The 2022 NFL Draft kicks off in 10 days, meaning plenty of football pundits across the country are making some sort of prediction as it draws near.
Kevin Seifert, who currently covers the Vikings for ESPN, is among them. In a recent NFC North roundtable, Seifert and other reporters were asked to give a way-too-early bold prediction for Minnesota.
But Seifert's prediction had nothing to do with the draft. Instead, he thinks the Vikings will be one of the seven NFC playoff teams when the 2022 seasons ends.
The Vikings will earn one of the NFC's three wild-card berths after challenging for the NFC North title. It's true that the team is transitioning to a new front office and coaching staff, and that often in those situations, it can take a year or two before schemes and personnel start to click.
But [Head Coach] Kevin O'Connell is inheriting a fairly talented roster, relative to what new coaches usually encounter, and the NFC appears wide open after an offseason talent shift to the AFC. There aren't many teams that can be counted out of the NFC playoff race, but the Vikings should enter the season among the most likely to earn a spot.
If Seifert's prediction comes true, the Vikings — who haven't been above .500 in the past two seasons — would snap a two-year postseason drought.
A pair of NFC North reporters went with 2022 season win totals for their respective squads (14 for Green Bay and seven for Detroit), while Bears reporter Courtney Cronin predicted a big season for Chicago tight end Cole Kmet.
The reporters also assessed each team's offseason moves, opining on the best signing, biggest area of concern and a player who would make sense with that team's first pick in the draft.
Seifert wrote that Minnesota's addition of linebacker Jordan Hicks stood out, while the Vikings secondary still needs some work.
Shifting defensive schemes can be inefficient and costly. But in Hicks, the Vikings got a reliable and durable player, as well as a strong leader, to fill an inside linebacker position opposite Eric Kendricks in their new 3-4 base set. And his contract calls for him to count only $3.5 million against the 2022 salary cap.
The Vikings re-signed cornerback Patrick Peterson and added free agent Chandon Sullivan. They are modest signings and combine to count only $4.9 million against the cap. But opponents overcame deficits repeatedly in 2022 via the passing game. The Vikings gave up 4,300 passing yards, fifth worst in the league. They need more help.
And Seifert pegged LSU cornerback Derek Stingley, Jr., as a player to watch for the Vikings in the first round.
Adding Stingley would not only address an area of concern, but it would add an athletic playmaker who might one day remind fans of Peterson. All NFL teams are investigating the foot injury that cost Stingley most of his 2021 season, but if healthy, he would be an ideal addition.
Seifert (and the other NFC North reporters) were also asked how the team they cover could win the division.
Seifert opined that in order for Minnesota to claim the division for the first time since 2017, the onus lies on Kirk Cousins and the Vikings offense to be better than Aaron Rodgers and the Packers offense.
That's not as wild an assertion as it might sound. The Packers have an advantage at quarterback over every NFC North team, but the Vikings set of skill players around Cousins – Justin Jefferson, Adam Thielen, Dalvin Cook and Irv Smith – is deeper than the Packers. They've got a chance.
The full NFC North roundtable, complete with offseason moves, areas of need and more, can be found here.
View exclusive black-and-white images from the first week of voluntary workouts at the TCO Performance Center.
The Athletic tabs Vikings as possible landing spot for Stingley
As Seifert mentioned above, Stingley could be an option for the Vikings with the 12th overall pick.
Diante Lee of The Athletic joined that chorus, as he also recently tabbed Stingley to the Vikings as his favorite pairing. The Athletic's exercise had to match a player who was as a non-first round quarterback to a team that has a first-round pick.
Stingley Jr. in Minnesota, playing under the tutelage of another Bayou Bengal, Patrick Peterson. Beyond the sentiment of two of LSU's former No. 7s sharing the field, Stingley lands in a situation where he won't be left on an island from day one. Peterson, Cameron Dantzler and Stingley could shuffle around to play the best matchups.
Schematically, Ed Donatell is a defensive coordinator off of Vic Fangio's tree and one of Fangio's right-hand men in his coaching career. Last season, Donatell and Fangio struck gold with then-Broncos rookie Patrick Surtain II stepping in the league as a lockdown corner. Stingley certainly has that potential, and if he delivers in year one, that veteran-laden Minnesota defense can make a quick turnaround.
Stingley missed all but three games in 2021 due to a foot injury and played in seven games in 2020. He was a star as a freshman in 2019, recording six interceptions and garnering consensus First-Team All-American honors.