The Vikings have shored up nearly every hole on their roster during free agency, giving them some freedom to pursue what they want in the draft. That said, there are still some positions in need of help, which is why their board is going to look different than a ranked list of the most talented players.
Using Dane Brugler’s top 300 players and the consensus of over 60 experts, we can figure out who the top players in the draft might be. Then, we can match them with the Vikings’ tendencies and reorder the list to create a Vikings-specific big board.
At pick 12, the Vikings could find a player falling out of the top five. On occasion, top-five players have fallen in the draft, and the consensus No. 3 player in 2013 — Sharrif Floyd — fell to 23 before he became a Viking. Players like Laremy Tunsil, Jonathan Allen and Malik Hooker have also fallen as did consensus No. 6 player Brian Burns in 2019. This is a draft where there’s no clear top player, and analysts disagree more about players in the top five than they ever have in the history of the consensus board. Eight different players received No. 1 billing on draft boards, and team boards might be just as diverse. So expect to be surprised.
Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame
There are only so many opportunities to add a special player to the roster. Given Hamilton’s disappointing 40 time, there’s an outside chance he could fall to the Vikings. Draft analysts have remained high on the safety, but his stock in mock drafts has fallen. And if he falls to 12, the Vikings should consider it as their secondary is in dire need of assistance. Even if that need is primarily focused at cornerback, not safety, finding a successor to Harrison Smith — from the same school, no less — would help the Vikings tremendously in the long run. In the short term, the Vikings could easily find ways to put three safeties on the field and rotate Smith or Hamilton into the box, similar to some of the Packers defenses they’ve gone up against and that defensive assistants Mike Pettine and Mike Smith have run.
Derek Stingley, CB, LSU
Stingley falling to the Vikings — still a common feature in industry mock drafts — seems like the dream scenario for most Vikings fans. Only moonshot possibilities, like Cincinnati’s Ahmad Gardner falling this far instead, would be preferable. An incredible man-coverage corner whose freshman year was one of the best defensive back seasons we’ve seen in years, Stingley draws some controversy because his last two seasons were lacking in both playing time (due to injuries) and, seemingly, effort. Still, at his best, he’s even better than Gardner. If the Vikings can get those questions answered about a relative dropoff in play over the past two seasons, they’ll jump at the opportunity to grab another LSU corner and put him under Patrick Peterson’s wing.
Travon Walker, Edge, Georgia
Walker might be the most difficult player to project in the entire draft, with the widest variance of rankings among players in the top 10 on the consensus board. Edge rusher is a position the Vikings should consider, too; they only have Za’Darius Smith under contract for (functionally) two years and could find ways to get Smith, Walker and Danielle Hunter on the field at the same time. On top of that, no team would be better positioned to ignore production in favor of athleticism at the edge rusher position than the Vikings, who struck gold with Hunter in the same scenario not too long ago. Athleticism tracks closer to future outcomes than production when evaluating college players, and Georgia’s scheme limited his production opportunities. With the right coaching — like the kind of coaching that allowed Rashan Gary to blossom in Green Bay — the Vikings could end up with a long-term partner for Hunter who could terrify opposing defenses. Walker also can kick inside on pass-rushing downs.
Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State
In a world where the top two cornerbacks are gone as well as the top safety, the Vikings would be in a bit of a bind. The actual draft could well go that way, but it’s possible that other teams will value tackles and quarterbacks more than the Vikings, giving them space to find the corner they need. Without that, though, they could avoid reaching and boost their offense with the consensus top receiver in the draft. Wilson was not the top receiver for most analysts entering the season, but Ohio State’s penchant for producing receiver talent came through again. Though there are concerns about his frame, his elite speed and incredible catch-point ability could add a new dimension to the Vikings offense.
Jameson Williams, WR, Alabama
It’s hard to make a case for Wilson without also making a case for Jameson Williams, another skilled deep threat who could add a unique element to the Vikings passing game. His injury would limit him initially, but this would be one case where the Vikings wouldn’t need their first-round pick to contribute from day one. Allowing Williams to recover at his own pace while also getting a long-term replacement for Adam Thielen would establish the Vikings as a forward-looking offensive team.
Jermaine Johnson II, Edge, Florida State
The best run-defending edge in the draft, Johnson has prototypical size and length for the position and he’s not a bad pass rusher, either. He has excellent technique and power while playing with an incredible motor. His agility is an asset as well, which is unusual for players known for their run defense. While he doesn’t have quite the bend or explosiveness of the top players at the position, he is a lot of analysts’ favorite player in the class.
Tyler Linderbaum, C, Iowa
At this point, the Vikings would probably have to seriously entertain trading down more than anything, but the consensus 14th player in the draft isn’t a reach at No. 12. While Vikings fans are undoubtedly wary of another undersized zone-blocking center, not every player is like the last player with a vaguely similar description. Linderbaum is an incredible player and athlete and would follow in the tradition of successful smaller zone centers. The Vikings need an immediate upgrade at center. Finding the best center in the draft isn’t a bad way to accomplish that.
Jordan Davis, DT, Georgia
If the Vikings get to 12 and none of these players are options, they might want to trade down or accept the fact that it might be better to forget positional need and draft for pure talent. That said, a talented player like Mississippi State tackle Charles Cross would have less of a chance of seeing the field than someone like Davis. Davis profiles as a nose tackle — which the Vikings already have two of — but defensive coordinator Ed Donatell would find a way to get him on the field. The most athletic nose tackle to test since Dontari Poe, Davis could make the Vikings defense impossible to run against and give them a rotation that always keeps the interior defensive line fresh.
Drake London, WR, USC
London has big-play capability like Williams and Wilson, but he’ll likely fall out of the top 10 — despite having better size — because of inconsistent play. He plays with quickness and speed and knows how to use his body to create space, but he has at times had issues running clean routes and holding on to the ball. Those are typically overblown for first-round receivers, but they can serve as tiebreakers when you’re comparing him to other top draft candidates. Adding a 6-foot-4 deep threat wouldn’t be bad, though, and could bring the Kirk Cousins-led offense to a new level.
George Karlaftis, Edge, Purdue
Karlaftis is another analyst favorite who isn’t seen as the top edge rusher by most people but happens to be a lot of fun to watch and break down. He plays with remarkable explosiveness and a high motor and complements that with good hand-fighting technique. His length isn’t ideal and he doesn’t have the agility or bend that many high-level end defenders do, but he has impressive athleticism and strength which have resulted in a fair amount of production over the last three years. The Vikings could use that, and there could be room to kick a player like Karlaftis inside from time to time.
Trent McDuffie, CB, Washington
McDuffie has been criticized for his arm length, but there’s a reason he keeps getting first-round consideration and top-15 love from more than a few draft analysts. He’s the total package athletically and has done an incredible job of keeping up with receivers in a variety of coverages, finding ways to break up passes despite not having the arm length of a player like Tariq Woolen or Ahmad Gardner. There’s a reason Brugler ranks him ahead of Stingley: McDuffie is one of the most intelligent players in the draft class, has the athleticism to match and plays extremely well.
If the Vikings traded down with the expectation that they could still get a receiver, Chris Olave from Ohio State looks like a better fit based on his athletic testing than Arkansas’ Treylon Burks. And if they were comfortable with his injury history, Clemson’s Andrew Booth Jr. would be a prime candidate at cornerback. If not, Kaiir Elam of Florida has put together some great tape and seemingly fits the Vikings’ prototype there.
Zion Johnson of Boston College is the best candidate as an interior offensive lineman, but Minnesota would likely pass on Kenyon Green from Texas A&M for system fit reasons, instead likely opting for tackle convert Trevor Penning of Northern Iowa.
The first round will determine the priorities of the second round. If the Vikings draft a corner in Round 1, it’s more likely that they draft a different position here and vice versa. But we can construct a rough board without knowing what direction they’ll go in assuming a certain level of player availability. Of course, if any top-25 players fall to the Vikings at No. 46, they would be in consideration, too. Failing that, here are some likely candidates to be available at that pick, assuming they stay where they are.
Kyler Gordon, CB, Washington
It’s difficult to overstate the quality of the athletic testing Gordon put together outside of the 40-yard dash. With a 39.5-inch vertical, 10’8″ broad jump, 3.96-second short shuttle and 6.67-second three-cone, Gordon put up some of the best numbers we’ve seen at cornerback. His flexibility, agility, acceleration and explosion all show up on film. He could play inside or outside and doesn’t have any size concerns, either. He needs seasoning at the position, however, and his instincts are lacking. Spending time on the bench while the Vikings field Peterson, Chandon Sullivan and Cameron Dantzler would be best for him, but his upside is through the roof.
Roger McCreary, CB, Auburn
Another short-armed corner who might be off some team boards because of his length, McCreary could benefit from the possibility that the staffs that employed Troy Hill, Kareem Jackson, De’Vante Bausby, Bryce Callahan and Darious Williams to play defensive back don’t have a strict arm-length threshold. He’s an aggressive corner who hunts picks and often succeeds, playing in man and zone coverage with some success but primarily living in press. His on-ball production has been remarkable and he more than fits the athletic threshold at the position. There’s a good chance that he could continue that streak in the NFL.
Boye Mafe, Edge, Minnesota
Mafe is one of the most athletic players in this year’s draft and for position-specific athleticism only places behind top-five candidate Travon Walker and potential late-round gem Amaré Barno. It’s difficult to find anyone over 250 pounds who can hit 41.5 inches in the vertical or 10’5” in the broad jump. The three-cone (7.24 seconds) wasn’t bad for his size, either. On the field, that has translated to impressive get-off on the line of scrimmage and power at the point of contact. Unlike most power rushers, he does have bend, footwork and agility, so there are a lot of tools to work with. Unfortunately, he hasn’t put those tools together and will need some refinement before he can be effective in the NFL.
George Pickens, WR, Georgia
There probably isn’t a meaner or more physical receiver in the draft, and it should be fun to pair someone who relishes this much contact with the offensive mind that found a way to use Cooper Kupp’s love of blocking. Pickens is big, fast and agile with great hands and ball-tracking skills and also happened to set a number of freshman receiving records at Georgia. His injury history is certainly a concern and his love of contact has led to more than a few penalties, but the only thing really holding him back from a high-level career is some technical work as a route runner.
Desmond Ridder, QB, Cincinnati
It has been difficult to use analyst rankings to predict where quarterbacks ultimately will land, as they tend to go much higher than draft experts rank them. Kenny Pickett, for example, is ranked 36th on the consensus big board and will almost certainly go much higher. But failing a Pickett or Malik Willis fall, the best chance the Vikings could have at a developmental “steal” at quarterback would be Cincinnati’s Ridder, who led his team’s unlikely run to the College Football Playoff and showcased impressive acumen, arm strength and athleticism at the position. He could be a long-term replacement for Cousins.
Matt Corral, QB, Mississippi
Another fantastic athlete at the position, Corral plays quarterback somewhat like Pickens plays receiver — with a lot of edge and confidence — which can get him in trouble but also draws admiration from teammates and coaches. Corral likes to fit tight windows, make deep throws and talk trash while doing it and has impressive numbers to show for himself. Boosted by an RPO-heavy offense, he still needs to demonstrate better awareness of NFL concepts and anticipation in general and would do well to sit as he learns more complex offenses.
Logan Hall, DT, Houston
The perfect size for a pass-rushing nose/edge rusher hybrid that populates modern 3-4 defenses, Hall demonstrated versatility across the line at Houston and produced everywhere they put him. Long and strong, Hall likes to bully offensive linemen, and the Vikings could use that next to fellow bullies Harrison Phillips and Dalvin Tomlinson. Hall’s ability to play at the nose or on the edge could mean the Vikings use him like they used Sheldon Richardson last year, as a high-quality emergency stopgap at any position along the line. He has flexibility that can be developed, too, and that bend combined with an explosive first step could yield dividends down the road.
Bernhard Raimann, OT, Central Michigan
The top player on the consensus board on this second-round list, Raimann only drops here because he’s primarily considered a tackle with little chance of kicking in to play guard. An extremely good athlete who has adapted to playing tackle after playing tight end for two years in college, Raimann has what teams look for in a zone-blocking offensive lineman and the instincts in pass protection to get it right, even if his technique remains a work in progress. He needs to add size and strength, but so did “tackle-only” super-athlete Ezra Cleveland, who is currently slated to play guard for the Vikings.
Christian Watson, WR, North Dakota State
Big receivers who put up position-best scores in every testing category are rare, and they tend to be more Julio Jones than Stephen Hill, historically. Watson isn’t nearly as technically developed as Jones was coming out of Alabama, but he has demonstrated his skills on the all-star circuit, including showcasing a wicked release. He’d be a great addition to an offense that could become the identity of the new-look Vikings, even if they have reason to be scared about his bulk and injury history.
Arnold Ebiketie, Edge, Penn State
Just behind Mafe and just ahead of Karlaftis in terms of athletic testing, Ebiketie has quietly slipped under the radar in this deep edge defender class. A bit small for the position, Ebiketie makes up for it with remarkable acceleration and top-line speed as well as great bend and overall activity. His frenetic style won’t necessarily translate in the NFL, but that kind of energy is good to have, especially if his power won’t translate. He’s fairly new to the game and will need some seasoning but could be an interesting long-term addition to the line.
Tyler Smith, OT, Tulsa
A better candidate to move inside to guard than Raimann, Smith plays with significant aggression and strength, though he lets that first trait mitigate the second with his tendency to lunge. Brugler says his mechanics “need to be rebuilt from the ground up,” so it’s unlikely that Smith is a short-term solution at guard. On the other hand, he has uncommon flexibility, agility, strength and speed and the attitude one wants from an offensive lineman. He has the size to play anywhere and the willingness, too.
Travis Jones, DT, Connecticut
On the consensus board, Jones is actually ahead of Hall and a few of the other prospects above but loses ground for the Vikings because of his relatively narrow range of roles along the defensive line. As a pure nose tackle, Jones is excellent. The Vikings don’t need a nose, however, and Jones isn’t the once-in-every-few-years prospect that Davis is. Nevertheless, his stack-and-shed capability, anchor and pure power at the point of attack is a big asset. He doesn’t quite have the pass-rush tools to be an every-down player, but if the Vikings are insistent on lightening the box, they might be able to use a player like Jones to stop the run.
Sam Howell, QB, North Carolina
It’s difficult to tell if Howell, Corral or Ridder will even make it to Round 2, but there is always the possibility. Howell doesn’t have the athleticism of the other two, but he does have more athletic capability than most quarterbacks and adds deep-ball capability and accuracy on top of that. Also coming from an RPO-style offense, he will need to adjust to NFL offenses while moving off his first read more, but he has the tools to be an exciting quarterback.
DeMarvin Leal, DT, Texas A&M
If the Vikings need a pass-rushing type of defensive tackle who can also play defensive end in a pinch and complement their 3-4 look with some pressure up the middle, they could do a lot worse than Leal, who was very successful at Texas A&M in a four-man role but would thrive in the Vikings’ hybrid 3-4/4-3. He has impressive quickness and acceleration off the snap, though he doesn’t have the power you want at that position. He can bend like a defensive end and he knows how to use his hands but will likely spend his first year as a situational player bulking up so he can better defend the run.
It’s entirely possible that the Vikings go in another direction and invest in a tight end like Trey McBride. A falling safety like Lewis Cine or Daxton Hill would also make sense. What seems unlikely at the moment, barring a catastrophic fall for a player like Nakobe Dean, is linebacker. Nevertheless, it is worth mentioning that Quay Walker, Chad Muma, Christian Harris and Leo Chenal are all options here. Beyond that is defensive back Jalen Pitre, who plays with his hair on fire and could make a team fall in love with him.
The Vikings could take cornerbacks back to back in the first two rounds and completely eliminate that position from consideration in Round 3, but if we build the list assuming anything is possible, we could generate some interesting opportunities for the Vikings at pick 77. They’ll be less constrained by immediate need and could go toward long-term needs or even luxuries. Still, we can prioritize needs a bit in this portion of the draft. There aren’t any corners in this stretch on the consensus board, so this could be considered a dead zone for the position.
Nicholas Petit-Frere, OT, Ohio State
Petit-Frere is a good athlete who can play inside or outside and has experience in zone-style offenses. He can pass block fairly well but has issues with power. In the third round, that’s not a bad profile to go after.
Cameron Thomas, Edge, San Diego State
Potentially a convert inside, Thomas is a good run defender with powerful hands and a fantastic history of production. Not all of his athletic traits translate to the edge, but the hybrid defense the Vikings run could find a place for him.
Jalen Tolbert, WR, South Alabama
Tolbert opted to stay close to home instead of taking a scholarship offer from a Power 5, so he has a bit of a different pedigree when compared to most Group of 5 prospects. He set records at South Alabama and demonstrates excellent technical skills as a receiver along with the agility to make it work. He was a big-play receiver for them but would be an interesting intermediate option in the NFL.
Alec Pierce, WR, Cincinnati
It took a while for Pierce to come online, but when he did, he had fantastic production and turned into Ridder’s top target. He has good size, speed and explosion as well as an instinct for how to use it and could add the strength and technical ability to be a true X receiver in the NFL.
Sean Rhyan, OG, UCLA
A left tackle in Chip Kelly’s well-known zone system, Rhyan projects to guard in the NFL. He didn’t test extraordinarily well but passes the Vikings’ thresholds for the position and demonstrates good enough athleticism in every area to play in whatever scheme he’s asked to perform in.
Cole Strange, OG, Chattanooga
By contrast, Strange was one of the best offensive line testers regardless of position and could be projected to play guard or center in the NFL. That kind of athleticism wasn’t always evident on the field, but there were flashes, and his quality of play in the all-star circuit has cemented that. Though balance is an issue, teams will be enticed by what Strange can offer.
Greg Dulcich, TE, UCLA
Some analysts consider Dulcich the top tight end in the draft, so it could be a coup to find him in the third round. A very good athlete for the position, Dulcich is a deep play threat who also happens to be a willing blocker and good intermediate receiver. While his actual blocking capability needs much more work, he could be a good, versatile complement to Irv Smith.
Abraham Lucas, OT, Washington State
Like any Washington State offensive lineman, Lucas will have to overcome the fact that there just aren’t many run-blocking reps on film for evaluators to go over. He is a good pass protector, though, and in his limited reps as a run blocker, he showed power and a good understanding of the angles necessary in a zone offense. He doesn’t have the athleticism of most zone-blocking linemen, but it’s functional enough to take a chance on him.
Dylan Parham, OG, Memphis
The Memphis guard has more than enough athletic ability and showcased it both at the NFL combine and on film. His best traits are his speed and agility, but he also showcases strength and a physical attitude. His size is a big concern and he may be limited to center in the NFL, but he added weight for the workout circuit and tested well.
Phidarian Mathis, DL, Alabama
A 3-4 defensive end who could end up playing nose tackle in the NFL, Mathis is very similar to Dalvin Tomlinson both in terms of career path and in their size/weight/speed profiles. Mathis is powerful against the run and was a productive pass rusher at Alabama, though that skill set may not translate to the NFL. He could be a versatile defender in a rotation with the Vikings.
Sam Williams, Edge, Mississippi
Right up there with Mafe and Ebiketie in athleticism is Williams, and just like those two, he has some issues with technical prowess and staying disciplined in his stance. He doesn’t quite have their balance, but he did have excellent production last year and his explosiveness and agility both show up on film.
Jeremy Ruckert, TE, Ohio State
While not the most productive receiver, Ruckert was functional in playing every role at Ohio State and was overshadowed by the receiving talent around him, much like Bills tight end Dawson Knox at Ole Miss. He could be a great outlet and red zone option for a team willing to put in the time to make him a more effective blocker.
Channing Tindall, LB, Georgia
There were a lot of incredible athletes on the Georgia defense, so much so that it was difficult for a truly explosive sideline-to-sideline player like Tindall to see the field. He played all over the defense but in a limited capacity and profiles like a coverage athlete when he’s really much more of an undersized run defender. Either way, he’d be a fantastic special teams candidate who could develop into a long-term starter.
Carson Strong, QB, Nevada
For some time, Strong was receiving buzz as a potential first-round pick. He doesn’t quite have that pedigree, but his fantastic arm and good understanding of defenses give him an edge over some second-rounders. But a poor athlete with a worrisome injury history will have issues attracting significant investment from a modern NFL team.
Kerby Joseph, S, Illinois
The Vikings need defensive back depth, and Joseph could provide it. He has extraordinary range and good size for the position. While he primarily profiles as a single-high player, he could be developed into a more versatile safety given his size and willingness to mix it up in the run game but looks like a liability for non-Cover 1 or Cover-3 teams until he puts in that work.
(Top photo of Derek Stingley: Don Juan Moore / Getty Images)