The Vikings added six new players through the 2023 NFL Draft.
ESPN's Matt Miller recently looked at the complete, 259-player draft class of all 32 teams and opined the 100 “best” picks. He offered the following explanation for his process:
This isn't just a list of the best prospects – we did that before the draft. Instead, we are incorporating a bit more into the equation than just what each prospect put on tape. To create our list of the best 100 picks, we factored in value (where a player was drafted vs. where he was ranked pre-draft), scheme fit, how the selection addressed a need and whether additional assets were gained or lost in draft-day trades to acquire the prospect.
Miller included two Vikings in his top 100: wide receiver Jordan Addison, whom Minnesota snagged with the 23rd overall pick, and quarterback Jaren Hall, selected 164th overall.
Miller tabbed Addison as the 33rd best selection in this year's draft.
When Adam Thielen wasn't brought back for the 2023 season, we knew the Vikings [needed to fill a WR spot] in the draft. And with only [five] selections when the draft began, it had to be early. Addison was my WR3 but top-ranked slot receiver. He'll step right in and contribute as a rookie.
Hall, meanwhile, landed at No. 73 on Miller's list.
Veteran Kirk Cousins is set to hit free agency after the 2023 season. He will be 35 years old at that point, and the Vikings will have to make a decision on how long to invest in him. Hall enters the picture with a chance to beat out Nick Mullens for the QB2 job and prove to the coaching staff that he's a starting-caliber passer.
Interesting to note are Miller's top five selections deemed "best" in this year's draft, from 1 to 5, respectively: WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba (Seahawks), QB C.J. Stroud (Texans), DT Jalen Carter (Eagles), CB Joey Porter, Jr. (Steelers) and CB Devon Witherspoon.
The Vikings will face Carter this season as they're slated to travel to Philadelphia. Another player they'll see in 2023 is Falcons running back Bijan Robinson, who landed at No. 6 in Miller's rankings.
Some will argue with the value of drafting a running back in the first round, but Robinson will be a three-down offensive playmaker in Atlanta while immediately taking pressure off second-year quarterback Desmond Ridder. The Falcons have built an offensive line and group of skill players that can compete with any team in the NFL. Now it's on Ridder to prove he's worthy of leading the offense.
View college action photos of every Vikings pick from the 2023 NFL Draft.
Nystrom Ranks Vikings UDFA Class at 5th in NFL
In addition to their six draft picks, the Vikings reached agreements with 15 undrafted free agents.
Draft analyst Thor Nystrom recently ranked teams’ UDFA classes for FantasyPros.com, and he said Minnesota has the fifth-best group.
View photos of the 15 undrafted free agents the Vikings have agreed to terms with following the 2023 NFL Draft.
Nystrom said the Vikings were "atypically aggressive" in securing the UDFAs they were passionate about this year, especially focusing on Andre Carter II and Ivan Pace, Jr. Nystrom wrote:
Carter has intriguing pass-rushing upside, but he'll be unplayable against the run until he hits the weights and substantially improves his play strength. He can be a situational pass-rushing 3-4 OLB next year with a little special teams work sprinkled in (I'll bet money he's at least on the FG block unit, as he was the past-three years at Army).
But Carter wasn't my highest-ranked Vikings UDFA signing. That would be Cincinnati LB Ivan Pace, Jr., who ranked No. 2 on my UDFA board (Carter was No. 25). I'm stunned Pace went undrafted. Last year, he posted 137 tackles, including 21.5 TFL, 55 pressures and 12 sacks. Pace was PFF's top-graded FBS linebacker (including No. 3 in run defense and No. 1 in pass-rushing grade).
Pace was heavily dinged because he's 5-foot-10, doesn't have a big tackling radius, and underwhelmed during athletic testing (57th-percentile size-adjusted composite). But how does a player with this skill set not turn into at least a strong NFL special teams player? A muscle-hamster type, Pace plays with plugged-into-a-reactor energy and a take-no-prisoners bent for violence.
Nystrom added a few other notes on the Vikings UDFAs, including that Illinois defensive tackle Calvin Avery "could rally for a roster spot" in Minnesota this season.
[Avery] was one of this class's few true 0-tech space-eaters. Southeastern Louisiana's Cephus Johnson III was an interesting dart-throw. Johnson was an athletic 6-foot-5, 220-pound collegiate quarterback who dabbled at receiver who the Vikings intend to transition to WR full-time. [Malik] Knowles is a skilled returner with track speed. His odds of getting drafted were neutered when he wasn't able to test due to a knee injury.
PFF tabs 'most underrated player' on each NFL team
Analytics site Pro Football Focus delved into each team's roster and highlighted their "most underrated player" heading into the 2023 season.
PFF's William Moy pointed to defensive tackle Harrison Phillips in Minnesota, noting his PFF grade of 72.0 in his first season with the Vikings. Moy wrote:
Phillips struggled as a pass-rusher last season, but he was stout against the run. He was one of 28 interior defenders last season to log at least 300 snaps defending the run and among that group, he ranked seventh with a 73.8 run defense grade. Phillips was 10thin positive grade rate when stopping the run while also posting the seventh-best negative grade rate.
The Vikings signed Phillips in free agency last spring, after he spent his first four NFL seasons in Buffalo.
He started all 17 games for Minnesota in 2022, totaling 59 tackles (28 solo), 1.5 sacks, 3.0 tackles for loss and a fumble recovery.