The Vikings are currently slated to pick 12th overall in the 2022 NFL Draft.
Minnesota's first-round draft selection will mark the first by new Vikings General Manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and Head Coach Kevin O'Connell.
With the 2022 NFL Scouting Combine heading toward completion Sunday and the draft fast-approaching, which talented prospect do league pundits believe the Vikings will target at No. 12?
Vikings Entertainment Network's Gabe Henderson and Vikings Radio Network sideline reporter Ben Leber spoke with a number of experts at the combine in Indianapolis this week. While some personalities predicted specific players at this point in the process, others leaned toward a position group.
CBS Sports' Charles Davis told Leber the Vikings will have "multiple" options; Davis named several players who could bolster a Minnesota defense that struggled in 2020 and 2021.
"We've been known to see the Vikings go after corners, for a long time. Sauce Gardner will be sitting there, I think, from Cincinnati – maybe the top right corner in the draft," Davis said. "The [Vikings] linebackers have been taken care of so ably by Eric Kendricks and Anthony Barr for so long. Do you start to supplement there? There's a Nakobe Dean out of Georgia. There's a Devin Lloyd out of Utah who I really, really like. And while I'm not sure anyone's Micah Parsons, Lloyd has a little bit of that to him with the speed. He can run, he can blitz, so I kind of look at him a little bit."
And if the Vikings opt to go with an edge defender?
Aidan Hutchinson and Kayvon Thibodeaux, currently the two highest-ranked pass rushers in the class, will likely be off the board by No. 12, Davis noted. In that case, is Purdue's George Karlaftis a potential pick? Or how about Georgia's Travon Walker or Florida State's Jermaine Johnson II, an Eden Prairie native?
"Those are some names that are kind of kicking around my old cabeza for right now," Davis said.
NFL Media analyst Bucky Brooks also mentioned Karlaftis as a possibility for Minnesota.
"In this league, it's about knocking the quarterback down. And we're seeing that you have to have more pass rushers to be able to do it," Brooks said. "So now, let's think about where Kevin O'Connell comes from. He comes from a situation where you had Aaron Donald, you had Von Miller, you had Leonard Floyd. In that Super Bowl, we can talk about what they did to win it with Cooper Kupp, [but] it was their pass rush that was able to get it done.
"From an offensive standpoint, you understand the challenges of dealing with a team and a defense that has multiple guys that can get after it," Brooks continued. "So a guy like George Karlaftis, you think about, 'OK, if we get Danielle Hunter back, we now have another pass rusher, and it enables us to be able to compete.' "
NFL Network's Tom Pelissero refrained from naming names but echoed Davis' thoughts that cornerback or pass rusher should be high on the Vikings list entering Round 1.
In his latest mock draft, ESPN's Jordan Reid had Minnesota selecting Michigan edge defender David Ojabo 12th overall.
Reid opined that Ojabo would be an excellent fit for new Vikings Defensive Coordinator Ed Donatell's scheme, which Reid referred to as "4-3 Under."
"You need that weakside defensive end. [Donatell] already came out and said Danielle's probably going to stand up and have his hand in the dirt a little bit, go back and forth with that," Reid said. "But I think Danielle, with his strength and his power and his length, he can play on that strongside. We know he's a very good run defender, as well as a very gifted pass rusher, too. But you need that guy opposite of him, and I think David Ojabo, just as naturally gifted as he is already as a pass rusher – I think he's an underrated run defender, too.
"He still has some developing that he needs to do in that area, but as far as being ready as a pass rusher right away, right now – in Donatell's defense, we know the most important pieces are the edge rushers and the safeties," Reid continued. "So having Ojabo opposite of Danielle Hunter? Let's go hunt some quarterbacks."
Ojabo was somewhat overshadowed at Michigan by Hutchinson; but it's actually that exact thing that creates more intrigue around Ojabo for Reid.
"We know Aidan Hutchinson was 'the guy' at Michigan. I mean, let's not sugarcoat that. He was the guy on that defense that everybody game-planned for," Reid said. "And that's not taking anything away from Ojabo; Ojabo is very much gifted and a very talented as a pass rusher. But just imagine now, him at the next level with Danielle Hunter.
"And we're talking about a player that's only a one-year starter," Reid added. "So there's a lot, as far as him just scratching the surface of his potential – he only started playing football in 2017. So we're talking about not even five years that he's fully played and been engaged in the game of football. I just really like the upside there with Ojabo."
While several experts did suggest pass rushers to the Vikings at 12, not everyone did.
The true constant, though? Each pundit who spoke to Leber or Henderson did target a defensive position.
ESPN's Matt Miller chatted with Henderson Thursday and said he'd make a different move with potential for a big-time payoff.
"Oh, man. In a perfect world, is Derek Stingley, Jr., there? I'm a risk-taker, apparently, right? I would gamble on Derek Stingley, because I remember watching him as a freshman, and he was the best corner in college football – as a true freshman," Miller said of the LSU cornerback. "I know he's had some downtime the last two years, but he should be well-rested after only playing 10 games these past two years.
"I still think the sky's the limit for him," Miller added. "If you get coached up and he gets in a scheme, an Ed Donatell scheme I think would be great for him, he could be the best corner in football – in a very short amount of time. The talent is absolutely there."
To hear more about what the Vikings could do with the 12thoverall pick in this year's NFL Draft, tune in to "Vikings: A New Era – NFL Combine Special." The original program will air Friday on FOX 9 at 10:35 p.m. (CT) and again Saturday on FOX 9+ at 9:30 p.m. (CT).