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NFC North

Minnesota Vikings 2020 Draft Breakdown

Justin Jefferson. Photo by Tammy Anthony Baker. (CC BY-SA 4.0)

With an aging roster and the departures of Stefon Diggs, Everson Griffen, Linval Joseph,Trae Waynes, Mackensie Alexander, Xavier Rhodes among others the Vikings entered the 2020 NFL Draft needing a significant influx of young talent.

After General Manager Rick Spielman turned the team’s 12 picks into 15, while adding an extra fourth and two fifths in 2021 it looks like the Purple accomplished that mission.

Critical needs for the team included adding talent to the offensive line, adding explosiveness at wide receiver after trading Stephon Diggs, replenishing the cornerback position after the exodus from those ranks and adding pass rush potential to fill the significant void left after the team chose not to resign Everson Griffen.  

The Vikings are a team without a lot of cap room as they’ve chosen to develop and re-sign their own players during the Mike Zimmer, Rick Spielman era.  This strategy has left them with some excellent franchise cornerstones, but necessitating adding reinforcements through the draft instead of free agency, which is really what good teams hope to accomplish.   

Grade: A-. The Vikings combination of volume, quality at the top of the draft and exciting potential earn them an A- draft grade in this way-to-early draft review.  The one question is should the Vikings have waited until the 58th pick to address the offensive tackle position? With a run-based offense, can the Vikings truly contend for a championship without a top ten offensive line?

 

Round 1 Pick 22 (from Buffalo): WR Justin Jefferson, LSU

Grade: A

The 6-foot-1, 202 pound Jefferson tied for most catches in the nation in 2019 with 111 receptions on a loaded LSU team. Those 111 catches led to 1,540 yards and 18 touchdown catches. He scorched Oklahoma in the CFP National Semifinal with 14 catches for 227 yards and four touchdowns. This guy is really good.       

 

 

Round 1 Pick 31 (from San Francisco): CB Jeff Gladney, TCU

Grade: B+

Mike Zimmer sees the 5-foot-10, 191 pound Gladney as a tough, competitive player with strong acceleration and long arms who wants to challenge receivers. The recurring theme with Gladney is toughness. Considering this toughness along with his experience against the Big 12’s high-flying offenses he adds an exciting piece to the rebuilding Purple defense.     

 

 

Round 2 Pick 58: OT Ezra Cleveland, Boise State

Grade: A

In 40 game Boise State starter Ezra Cleveland the Vikings add a large and athletic player to the offensive line.  If the 6-foot-6, 311 pound Cleveland can lock down the left tackle position this pick will go down as a homerun.  Some mock drafts had Cleveland going in the first round, so for Minnesota to land him in the second was a win.  With his athleticism and experience he could be a great fit in offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak’s zone running scheme.     

 

 

Round 3 Pick 89: CB Cameron Dantzler, Mississippi State

Grade: A

Adding length at cornerback is the 6-foot-2, 188 pound Dantzler.  The player nicknamed “The Needle” brings athleticism along with height. He won a Louisiana high school triple jump championship and played quarterback in his prep days. After a slow 4.6 40 time at the combine, Dantzler reran a 4.38 for a camera crew. Dantzler could prove to be a steal in the third round. 

 

 

Round 4 Pick 117 (from San Francisco): DE D.J. Wonnum, South Carolina

Grade: C

The Vikings address defense in the fourth round, starting with the 6-foot-5, 258 pound DJ Wonnum from South Carolina. A high-upside player drawing physical comparisons to Vikings sack-artist Danielle Hunter, Wonnum brings the potential to develop into a dynamic and versatile edge player for the Viking defense. Wonnum was a team captain and Second-Team All SEC in 2019. 

 

 

Round 4 Pick 130 (from New Orleans): DT James Lynch, Baylor

Grade: B

The Vikings add the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year in the 6-foot-4, 289 pound James Lynch. He brings high production out of the offense heavy Big 12 with 19.5 tackles for loss and 13.5 sacks in 2019 along with his Baylor record 22 career sacks. The junior DT also broke up five passes, forced three fumbles and blocked two kicks. Could the Vikings have landed their future impact 3 technique DT in the 4th round?

 

 

Round 4 Pick 132: LB Troy Dye, Oregon

Grade: A

The Vikings add the only player in Oregon history to lead the team in tackles four straight seasons in the 6-foot-3, 231 pound Oregon linebacker.  Dye brings experience and production with his 397 career tackles and 44 tackles for loss. The final fourth rounder could push for a starting position alongside fellow California natives Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks giving the Vikings an all Golden State starting LB corp.      

 

 

Round 5 Pick 169 (from New Orleans): CB Harrison Hand, Temple

Grade: B

The Vikings continue to fill seats in the cornerback meeting room with the selection of the 5-foot-11, 197 pound cornerback from Temple. Hand brings athleticism to the CB depth chart, shown by his 41 inch vertical jump, which ties third overall pick Jeff Okudah as best among this year’s cornerback class. Hand adds an exciting flexibility with a high ceiling to the Vikings with his athleticism, physical play vs the run and ability to immediately contribute on special teams.    

 

 

Round 5 Pick 176 (from San Francisco): WR K.J. Osborn, Miami

Grade: B-

General Manager Rick Spielman feels they may have found their future return specialist in the versatile receiver from Miami. The 5-foot-11, 203 pound Osborn led the Hurricanes with 50 receptions for 547 yards and five touchdowns while also returning punts and kicks. While he’s not a blazer, he ran a respectable 4.48 40-yard dash but his 18 reps of 225 on the bench press shows his strength for a receiver.    

 

 

Round 6 Pick 203 (from New Orleans): OT Blake Brandel, Oregon State

Grade: B

The Vikings add depth to the offensive line in 6-foot-7, 307 pound Blake Brandel from Oregon State. The Second-Team All-Pac-12 offensive tackle started 48 straight games for the Beavers. For his senior season Pro Football Focus graded his pass blocking as best in the nation. The team captain allowed just one sack in 2019. It will be interesting to watch this sixth rounder develop under OL coach Rick Dennison. 

 

 

Round 6 Pick 205: S Josh Metellus, Michigan

Grade: C

The 5-foot-11, 209 pound Metellus brings versatility to the Purple defense after lining up at both safety spots, outside linebacker, cornerback and in the slot for the Wolverines. He displayed strength, 20 reps at 225, and the sixth best vertical jump among safeties at the combine at 36.5 inches. In 2019 he recorded 74 tackles, had two interceptions and defended five passes. He will be a developmental prospect to watch behind the Vikings excellent starting safety duo of Harrison Smith and Anthony Harris.        

 

 

Round 7 Pick 225 (from Baltimore): DE Kenny Willekes, Michigan State

Grade: A-

The Vikings add a productive player with gymnast agility in the 6-foot-3, 264 pound Willekes.  Willekes thrived for the Spartans finishing as their all-time tackles for loss leader with 51 and third in program history with 26 career sacks. He was also All-Big Ten and MSU Team MVP in both 2018 and 2019. As a seventh round pick he’ll have to earn a roster spot, but this looks like a player who isn’t afraid of a challenge going from walk-on to Team MVP for the Spartans.    

 

 

Round 7 Pick 244 (from New Orleans): QB Nate Stanley, Iowa

Grade: C

The Vikings saw a scheme fit with the second leading passer in Iowa Hawkeye history in the 6-foot-4, 235 pound Stanley. After leading the Hawkeyes to a 27-12 career record behind 8,302 yards and 68 touchdowns the Menomenie, WI native could challenge for a roster spot behind Kirk Cousins.  

 

 

Round 7 Pick 249 (Compensatory Pick): S Brian Cole II, Mississippi State

Grade: B

The 6-foot-2, 213 pound safety joins his teammate and fellow 2020 draft pick Cam Dantzler in Minnesota. Cole’s journey to Minnesota started with the Michigan Wolverines as a receiver but saw him transfer to East Mississippi Community College where he switched to defensive back before eventually signing with Mississippi State. He will need to earn a roster spot through special teams play but his versatility in the defensive backfield gives him an outside shot at finding a role.   

 

 

Round 7 Pick 253 (Compensatory Pick): OL Kyle Hinton, Washburn

Grade: B

With their final pick in the 2020 NFL draft the Vikings add an upside prospect in 6-foot-3, 310 pound OL Kyle Hinton out of Division II, Washburn University. The three-time NCAA Division II All-American also earned Second-Team All-American track and field honors. It’s obviously a long-shot for a seventh round OL to make the roster, but considering how up and down the Vikings OL has been for years now, it will be worth keeping an eye on Hinton during training camp.     

 

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