Should the Vikings Trade Up in the First Round of the NFL Draft?
The major haul of draft picks the Vikings received in the Stefon Diggs trade has put GM Rick Spielman in a position of great flexibility. With two first-round picks, five picks in the first three rounds, and 12 total selections, Spielman – who has a tendency to move around frequently on draft night – has the ammunition to handle the draft however he sees fit, depending on the way things fall.
Spielman is known for trading back and accumulating extra picks, and that strategy has mostly served him well over his first eight drafts with the Vikings. Getting more cracks at mid-to-late round picks has resulted in a number of impressive finds on Day 3. But usually, Spielman begins with a slate of seven or eight picks and winds up with ten or more after several trade-backs. This year, at least for now, he already has 12 selections before the draft-night wheeling and dealing has even begun.
As a result, this may be a year where Spielman will feel comfortable parting with picks in order to trade up and go get someone he covets. And that could happen as soon as the first round, where he may consider using No. 22 or 25 overall and additional pick to move up. Let's run through four of the Vikings' biggest positional needs and look at a player or two that could be worth trading up to acquire.
Late first or second-round targets: Kristian Fulton, Jeff Gladney, AJ Terrell, Trevon Diggs, Jaylon Johnson, Noah Igbinoghene, Damon Arnette
Player to trade up for in the first: CJ Henderson
Regardless of if the Vikings sign a veteran corner in free agency, Spielman and Mike Zimmer are firmly in the market to take one in the first round after losing three key contributors at the position. And while players like Fulton, Gladney, and Terrell are all excellent, none of them have the upside of Henderson, who is the clear No. 2 CB behind Jeff Okudah in this year's draft. The Florida product has all of the traits – length, speed, footwork, hips, ball skills – to become a shutdown corner on the outside. If Henderson falls into the late teens, Spielman should seriously think about moving up to snag him.
Late first or second-round targets: Justin Jefferson, Laviska Shenault Jr., Tee Higgins, Jalen Reagor, Denzel Mims, Brandon Aiyuk, Michael Pittman Jr.
Player to trade up for in the first: Jerry Jeudy or Henry Ruggs
The Diggs trade has created a need to find his replacement opposite Adam Thielen. The Vikings, who already needed more competition at WR3, should be in the market to take several receivers throughout the draft, but getting one in the first round would theoretically increase their odds of finding a star. That's especially true if Spielman were to trade up. It would probably cost too much to get high enough for Oklahoma's CeeDee Lamb, but the Vikings should have their eyes on the two Alabama speedsters, Jeudy and Ruggs. Jeudy is the closest thing to Diggs in the draft, while the ridiculously fast Ruggs has Tyreek Hill potential. If either starts sliding, Spielman could be tempted to make a move.
Late first or second-round targets: Josh Jones, Austin Jackson, Lucas Niang, Ezra Cleveland, Isaiah Wilson, Prince Tega Wanogho, Matthew Peart
Player to trade up for in the first: Any of the big four (Jedrick Wills, Mekhi Becton, Tristan Wirfs, Andrew Thomas)
No matter what decision the Vikings make regarding Riley Reiff this offseason, the team needs another long-term tackle to pair with Brian O'Neill. Getting one early on in this year's draft would allow that player to develop for a year behind Reiff or a free agent, like the Eagles did with Andre Dillard last year. But there are no sure things after the top tier of tackles in this year's class, and Spielman would love to find a way to acquire one of the big four. Wills (Alabama) and Thomas (Georgia) are all-around studs, while Becton (Louisville) and Wirfs (Iowa) are freaks of nature with their combination of size and athleticism. All four could go as high as the top 11 picks, and even in a generous scenario, it's possible none make it past the Buccaneers at 14. Would picks No. 22 and 58 be enough to get into that range? It's also still possible that one starts to slide into the late teens for whatever reason, lessening the cost slightly.
Late first or second-round targets: Ross Blacklock, Neville Gallimore, Justin Madubuike, Marlon Davidson, Jordan Elliott
Player to trade up for in the first: Javon Kinlaw
Even after signing nose tackle Michael Pierce, the Vikings still have a need at defensive tackle. The run-stuffing Pierce doesn't offer much as a pass rusher, so Minnesota needs to find a three-technique tackle who can create pressure on the interior. Shamar Stephen isn't that player. Blacklock, Gallimore, and others could be excellent fits, but the best interior pass-rusher in the draft is either Derrick Brown (a projected top-ten pick) or Kinlaw. Kinlaw dominated at the Senior Bowl and is expected to go somewhere in the mid-teens. He's an incredible athlete with an absurd first step and a variety of pass-rush moves. Kinlaw is another player who would tempt a trade up from Spielman if he began to slide. A defensive line of Danielle Hunter, Pierce, Kinlaw, and Ifeadi Odenigbo would be downright scary.
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