With the 2022 NFL Draft fast-approaching, only one thing is certain – and that is, almost nothing is certain.
It's hard enough to predict which players teams will take off the board in what order. But it's also nearly impossible to predict which players will live up to, exceed or fall short of pre-draft expectations.
That's why NFL.com's Adam Rank had some fun, using hindsight to “re-draft” the 2012 NFL Draft. The Vikings that year drafted tackle Matt Kalil fourth overall. Kalil went on to have a solid career with Minnesota, starting 66 games at left tackle and receiving a Pro Bowl nod following his rookie campaign. It was the first time since Minnesota had drafted in the top five since tabbing Chris Doleman in 1985, so the hope would have been for an even longer run with Kalil.
But if the NFL could go back and re-do that entire draft? Interestingly enough, Rank had the Browns selecting quarterback Kirk Cousins – who in actuality didn't get picked until the fourth round by Washington – just ahead of Minnesota at No. 3.
The Browns did select a quarterback in the first round of this draft: Brandon Weeden at No. 22. And that might have been the worst pick that year – had the Browns not also selected [Trent] Richardson (who ran for 1,055 yards at a rate of 3.5 yards per carry over 17 games with Cleveland) third overall. But hey, they get a solid quarterback here. And they might not have found themselves in the trouble they have been in at the position for most of the last decade (though it's the Browns, so you never know). I know Kirk is not super exciting, but he's a good quarterback.
And with the fourth overall pick, Rank had the Vikings tabbing linebacker Bobby Wagner.
The Vikings and Browns swapped picks here on draft day. I think it would be fun to have the Vikings stay at No. 3 and take Cousins. But the team had used a pick on quarterback Christian Ponder the previous year – a high pick, mind you, No. 12 overall – so the Vikings were not likely to be moving on from Ponder yet. Wagner would be a solid pick here. […] Wagner would have been a force in the NFC North.
Wagner, of course, was drafted by Seattle with the 47th overall pick. He went on to spend 10 seasons with the Seahawks, during which he received an incredible six First-Team All-Pro designations by The Associated Press and has been voted to the past eight Pro Bowls.
Wagner was released by Seattle this spring and recently signed a contract with the division-rival Rams, who recently won Super Bowl LVI.
Who came in at Nos. 1 and 2 for Rank? He slated quarterback Russell Wilson to the Colts with the top overall pick and quarterback Andrew Luck – who originally went No. 1 – to Washington with the second selection.
Later that draft, Minnesota traded back into the first round to select Harrison Smith with the 29th overall pick, but in Rank's revisionist history, the All-Pro safety would have been nabbed by the Rams (then in St. Louis) at No. 14.
PFF names 2 top free agents as 'potential fits' for Vikings
OK, now back to real life.
Ahead of this year's draft, there are still a handful of big-name free agents remaining unsigned.
Analytics site Pro Football Focus recently looked at 11 players who have yet to sign a contract; PFF's Brad Spielberger tabbed the “best fit” for each of those players but also listed teams that would be "potential fits."
Spielberger did not list the Vikings as his top prediction for any of the 11 free agents, but he did list them as potential fits for two players: center JC Tretter and defensive tackle Akiem Hicks.
Minnesota is well-acquainted with both, of course, having had to contend with Tretter as a member of the Packers from 2014-16 and Hicks in Chicago for the past six seasons. During his time with the Bears, Hicks started all 77 games he played and 247 tackles, 31 sacks, 51 tackles for loss, eight passes defensed, five forced fumbles and five fumble recoveries.
Spielberger tabbed the Chargers as a top fit for Hicks. He wrote:
A few nagging injuries over the past few years have kept the often-dominant Hicks off the field, but he's still quite a handful for opposing offensive lines when healthy.
As a run defender and a pass-rusher, Hicks brings an extremely high floor. Over six seasons with the Chicago Bears, he earned both a run-defense and a pass-rush grade of 65.0 or better in every year except an injury-plagued 2019 campaign.