EAGAN, Minn. — With the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft just one week away, the Vikings are sure to have some options when they're on the clock with the 12th overall pick.
But what is the ideal scenario for Minnesota and new General Manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah, who's set to navigate his first draft in that role?
Vikings.com posed that question to NFL.com draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah, who held a 90-minute conference call Thursday afternoon with members of the national media.
Jeremiah said that in a perfect world, Minnesota would take a certain cornerback with the No. 12 selection.
"To me, the ideal situation would be if somehow Derek Stingley, Jr., were to fall to you there at 12," Jeremiah said. "I would have thought that was a legit possibility a couple weeks ago before the [LSU] pro day. After the pro day, he showed he's back healthy and moving around well, and I've heard from teams he's visited that he's been impressive going through that process."
Stingley missed all but three games in 2021 due to a foot injury and played in seven games in 2020. He starred as a freshman in 2019, recording six interceptions and garnering consensus First-Team All-American honors.
Jeremiah noted that his own perception of Stingley has changed of late after he learned more about the foot injury.
"I mentioned this on TV the other day, but this was an injury he had that was really bothering him in training camp," Jeremiah said. "This is information that I've got in the past couple weeks, the fact that he didn't have any contact at all before the UCLA game [in early September]. They held him back, his foot had been bothering him and they didn't want him to get hurt.
"He did not play well at all in that game, and that was my first exposure to him this season," Jeremiah continued. "I kind of questioned whether he really wanted to be out there. He was kind of going through the motions and not competitive at times. It really bothered me.
"He got shut down a couple weeks after that, but that is an issue he'd been dealing with that whole time," Jeremiah added. "It was backed by all the medical stuff, but he was just unable to push off that foot. It ended up being a negative thing initially, but I give him some credit for it now, just trying to go out there and compete when he wasn't right. Teams have all that information."
Jeremiah also noted that Stingley's impressive freshman debut will likely give teams in the top-10 plenty to think about.
"He wasn't great in 2020; he was good. He was phenomenal in 2019," Jeremiah said. "In a draft like this, where there's a lot of unknowns, he allows you to dream on the upside.
"I think he'd be a home-run pick at 12, but I'm at the point in the process where I don't think he gets out of the top 10," Jeremiah added.
Here are three more takeaways from Jeremiah's conference call:
Unpredictability at all-time high
It goes without saying it's always difficult to predict how players will file off the board during an NFL Draft.
Some drafts have more question marks than others, though, and Jeremiah has a hard time coming up with a draft that's felt more uncertain than 2022.
"You know,  with Baker Mayfield going No. 1 … that one was unpredictable. We kind of went into that process and it was Josh Allen, potentially, it was Sam Darnold, and then Baker kind of came out of left field and ended up being the first pick," Jeremiah said. "So there was some unpredictability there. I would say this is along those lines, but even more so."
View photos of potential edge rushers the Vikings can select in the 2022 NFL Draft.
As an example, Jeremiah pointed to Purdue's George Karlaftis and teams' varying opinions on the defensive end.
"There's teams that think he's one of the top 15 players, and then there's teams who think he's, you know, he's not worth a first- or second-round pick," Jeremiah noted. "That's how all over the board teams are on some of these guys. That's where, to me, it's different than any other draft."
Though there's been some rumblings that an offensive skill player won't go in the first 10 picks, Jeremiah believes there will be at least one receiver taken in that realm.
"There are too many teams that have young quarterbacks and have needs for playmakers," Jeremiah said, highlighting the Jets as an example. "If the Jets [kept those first-round] picks, 4 and 10, and they had the pick of the litter at No. 10, with all the wideouts still left, I would have a hard time believing that they don't walk away with that guy."
The Vikings aren't slated to pick until No. 12, but how the 11 preceding selections play out will of course affect Minnesota's options.
Praise for McDuffie
While Stingley was Jeremiah's above pick to the Vikings at No. 12, Trent McDuffie is another cornerback who could also be considered.
The former Washington standout was the team's Most Outstanding Defensive Player at the 2021 postseason banquet. He was also a 2021 First-Team All-Pac-12 selection, which followed up Second-Team All-Pac-12 honors in 2020.
Jeremiah said McDuffie has all of the characteristics to succeed in the league.
"We used to do this thing in Baltimore, and they still do it to this day, where they have 'red star players.' You put the red star on a guy that you just want in the building," Jeremiah said. "He might not be the best player in the draft, might not be the best player at his position and might not be the best player at his school.
"But he's somebody that fits the culture, is tough, intelligent, competitive," Jeremiah added. "To me, Trent McDuffie is a red star, a red-star guy. The way he plays, everything I hear about him from an intangibles standpoint."
McDuffie is generally regarded as one of the three best cornerbacks in this draft class, along with Ahmad "Sauce" Gardner and Stingley.
3 is the magic number
What defines a "successful draft" for a team?
It may be difficult to measure, and it's certainly tough to do so immediately – though it sometimes happens.
"There are some years where you're going to know right away. I think we can all agree the Bengals had a good draft last year, just with what they got out of Ja'Marr Chase right out of the shoot," Jeremiah said.
In general, though, he opined teams aim to get three starters out of a draft.
"And you're talking about over a three-year process. So, within three years, if you had come out of that with three guys who are solid starters, guys you're not looking to replace – 'winning players' would be another phrase you'd hear – that's a really, really solid draft. You get four? Man, you're cookin' with gas when you get four," Jeremiah said.
He used the Seahawks 2012 draft class as an example of successfully building a foundation.
"I think they had four or five guys who ended up being key, key players on their team out of one draft, and they built a championship team off that one draft," Jeremiah said. "If you can back that up – you know, if you go back-to-back years with three or four quality starters, you're really on to something there. But that's usually the goal, to come away with three, and anything above that, you're really cooking."