Draft Grades for the Vikings' Selections of Justin Jefferson and Jeff Gladney

Will Ragatz

There's no disputing it: Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman knocked Day 1 of the 2020 NFL Draft out of the park.

To kick off a highly successful evening, he let the board come to him at pick No. 22. When the receiver-needy Eagles surprised some by taking Jalen Reagor over Justin Jefferson at 21, Spielman pounced on Jefferson, a prolific receiver from LSU's national championship team.

Twenty minutes later, Spielman pulled off one of the savvy draft-night moves he's become known for. With the 49ers also hungry for a receiver, he made a trade to move back six slots from No. 25, picking up additional fourth and fifth-round picks in the process. At 31, he selected ultra-competitive TCU corner Jeff Gladney, a player the Vikings would've happily taken with their original pick.

Only time will tell if Jefferson and Gladney pan out in Minnesota, but from an instant reaction perspective, this was an incredible start to the draft for Spielman and the Vikings.

Vikings add pro-ready receiver Justin Jefferson

In Jefferson, the Vikings land a receiver who was widely expected to be off the board by the 22nd pick. Some analysts had him as the third-best receiver in an extremely talented class of them, so taking Jefferson was a no-brainer when he fell to 22. He fills an obvious hole on the roster; Jefferson was selected with the pick the Vikings' acquired from the Bills when they traded Stefon Diggs in March. But he was also one of the best players available at that slot, which made it more than justified to wait on other areas of need like cornerback and the offensive line.

Jefferson's route-running ability, catch radius, and body control will make him a favorite target for Kirk Cousins right away in 2020. He played out of the slot in his massively productive season last year, but has the size and quickness to operate on the boundary. Jefferson showing off his speed at the combine with a 4.43 40 was the final piece of the puzzle for him. Suddenly, a receiving corps of Adam Thielen, Jefferson, Tajae Sharpe, and Bisi Johnson – with another WR likely to join them later in the draft – doesn't look too shabby. My grade: A

National analyst grades

  • Andy Benoit, Sports Illustrated: B-
  • Danny Kelly, The Ringer: A
  • Dan Kadar, SB Nation: A+
  • Pete Prisco, CBS Sports: A
  • Vinnie Iyer, Sporting News: A
  • Matt Miller, Bleacher Report: A
  • Steven Ruiz, USA Today: C
  • Walter Cherepinsky, WalterFootball: A

Vikings trade back and still land physical corner Jeff Gladney

With their second selection, Spielman and the Vikings manipulated the board to their benefit. After taking Jefferson, they had a number of players they liked at corner and offensive tackle, so they moved back to get better value and load up on even more Day 3 assets. Then they landed Gladney, who they had their eyes on all along. This was another strong combination of filling a need and taking one of the best players available.

Gladney is a tough, competitive corner with four years of starting experience at TCU. He'll come in right away and be a versatile toy for Zimmer to use on the outside and in the slot. But Gladney is more than just a physical presence; he's highly skilled in coverage and can make plays on the ball as well as any corner in this class. The Vikings should look to continue to add players at the position, but Mike Hughes, Holton Hill, and Gladney isn't a bad place to start. "There are specific traits that you have to have to play corner in this defense," Spielman said on Thursday night. "Gladney fit every single trait we were looking for from a physical standpoint." My grade: A

National analyst grades

  • Andy Benoit, Sports Illustrated: A
  • Danny Kelly, The Ringer: A
  • Dan Kadar, SB Nation: A
  • Pete Prisco, CBS Sports: B
  • Vinnie Iyer, Sporting News: A
  • Matt Miller, Bleacher Report: A
  • Steven Ruiz, USA Today: B+
  • Walter Cherepinsky, WalterFootball: A

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Comments (3)
No. 1-2
Canoe Fan
Canoe Fan

Looks like the Vikings are off to a great draft start

Skol Squad
Skol Squad

Are you worried at all about Gladney’s injury history? I know there are other CB’s who were taken earlier (e.g. CJ Henderson at 9) who have a history of injuries as well that teams clearly felt confident in enough to take that high


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