EAGAN, Minn. – ESPN analyst Todd McShay now expects the Vikings to select a defensive back with the 12th overall pick of the 2022 NFL Draft.
McShay spoke Thursday via conference call to reporters around the league. He acknowledged that his previous mock draft – which had the Vikings taking Florida State defensive end Jermaine Johnson II, who played at Eden Prairie High School – became outdated "about 8 seconds" after he posted it, because it was shortly before the start of free agency.
Minnesota retained Danielle Hunter and signed free agent OLB Za'Darius Smith last week, creating a duo that Head Coach Kevin O'Connell believes will be important in attacking opponents.
With edge rusher no longer looking like the Vikings most pressing need, McShay said to keep an eye on cornerbacks – or even safeties – on the board when pick No. 12 rolls around.
A scenario in which Minnesota could take a safety, McShay said, is if Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton happens to fall, although the draft expert said he could see Hamilton going as high as Detroit's No. 2 pick.
Hamilton ran the 40-yard dash in 4.59 seconds at the NFL Scouting Combine ("and a little bit worse on some scouts' watches" at his pro day). The slower-than-expected time could potentially affect where teams grade him on their board.
"And then also the fact that the safety position, which has more value than it did in years past, but still, it's not quarterback, edge rusher, tackle, wide receiver, corner – to me, those are the premier positions in the National Football League," McShay said. "So I think there's a chance that some teams could wind up passing on him. It's an outside shot, but that would be kind of your home-run pick, is if Kyle Hamilton – whom I believe is one of the five best football players in this draft – were to fall to 12."
If Hamilton does in fact get tagged before Minnesota is on the clock, McShay said the Vikings should take a cornerback there.
Multiple times during Thursday's call, McShay mentioned Cincinnati's Ahmad "Sauce" Gardner as the best corner in this year's class. Next for McShay is Derek Stingley, Jr., who overlapped with Vikings receiver Justin Jefferson at LSU.
"Derek Stingley would have been the No. 1 corner if you just graded him off of 2019 tape," McShay said, "but the last two years, just 10 games played, injuries, shying away from contact … But I still think he's a top-15 pick."
Washington cornerback Trent McDuffie also could be in that general area, said McShay, who added it is "fascinating" to talk with teams and hear the different ways the above corners are ranked.
"Most teams I've talked to have Sauce Gardner as the first corner. A couple teams I've talked to have Derek Stingley from LSU as the top corner," McShay said. "A couple teams I've talked to – more than a couple, probably three or four different teams – think that he might not even go in the top 15 picks and could be the third or fourth corner to come off the board."
Regardless, though, there will be a cornerback of good value available for the Vikings at No. 12 if they decide to go that route.
"Whether it's Derek Stingley, Trent McDuffie, who's a really good all-around player, really instinctive, excellent – I think the best – tackling corner in this class and can play a combination of zone and man and do different things," McShay said. "I think they'll be on the board. I think there's a really good chance of Stingley and McDuffie will be on the board at No. 12."
Last month at the combine in Indianapolis, McShay's ESPN colleague Matt Miller tabbed Stingley as a great fit for Minnesota.
"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. "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. If you get coached up and he gets in a scheme, a [Vikings Defensive Coordinator] Ed Donatell scheme, I think, would be great for Stingley," Miller added.
McShay added linebacker and interior offensive line as other positions of need for the Vikings but opined that they'd be looked at later in the draft.