The Vikings received both quality and quantity in the 2020 NFL Draft.
After trading Stefon Diggs, they hit a home run in landing his replacement, Justin Jefferson. They may have found one of the steals of the draft in third-round cornerback Cameron Dantzler. And with a whopping 15 total selections, there is still time for other players –– including Ezra Cleveland and Jeff Gladney and D.J. Wonnum –– to join those two as impact contributors.
Recently, both ESPN.com (in collaboration with PFF) and NFL.com released their rankings of the 32 rookie classes from this past season. The Vikings finished inside the top ten in both sites' rankings.
Let's start with ESPN/PFF, which ranked the Vikings' class seventh, behind the Bengals, Colts, Buccaneers, Chiefs, Washington, and Chargers.
How their top pick fared: While Jefferson was a first-round pick, no one quite expected him to end up as the best-performing rookie of the 2020 class. He finished the regular season with an elite 90.5 receiving grade that trailed only Davante Adams for the best in the NFL and was just shy of the rookie record set by Odell Beckham Jr. in 2014 (91.2).
Best value pick: Dantzler, like every rookie corner, endured a bit of a roller-coaster season but still provided more high-end play than any other rookie corner this year. Dantzler's Week 13 performance against Jacksonville and his Week 15 showing against Chicago were the two best single-game PFF grades we saw from a rookie corner this year.
Despite only having two players shine as rookies, those players were so good that Minnesota's draft class can be considered an overwhelming success despite the minimal contributions of the other 13 selections.
NFL.com is even higher on the Vikings' group, ranking them fourth (behind only the Colts, Bucs, and Bengals) with an A- grade.
How impressive was Jefferson's rookie campaign? Impressive enough to make the Vikings feel just fine about trading away Stefon Diggs and watching him immediately lead the league in catches and receiving yards. Yes, this was the elusive win-win trade. Diggs wasn't happy in Minneapolis -- the city where he produced a miracle -- so Minnesota flipped him for a pick package that included No. 22 in last April's draft. In that slot, the Vikes took the fifth receiver in Round 1, Jefferson, who broke Anquan Boldin 's rookie record with 1,400 receiving yards on the dot. And just last week, the tireless tape munchers over at Pro Football Focus -- who apparently have a mischievous troll streak that this writer can't help but appreciate -- slapped Jefferson at No. 15 on their ranking of the top 101 players from 2020, exactly one spot ahead of Diggs. Mwah! Minnesota's second first-round pick didn't work out nearly as well as the first. Gladney started 15 of 16 games for the Vikings, and while he flashed proficiency as a physical cover man in certain matchups, consistency was a major issue, as evidenced by his 124.7 passer rating against, per PFF. Fortunately, Minnesota doubled down on this position of extreme need and found a quality corner in the back half of the third round, as Dantzler proved that a bad 40-yard dash in Indy doesn't define a man. Though injuries limited him to 11 games, Dantzler earned a spot alongside Jefferson on the PFWA All-Rookie Team. The Vikings also got some quality production from this class in the trenches, with Cleveland capably starting nine games at right guard and Wonnum notching three sacks and nine QB hits as a rotational pass rusher. Rick Spielman had the most bites at the 2020 draft apple with an NFL-high 15 picks, though the vast majority of them occurred on Day 3. Still, he was able to net quality contributors in multiple areas of need.
The true test of the quality of the Vikings' 2020 class will be time. Can Jefferson produce like a top-five receiver year in and year out? Will Dantzler develop into a true No. 1 corner? Will Gladney or Cleveland turn into impact starters? Will Wonnum or Harrison Hand or any other Day 3 pick become a reliable piece of the puzzle?
Those are questions that we'll get the answers to in the coming years. But for now, the Vikings' draft class looks excellent.
Now they just need to do it all over again in April.
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