Next Tuesday February 28th, the NFL Combine kicks off in Indianapolis. NFL scouts and general managers will hunker down in draft HQs in hotel rooms and decide which players are the most worth their attention and, more importantly, when.
Using the Vikings’ pick numbers from PFF, which include the four picks the Vikings currently own as well as a projected comp pick received from Tyler Conklin‘s exit the previous season, I’m discussing players that will likely be available and on Minnesota’s radar.
Round 1, Pick 23: Nolan Smith, EDGE, Georgia
There’s a lot to love about Nolan Smith, but what the Vikings will love most about him is that he will likely be a late first rounder due to his injury this past season at Georgia. Unfortunately for Smith, he tore his pectoral muscle and found himself on the sideline for the remainder of his team’s championship season. Because of the injury, he likely will be in limited capacity in pre draft workouts and could see himself being selected in the back half of the first round rather than the top 15.
For a Vikings team looking for ways to accumulate more draft picks, they could stand to trade back a few spots and still get their guy. Smith has exactly the sort of versatility that new DC Brian Flores will look for in players. He has excellent speed for his position which can allow him to rush the passer or cover receivers in a zone look. In the Vikings defense, Smith could replace Za’Darius Smith (who seems to be on his way out) as an outside linebacker or use him as an understudy, subbing in on coverage snaps to relieve rush specific players like Danielle Hunter.
Round 3, Pick 87: Hendon Hooker, QB, Tennessee
Before tearing his ACL in his final season with Tennessee, Hendon Hooker was a front runner for the Heisman. Reportedly, his recovery process has been going very well and he is expected to be ready in time for training camp.
As the Vikings enter the final year of Kirk Cousins‘ contract, the team will need a plan on how to proceed. If GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah extends the veteran quarterback, it will likely be a one year contract that tethers Cousins to Minnesota through the 2024 season. In that case, the plan would be to draft a quarterback this year or the next. The homerun pick in this year’s draft would be trading up for a falling QB like Anthony Richardson, should he make it past the top ten. Otherwise, it would be wise to wait and make a play for Hooker.
Though he is a great prospect physically, the drawbacks to him are mostly mental miscues likely due to Tennessee’s offensive scheme. Most of his receiving targets were schemed open and didn’t rely too much on Hooker’s ability to read and dissect opposing defenses, a problem that can be smoothed out if sat a year behind Cousins. Also worth noting, Hooker turned 25 last month.
Round 4, Pick 119: Andrei Iosivas, WR, Princeton
What the Vikings need is a receiver that can draw the attention off of Justin Jefferson to keep the receiving game lethal. Andrei Iosivas could be the solution. The Princeton prospect enters the draft as huge upside though he needs refinement.
Speedy and dynamic, Iosivas can tear up the field and create opportunities underneath by drawing defenders over top. Think of him like Christian Watson last year. He could potentially end up going far higher than this fourth round projection, but he will need a little grace to understand the speed of the game. What takes away from being a higher pick is lack of competition he faced at the collegiate level, but give him a year and he could be outstanding.
Round 5, Pick 160: Ventrell Miller, LB, Florida
The linebacker room is by far my biggest concern in Minnesota. Erik Kendricks and Jordan Hicks likely both end up cap casualties for lacking the needed speed to stop fast paced offenses. It will be necessary that the Vikings take a middle linebacker sooner rather than later, but if they decide to draft a quarterback this year, they will instead have to look for diamonds in the rough.
Ventrell Miller is shorter than typically desired at his position, but being six foot flat shouldn’t close the door on him. Where he shined most was in the run game and could provide instant relief as a sub and on special teams while he gets his footing in the NFL. Miller has also been adept at reading opposing quarterbacks and could add confusion by shifting outside on occasion.
His big detractor will be his smaller, compact frame where he can be swallowed up by stronger blockers.
Round 5, Pick 177: Kenny McIntosh, RB, Georgia
It seems unlikely that the Vikings will retain either (or neither) Dalvin Cook or Alexander Mattison. Assuming some of the more promising prospects are already off the board, Kenny McIntosh would be an interesting selection at this stage of the draft.
McIntosh has the dynamic ability to be both a threat in both the run and pass game. As a runner, he plays with patience and allows blocks to develop before attacking holes opened by his blockers. As a pass catcher, he could benefit from a bit more coaching and practice, but has shown ability to line up outside as well as taking swing passes.
Where he needs the most improvement is in his blocking where he is mostly used as an obstacle against pass rushers rather than a blocker.
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