Before the 2021 NFL Draft kicks off, let's set the scene for the Minnesota Vikings by taking a look at their current depth chart and ranking their positional needs.
I'll start with the depth chart, but feel free to scroll down to my ranking of their needs, 1 through 11. You will also find the complete list of the Vikings' current draft picks, plus some links to preview content, at the bottom of this article.
Vikings pre-draft depth chart
This is a combination of what the depth chart was last year along with some projecting from me.
QB: Kirk Cousins, Jake Browning, Nate Stanley
RB: Dalvin Cook, Alexander Mattison, Ameer Abdullah
FB: C.J. Ham, Jake Bargas
WR: Justin Jefferson, Adam Thielen, Chad Beebe, Bisi Johnson, K.J. Osborn
TE: Irv Smith Jr., Tyler Conklin, Brandon Dillon
LT: Rashod Hill, Ezra Cleveland (?)
LG: Mason Cole, Dakota Dozier, Dru Samia
C: Garrett Bradbury, Mason Cole
RG: Ezra Cleveland, Kyle Hinton
RT: Brian O'Neill, Oli Udoh, Blake Brandel
LDE: Danielle Hunter, Hercules Mata'afa, Jordan Brailford
NT: Michael Pierce, Armon Watts
3T: Dalvin Tomlinson, James Lynch
RDE: Stephen Weatherly, D.J. Wonnum
OLB: Anthony Barr
MLB: Eric Kendricks
Base/No. 3 LB: Nick Vigil, Troy Dye, Ryan Connelly, Cameron Smith, Blake Lynch
CB: Cameron Dantzler, Mike Hughes, Harrison Hand
CB: Patrick Peterson, Jeff Gladney*, Kris Boyd
Slot CB: Mackensie Alexander
SS: Harrison Smith, Josh Metellus, Luther Kirk
FS: Xavier Woods, Myles Dorn
* Gladney has major legal concerns after being arrested for domestic violence
K: Greg Joseph
P: Britton Colquitt
LS: Andrew DePaola
PR: Chad Beebe, K.J. Osborn, Mike Hughes
KR: Ameer Abdullah, K.J. Osborn
Vikings draft needs, ranked
No. 1: Offensive line
This is clearly their top need, in my opinion. It's been a weakness for more than a decade. The Vikings have three definite starters (Cleveland, Bradbury, and O'Neill) but need two more, because guys like Hill and Cole can't be relied upon — at least not without facing serious competition. It's the most likely position that they address in round one, and I'd expect them to come away with at least two OL this weekend. Whether tackle or guard is more important depends on what they do with Cleveland, who was drafted as a LT but played RG as a rookie. Either way, they definitely need a guard to replace Dozier.
No. 2: Edge rusher/Defensive end
Hunter is a superstar but is coming off missing all of last year with a neck injury that required surgery. Weatherly and Wonnum are uninspiring starting options opposite him, although there's some hope of a year two leap for the latter. The Vikings had zero pass rush last season. They need to fix that. They could take a DE as early as the first round and should have at least one athletic option by the time the fourth round ends.
No. 3: Cornerback
Gladney's legal situation puts this right back near the top. Peterson, Alexander, and Hughes are all set to hit free agency in 2022, leaving Dantzler as the only real building block, and even he has some durability concerns. I don't think they'll take a corner before the third round, but you never know.
No. 4: Wide receiver
After Jefferson and Thielen, who are one of the league's top duos, there's just nothing else there. It would behoove the Vikings to add a legit No. 3 weapon and modernize their offense a bit by running more 11 personnel. Look for them to target a receiver in the middle rounds.
No. 5: Safety
Smith, a potential Hall of Famer, is getting up there in age at 32 years old. Woods is on a one-year deal and didn't have a great 2020 season. Adding a young player with upside on Day 3 (or perhaps earlier?) should be a priority.
No. 6: Quarterback
This is a hard one to rank, because it all depends on how you look at things. If you're just talking about the 2021 roster, QB is very low on this list. Kirk Cousins, despite his bloated contract, is a borderline top-ten player at the position and has been incredibly durable in his career, so having a capable backup isn't necessary. But if you're taking a long-term view, QB deserves to be higher than this. Cousins seems to have a clear ceiling in terms of how far he can take a team, and his contract hampers the Vikings' ability to build around him. They need to be thinking about a succession plan.
I split the difference by putting it in the middle.
No. 7: Linebacker
Kendricks is fantastic and Vigil is a solid No. 3 to replace Eric Wilson, but Barr is a free agent in 2022 after restructuring his deal this offseason and the depth options at the position are uninspiring. They could be proactive about adding competitive depth with Barr likely on his way out next spring.
No. 8: Defensive tackle
Tomlinson and Pierce are two huge dudes who are going to be a lot of fun to watch in the interior of Minnesota's defensive line this fall, but both are only on two-year deals and there's little depth behind them. The Vikings could use a rotational DT who can rush the passer from the interior and possesses more upside than Watts and Lynch.
No. 9: Specialists
Specifically, the Vikings need players with return ability and (maybe) a second kicker to compete with Joseph. Their special teams were DREADFUL last year. When looking at receivers or DBs in this draft, they may want to consider someone with the versatility to provide a spark in the return game.
No. 10: Tight end
Even after losing Rudolph, they're set with Smith, Conklin, and Dillon. They'll add a TE late on Day 3 or in college free agency.
No. 11: Running back
Cook is one of the best running backs in the league and is signed to a long-term deal, but the injury concerns haven't gone away completely just because he has played in 14 games for two straight seasons. Mattison is an excellent backup and Abdullah is now the No. 3 RB with Mike Boone gone. This is another position to address late on Day 3 or with a UDFA.
List of current Vikings draft picks
- First round, No. 14
- Third round, No. 78
- Third round, No. 90 (from Ravens, Yannick Ngakoue trade)
- Fourth round, No. 119
- Fourth round, No. 125 (from Bears, 2020 draft day trade)
- Fourth round, No. 134 (from Bills, Stefon Diggs trade)
- Fourth round, No. 143 (compensatory, Trae Waynes)
- Fifth round, No. 157
- Fifth round, No. 168 (from Ravens, 2020 draft day trade)
- Sixth round, No. 199 overall
- Sixth round, No. 223 overall (compensatory, Mackensie Alexander)
- 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
- The Latest 2021 NFL Draft Rumors and Reports Surrounding the Minnesota Vikings
- Are the Minnesota Vikings Going to Draft a Quarterback Early this Year?
- Five Offensive Linemen the Vikings Could Target on Each Day of the 2021 NFL Draft
Thanks for reading. Make sure to bookmark this site and check back daily for the latest Vikings news and analysis all throughout draft weekend. Also, follow me on Twitter and feel free to ask me any questions on there.