Thursday marks five weeks from the 2019 NFL Draft as the buzz and excitement around one of the league’s top offseason events begins to grow.
The Vikings currently have eight selections in the draft, starting with the 18th overall pick, as Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman and his staff will look to improve Minnesota’s roster over a three-day window in late April.
Yet as the days dwindle until the draft, ESPN draft expert Mel Kiper, Jr., recently took a look back to a year ago and analyzed how the Vikings did in the 2018 edition.
Kiper gave the Vikings a ‘B’ grade immediately following the 2018 draft, and then gave them the same grade in his recent re-evaluation.
Kiper, who projected Minnesota will focus on its offensive line next month, wrote:
The Vikings' biggest need in the 2018 draft ... is the Vikings' biggest need in the 2019 draft. Their offensive line was so poor in front of Kirk Cousins that it's tough to evaluate his debut season in Minnesota. GM Rick Spielman tried to address the tackle spot in Round 2, taking Pitt's Brian O'Neill, who ended up starting 11 games. He was inconsistent, but that was to be expected for a raw converted tight end, and O'Neill has probably locked in a starting spot on the right side. The guard spots, however, are still iffy.
Top pick Mike Hughes had a promising debut with a pick-six in the season opener but tore his ACL in October and was lost for the season. If he can make it back to full strength, he'll be a solid No. 2 or 3 corner in Minnesota. Spielman and Mike Zimmer might have found another steal in corner Holton Hill, who went undrafted and ended up playing quite a bit.
There's not much else here for the Vikings, and there were two notable misses on Day 3. Kicker Daniel Carlson -- who cost the team a fifth-round pick -- was cut after two games, then latched on with the Raiders and had a good year. Sixth-round pick Colby Gossett didn't make the team, was picked up by the Cardinals, then started four games. He could have been the developmental guard to help Minnesota down the road.
With Hughes' high ceiling and O'Neill a likely starter, this class has a chance to be good in 2019 and beyond.
Hughes chatted with the Twin Cities media in late December and gave the most-recent update on his health.
O’Neill started 11 games at right tackle and played 76 percent of Minnesota’s offensive snaps.
Sloter ready to compete for Vikings backup QB gig
The Vikings currently have a pair of quarterbacks on their roster after Trevor Siemian agreed to a deal with the Jets earlier this week.
Siemian was Minnesota’s backup behind Kirk Cousins in 2018, but was ahead of Kyle Sloter on the depth chart.
Sloter now appears to have a chance to seize the backup job, and he spoke with Chris Tomasson of the Pioneer Press about the potential opportunity.
Sloter, entering his third season, never has taken a regular-season snap. He was active for six games as a rookie in 2017 when Sam Bradford and Teddy Bridgewater had injuries but didn’t get into any games with Case Keenum having been the starter.
Sloter last season played behind Cousins and Siemian. He wasn’t active for any games.
“It’s never a given, it’s always earned,” Sloter said of the backup job. “I’m going to have to prove that I can do it first, and if that’s something they want to put on my plate, I’m ready to tackle it.’’
Sloter was one of Minnesota’s top performers in the preseason in 2018. He compiled a passer rating of 114.1 while completing 41 of 56 passes (73.2 percent) for 366 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions in four games of work.
The Vikings picked up Sloter after he was released by Denver following the 2017 preseason.