Altogether, the NFC North made 40 selections during the 2020 NFL Draft, with the Vikings selecting a whopping 15 players.
NFL.com's Gennaro Filice recently looked at the division and named the "best pick," "most surprising pick" and "biggest sleeper." He opined that the best was Minnesota's selection of LSU receiver Justin Jefferson at No. 22, which was the pick received in a trade with Buffalo for receiver Stefon Diggs.
Filice called Green Bay's first-round selection of QB Jordan Love (26th overall) the most surprising and edge rusher Julian Okwara, whom the Lions picked 67th overall, as the biggest sleeper.
And which team stood out in the division for having the best overall draft? Filice gave the title to Minnesota with an "A" grade for its three-day haul. He wrote:
At this moment – days after the picks were made and long before anyone's set to take a real, live NFL snap – I think [Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman] nailed it. And not just because he made half the picks in the entire draft. (OK, 15 to be exact.) The Vikings first three selections could very well produce three Day 1 starters. Jefferson replaces Stefon Diggs opposite Adam Thielen in the receiving corps, while [Jeff] Gladney and veteran CB Mike Hughes will hit the starting lineup following the departures of [outside corners] Xavier Rhodes and Trae Waynes.
[Ezra] Cleveland might claim the tackle slot opposite Brian O'Neill, kicking Riley Reiff inside to guard and giving Minnesota the most athletic bookend duo in the league – a highly enticing possibility, given how much the Vikings outside-zone scheme relies on OL mobility. One Day 3 pick to keep an eye on is [Troy] Dye. A long, athletic linebacker with legit coverage chops, the 6-foot-3, 231-pounder led Oregon in tackles during each of the past four seasons. He might be limited to special teams duty in Year 1, but don't be surprised if Dye eventually joins Eric Kendricks and Anthony Barr in the starting lineup, giving the Vikes a versatile linebacking corps ideally suited to the modern game.
Filice gave Detroit an "A-," Chicago a "C" and Green Bay a "D" for their drafts.
Vikings 1st-round trade ranked best of 2020 NFL Draft
Vikings fans have grown accustomed to seeing Spielman make various trades throughout the three-day NFL Draft.
And although there wasn't quite as much movement during this year's all-remote event, Spielman still pulled a few switcheroos that worked in Minnesota's favor.
ESPN's Seth Walder recently used analytics to rank this year's best trades, offering the following explanation:
We'll rank them by how much extra value the winning team gained, compared to how much it gave up. For the sake of this exercise, we have assumed that 2021 picks will be in the middle of the round and, somewhat arbitrarily, deemed them worth 90 percent of the value of a 2020 selection.
Minnesota's first-round transaction topped his list. After drafting Jefferson from the 22nd overall spot, the Vikings traded the No. 25 pick to the 49ers, who gave in return the 31st, 117th and 176th selections.
Walder said he was "confused" by San Francisco's approach to the first round in general but that Spielman and the Vikings "deserve credit" for the move.
They were presented with an offer that moved them down six spots and paid them much more than those six spots are worth, and they took the deal.
Cumulatively, the Vikings four pick-for-pick trades in this draft netted them surplus value worth a pick in the middle of the second round. That could be nudged in either direction a bit, depending on how one views picks for 2021 (we credited them as being worth 90 percent of a present pick), but regardless, the result is clear: Minnesota's process increased its expected output from the draft.
The Vikings used the 31st pick to draft TCU cornerback Jeff Gladney, the 117th pick for South Carolina defensive end D.J. Wonnum and the 176th pick for Miami receiver/returner K.J. Osborn.
Walder's other highlighted trades were between the Chargers and Patriots, Browns and Saints, Jets and Seahawks, and Jets and Patriots.
Dantzler among PFF's 'top 10 underrated picks'
The Vikings have historically found value picks in later rounds of the draft, and they're hoping that this year is no exception.
Analytics site Pro Football Focus recently included Minnesota in its "2020 NFL Draft Steals" article that tabbed 10 "underrated picks who could turn into gems." PFF's Michael Renner wrote:
Not every late-round pick in the NFL draft is created equal. In fact, many late-rounders have yet to perform at a high level even in college and are purely athletic players with upside. Sometimes, though, you'll see very productive college players with more than enough tools to succeed at the NFL level fall in the draft for one reason or another.
Third on Renner's list was Mississippi State cornerback Cam Dantzler, whom the Vikings selected at No. 89 overall. PFF had ranked Dantzler as the 50th-best player heading into the draft.
Although Dantzler received criticism for his 4.64 time in the 40-yard dash at the combine, Renner pointed out that his game tape "never showed a 'slow' corner," highlighting Dantzler's performances against the Alabama and LSU receivers in 2019.
What the tape did show was an extremely skinny corner […] Now, though, Dantzler gets the benefit of an NFL weight room and nothing other than weight training to focus on year-round. If he can put on the requisite muscle, Dantzler is far better than a late third-rounder. With as many losses as the Vikings suffered at corner this offseason, that's good news for Minnesota.