All of that waiting, and Draft Day has finally arrived.
The 2019 NFL Draft will kick off in Nashville at 7 tonight (CT), and the Vikings are currently slated to make their first selection of the year at No. 18.
Plenty of mock drafts have made their rounds over the past few months. But when push comes to shove, who do experts predict Minnesota will take off the board?
Vikings.com’s Mike Wobschall caught up with several experts in Nashville Wednesday and asked them just that. Spoiler alert: the heavy favorite was offensive line.
Ross Tucker of The Athletic didn’t hesitate with his answer … or his plan for after the pick is made.
“A meat-and-potatoes offensive lineman,” Tucker told Wobschall. “Garrett Bradbury, center, N.C. State, [and] we’re moving [Pat] Elflein to guard. I love two smart, interior, athletic offensive linemen, [and the] Vikings get their offensive line back on track. SKOL, Vikings.”
Interestingly, NFL Media analyst Daniel Jeremiah suggested the same plan of attack to Minnesota.
Jeremiah projected an offensive lineman to the Vikings at 18 and said that he’s “penciled in” Bradbury.
“He’s just, to me, one of the cleaner players in the draft,” Jeremiah said. “You put [Pat] Elflein at guard, and off you go.”
He added, however, that Boston College guard Chris Lindstrom or Texas A&M center Erik McCoy also could be options. And Jeremiah wouldn’t be surprised if Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman decided to trade down if the right scenario presented itself.
“Maybe that’s even a situation where they slide back a little bit,” Jeremiah said. “If you’re going to go get interior guys, you can get those more in the 20s. If one of those tackles were to drift, if you don’t want to take a tackle and you want an interior guy, you’ll have an opportunity to slide down.”
Another name that popped up twice for the Vikings was Oklahoma’s Cody Ford, who moved from guard to right tackle for the 2018 campaign.
Hall of Fame quarterback Kurt Warner, now with NFL Network, is expecting the Vikings to add an offensive lineman to help protect Kirk Cousins, as does ESPN’s Louis Riddick.
“Offensive lineman, and I’m going to go either Cody Ford or Jonah Williams, depending on whether they go inside or outside,” Warner said.
ESPN analyst Todd McShay shares the belief that offensive line will be Minnesota’s focus but emphasized that Spielman won’t reach for a player simply to get a specific position.
“But I think a guy like Cody Ford, who has some versatility … would be a possibility. I think he’s a really good player,” McShay said. “One of the offensive tackles, offensive guards, I think makes sense. And ideally someone with some versatility.”
ESPN analyst Mel Kiper and Stanford Head Coach David Shaw opined that offensive line will be Minnesota’s first choice, but they could also see the Vikings adding a defensive end, depending on what the board looks like when they’re on the clock.
Kiper highlighted Williams as a good fit but proposed that if he – or others who would work well in the Vikings scheme – are no longer on the board, an edge rusher could be a possibility.
“Maybe Montez Sweat from Mississippi State drops down that far. Maybe Rashan Gary, Michigan, drops down there,” Kiper said.
Added Shaw: “There are a lot of pass rushers in this draft, and I know [Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer], and he likes guys to get after the quarterback.”
NFL.com’s Dave Dameshek bucked the trend, going against “conventional wisdom” and throwing a new name in the hat, Florida State edge rusher Brian Burns.
And last but not least, ESPN’s Trey Wingo avoided making a pick altogether and instead focused on philosophy.
“You know, Rick Spielman won’t call me,” Wingo laughed. “But if he did, I’d say, ‘Rick, trust your board.’ I think that’s what the Vikings have to do.”