EAGAN, Minn. – It's officially draft season.
ESPN's Mel Kiper, Jr., released his first 2024 mock draft and envisioned a cornerback heading to the Vikings.
Minnesota currently has the 11th overall pick after finishing 7-10 in 2023. The 2024 NFL Draft will be held from April 25-27. The first round begins on April 25.
Kiper projects Clemson cornerback Nate Wiggins to the Vikings at No. 11. On the selection, Kiper noted:
In my final mock ahead of the 2023 draft, I projected the Vikings taking a cornerback. Instead, they went with wide receiver Jordan Addison, who had a fantastic rookie season, catching 10 touchdown passes. That need in the secondary still exists. Minnesota ranked 28th in passing yards allowed to receivers last season (3,019), and 2022 second-rounder Andrew Booth, Jr., hasn't quite figured things out. Let's go back to Clemson — Booth's former school — with the selection of Wiggins here. Wiggins was a lockdown defender in 2023, allowing just 4.2 yards per attempt as the nearest defender in coverage.
Could the Vikings take a quarterback? For sure. Kirk Cousins is a free agent, and I don't think rookie fifth-rounder Jaren Hall will be the guy long-term. At this point, though, the most likely option might be running it back with Cousins, so adding a starter on defense makes more sense. This obviously could change as we learn more about General Manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah's plans.
Wiggins was not listed in our first Vikings 2024 Mock Draft Tracker, which gathered initial mock drafts from across football media. Two draft analysts, however, pegged the Vikings with a first-round cornerback.
Staying in the NFC North, the Bears hold the No. 1 pick for the second consecutive season. Kiper does not project trades in his mock drafts, so it was no surprise who he had Chicago selecting.
Are the Bears really going to pass up the chance to take the top quarterback in back-to-back draft classes? I just don't see it. Last year, of course, they got a huge haul from Carolina for trading down, with this pick included in the deal. This year they have to decide whether to keep Justin Fields or trade down again, for a bounty that likely will be even bigger. Here are the two biggest reasons why I'd keep the pick if I were running the Chicago front office:
- [Caleb] Williams is a better prospect than Fields. We've now seen three NFL seasons from Fields, and he hasn't put everything together on a consistent basis. There are too many unknowns for a guy with 38 career starts. He has completed just 60.2 percent of his passes while throwing 40 touchdown passes with 30 interceptions and has averaged just 7.0 yards per attempt in his career. Williams, my top-ranked prospect, is ahead of Fields as a passer — the USC product has the skill set and instincts to be a top-tier quarterback at the next level.
- Taking Williams resets the Bears quarterback clock, which matters in an age when having a quarterback on a rookie contract means teams can build a better roster around them. If they keep Fields, they'd have to decide on his fifth-year option this spring and then extend his contract within the next year. Are they ready to do that? With a rookie, they'd get four years at a much less expensive cap number before having to pay up.
Now, Chicago doesn't have ideal leverage to trade Fields, but it only takes two suitors to create a market. Remember that when the Cardinals traded Josh Rosen one year after drafting him at No. 10 overall, they got a second-round pick from the Dolphins. I wouldn't be surprised to see the Bears get a first-rounder in return for Fields.
Click here to read Kiper's full mock draft.
NFL.com spotlights Josh Metellus' 2023 season
Vikings safety Josh Metellus had a breakout season playing under Defensive Coordinator Brian Flores in 2023. Metellus became the Swiss Army knife of the Vikings defense, aligning all over the field to fill multiple roles.
His versatility sparked a career year. Metellus set career highs in snaps played, games started, tackles and forced fumbles.
NFL.com writer Kevin Patra highlighted unsung heroes (overlooked/surprise contributors) of the 2023 season for each NFC Team. On Metellus, Patra wrote:
Credit Flores for unlocking Metellus' havoc-creating ability. The former sixth-round pick out of Michigan played sparingly his first three seasons but became a versatile weapon under Flores. Metellus lined up all over the formation, from safety to outside linebacker, inside linebacker, slot corner, wide corner and defensive lineman. Heck, PFF even charted Metellus as having one snap lined up as a defensive tackle. From those various locations, the 26-year-old stuffed the stat sheet, gobbling up 112 tackles, seven tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks, 10 QB hits, one interception, five passes defended, four forced fumbles and one fumble recovery. Metellus led all safeties with 30 QB pressures, per Next Gen Stats, on a whopping 116 pass rushes (26 more than any other safety in 2023).
Former Minnesota Gopher standout and Hopkins High School star Boye Mafe also made Patra's list. Mafe, a second-year edge rusher for the Seahawks, led Seattle in multiple stat categories this season. On Mafe, Patra noted:
Mafe came into his own in his second season, leading the Seahawks with nine sacks, 16 QB hits and (per PFF) four batted passes. The edge defender also paced Seattle with 53 QB pressures and added 35 stops, according to NGS. The athletic Mafe displayed burst, getting 24 quick pressures, per NGS, and showed effort to the ball. The 25-year-old pass rusher got off to a hot start with seven of his nine sacks coming in his first eight games. As his play tailed off, so did the Seahawks [defense], with Seattle coming up shy in its bid to get back into the postseason. Mafe is just beginning to scratch the surface of his ability.