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Is there a scenario where the Vikings trade up to select Ahmad "Sauce" Gardner?
— Jacob Wilson
We're in prime 'Draft SZN,' folks, so let's get into a the first of multiple Round 1 scenarios that fans inquired about for this week's Mailbag.
But, before we begin, a quick bio on Gardner, who many believe is the top cornerback prospect in the draft. He starred at Cincinnati and was a two-time All-American for the Bearcats. And, here's the stat you will hear a hundred times on draft night: he didn't allow a single touchdown reception in college.
View photos of potential edge rushers the Vikings can select in the 2022 NFL Draft.
So, with the Vikings sitting at No. 12 and having a positional need at cornerback, what would it take for Jacob's scenario to come true?
To get an idea of where Gardner is projected, I ran 10 trials of Pro Football Focus' Mock Draft Simulator, which is among the most fun and handiest tools to play around with every spring.
In the 10 computer simulations, Gardner was taken three times by the Lions at No. 2, twice by the Jets (No. 4) and Giants (No. 7), while also getting picked by the Texans (3rd), Panthers (6th) and Falcons (8th).
That means his average draft position is 4.5, meaning the Vikings would have to move up to the 4th overall pick in order to get him in our hypothetical scenario.
I put on my GM hat and tried to swing a pre-draft deal with the Jets, eventually getting it done. In this deal, I moved up to No. 4 by trading away the 12th and 46th picks. I also received the 117th pick, which would give the Vikings a fourth-round pick they currently don't have. (Ironically enough, that's actually Minnesota's own fourth-rounder it dealt away for Chris Herndon).
View photos of potential tight ends the Vikings can select in the 2022 NFL Draft.
With the No. 4 pick in hand, I started the draft with the hope that Gardner would indeed make it to the Vikings.
He did, and I quickly swooped up the player whom many believe is the best cornerback prospect early in Round 1.
Here's how PFF graded my moves of trading up from No. 12 and then taking Gardner at No. 4.
PFF isn't a huge fan of the trade up, and I also thought the price was a little steep. Then again, it usually is when you want to move up into the top five. And I actually won the trade based off this draft pick trade value chart, as I gained 1,860 points and gave away 1,640 in return.
No matter if you like the trade or not, there's little debate that the Vikings (and their fans) likely would be thrilled to get Gardner as a long-term and (hopefully) shutdown cornerback for the next decade.
Do I think Minnesota will trade up in Round 1 next week? It's doubtful, especially since the Vikings only have eight total picks right now. But if new Vikings General Manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah to climb the draft board, the above trade is just one look at how it might happen.
If both top cornerbacks (Gardner and Derek Stingley, Jr.) are gone at No. 12 which is the best direction for the Vikings? DT Jordan Davis and CB Kyler Gordon in Rounds 1 and 2? Or CB Trent McDuffie in Round 1, and the top safety/DL/LB in Round 2?
— Roydon Richards
Here's the second draft scenario submitted, and it's a good one.
Do the Vikings address the trenches right away and then circle back to cornerback?
Or do they go corner early before adding another defensive piece in Round 2?
Both are plausible, and both focus on the side of the ball that many draft experts and fans feel is Minnesota's more-needy unit.
Again hypothetically here, but let's say McDuffie is taken at No. 12 and then, the Vikings stay on that side of the ball with Baylor safety Jalen Pitre or edge rushers David Ojabo (Michigan) or Boye Mafe (Minnesota) with the 46th pick.
First, there's no guarantee McDuffie makes it to No. 12 on draft night. PFF actually has him ranked as a higher overall prospect than Gardner, and draft expert Dane Brugler of The Athletic recently told me that McDuffie is "one of the smartest coverage corners I've ever talked to as a prospect."
Secondly, getting a strong edge rusher in the second round would help give the Vikings some fresh, young talent in that role. And while many don't think safety is a current need, I would put it higher than most. Harrison Smith is still a great player but isn't getting younger. And while Camryn Bynum flashed as a rookie in 2021, there's no guarantee he's going to step in and be a solid starter, although that's certainly a hope the Vikings could have.
Looking at the first scenario, Gordon was McDuffie's teammate at Washington. He might not be there at No. 46 in real life, so he would likely be a great value pick in the second round.
However, while Jordan Davis is an absolute monster and probably the best run-stuffing defensive tackle in the draft, where does he fit early on? Harrison Phillips will occupy the nose tackle spot in the 3-4 scheme, meaning Davis would either be a first-round backup, or have to transition to defensive end early in his career.
That doesn't mean it wouldn't work, but he's known as being a presence right in the middle of a defense, a spot Phillips is likely to occupy here.
For those reasons, give me the second scenario Roydon presented.
Love it? Hate it? Tweet me here to give me your feedback, either on choosing this scenario, or on the hypothetical Gardner deal above.
Is it true that the Vikings removed records and player awards from the Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center? If so, it seems like Kevin O'Connell and Kwesi are trying to give the team a sense of a new beginning. What other changes, if any, have you noticed with new leadership in the building?
— James in Chicago
It is true.
And if you know that, it's likely because I reported it last week as players returned to the facility for the start of the voluntary offseason program.
A funny story: I actually did a doubletake when walking down that hallway where the fresh paint was … and where the previous records and awards were not.
After seeing those up for four years since the building opened, not having been in that particular area of the building for a while and my watch reading roughly 6 a.m., I was taken aback.
But I love the significance of the smell of fresh paint correlating with a fresh start for the organization.
With all due respect to the leaders who had been in charge here, they are gone now. There is new leadership in place, and they should make the building look and feel how they want it to.
That includes the removal of recent season records, which included plenty of both good and bad moments. And while previous player awards are nice, they won't help the Vikings win any games in 2022.
Change is hard sometimes, but it can also be really good, too.
Here's a question that nobody seems to want to address. With all the pre-draft chatter going on in Vikings-land, I'm stunned at the number of people who think the Vikings should draft a quarterback. Kellen Mond was a fairly highly-ranked prospect prior to the 2021 draft. And had he not had the misfortune to be in a class with Trevor Lawrence, Justin Fields, Zach Wilson, etc., he might have been a top-five pick. The Vikings never gave the kid a chance to show his stuff. So, why are some fans clamoring for the Vikings to draft a QB before we ever even get a chance to see what Mond can do?
— Michael Weiser
An in-depth email from Michael, so let's get to it.
First, I think the chatter around the Vikings taking a QB has cooled off quite a bit, especially in the month since Cousins signed his one-year extension.
Next, and this is with all the respect to Mond, but he wasn't deemed a top-five pick a year ago. There was some speculation he might sneak into the end of the first round, or even possibly be a second-rounder in the right scenario.
But he was the 66th overall pick (third round) and the seventh overall QB drafted.
As for where Mond is at now, that's high on the list of storylines as the offseason rolls along.
One thing we know for sure is that he's not going to start as long as Cousins is on the roster, which will likely be for the next two seasons right now.
But that doesn't mean Mond can't make an impact in his own way, which likely begins by beating out Sean Mannion and clearly winning the backup QB job — something he couldn't do a year ago.
Mond might not have been given a completely fair shake as a rookie, but that's in the past, and people are rarely felt sorry for in the NFL.
If he shows strong progression once practices start next month, it will not only help him in the short term by being the possible backup, but could also further his pro career in the long run, too.
I was just curious as to how much of a presence [Owner/President] Mark Wilf and [Owner/Chairman] Zygi Wilf have at TCO Performance Center. From a distance as a fan, it looks like Mark is full-time on leading and running the club, and Zygi and the other Wilf family members are at more of a distance? I think they are fantastic owners and I am glad they bought the Vikings. They are a class act for sure.
— Murray M.
There's no doubt that the Wilf family are among the best owners in the league, and probably in the top tier in all of professional sports, if you ask me.
And they certainly have a presence at TCO Performance Center, even if they choose to stay behind the scenes on a more macro level around the league. For example, they don't hold regular media appearances and prefer to keep things close to the vest.
Yes, Mark joined Adofo-Mensah as the new GM was introduced and also held court at the Annual League Meeting a few weeks ago, but Mark and Zygi spoke when O'Connell was introduced.
The family believes in collaboration and has a strong track record of providing resources for the team to be able to compete for championships, as well as supporting the business operations of the franchise.
Mark, Zygi, Owner/Vice Chairman Lenny Wilf and other members of the family care deeply about the success of the organization — and those who work for the team.
I would like to know what's up with our linebacker who was drafted last year from North Carolina. I know he is still learning the position. We never let him play, so where is he in his development?
— Bob Jenkins
Bob closes us out with a question about Chazz Surratt. It's a similar inquiry to the one above about the status of Mond, and not just because both were third-round picks a year ago. (Surratt went 78th overall).
Much like Mond, Surratt hardly played as a rookie, especially on his respective side of the ball. He was on the field for 98 snaps on special teams last year but didn't play a single one on defense.
As Bob mentioned, he was likely still learning the position, especially after transitioning from quarterback to linebacker in college. And it was going to be tough for Surratt to start right away, especially in a room that had Eric Kendricks, Anthony Barr and Nick Vigil at the time, all of whom are veteran players.
If we look at Surratt in the present day, he's still not likely to be considered a starter. Not with Kendricks and Jordan Hicks occupying the middle linebacker spots, plus Danielle Hunter and Za'Darius Smith on the outside.
But, here's another Mond similarity, perhaps Surratt can prove that he's among the top reserve options at inside linebacker as the offseason progresses?
He'll likely be counted upon to have a bigger special teams role this season. But if he can challenge the likes of Blake Lynch, Ryan Connelly or Troy Dye for a key backup role, then he, too, will take the next step in his young career.