ESPN NFL Draft expert Mel Kiper, Jr. released his second mock draft on Thursday and predicted the Vikings would take Kansas State guard Cody Whitehair with the 23rd pick.
Kiper said he slotted Whitehair to Minnesota because of the lineman’s versatility to play more than one position.
Speaking on a conference call Monday morning with reporters, Kiper expanded his thoughts on the Vikings and said they have plenty of first-round options.
“I thought about wide receiver,” Kiper said. “I thought about Josh Doctson (from TCU). I had him on the board going one pick later.
“I just thought Whitehair – he played tackle, guard and center (in college) – but he’s a guard and center in the NFL. He’s an immediate hole-filler and a heck of a player.
“You could go linebacker. I get that, but I’ll say this, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Whitehair be a guy who comes in immediately and starts, and at the end of the year, is one of the best rookies in the league.”
Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman said last week that offensive linemen who can swing to other positions are a valuable commodity.
Spielman also noted how he thinks April’s draft is going to feature a deep class, and that the Vikings could get a player with the 23rd pick who is graded a bit higher.
Kiper agreed with Spielman’s assessment to a degree, noting that some positions feature more depth than others.
“It depends on position,” Kiper said. “For certain spots, if you’re looking at defensive line … that’s a position with tremendous depth and tremendous talent. It’s probably the best defensive line group I’ve ever seen in nearly 40 years of doing this.
“If you’re looking at tight end and you like Hunter Henry (from Arkansas), you may not find another tight end until the third round or in this draft,” Kiper added. “I think he gets pushed up because of that. But mid-to-late first round, it depends. Cornerbacks, they’re all over the place after the first two. Linebacker, inside linebacker … it’s a similar thing there.”
Kiper said many questions will be answered at the NFL Scouting Combine, which begins Tuesday in Indianapolis.
“It really depends a lot on the combine with medical and interviews for the underclassmen … we don’t even have accurate measurables on them yet,” Kiper said. “After the combine, you’ll get a little bit more clarity as to where these guys are going to project.”