Lunchbreak: Projecting Impact of Early Draft Picks on Vikings Offense

The 2019 NFL Draft is in the rearview mirror, and teams will now turn their attention to rookie minicamps later this week.

The Vikings will have 12 draft picks in attendance, along with 10 undrafted free agents and a host of others on rookie tryouts.

Yet if we take a peak toward the 2019 season and beyond, ESPN Vikings beat writer Courtney Cronin wrote that Minnesota’s emphasis on offensive players in the recent draft should help that unit going forward.

Cronin added that the Vikings spending their first four picks two offensive linemen, a tight end and a running back should help Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins flourish in his second season in Purple.

View images of the 10 undrafted free agents the Vikings have agreed to terms with after the 2019 NFL Draft.

Cronin wrote:

General Manager Rick Spielman expects his first three picks to fill immediate needs. According to Spielman, there was no way Minnesota was going to trade out of its top two picks, at Nos. 18 and 50, given where the team had Garrett Bradbury and Irv Smith, Jr., on its board and how highly valued they were as potential Day 1 players.

Bradbury, whose flexibility helps upgrade two positions on the interior of the offensive line, is expected to start at center or guard as a rookie. Smith gives the Vikings offense an element it has been missing with an athletic F tight end. Running back Alexander Mattison is expected to fill Latavius Murray’s shoes as a big-bodied back who can complement [Dalvin] Cook with a sizable workload.

If things play out perfectly, the Vikings can improve their dormant rushing attack and become more explosive in the passing game. But despite how well this draft panned out, at least in the early rounds, Minnesota is relying on a handful of rookies to play big roles in protecting and elevating Cousins in the most pivotal season of his career.

In 2018, Cousins became the first quarterback in NFL history to complete 70 percent of his passes with at least 4,000 passing yards, 30 touchdowns and 10 or fewer interceptions in a single season.

Spielman said Saturday after the draft that he hopes Minnesota’s recent additions can also help the Vikings run the ball more efficiently in 2019.

Minnesota ranked 30th with 93.3 rushing yards per game in 2018, and the Vikings were 27th in total rushes with 357.

Boyd could surprise as late-round pick

Thanks to a flurry of trades, the Vikings ended up with four picks in the seventh round on Saturday in the draft.

Minnesota used the first of its cluster of seventh-round picks on Kris Boyd, a cornerback from the University of Texas.

Draft analyst Dane Brugler, who writes for The Athletic, said Vikings fans shouldn’t sleep on the late-round pick, as Boyd could be a surprise player in Minnesota.

Brugler wrote:

With nine Day 3 selections, there were several options to choose from, but I went with Boyd because if he develops a more disciplined approach, he has starting potential in the NFL. He is a good-sized player with speed and toughness, but his technical approach and ball skills require maturation.

Boyd earned First-Team All-Big 12 honors in 2018, and was a Second-Team All-Big 12 selection in 2017.

He made 33 career starts (in 51 total games) at Texas, and recorded 191 total tackles (141 solo) with four interceptions, 40 passes defended, four forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries.

Boyd also helped out on special teams, handling 18 total kickoff returns for 399 yards (22.2 per return) in his first three seasons with the team.

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