Is it ever too early to talk mock drafts?
The Vikings have turned the page to the 2021 season, and NFL analysts are starting to get serious about the 2021 NFL Draft. Among those analysts is ESPN's Todd McShay, who rolled out a mock draft this week. He wrote:
It's still very early. This month's Senior Bowl will provide scouts a chance to see players who didn't have much tape this year in a shortened season, and the NFL scouting combine will be teams' first look in more than a year at numerous highly touted draft prospects who opted out of the 2020 season amid the coronavirus pandemic. Evaluators, including myself, still have a lot of tape to watch and a lot of interviews to conduct. Rankings will change, as will the back half of the draft order used here – which was determined by ESPN's Football Power Index projections.
The Vikings are currently slated to have the 14th overall pick in this year's draft. McShay projected Virginia Tech tackle Christian Darrisaw to Minnesota but also mentioned other directions the team could go in the first round.
Ezra Cleveland, last year's second-rounder, has helped the offensive line, but the Vikings still need a dominant tackle. They were one of 12 teams that allowed quarterback pressure on at least 30 [percent] of their dropbacks. Darrisaw is a talented left tackle who has power as a pass protector and can get to the second level to help block for Dalvin Cook in Minnesota's zone run schemes. Other possibilities might include pass-rush aid – the Vikings had the fifth-fewest sacks in 2020 with 23 – or a safety.
And just for fun, let's take a look at whom McShay projected the top five picks to be:
1. Jacksonville Jaguars: Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence
2. New York Jets: Oregon T Penei Sewell
3. Miami Dolphins (via HOU): Alabama WR DeVonta Smith
4. Atlanta Falcons: BYU QB Zach Wilson
5. Cincinnati Bengals: Northwestern OL Rashawn Slater
Minnesota fans will also recognize a familiar name slated next to the Dolphins second pick at No. 18: Gophers WR Rashod Bateman. Through three seasons, including 2020 in which he played only five games, Bateman totaled 147 catches for 2,395 yards (16.3 average) and 19 touchdowns.
How badly does Tua Tagovailoa need playmakers around him in Miami, as he had at Alabama? I'm giving the Dolphins two first-round wide receivers, something no team has done in the common draft era. DeVonta Smith starts that process at No. 3, and Bateman continues it at No. 18. Among 33 qualified quarterbacks, Tagovailoa ranked 31st in QBR when targeting a wide receiver (60.8) this season. Bateman would provide him with a tenacious middle-of-the-field presence, and he has great hands. Smith, Bateman, DeVante Parker and Preston Williams would give Tagovailoa's offense some oomph.
Justin Jefferson Among CBS Sports' Top '25 & Under'
In the wake of the 2020 regular season's conclusion, accolades continue to pour in for players around the NFL.
Vikings rookie Justin Jefferson has been highly touted by a number of platforms and in a number of categories. He recently was tabbed by CBS Sports' Chris Trapasso among his "NFL awards for best 25 and under in 2020." Trapasso wrote:
Firstly, to be eligible any of the below distinctions, a player must have been part of the 2018, 2019, or 2020 draft classes (or an undrafted free agent any of those years). Why? As a young NFL player analyst, they're all part of my niche. I remember scouting all of these players for CBS Sports as they were entering the NFL and have followed their pro careers more closely than most.
Also, I'm not handing out MVP and Defensive Player of the Year awards. These young superlatives are more specific, both by name and positions for which they honor. Let's get to it.
Trapasso included awards such as Most Improved QB (Buffalo's Josh Allen), Most Valuable Undrafted Rookie (Jacksonville's James Robinson) and Blitzing LB of the Year (Tampa Bay's Devin White).
He named Jefferson Best Rookie WR of the Year, saying the former LSU standout surpassed Cincinnati's Tee Higgins and Pittsburgh's Chase Claypool.
There were plenty of quality rookie seasons turned in by pass catchers. None compared to what Jefferson did with the Vikings. The fifth wideout picked in the 2020 draft finished with 1,400 yards, breaking Anquan Boldin's post-merger record for rookie receiving yards.
At 6-1 and 202 pounds with spindly legs, Jefferson is a fascinating watch because he jukes defenders like he's a squatty running back. His 13 forced missed tackles were the 11th-highest among receivers in the NFL. Jefferson is a violent route runner, too. He consistently got open for Kirk Cousins and rocked in contested-catch scenarios when he wasn't able to shake defensive backs down the field. The latter is not surprising given what he did at LSU in 2019, when he hauled in 12 of his 13 contested-catch opportunities from Joe Burrow.
Jefferson proved to be an instant superstar.
Jefferson on Friday was announced as a finalist for the 2020 Pepsi Zero Sugar NFL Rookie of the Year Award