There's no doubt the COVID-19 pandemic is causing shakeups to league processes, but the 2020 NFL Draft is currently still scheduled to take place from April 23-25 (more on that later).
In Mel Kiper, Jr.'s latest mock draft, the ESPN analyst has Minnesota taking Baylor wide receiver Denzel Mims at No. 22 overall and Iowa defensive endA.J. Epenesa at No. 25. ESPN Vikings beat reporter Courtney Cronin recently delved into those projections and explained why Mims and Epenesa would make sense for Minnesota to add in the first round. Cronin wrote:
Minnesota needs to add some speed at wide receiver, and Baylor's Denzel Mims … boasts a combination of size (6-foot-3), speed (4.38-second 40-yard dash) and body control that would make him a fit as an outside option. His performance at the scouting combine inevitably helped his draft stock in a crowded class of talented receivers. In addition to clocking the third-fastest 40 time among wideouts, Mims had a 38.5-inch vertical leap and 131-inch broad jump.
Mims had two 1,000-yard seasons at Baylor, capping off his career with 66 receptions for 1,020 yards, 12 receiving touchdowns and 15.5 yards per catch. That would give the Vikings a viable deep threat to replace [Stefon] Diggs, who had the second-most receptions (15) on throws of 20-plus yards downfield last season, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.
Cronin opined that the Vikings "have no choice" but to add another receiving weapon for quarterback Kirk Cousins after trading Diggs to Buffalo in exchange for draft picks.
She said that Mims would "add an important layer to the offense" and could fit a similar role.
[Mims] primarily lined up as an outside receiver on the left side but has experience working the slot. The Vikings lined up Diggs in a number of different spots, so finding someone who could do the same begins to fill a big hole.
As for Epenesa, Cronin said the former Hawkeye could make sense for the Vikings.
Cronin highlighted Epenesa's length and power, pointing out that he racked up 22 sacks and 30.5 tackles for loss over his last two seasons at Iowa.
If his stock dips due to a lackluster performance at the combine, the Vikings would be hard-pressed to pass up the player praised for his strength, pass-rushing moves and strong hands.
Cronin acknowledged that Minnesota also needs to address holes in its secondary and "inevitably" will do so in the upcoming draft.
But replenishing the pass rush with younger talent will be critical to Minnesota's success in 2020, leading the Vikings to consider selecting a defensive end in the first round for the first time since 2005, when they drafted Erasmus James 18thoverall.
NFL Draft still a 'go'; other league changes
As mentioned above, the 2020 NFL Draft is still set to take place as scheduled.
Grant Gordon of NFL.com said the league does not plan to postpone the event.
Worth noting is that teams were instructed on March 13 to stop pre-draft visits due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Gordon provided further league updates:
_On Monday, all NFL-related physicals were indefinitely discontinued; thus no free agents [or] draft prospects will be examined until it was deemed the coronavirus crisis had passed. _
_Late Tuesday … Goodell sent out a statement announcing that all 32 team facilities would be closed beginning Wednesday. _
On March 16, it was announced that the 2020 Draft would proceed as scheduled and would be televised, but the annual selection process would no longer include public events in Las Vegas due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Cousins, Rudolph voice support for Karl-Anthony Towns
Cousins took to Twitter Wednesday and voiced support for Timberwolves big man Karl-Anthony Towns, whose family has been significantly impacted by COVID-19.
Tight end Kyle Rudolph also expressed his support for Towns, whom he is close with.
Towns posted a video late Tuesday night sharing that his mom and dad both tested positive for the virus. While his dad has since been released from the hospital, his mom currently is on a ventilator and in a medically induced coma.
Towns encouraged followers in Minnesota and around the country to take the pandemic – and necessary precautions – seriously.