Skip to main content

News | Minnesota Vikings –

NFL Draft Experts Evaluate 5 Scenarios for Vikings at 14th Pick
By Eric Smith Apr 28, 2021
Photographs By Ben Liebenberg/AP

When the 2021 NFL Draft kicks off Thursday night from Cleveland, the Vikings (and their fans) will likely have to wait around two hours before the 14th pick rolls around.

But when it is Minnesota's turn on the clock, many believe Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman and his staff are set to be in a favorable scenario near the middle of the first round.

"It's a funny business, isn't it? Nobody really wants to pick high because that means your team was likely lousy the year before," said analyst Charles Davis, who works for CBS and NFL Network. "But what does every fan base want? To pick high! Because they want to get the players they want.

"Pick No. 14 feels a little like no man's land to a lot of fans," Davis added, "but I think the Vikings are in good shape."

NFL Network draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah said: "The Vikings are going to have the pick of the litter at some of these positions, and they're in a really good spot."

Added CBS Sports draft expert Chris Trapasso: "Aligning with what the Vikings needs are, sitting at 14 is a really luxurious spot for them."

Here's why…

To start, there are five star quarterbacks (Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson, Trey Lance, Justin Fields and Mac Jones) that have routinely been projected to go in the top 10 of the draft. Additionally, a trio of high-caliber receivers (LSU's Ja'Marr Chase and Alabama's Jaylen Waddle and DeVonta Smith), Florida tight end Kyle Pitts and Oregon tackle Penei Sewell have all been projected as top-10 picks in most mock drafts.

(A note that these players are going in the top 10 in this exercise only. Other players could certainly be top-10 picks, and the above players could be there at No. 14, but more on that later).

That projected cluster of players — none of whom play defense — eat up 10 spots already. On the other side of the ball, Penn State linebacker Micah Parsons could be in the mix in the top 13 selections. The same could be said for a cornerback or two.

Either way, the talent (and positions) that go off the board early could mean players the Vikings covet at positions of highest needs could be in play in the first round.

"You're in a place where there's a very good chance you can get a top-level player that fans will be thrilled about," Davis said. "That's the way I see it, and a lot of it is that those five quarterbacks and three receivers eat up eight spots before we even start talking about other players."

Let's take a deeper dive at five distinct scenarios that Minnesota has with the 14th overall pick.

Scenario 1: Offset offseason loss along offensive line

The Vikings certainly have a need along the offensive line, as the slight majority of mock drafts these days have Minnesota addressing the trenches.

With Riley Reiff gone, there is a potential need at left tackle. And left guard is also a focus, even with the return of Dakota Dozier and trade for Mason Cole.

"Offensive tackle is the obvious glaring hole that they have right now, with what happened with Riley Reiff and them deciding to go a different direction," said Jordan Reid of The Draft Network. "They do still have to decide exactly what they want to do.

"Bringing Rashod Hill back was great, just because he's been that great guy off the bench, as far as the No. 3, swing tackle," Reid added. "There still is a huge hole there, as far as the starter, but the future, we don't know what they're going to do with Ezra Cleveland, whether they're going to leave him at right guard or transition him to left tackle. If that happens, now you're talking about a hole at guard as well."

While Oregon's Sewell is likely to be gone by the 14th pick, Northwestern's Rashawn Slater is another name who is routinely off the board in the top 13 picks in most mock drafts.

Draft expert Dane Brugler of The Athletic believes that could leave two big names in play along the offensive line for the Vikings in Virginia Tech tackle Christian Darrisaw, and Alijah Vera-Tucker of Southern Cal, who shined at both guard and tackle on the left side for the Trojans.

"Sewell and Slater are probably off the board at that point, but the offensive line class this year is a really strong group," Brugler said. "Darrisaw and Vera-Tucker, both of those guys could be there at 14 and both would make some sense if they want to get better on the offensive line."

Trapasso also envisioned the scenario where the Vikings could go with one of those two standout linemen.

"It could be between those two. I have Darrisaw graded higher than Vera-Tucker, but Vera-Tucker is interesting for the Vikings because he has guard/tackle flexibility," Trapasso said. "We saw in 2019 that he played like a first-round guard, but then in 2020 he made the obscure move out to left tackle and was still fantastic there.

"The Vikings could play him at guard to begin his career, and then kick him out to tackle down the road," Trapasso added. "It all hinges on what they want to do with [2020 second-rounder] Ezra Cleveland. If they move him out to left tackle, that would create a guard position for Vera-Tucker."

Jeremiah, one of the most well-respected voices this time of year, had high praise for Vera-Tucker.

"He's one of my favorite players in the whole draft. He can play darned near anywhere," Jeremiah said. "I think he's going to be an All-Pro guard. He can hold up at tackle if you wanted him to. But you want to get better along that offensive line, I think he's just one of the cleanest, safest picks in the whole draft."

If the Vikings do in fact address their offensive line, NFL Network's Brian Baldinger (a former NFL lineman) believes the Vikings could instantly improve that unit.

"I think you can get an elite offensive lineman — a Day 1 starter at 14 — if you wanted to do that," Baldinger said. "If I had Dalvin Cook and my head coach is Mike Zimmer — he just wants to put the other team in a phone booth and just maul them — you get yourself a starting offensive lineman with the 14th pick."

The last time the Vikings took a tackle in the first round was in 2012, when Matt Kalil was selected fourth overall. And 1988 was the last time the Vikings took a guard in Round 1, but Hall of Famer Randall McDaniel worked out pretty well.

For more, check out recaps of prospects at tackle and guard/center.

Scenario 2: Pump up the pass rush

Minnesota's defense struggled for most of the 2020 season, with some of that having to do with the absence of Pro Bowl defensive end Danielle Hunter. He missed the entire season with a neck injury, and the defense lacked without the skills that have helped him record 54.5 career sacks.

But even with Hunter's expected return in 2020, plus the signing of old friend Stephen Weatherly and 2020 fourth-rounder D.J. Wonnum having a season under his belt, there's an argument to be made that the Vikings need to add help at defensive end.

And unlike at offensive line, where a handful of players at that position could already be taken, most experts believe Minnesota could be in line to select the very first edge rusher of the 2021 NFL Draft.

"They're going to have potentially an opportunity to get the best edge rusher in the draft, if that's what they're looking to do," Jeremiah said. "They could get at least who they have as the highest-rated edge rusher."

Brugler said: "If the Vikings want to go defense at No. 14, they're going to have their pick of one of the top defenders in the entire draft. A pass rusher could be in play there."

Trapasso added: "Looking at the teams in front of the Vikings, I don't see a team that is squarely in the edge rusher market."

Despite heavily focusing on his defense in free agency, let's say Zimmer wants to really erase the bitter taste of 2020 for his defense and keep stacking talent on that side of the ball.

Here are some names that have been projected to the Vikings recently.

"It could be [Miami's] Jaelan Phillips, who fits the Vikings prototype being long and athletic (6-foot-6 and 260 pounds) … he has a high upside," Trapasso said. "Kwity Paye is great against the run but is a little bit on the smaller side than what they've picked in the past, but he actually reminds me a lot of Everson Griffen.

"But they'll have their pick of the litter at the edge rusher spot if that's what Mike Zimmer ultimately thinks they need to address in Round 1," Trapasso added.

Davis said: "To me, Jaelan Phillips is the best edge rusher that I've seen from a guy who clearly puts his hand in that ground."

Phillips had 45 tackles (21 solo), 15.5 tackles for loss, 8.0 sacks, an interception and three passes defended in 10 games in 2020. Paye (6-foot-3 and 261 pounds) recorded 16 tackles (12 solo), 4.0 tackles for loss, 2.0 sacks in just four games of a shortened season.

Miami's Gregory Rousseau (6-foot-7 and 266 pounds), Georgia's Azeez Ojulari (6-foot-2 and 249 pounds) or Penn State's Jayson Oweh (6-foot-5 and 257 pounds) could also be names to watch.

"I don't think there's a dominant edge rusher in this draft," Baldinger said. "But if you like some of these guys, they might be hanging around at 14."

For more, check out recaps of prospects at defensive end/edge rusher.

Scenario 3: Upend most mocks by going safety, cornerback, linebacker or receiver

The quartet of positions above are dark horses, as they haven't been frequently-projected positions to the Vikings this offseason.

But a handful of experts have given the Vikings one of these positions from time to time based on how their boards have fallen.

At safety, the Vikings could perhaps look long-term with Harrison Smith entering the final season of his contract, and the newly-signed Xavier Woods on a one-year deal.

Cornerback is in a similar spot, as Patrick Peterson and Mackensie Alexander were recently inked to one-year deals as free agents. Minnesota still has some young corners on the roster, including 2018 first-rounder Mike Hughes, who has battled injuries in each of his first three seasons.

Minnesota expects to have a pair of Pro-Bowl linebackers on the field in 2021 with Eric Kendricks and Anthony Barr after missing both players because of injuries for significant parts of 2020.

Barr played fewer than six quarters before a torn pec ended his season. He restructured his contract this offseason and is now entering the final year of his deal. Kendricks was on pace to earn another All-Pro selection before a calf injury in a practice cut his season short by five games.

Some experts believe the Vikings could play the long game and draft a linebacker for the future even though the position doesn't feel like an immediate need.

"You look at the linebacker position, if they wanted to reinforce that, you get the best linebacker in the draft at that point in time," Jeremiah said. "There's a chance that Parsons could be there if you wanted to go there."

Jeremiah also has Notre Dame's Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, Kentucky's Jamin Davis and Tulsa's Zaven Collins as top-25 players in his draft rankings.

And if you're looking for a curveball on offense, perhaps the Vikings could look to hit on a first-round wide receiver, much like they did a season ago with Justin Jefferson.

He made the Pro Bowl and racked up a rookie-record 1,400 yards in 2020, teaming with Adam Thielen to create one of the top receiving duos across the league.

Minnesota has primarily used a run-first offense in the past two seasons, but perhaps new Vikings Offensive Coordinator Klint Kubiak will tweak the percentages and throw more. If that's the case, a wide receiver could be in play, especially if one of the three aforementioned receivers (Chase, Waddle and Smith) slide toward the middle of the first round.

"You can probably get yourself an elite receiver at 14," Baldinger said.

Jeremiah predicted Smith, the 2020 Heisman Trophy winner, to the Vikings in a mock draft earlier this offseason. It's an idea that Trapasso supports if it were to play out Thursday night.

"We're seeing all this talk about DeVonta Smith falling a little bit," Trapasso said last week. "Edge rusher and offensive tackle are the two biggest priorities, but if Smith is sitting there at No. 14 — he's a similar guy like Justin Jefferson — I think you have to think about that, too.

"You could help [Kirk] Cousins to get the absolute most out of him," Trapasso added.

Scenario 4: What if there's a quarterback too good to pass up?

Speaking of Cousins, what about the position he plays? Numerous fans have floated the idea of drafting a quarterback at No. 14 in multiple Monday Morning Mailbags, but what would that scenario look like?

Cousins still has two seasons left on his current contract and has played three solid seasons in Purple since 2018.

Lawrence is widely-viewed as a near-lock as the No. 1 pick, and most believe Wilson will go No. 2 to the Jets. The 49ers orchestrated a massive trade last month to move up to the third spot, and will likely go with one of the three other signal-callers in Lance, Fields or Jones.

No matter the order, many expect three quarterbacks to be taken with the first three picks for the first time since 1999. If four QBs go in the top four picks, that could be a first in draft history. But many expect all five to go before the Vikings are on the clock.

Between pick Nos. 4 and 13, teams such as the Falcons, Lions, Panthers, Broncos and Giants could all potentially be in the mix for a quarterback. Teams in the bottom half of the first round could also swing a trade to jump in front of the Vikings for one of these players, too.

"At 14, a lot of craziness would have to unfold for a quarterback to be there," Trapasso said.

But if a quarterback falls to Minnesota, what does Trapasso believe the Vikings would do?

"What I'll say about the quarterbacks is that I think there will be one that falls a little bit," Trapasso said. "It doesn't always happen, but when there's so much speculation and not a real clear indication after the top few … Mac Jones could go No. 3 overall, a team could trade up for the upside of Trey Lance and then it's Justin Fields who ultimately falls a little bit.

"If Lance or Fields happens to be available at 14, you would really have to take a long, hard look if you were the Vikings," Trapasso added. "You have Kirk Cousins on the roster, but either of those quarterbacks would make a whole lot of sense in the long view. But I do think Spielman and Zimmer are in a win-now situation and would maybe shy away from that."

Of course, if a quarterback does indeed fall to No. 14, it could mean Spielman springs into action for one of his favorite parts of the draft … wheeling and dealing through a trade.

Scenario 5: Trade back to add picks

Minnesota has 10 picks in the 2021 NFL Draft, a haul that includes a first-rounder, a pair of thirds and four different fourth-rounders. The Vikings do not currently have a second-round pick, as it was sent to Jacksonville in the Yannick Ngakoue trade in August.

But some experts believe Spielman will do anything he can to ensure the Vikings don't have to wait out a 64-pick span between the first and third rounds.

"I would be shocked if Spielman picks at 14, especially with him not having a second-rounder," Reid said. "I think he's going to try to get that back."

A pair of draft analysts believe that having a quarterback fall to the 14th spot would simply be a win-win scenario for Minnesota. In that scenario, Trapasso believes there's a strong chance the Vikings would move down in the first round.

View every Vikings first round draft pick through the years.

"I think it would be high, like an 80-percent chance," Trapasso said. "Maybe they say, 'We have our quarterback, let's trade back and get extra picks.' Then, when you have 13 or 14 selections, use some of those later picks to trade up in Rounds 2 and 3 to get more picks in those valuable rounds.

"If Lance was there, there would be a lot of temptation," Trapasso said. "But ultimately, I think the Vikings would get a lot of phone calls and could trade back, and then still get an upper-echelon edge rusher or maybe an offensive lineman in Round 1."

Brugler also gave his assessment on what could happen if a quarterback is on the board at No. 14.

"The interesting thing is what kind of trade offer would they maybe get," Brugler said. "With the Vikings picking right in front of the Patriots (15th) … and you look at Washington (19th), Chicago (20th), Pittsburgh (24th) … if one of these quarterbacks were to make it to pick No. 14, you're just hoping your phone rings.

"Then you have a chance to trade back and still get a pretty good player, while also getting a future first-rounder or multiple 2s or whatever the offer ends up being," Brugler added. "I think the Vikings should absolutely consider a quarterback at that point based on their own evaluations, but you're hoping for options, for the phone to ring and some good trade offers so you can move around."

And while a handful of experts said a trade back is likely, they mostly rejected the possibility of the Vikings moving up in the first round — something Spielman has never done (he traded to get back into the first round in 2012, 2013 and 2014) — mostly because of their lack of the second-rounder.

We are less than 48 hours from the draft, the league's annual marquee event that is often compared to throwing darts at a board.

The hope is that the Vikings hit big on their first-round pick, much like Spielman has done in his tenure with the likes of Jefferson, Barr, Smith and Adrian Peterson.

But anyone who has ever been associated with the draft is also aware of the twists and turns that are sure to play out Thursday night.

"You just never know with the draft," Brugler said with a laugh. "Crazy things happen, but that's one of the reasons we love it so much. It's going to be fun to see it all play out."

Buckle up. The 2021 NFL Draft is here.

back to top