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Monday Morning Mailbag: A Mega Vikings 2022 Draft Preview

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Are you in favor of trading either up or down in the first round of this draft?

— Jim Jenkins

We've nearly made it, folks, as the 2022 NFL Draft is just days away.

Maybe it's just me, and maybe I feel like this every year, but it seems the wait to get to this point has felt longer than unusual.

But let's get into an in-depth Vikings draft preview, beginning with Jim's question about a potential trade on Thursday night.

We'll start with the possibility of trading up from No. 12, but I'll state here that I don't think there's a very high chance it could happen.

The only way I see it happening is if a player at the very top of Minnesota's draft board falls past the top five or so selections.

In this case, and the Vikings would have to be absolutely enamored with this player, likely a cornerback or defensive end, and make a deal to move up. Carolina is currently set to pick sixth, by the way.

Perhaps that's wishful thinking and Carolina has no interest. But the Panthers currently don't have a lot of early draft capital, as their next selection after No. 6 is down at No. 137 overall, which is at the end of the fourth round.

The Vikings would likely need to give up some of their own Day 2 draft capital to get up to No. 6, and my hunch is that they might have to keep that and see how the board plays out.

(By the way, if you missed it last week, click here for a hypothetical trade up to get an elite cornerback from last week's Mailbag).

OK, so what about a trade down? To me, this is the more likely situation of the two.

Let's say that the consensus top three cornerback prospects — Ahmad Gardner, Derek Stingley, Jr., and Trent McDuffie — are all gone, as are the top few edge rushers and safety Kyle Hamilton.

In that scenario, the top-tier defensive players are gone. And since nearly every draft pundit believes defense is Minnesota's biggest need, the Vikings may look to move back into the late teens or early 20s.

Who could the Vikings deal with?

Maybe the Chargers if one of the top tackle prospects has slipped a bit?

Maybe the Saints if New Orleans is high on an available quarterback?

Maybe Pittsburgh, which has been a popular Vikings trade partner in some mock drafts, and also could use a long-term option at QB?

If the Vikings do trade back, then perhaps a wide receiver, cornerback or defensive lineman are the play. Some scenarios involving a trade with Pittsburgh have included a linebacker for Minnesota.

I fired up Pro Football Focus' Mock Draft Simulator and looked into a possible trade back.

The Chargers were indeed interested, so we swung a deal. They took Purdue edge rusher George Karlaftis at No. 12 (perhaps not a surprise with the QBs in that division).

And I picked up the 17th and 79th picks, plus a 2023 second-rounder. That gives the Vikings some extra flexibility to move around on Day 2 this year, plus another Day 2 pick next spring.

Wide receiver Drake London was then my pick at No. 17, a move that PFF was a big fan of. (More on that position below, by the way).

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Again, this is all hypothetical and just a fun exercise to do before the wackiness of the draft actually begins.

Nobody really knows how it will all play out, even the people who do this on a year-round, full-time basis. But that's what makes this time of year so much fun.

I know we don't need a wide receiver, but if Drake London falls to No. 12, we have to take him, right? We all remember what happened the last time we took a WR when we didn't need one.

— Jake Torrez in Wilmington, California

I think that Jameson Williams is a top-5 pick without the ACL injury. If Ahmad Gardner and Derek Stingley, Jr., are gone, why not take the best WR in the draft and not reach for a need? To me the defensive guys expected to be there are not as game-changing as Williams can be. Adam Thielen is not getting any younger!

— Vinny Conway

Speaking of wide receivers…

There seems to be very mixed opinions on whether or not that position should be one to consider in the first round.

Jake and Vinny are clearly in the 'Yes' camp of that debate, and I lean that way, too, which is probably obvious with my selection of London in that mock draft simulation above.

Is wide receiver the Vikings No. 1 need right now? No. That position is likely cornerback.

View photos of potential wide receivers the Vikings can select in the 2022 NFL Draft.

But we have to remember that the draft is used to fill both short and long-term needs, and there's a chance wide receiver falls into the latter category.

For 2022, the Vikings are likely to roll out Justin Jefferson, Thielen, K.J. Osborn and Ihmir Smith-Marsette as the top four guys, and that's pretty solid if you ask me.

But let's take a peek into the future.

Jefferson is going to get paid in the next year or two, and elite wide receivers have been fetching some impressive contracts. Thielen will be 32 when this season begins. And while I don't expect him to drop off a cliff, he's also creeping toward his mid-30s.

View the best wide receiver photos from the 2021 season shot by Vikings photographers.

Osborn and Smith-Marsette both showed strong potential last year, especially Osborn, and both are also currently on their rookie deals. But believe it or not, Osborn will be in the final year of his contract in 2023 and could be in line for an extension of his own if he builds on what he did in 2021 over the next two seasons.

Smith-Marsette flashed at the end of last season, but it's also fair to say that he has to prove he can be a consistent NFL receiver.

Flash forward to 2024 with me. Envision that the Vikings have just paid Jefferson, Thielen remains, Osborn has departed in free agency, and Smith-Marsette has developed into a strong No. 3 option.

Wouldn't having one of the best wide receivers from the 2022 draft class on your team be a plus, especially on a rookie contract and with up to three years left (teams now have a fifth-year option on players drafted in the first round)?

View every Vikings first round draft pick through the years.

Jake's comment, by the way, refers to the 1998 NFL Draft, when the Vikings obviously drafted Randy Moss despite already having Cris Carter and Jake Reed.

I'm not saying this first-round wide receiver would mean another "Three Deep" scenario, but it would give the Vikings lots of talent and depth at a position that is among the most important in the league.

Again, wide receiver is not the Vikings biggest need right now. But you can never have enough skill players, especially with an offensive-minded head coach now in place.

On the flip side, if a stud cornerback or edge rusher prospect is there at No. 12, I have no problem taking them either.

But if they're gone and the first or second wide receiver prospect is sitting there at No. 12, I think you at least have to consider it.

In your opinion, have the Vikings gotten to the point in all their free agent dealings that they can draft the best player available (BPA)? Usually, I hear that there is a point early in the first round where there is a drop in talent from first-round talent to second-round talent. Have you heard anything about this point? I am guessing Vikings personnel won't say what their view of this point is. I would guess that if the Vikings are willing to trade down from 12, they would want to stay above this point in general.

— Craig Rotz

An interesting set of questions from Craig, and I'm not sure there's a clear answer on both of them.

I do think they are in the position to take BPA, even if cornerback seems to be the overwhelming consensus from fans for what they want.

And as far as the drop-off point, my own personal guess is around No. 20 or so. But you might get a different answer from other people, and each team likely has its own opinion or process of where that point is. (And, no, the Vikings front office isn't going to reveal it, and neither will any other team, except through actions). With Minnesota's new direction, there's a blank slate for how General Manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah will navigate the board in his first NFL Draft in this role.

This draft class is viewed as a fairly deep one in terms of talent, although many draft experts have said in the past few weeks there isn't necessarily a generational prospect or two at the top of the class.

And since my own personal take is around the 20th pick, that's also why I tried to stay in the late teens in that mock trade above. That said, selecting Jefferson 22nd overall in 2020 and Harrison Smith at the 29th spot back in 2012 have worked out well for Minnesota.

Again, some teams may feel that they can get strong talent in the latter half of the first round this year. A pair of teams — Green Bay and Kansas City — have multiple picks in the final-third of the first round, so they are actually in a position to double up if they stay in those spots.

I stated above that I would be in favor of a trade down more than a trade up. But I also wouldn't go too far down the board so that you could still get a game-changing player early on.

Unless the Packers (highly unlikely) or Chiefs wanted to move up and offered their pair of first-rounders for No. 12…

I'd make that trade in a flash.

View photos of potential cornerbacks the Vikings can select in the 2022 NFL Draft.

The Vikings lost Xavier Woods, and Harrison Smith is good but getting old. I can't believe that Camryn Bynum is ready to start at safety, and what we have after Bynum for depth is mediocre at best. We didn't pick up another safety, don't we need to prioritize a safety who can start, maybe as high as the second round, in this draft? Aren't our safety needs even greater than cornerback?

— Vincent Lencioni

If we learned anything in the last week, it's that Bynum is focused on earning that starting job as the offseason progresses.

He also gave one of the best quotes of the offseason so far when asked about what has kept him hungry entering Year 2:

"I'm trying to be the best ever. That's the biggest thing. That's why I play the game. That's why I put in extra time. I'm not just trying to be here and make money. I'm trying to be the best football player, regardless, in history. That's what drives me every day."

That's pretty bold from Bynum, but you have to admire the confidence and mindset.

Right now, I do think he would be the starter next to Smith, but we're also still four-plus months away from Week 1.

In terms of the draft, safety might not be up super high on the short-term needs. But if Notre Dame's Kyle Hamilton is there at No. 12, the Vikings might consider swooping him up.

He's the consensus top prospect at that spot, and is also viewed as a top-five or 10 overall prospect by many pundits.

However, draft expert Dane Brugler of The Athletic recently told me that safety probably isn't viewed by many teams as a high-value position so early in the draft, meaning the class' top prospect at that position just may be there for Minnesota.

"I actually wouldn't be surprised if he fell out of the top 10 [because] not every team is looking for a unique safety that early in the draft," Brugler said. "So, [Nos.] 11, 12, 13, that might be the sweet spot with Washington, Minnesota, Houston. That might be exactly where we see him come off the board."

Michigan's Dax Hill, Georgia's Lewis Cine and Baylor's Jalen Pitre are next in the 2022 pecking order, according to Brugler.

They could be second-round options for the Vikings if they are there, but there's no guarantee they will still be available.

Do you think they should put up a statue of the Purple People Eaters? I think it would be a great idea to honor the teams past.

— Connor from Minnesota

Let's finish this off with a non-draft question.

There's little debate about the significance those players have in the history of both the Vikings and the league as a whole.

And yes, I am aware that Vikings Ring of Honor members John Randle and Kevin Williams spoke up about the idea in recent months to honor their fellow defensive linemen with a statue.

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2022 Miller Lite Vikings Draft Party

Vikings Draft Party is making its return to in-person festivities at U.S. Bank Stadium! The party will kick off at 6 p.m. (CT) Thursday, April 28.

The Vikings Voyage at U.S. Bank Stadium, which is sometimes reserved for hospitality events, features an awesome sculpture of original Purple People Eaters Alan Page, Jim Marshall, Carl Eller and Gary Larsen sitting on a bench, which allows guests an awesome photo opportunity with the Minneapolis skyline in the background.

It's one of the neatest displays in the entire place, and something everyone should see at least once. (And check this out for a fun video I found on how the display was made).

If you can't catch that one, the Minnesota Vikings Museum features multiple photo ops and interactive experiences, including a 3D sculpture of Marshall, Page, Larsen and Eller (from the viewer's left to right) surging through a wall the way they used to "meet at the quarterback." All four of those players made the Pro Bowl after the 1969 season.

That's all for this one, hope you all enjoy the draft!

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