With the start of the 2021 NFL Draft just one day away, let's take a look at the latest rumors, reports, nuggets — whatever you want to call them — about the Minnesota Vikings and what they might do this weekend.
No one outside of the organization truly knows what the Vikings are planning, and they themselves don't even know what's going to happen until the draft actually starts unfolding. Take all of this for what it is, because smokescreens and speculation are all over the place in the days leading up to the draft. But these are coming from plugged-in people with legitimate sources and are thus worth noting, at the very least.
The Vikings really like Rashawn Slater
Here's a non-quarterback trade-up candidate to watch.
Rick Spielman attended Northwestern's pro day and watched Slater put on a show. He is considered one of the top two offensive linemen in this draft despite opting out of last season, because his film from 2019 — particularly against Chase Young — is that good. Some respected analysts have Slater ranked ahead of Penei Sewell, and to put the cherry on top, he has reportedly been very impressive in the interview process.
Chad Graff of The Athletic reported on Wednesday that the Vikings love Slater because he has the athleticism to fit their scheme and is an outstanding pass protector as well. They'd almost certainly have to trade up to get him, and maybe this is the year Spielman finally pulls the trigger on moving up in the first.
It still feels weird to write that the Vikings could trade up. And in reality, it’s probably only around a 10 percent chance that it happens. But that’s higher than most years for Spielman. It doesn’t help the Vikings that the Los Angeles Chargers pick just before them at No. 13 and also have a big need on the offensive line. A year ago, the Eagles picked just before the Vikings and had the same need at wide receiver, but Spielman got lucky that the Eagles chose Jalen Reagor over Jefferson. I don’t think he could bank on getting that lucky again with Slater.
Graff proposed a potential trade with the Broncos and George Paton at 9, if all of the QBs Denver wants (they should still be in the market for a QB after trading for Teddy Bridgewater) are off the board.
Others are talking about the Vikings being high on Slater as well. ESPN's Jeremy Fowler and Dan Graziano called Minnesota "one to watch" for Slater. Last week, NFL Network's Tom Pelissero reported that the Vikings had made calls about moving into the top ten for a tackle. Don't be shocked if they move up to go get him.
If they stay put, Alijah Vera-Tucker is the favorite
If the Vikings don't trade up for Slater (or a QB?) and stay at 14, everything I've read suggests that Vera-Tucker is the leading candidate to be their pick at that spot. He's a high-floor, high-ceiling lineman with outstanding technique and athleticism, plus some of the positional versatility that the Vikings covet. That's why he was the pick at 14 in my seven-round mock draft.
"The scouts I talked to said Vera-Tucker may not have the highest ceiling among offensive linemen in this class, but he’s a safe bet to be a consistent starter for years to come," Graff wrote. "The chance he becomes a bust is low, and the Vikings could use some stability on their offensive line."
"The Vikings are another team that’s been making trade calls, and with their wealth of picks, they’d have the flexibility to go either way," wrote SI's Albert Breer. "If they stick at No. 14, I’d think they’ll take some sort of lineman — and [Jaelan] Phillips and Vera-Tucker are two names I’ve heard them linked to."
Vera-Tucker is a safe pick, which could appeal to the Vikings, especially compared to someone like Phillips, who is the most talented DE in the class but has a troubling medical history. I think AVT's ceiling is just as high as the other top linemen in this draft.
PFT's Peter King is one of countless analysts to predict AVT to the Vikings at 14.
"I had Phillips until the last three people I texted with Sunday told me the need is too great on the Minnesota offensive line, and Vera-Tucker the person and prospect just too solid, and Phillips the person and prospect a little risky, and so I hit the delete button," he wrote.
Trading back is always in play
The Vikings could stick at 14 and take Vera-Tucker or Christian Darrisaw, but Spielman is always going to explore the possibility of trading back, especially with no second-round pick right now. If he does, that's when it seems like taking an edge rusher in the first round would really come into play as a possibility. Kwity Paye, Phillips, or Jayson Oweh could all be available late in the first.
That way they could acquire a second-round pick and shorten the gap between their first and second selections. Right now, it's a huge gap of 64 picks between 14 and 78.
"This draft centers around the trenches for the Vikings," Graff wrote. "I’d be shocked if their first two picks weren’t an offensive lineman and a defensive lineman."
Matt Miller of The Draft Scout thinks they'll take an edge rusher in the first.
"You might be thinking left tackle here and while that’s definitely a consideration, everything I’ve heard points to edge-rusher being the team’s priority if the right player is on the board," he wrote. "Outside of Round 1, there’s talk that Minnesota will value adding another receiver in the early-to-middle rounds."
Keep an eye on the second tier of quarterbacks
Unless the Vikings shock the world and take a QB in round one, I'd expect them to go OL or DE with their first two picks, not necessarily in that order. Could they take a DB or LB or WR early if the value is right? Sure, but it's not nearly as likely.
However, keep an eye on the second tier of QBs: Kellen Mond, Davis Mills, and Kyle Trask. They're expected to go somewhere in the range of the second to the fourth round, and it sounds like the Vikings are doing their homework on that group.
They could look to target one at 90, or perhaps even before taking a DE, but I still think they may wait and take a QB later on Day 3. In my mock, I have the Vikings landing former Florida and Arkansas QB Feleipe Franks in the seventh round.
- Minnesota Vikings 2021 Seven-Round Mock Draft With Three Trades
- Five Takeaways From Rick Spielman's 2021 Pre-NFL Draft Press Conference
- 25 Players the Vikings Could Conceivably Draft in the First Round, Sorted into Tiers
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