The Minnesota Vikings made four picks in the third round on Friday and added three more players in the fourth round to kick off Day 3 of the 2021 NFL Draft. While none of their fourth-round selections are big names, there are reasons to be excited about each one.
Let's go through them and break down what you need to know.
RB Kene Nwangwu, Iowa State (No. 119 overall)
Nwangwu was stuck behind David Montgomery and later Breece Hall on the Cyclones' depth chart, but he is an incredible athlete who projects as a change-of-pace running back and kick returner for the Vikings. He'll replace the departed Mike Boone on the backfield depth chart and should have a chance to supplant Ameer Abdullah for both the No. 3 RB role and the job of primary kick returner.
The main thing to know about Nwangwu is that he can absolutely fly. He ran a 4.32 40 at 6'0", 210 pounds and is arguably the best overall athlete in this year's running back class. He also posted impressive explosiveness and agility numbers at Iowa State's pro day.
That speed shows up when you watch him play. Just look at the acceleration on this clip.
He only had 801 yards and four touchdowns from scrimmage in his ISU career, but was the team's kick returner for four seasons and says he's open to returning punts as well. Nwangwu averaged 26.8 yards per kick return for his career, including 28.9 yards per return last season.
Nwangwu also has an interesting backstory. Here's a great feature on him from SI's Marcus Krum.
This was a major reach according to the consensus board, where Nwangwu was ranked 293rd, but he's a sleeper that a lot of analysts view as someone with the potential to become an impact player in the league due to his physical tools.
Here's what The Athletic's Dane Brugler said about him:
Nwangwu must improve his discipline as a running back, but he displays breakaway speed to start fast and finish faster with the ball in his hands. He holds the school record with a 26.85 kickoff return average (on 92 returns) and ranks No. 3 all-time in Big 12 history with 2,470 kick-return yards. Overall, Nwangwu must develop his patience, block recognition and receiving skills to warrant a spot on offense, but his home run speed and return skills could be his ticket to sticking on an NFL roster.
The Vikings wanted a dynamic athlete to replace Boone and potentially provide a spark in the return game, and they got one.
S Camryn Bynum, Cal
Bynum was a cornerback at Cal but is officially moving to safety with the Vikings. His best trait is his physicality against the run, so moving from corner to safety, where might be used frequently in the box, makes sense. Bynum isn't a special athlete but he has good instincts and range in zone coverage, with plenty of ball production — six interceptions and 35 passes defended — during his four-year college career.
The Vikings don't have much depth behind Harrison Smith and Xavier Woods at safety, so adding one at this spot was a logical move. Bynum seems unlikely to see the field outside of special teams as a rookie, barring injuries, but he has some intriguing tools to work with going forward. This is the first defensive back the Vikings have drafted this year, which had to make Mike Zimmer happy.
Bynum (6'0", 200 pounds) is a tough, physical player who was a captain for the Golden Bears. Like Kellen Mond, who the Vikings drafted in the third round, he stood out at the Senior Bowl.
Here's Brugler's analysis of Bynum:
Bynum checks boxes for his balanced movements, coverage awareness and run support skills (all skills that translate well to safety). He knows he isn’t the most athletically gifted player, but he doesn’t allow anyone to outwork him and his coaches praise his drive, leadership and smarts. Overall, Bynum doesn’t have ideal twitch or speed for outside work in the NFL, but his play recognition and football character are why he will stick in the NFL. He projects best in a zone-based scheme with a possible future at safety (similar to Jordan Poyer).
DE Janarius Robinson, Florida State
After landing a long, athletic pass rusher in the third round in Pitt's Patrick Jones II, the Vikings went back to that well by taking Robinson as their final pick of the fourth. He had just eight career sacks and 20.5 tackles for loss for the Seminoles, but has the physical tools to develop into a starting-caliber player.
For the second straight year, there was buzz about the Vikings taking an edge rusher early. But once again, they proved that they're going to stick to what they like to do: draft impressive physical specimens with untapped upside in the third and fourth round and give them to Andre Patterson to see what he can turn them into. They still have never taken an edge rusher in the first two rounds since Rick Spielman got to Minnesota in 2006.
Robinson fits the mold and might even have more athletic upside than Jones, though he didn't have nearly the production or tape of the Pitt All-American in college. He's another Senior Bowl guy.
The most promising aspect to Robinson's game is his power. He has violent hands, plays with impressive physicality, and is still improving as a pass rusher. The quickness and motor are there, too.
Taking another stab at defensive end increases the odds that one of Jones or Robinson develops into a quality player in the NFL. They'll both compete with D.J. Wonnum and Stephen Weatherly for snaps in a now much-improved DE room in Minnesota.
This is Brugler's summary of Robinson:
A three-year starter at Florida State, Robinson played the “Fox” defensive end position in defensive coordinator Adam Fuller’s four-man front, lining up primarily in the boundary in a two-point stance. Playing for three different defensive coordinators in college, he didn’t quite live up to expectations in Tallahassee with only 8.0 career sacks, but the tools and flashes are intriguing. Robinson was blessed with long arms, huge hands and smooth acceleration, doing his best work as a downhill rusher. However, he didn’t put enough impact plays on tape, struggling to maximize those gifts or play with balance through contact. Overall, Robinson has a projectable body with high-upside traits, but he must develop his play instincts and creativity as a pass rusher if he is going to earn and keep an NFL roster spot.
The Vikings have three picks left: two fifth-rounders and a sixth. They still have yet to draft a receiver, cornerback, defensive tackle, tight end, or kicker.
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