Back in April, Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman and Minnesota’s front office selected a whopping 12 players in the 2019 NFL Draft.
The dozen players drafted by the Vikings tied for the most players in a single class since 1991, way back when former Vikings wide receiver Jake Reed was selected and the annual event was still 12 rounds.
The dozen players that Spielman and his team drafted this year over the course of seven rounds have since taken part in spring practices, their first training camp and are now getting a taste of preseason action.
ESPN’s team of NFL beat reporters recently provided an update on all 254 players taken in the draft, with Vikings writer Courtney Cronin looking at the dozen players who landed in Minnesota.
Cronin started with first-round center Garrett Bradbury, who was the 18th overall selection and the third offensive linemen off the board.
The top center in college football last year has stayed ahead of the curve in his transition to the NFL. Minnesota’s offensive line underwent a lot of changes on the interior, and Bradbury’s ability to execute the calls and manage the game are critical to the success of this unit.
Second-round pick Irv Smith, Jr., a tight end from Alabama, has also impressed early on, while the Vikings also like what they’ve seen from Boise State’s Alexander Mattison, a third-round pick.
Smith was the 50th overall pick, and Mattison was No. 102 off the board.
Tight end is rarely a plug-and-play position, but Smith has made early strides. He should impact the offense and is expected to be a big part of the passing game as a hybrid tight end/wide receiver.
The big-bodied, physical presence Mattison (5-11, 220 pounds) provides exactly what the Vikings were looking for to complement Dalvin Cook. He’s locked in as the No. 2 back and is showing signs that there will be little drop-off when he takes over for Cook in games.
Cronin wrote that guard Dru Samia, a fourth-round pick from Oklahoma, and fifth-round linebacker Cam Smith should provide depth on the roster in their rookie seasons.
Spielman took three players in the span of four picks in the sixth round, with Arkansas defensive tackle Armon Watts at No. 190, using the 191st pick on Wyoming safety Marcus Epps and then selecting Elon offensive tackle Olisaemeka Udoh at No. 193.
Minnesota also made four picks in the seventh round, starting with Texas cornerback Kris Boyd at No. 217. Oregon wide receiver Dillon Mitchell went 239th, and Colorado State wide receiver Bisi Johnson went at No. 247. The Vikings rounded out their class with Air Force long snapper Austin Cutting at pick No. 250.
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Vikings defense nearing full strength
Minnesota’s 2019 season opener is just over two weeks away.
The health of the Vikings defense is headed in a positive direction, as two starters recently returned to practice.
Souichi Terada of the Star Tribune wrote that the positive news regarding a pair of defensive tackles was welcome news for the Vikings.
On Tuesday, nose tackle Linval Joseph returned to practice after an offseason shoulder injury. Earlier this camp, defensive tackle Shamar Stephen returned to the Vikings this year after a one-year stint with the Seahawks.
That means almost every piece of the Vikings starting defense is healthy as the Sept. 8 season opener against the Falcons draws closer.
“We’re excited, getting those guys back and getting them to work,” Vikings Defensive Coordinator George Edwards said. “Just look for them to keep getting better throughout the rest of our time here in the preseason.”
Joseph and Stephen played a big role in 2017 when the Vikings defense ranked second against the run by allowing just 83.6 yards per game.
The Vikings finished first in the league in points (15.8) and yards (275.9) allowed per game that season.