As excitement for the NFL Draft ramps up, so do scouting reports and evaluations of play-makers in this year's draft class.
ESPN's Matt Bowen on Thursday highlighted "best team fits" for players sure to be drafted by teams April 27-29. Interestingly, though, he didn't stick only to the first round. Bowen wrote:
I picked out ideal landing spots for 15 of the best offensive skill prospects, factoring in skill sets, scheme, team needs and value in this draft. All of these players are likely to come off the board somewhere in the first three rounds. Which teams make the most sense for Bijan Robinson, Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Zay Flowers, Michael Mayer and other potential future stars?
In the receivers group, Bowen said Ole Miss wideout Jonathan Mingo would be a great fit for Minnesota's offense. He opined the Vikings could snag Mingo in the third round, where they currently have the 87th overall pick.
After the departure of veteran Adam Thielen, the Vikings could add someone like Mingo to the wide receiver room on Day 2 of the draft. And I really like the fit for him in [Head Coach] Kevin O'Connell's offense, given Mingo's powerful frame, route detail and production after the catch.
The Vikings can create free access off the ball for Mingo with motion and creative formations, giving him targets on rhythm throws from quarterback Kirk Cousins. That'd provide schemed voids that also put Mingo in a position to get loose after the catch, where he averaged 7.4 yards after the reception in 2022. Finally, Mingo would have the slot flexibility in Minnesota's system to fit well with the Vikings premier targets Justin Jefferson and T.J. Hockenson.
View the best photos of Vikings TE T.J. Hockenson from the 2022 season.
The only other NFC North team Bowen picked for one of the skill position players was Green Bay. He suggested the Packers should select Ohio State receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba 15th overall.
I do think the Packers could go tight end with their first-round pick, and I thought about Notre Dame's Michael Mayer as a fit in Green Bay. But adding Smith-Njigba – who I consider the top wide receiver in this draft class – would provide a big boost to the pass game for quarterback Jordan Love in [Head Coach] Matt LaFleur's system, assuming Aaron Rodgers is traded to the Jets.
Green Bay has the vertical stretch ability of Christian Watson and the developing skill set of Romeo Doubs, but Smith-Njigba could excel as a slot target, using his high-end change-of-direction speed and foot quickness to uncover as a high-percentage target for Love. He'd run the unders and crossers, hit the seams and pick up catches on slot fades. With the route detail we've see from Smith-Njgiba on tape, he should produce early in his rookie season on play-action and dropback concepts. He was limited to five catches last season while dealing with hamstring issues, but he totaled 1,606 receiving yards in 2021.
NFL.com asks 'burning question' for every NFC team ahead of draft
As the big three-day event quickly approaches, NFL.com's Nick Shook went through the NFC and identified one “burning question” for each team at this point in the offseason.
He noted each team's biggest additions/signings in free agency, as well as its biggest losses. Shook said the Vikings biggest additions have been cornerback Byron Murphy, edge rusher Marcus Davenport, defensive lineman Dean Lowry and running back Alexander Mattison – who re-signed to stay in Minnesota.
Shook pointed out the Vikings biggest losses as receiver Adam Thielen (Panthers), cornerback Patrick Peterson (Steelers), defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson (Browns), linebacker Eric Kendricks (Chargers) and tight end Irv Smith, Jr. (Bengals).
A "burning question" facing the Vikings, then, is will the team's new additions "be enough to replace their departed stars?" Shook wrote:
It's not every year that entrenched figures like Adam Thielen, Eric Kendricks and even Patrick Peterson – a recent addition who arrived with quite a résumé and lived up to it – leave a team in one offseason, but that's where the Vikings stand. After finishing 13-4 and winning the NFC North, it would appear as if now is the time for Minnesota to capitalize on the coming departure of Aaron Rodgers from Green Bay. But Detroit lurks as a threat, as does the uncertain future of Kirk Cousins.
Vikings [General Manager] Kwesi Adofo-Mensah did his best to resupply the team's cupboard while also trimming some aging veterans, but expectations will be high for a team that is going to count somewhat significantly on its new faces (i.e., Byron Murphy, Marcus Davenport). The good news: Minnesota still has returning, known commodities on both sides of the ball. It'll just need to work in the new additions quickly in order to maintain control of the division.
Speaking of the Lions who "lurk as a threat" according to Shook, he asked if a productive offseason will help Detroit take the next step.
Like the Giants, Detroit shocked the football world with its sudden transformation from an also-ran into a team that must be taken seriously. [Lions Head Coach] Dan Campbell's image morphed from someone who provides a great soundbite to that of a legitimate coach, and all the platitudes finally produced positive results. The Lions spent accordingly in the offseason, adding a playmaking complement in the backfield (David Montgomery), an excellent safety (C.J. Gardner-Johnson) and a couple of cornerbacks who should significantly improve Detroit's depth on the back end. All of the pieces appear to be in place for the Lions to build on their 9-8 finish in 2022. Their eight picks can help them get even closer to making that a reality.