I haven't done a seven-round mock yet this year, so I figured I'd give it a shot on the eve of draft day.
This is intended to be as realistic as possible, even though I'm well aware of the (somewhat strong) possibility that zero of these players wind up in Minnesota. Four of the prospects I picked have had confirmed virtual meetings with the Vikings, although that doesn't mean a whole lot because only a small fraction of their meetings have been reported. Almost all of these players meet the Vikings' historical athletic thresholds, and I believe all of them are expected to come off the board roughly around the time that I picked them (I used The Draft Network's mock draft machine and referenced the consensus board compiled by Arif Hasan as well).
Lastly, there are three trades in this mock that felt plausible to me and made sense for both sides when looking at the Rich Hill trade value chart.
This, of course, is just one of many ways the Vikings could approach the draft, but I think it addresses a lot of their needs while achieving value throughout all three days.
That's enough of an intro from me. Let's go. Happy draft week.
Round 1, Pick 14: Alijah Vera-Tucker, OL, USC
The Vikings could go in a ton of different directions in the first round. They could trade up — although I'll believe it when I see it from Rick Spielman — they could trade down, they could stay put. It'll all depend on how the draft unfolds on Thursday night.
My educated guess is that the most likely outcome is staying put at 14 and drafting Vera-Tucker, even if the likes of Christian Darrisaw and Jaelan Phillips are still on the board. They will absolutely be a candidate to trade back, particularly if a top-five QB is available, but then they'd be running the risk of missing out on Vera-Tucker and Darrisaw.
I just think AVT is a perfect fit. He's one of the safest players in this year's draft due to his combination of intelligence, technique, consistency, and all-around skill. Vera-Tucker was an excellent guard for the Trojans in 2019 and didn't miss a beat when moved to left tackle last season. Then he went out and put up very strong numbers at USC's pro day, with Spielman in attendance.
Many view Vera-Tucker as a guard in the NFL due to his short arms (32 1/8"), but I think he can play tackle. Either way, the Vikings will have the opportunity to find out in training camp whether they prefer AVT or Ezra Cleveland at left tackle, and the other one will play guard. This would be a huge, huge addition to a perpetually below-average offensive line. Vera-Tucker might be a future All-Pro.
Round 2, Pick 55: Payton Turner, EDGE, Houston
Trade: Vikings send picks 78, 125, and 143 to Pittsburgh for pick 55
This is a trade scenario that Spielman actually discussed in his pre-draft press conference on Tuesday.
"Right now we have four fourth-round picks, which does give you the ability to move back into the second round," he said. "We went through the guys we think are going to be there in the second round, depending on what we take with the 14th pick if we pick in the 14th slot. Let's say we go whatever direction we go [in round one] and I see most of the guys we are going to be targeting are going to be gone by the end of the second round, then we are probably going to have to be aggressive to move up [into] the second. I think we have enough draft capital to do that."
In other words, they don't have to trade back from 14 to get into the second round.
In this scenario, the Vikings go offensive line in the first and then turn their attention to the pass rush. They need another defensive end to compete with Stephen Weatherly and D.J. Wonnum for reps opposite Danielle Hunter, as well as potentially rush from the interior on passing downs. For me, two players stand out in this range: Wake Forest's Carlos Basham Jr. and Turner. With Basham likely to go in the early-to-mid second, Turner made a lot of sense as a trade-up target here.
It's a slight reach according to the consensus board, where Turner is 69th, but I prefer him to higher-ranked guys like Gregory Rousseau and Ronnie Perkins. He has great length at 6'5", is a quick and sudden athlete, and plays with a great level of violence and competitiveness. Turner's size gives him outstanding inside-out versatility. He'll be a menace of a pass rushing specialist as a rookie, and I think Andre Patterson could develop him into a high-quality starting DE pretty quickly.
Round 3, Pick 96: Robert Rochell, CB, Central Arkansas
Trade: Vikings send pick 90 to New England for picks 96 and 188
After giving up two fourths to move up for Turner, I was down to just eight picks. That's not going to fly for Spielman, who has averaged 13.5 over the past two drafts. Without anyone I had my heart set on at 90, I moved back a few spots and picked up a sixth-rounder in the process.
Then I gave Mike Zimmer and new Vikings defensive backs coach Karl Scott one of the most athletic cornerbacks in the draft. With 4.4 speed, a 43-inch vertical, and a 6.8-second three-cone time, Rochell has all of the physical tools to become a starting corner in Minnesota in time. The ball skills are there, too, as he had 10 interceptions and 38 passes defended in his career.
Zimmer and Scott will have plenty of work to do on Rochell's technique; he's far from a refined player at this point. He's guilty of playing too upright, biting on double moves, and getting grabby downfield. Luckily, he won't need to see the field much as a rookie, with the Vikings having Cameron Dantzler, Patrick Peterson, and Mackensie Alexander penciled in as their starters. Rochell's transition from the FCS level to the NFL can be eased in year one as he prepares for what could be a big role in 2022.
Coincidentally, The Athletic's Dane Brugler has Rochell ranked exactly 96th on his big board.
Round 4, Pick 119: Kendrick Green, IOL, Illinois
After grabbing two defensive players, I'm staying put and going back to the offensive line with one of my favorite Day 3 fits for the Vikings this year. Green is a bit undersized, but he's a dynamic athlete whose tape makes you wonder if he was designed in a lab to play in a zone-blocking scheme. His body control and lateral mobility are fantastic, and he's got the strength and technique to anchor at the point of attack. I'd fully expect Green to beat out Mason Cole, Dakota Dozier, and Kyle Hinton for a starting job if the Vikings don't bring in any free agent linemen after the draft.
A line of Vera-Tucker, Green, Garrett Bradbury, Cleveland, and Brian O'Neill (flip AVT and Ezra if you want) looks pretty good to me. That's a group that could reach middle-of-the-pack status in 2021 — even with two rookies starting — with the potential to become a very strong unit in the coming years.
Round 4, Pick 134: Osa Odighizuwa, DT, UCLA
Back to the defense we go. Yes, the Vikings are set on early downs at defensive tackle with Michael Pierce and Dalvin Tomlinson, but they could use a young DT with more upside than Armon Watts and James Lynch. Don't think of Odighizuwa as a traditional DT, anyways. He's a bit of a tweener at 282 pounds, but his quickness and strength allow him to make up for that on the interior.
Odighizuwa was a dominant wrestler in high school, and some of those qualities translate to his game. He explodes off the ball and uses his powerful hands to shed blocks. He needs to develop more of a plan as a pass rusher, but there's a lot to like about Odighizuwa's game and versatility. He was excellent at the Senior Bowl.
Round 5, Pick 157: Anthony Schwartz, WR, Auburn
Speed kills. That's what this pick is all about. Schwartz is maybe the fastest player in this entire draft, having run a 4.25 40 at Auburn's pro day. His acceleration and top-end speed make him an incredible weapon on short catch-and-run routes and gadget plays. He has a lot to improve upon as a route-runner and all-around receiver, but his speed gives him upside as a deep threat as well.
Schwartz may not last this long in the draft if some team falls in love with his speed earlier, but he would provide a different dynamic to the Vikings' offense. New offensive coordinator Klint Kubiak could get creative and use him in a variety of different ways. Schwartz might also be a candidate to return punts or kickoffs, although he wasn't used in that role in college. He has had a confirmed virtual meeting with the Vikings.
Round 5, Pick 168: Caden Sterns, S, Texas
With Harrison Smith being 32 years old and Xavier Woods only signed to a one-year deal, I'd expect the Vikings to draft a safety at some point this weekend, perhaps even significantly earlier than this. If they wait until Day 3, Sterns makes a lot of sense as a target. He's got good size and has the range to make plenty of plays in coverage, although his freshman season in 2018 turned out to be his most productive by far. Like Rochell, the first DB we drafted, Sterns has eye-popping athletic numbers, particularly in the 40 and vertical jump.
He's another player they've met with over Zoom. Each of my last four picks — Green, Odighizuwa, Schwartz, and Sterns — has provided good value based on the consensus board.
Round 6, Pick 199: K.J. Britt, LB, Auburn
Linebacker is another position I could see the Vikings addressing earlier than this, with Anthony Barr under contract for just one more year, although I'd be a little surprised if they went that route prior to Day 3. Britt is a violent thumper of a downhill LB who plays with a ton of toughness and physicality. He offers reminders of Ben Gedeon, with limited upside in coverage.
Round 6, Pick 213: Deommodore Lenoir, CB, Oregon
Trade: Vikings send pick 188 (via NE) to Buffalo for picks 213 and 236
Just for fun, I made a third trade early in the sixth round to ensure that I'd walk away with double-digit selections. Lenoir is a solid, durable slot corner with adequate size and athleticism. He showed some ball skills in college and is a willing tackler, but he needs to improve his technique and general anticipation. He would start his career on special teams if he made the roster, but might end up as a practice squad guy.
Round 7, Pick 236: Feleipe Franks, QB, Arkansas
I thought about taking a quarterback much earlier than this, I really did. But unless the Vikings truly believe in someone from the Kellen Mond/Davis Mills/Kyle Trask tier of QBs, I'm not sure how much sense it makes to use a middle-round pick on one of them. The odds of anyone in that trio developing into more than a solid backup seem quite low. If Minnesota isn't going to make a huge splash and take a Justin Fields or Trey Lance in the first round, they might as well wait until the end of the draft to throw their dart.
Franks is a big, athletic passer with a very strong arm who posted a 55/21 touchdown to interception ratio at Florida and Arkansas. The Vikings have met with him virtually. I think he has more potential than Jake Browning and Nate Stanley, so why not give it a shot?
After this ten-player haul, I'd look to add a running back and a tight end in college free agency, and maybe a kicker to compete with Greg Joseph. Then I'd fill out depth at other positions as needed. There are still plenty of veteran free agents out there, too!
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.