Minnesota is consistently middle of the pack year after year. They are one of the few teams that are average on both sides of the ball but have above average players. 2021 saw Minnesota go 8-9 in a pretty top heavy division with no clear advantage over their rival teams. Chicago has arguably a better defense, Detroit has arguably better young players and a brighter future and Green Bay is the king of the mountain.
The Vikings could set themselves up to compete with the like of the NFC North and possibly overtake it with a solid draft in 2022:
Round 1, Pick 12: Trent McDuffie, CB, Washington
Patrick Peterson signed with Minnesota last season and didn’t have a particularly bad year, but his best days are behind him. Cameron Dantzler is a young stud but will need a running mate who is equally as young to thrive.
A player with solid skills who can play early is in need here.
Minnesota could find the remedy to their defensive backfield at pick twelve on day one in Trent McDuffie.
McDuffie is a rare combination of athleticism, agility, strength and fundamental skill. He is a solid tackler for a generally undersized corner and plays physical football no matter who is in front of him. The Vikings could use McDuffie to start outside and move Peterson to the slot in nickel packages or move him to safety. He is a day one starter on this Minnesota team and he should be their target in the first round.
Round 2, Pick 14: Nick Bonitto, Edge, Oklahoma
Round 3, Pick 13: Brandon Smith, LB, Penn State
Minnesota has a choice to make in 2022: be an offensive juggernaut or be a defensive stalwart. I think they choose the latter here on day two.
Bonnito and Smith both bring versatility to the defense. Bonitto is a pass rusher who can stand up and rush as an outside linebacker and has athleticism that will allow him to drop into coverage. What makes Bonitto so special is he isn’t a player you can put into a box, he is sort of jack of all trades but he is a master of sniffing out the ball. He can be what the Vikings were looking for in Yannick Ngakoue in 2020. He has that kind of talent that I don’t think they can pass it up.
Smith is another guy who can play either inside or outside linebacker. He is your prototype NFL-ready Penn State product that can be productive day one. He can slot in as an inside linebacker in the 3-4 defensive front. Pairing him with Eric Kendrick’s could be a potent combo in Minnesota and drafting these two could give the Vikings a solid day two of the draft.
Round 5, Pick 13: Bryan Cook, Safety, Cincinnati
Round 6, Pick 5: Keegan Cryder, OL, Wyoming
Round 6, Pick 13: Nick Starkel, QB, San Jose State
Round 6, Pick 29: Erik Ezukanma, WR, Texas Tech
Round 7, Pick 11: Ryan Haynes, OL, Michigan
Depth is the theme for Minnesota on day three but they could find some diamonds, too.
Cook and Ezukanma are players that can contribute early. Cook especially due to his skillset as a safety. He can play either strong or free safety and works well in space as a third safety in big nickel packages.
Ezukanma is a smooth, tall athlete who just gets open. He could compliment Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen as a third guy and allow Thielen to work the slot in spread packages.
Cryder and Haynes are two guys who provide good depth at the interior offensive line positions. Haynes is more of a tackle but can kick inside if needed, which adds to his value in the late rounds.
Nick Starkel is the one player could be intriguing here. He throws an easy ball that is accurate and on time. He has good pocket presence and command of the offense. He is everything you essentially want in a guy and could come in to backup Kirk Cousins and possibly take over if Cousins moves on after 2023. Yes, Minnesota drafted Kellen Mond but Starkel fits the offense like a glove and is a more one to one of Cousins that Mond.
All in all, the SKOL will need to be intentional and direct on draft weekend but could find themselves with some solid rookies. If these players are available they should be taken and wearing purple and gold come September.