The NFL Scouting Combine is underway in Indianapolis this week, which means the 2020 NFL Draft is just around the corner.
The Vikings are slated to have the 25th overall pick in this year's draft, which will kick off in Las Vegas on Thursday, April 23.
What is Minnesota's biggest need on draft night? ESPN asked its team reporters to opine the position of greatest priority for their respective organizations, and Courtney Cronin highlighted cornerback for the Vikings. Cronin wrote:
Don't roll your eyes, Vikings fans, despite how predictable this feels. In the process of retooling its defense, Minnesota might need to replenish its cornerback group with whatever happens for Xavier Rhodes, Trae Waynes and Mackensie Alexander. The value the Vikings could get for a top-tier corner at No. 25 is greater than that of a guard the team can expect to be a Day 1 impact player, so going all-in on a defensive first-rounder might be the best play.
Cronin said that three other positions to watch for Minnesota are quarterback (solely depending on whether or not Kirk Cousins is extended), offensive line and defensive tackle.
Keep your eyes on Minnesota's NFC North rivals, as well, to see which direction they go in the draft.
Packers reporter Rob Demovsky opined that Green Bay needs to add another receiver, and Bears reporter Jeff Dickerson believe Chicago will "overhaul" the tight end position and bring in someone new.
The Lions recently released veteran defensive tackle Damon "Snacks" Harrison, and Mike Daniels and A'Shawn Robinson are set to become free agents. ESPN's Michael Rothstein said that Detroit "could be completely renovating the interior of the defensive line" and could use the No. 3 overall pick to snag another big lineman.
The Lions need to be better getting to the quarterback, whether that comes from the defensive line or a linebacker. Chase Young, if he somehow were to fall to No. 3, would be the obvious top target. If that doesn't work out, they could look at the interior of the line (say, Derrick Brown or Javon Kinlaw) or on Day 2 with Senior Bowl guys they coached (Bradlee Anae, Josh Uche). Building a better pass rush can help the secondary, which has talent but can only defend for so long before it gives way.
PFF highlights DBs for teams to target in FA and the draft
While plenty of predictions are made for every team leading up to the draft, it's near-impossible to predict how the chips will fall and which teams will select which players.
But since Cronin opined that the Vikings will take a cornerback, let's look at the corners that analytics site Pro Football Focus is highlighting from the position group.
PFF's Anthony Treash rolled out an article that spotlights "defensive backs to target in free agency and the 2020 NFL Draft." He pointed out a number of DBs across the league who are scheduled to become free agents, including Vikings safety Anthony Harris, and he also looked at up-and-coming players who are projected as first- or second-round talent in the draft.
View the best photos from Vikings team photographers of defensive backs during the 2019 season.
Of the eight draft prospects that Treash talked about, two were listed with Minnesota as "possible landing spots": Utah CB Jaylon Johnson and Mississippi State CB Cameron Dantzler.
Jaylon Johnson has been one of the Pac-12's top defensive backs over the last few years, but he really raised his draft stock with a great 2019 season. His 84.4 coverage grade in 2019 was the 12th-best mark among Power-5 cornerbacks. His aggressive style of play — whichmight hurt him early at the next level — saw him force tight coverage at an incredibly high rate. Johnson forced tight coverage on 69 [percent] of his targets, the sixth-best mark among qualifiers and 20 percentage points above the NCAA average._
Treash said that he could see Johnson going to Minnesota or to Tennessee, which is slated to pick 29th.
Dantzler saw 96 targets over the course of his college career, and he allowed just 41 catches and only one touchdown while tallying 20 combined interceptions and pass breakups. In PFF's 2020 NFL Draft Guide, lead draft analyst Mike Renner stated that if Dantzler were to add 15 pounds of muscle, he'd likely be the second cornerback on our draft board. That's something to keep in mind for teams picking late in the first or early in the second.
Treash sees scenarios in which Dantzler could go to the Vikings at No. 25 or the Dolphins at No. 26.
View all Vikings team photos from 1961 through 2019.
NFL Legends attend combine coaching clinic
On Saturday and Sunday, 28 NFL Legends attended the inaugural NFL Legends Community Coaching Clinic that took place in Indianapolis leading into the combine.
Each Legend in attendance is currently coaching football and was nominated by an NFL club. The Vikings nominated former defensive end Willie Howard, who currently serves as the head coach at Robbinsdale Cooper High School in New Hope, Minnesota. As the Vikings nominee, Howard received a $1,000 grant from the NFL Foundation that will be donated to the football program.
"The beautiful thing about this was reconnecting with former Legends that are giving back to the community and being able to be a lifetime learner," Howard said. "So often we feel that because we played at the highest level we know a lot, but to be able to come here and remind ourselves of why we're doing it and learning every single day to give back to the kids [is wonderful]."
Throughout the two-day event, participants engaged in interactive dialogue with members of the NFL Legends Youth Advisory Committee, received instruction on NFL Way to Play techniques and resources, and were provided with best practices to take back to their local communities.