems to rely more on his built-up anger rather than technique.
However, Mike Zimmer wants brutal offensive lineman and Samia fits the bill.
Worst case scenario, he provides solid depth for an awful offensive line.
5th Round (162nd overall)- Cameron Smith, LB, USC
Smith was a four-year starter who recorded three interceptions as a true freshman in which he returned one of them for touchdowns. While Smith might not be the next Luke Kuechly, he recorded 354 tackles for the Trojans and proved to be a leader on the defense for USC.
Joining a linebacking core with the likes of Anthony Barr, and Eric Kendricks, Smith will most likely be used on specials since the Vikings primarily run their defense out of nickel personnel. Let’s be real, Kendricks and Barr aren’t coming off the field.
Overall, it’s a solid special teams selection that could prove to become a future starter.
6th Round (190th overall)- Armon Watts, DT, Arkansas
Losing Sheldon Richardson was a big loss for the Vikings defensive line. After rejuvenating his career in a Mike Zimmer defense and recording 4.5 sacks, Richardson signed with the Browns in free agency.
Enter Shamar Stephen.
Stephen isn’t a game changer. He may not have the talent of Aaron Donald, and he may not be a guy who is going to come in and get 10 sacks a season. However, Stephen provides the Vikings with a solid starter that fills his gap and nothing.
Now enter in Armon Watts.
Watts didn’t play a lot in his first three seasons at Arkansas (appeared in only seven games). However, in his senior season, he recorded seven sacks and was by far the most disruptive force on the Arkansas defense.
He’s not isn’t to be a starter right away and has to improve some technical things. Watts could also find a better motor. Defensive Line coach Andre Patterson has a way of getting the most out of players. Especially with the likes of Danielle Hunter.
Give Watts a year or two with the coaching of Patterson and Zimmer, and you might have a very productive starter in the future.
At the very least, the Arkansas product could come in on the Vikings nickel situations as a pass rusher and give players like Stephen a rest while also being a solid pass rush threat.
6th Round (191st overall)- Marcus Epps, S, Wyoming
Mike Zimmer finally got a DB.
While it wasn’t a major need for the Vikings, Epps proved to be a ball-hawk for the Cowboys during the last four seasons (9 career interceptions). Epps also proved to be somewhat of a tackling machine, coming away with 324 career tackles.
Again, the Vikings might not need him right away. Harrison Smith is one of the best safeties in football, and Anthony Harris balled out last year.
Epps will either provide special teams value, or he’ll get cut. It’s that simple.
Grade: B (meh)
6th Round (193rd overall)- Olisaemeka Udoh, T, Elon
Yep, the Vikings needed more offensive line help. Will Udoh actually give the Vikings something next year? Doubt it.
Udoh does have great size (6’5’’, 323 pounds) but due to his lack of competition at a lower level, it will be tougher for him to adjust to blocking guys like Khalil Mack or Von Miller.
You never know. Udoh might be able to develop into something, but given all the information count on him being one of the first players cut.
7th Round (217th overall)- Kris Boyd, CB, Texas
Zimmer got another corner. Although he might be one of the best DB coaches in the league, there’s a chance that Boyd doesn’t even make it to the final round of cuts. The Vikings are already stacked at the corner position.
However, Zimmer isn’t known as the cornerback whisperer for nothing. Look at Holton Hill.
Hill was an undrafted free agent out of Texas who was a long shot to make the Vikings roster. Hill proved to be a promising young player for the Vikings and even outplayed Xavier Rhodes in some games.
We will see what Boyd can do, but in the seventh round, he might be a good pick.
7th Round (239th overall)- Dillon Mitchell, WR, Oregon
The Vikings needed a number three receiver.
With Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen being one of the best wide receiver duos in the league, the Vikings are one wide receiver (and good offensive line) away from being a hard offense to stop.
Laquon Treadwell has been a disappointment, Aldrick Robinson hasn’t been resigned and the Vikings hadn’t brought anyone in to fill the void. That’s when the Vikings took Mitchell.
Mitchell is coming off a season in which he broke Oregon’s single-season receiving record (1,184 yards) and scored 10 touchdowns. He’s got some talent.
What makes this pick even more tantalizing is the fact that a major knock on Mitchell is his work ethic. Multiple scouts all believe that Mitchell just doesn’t put in the work.
Yes, he’s got a lot of talent but he’s not doing anything to sharpen his skills. Mitchell ran a 4.46 40-yard dash at the combine. He’s got the tools, but the question is will he perfect those skills.
If players like Thielen and Diggs could light a fire under the rookie, that could make for a fun wide receiving trio to watch.
I like the pick, especially in the seventh round.
Seventh Round (247th overall)-Olabisi Johnson, WR, Colorado State
The Vikings are clearly on the search for a viable third receiver. Johnson could be the answer, but the proof is in the pudding.
Johnson never had over 1,000 receiving yards and five touchdowns in a season. He’s a good route runner who ran a 4.51 at the combine. There’s a good chance that Johnson doesn’t make the final cuts, but if he does stranger things have happened.
Seventh Round (250th overall)- Austin Cutting, LS, Air Force
Kevin McDermott lost a finger in a game against the Rams last year. It didn’t seem to affect his play too much, but it could have.
This was one of the strangest picks that I’ve seen in a while, and that’s with the Buccaneers taking a kicker in the second round a couple of years ago and the 49ers taking a punter in the fourth round.
Overall Grade: B
When it came down to it, the Vikings filled most of their holes on the roster and improved their offensive line. They might not have propelled themselves to the playoffs with this draft, but for the most part they didn’t reach for anyone.
I will think the Vikings could have gotten better value with the Mattison pick in the third round, but at the end of the day the team got better after this draft.
For a more in-depth analysis of all the Vikings picks, check out my podcast (The Sports Brief Podcast) on the link below.