We're at the point of the NFL offseason where mock drafts are released on almost a daily basis, with dozens of pundits across the football world giving their 2021 NFL Draft projections.
But the start of the new league year is also less than two weeks ago, and the start of free agency will officially kick off at 3 p.m. on March 17.
Cody Benjamin of CBS Sports offered a fun twist on the two mega events of the offseason — free agency and the draft — and recently compiled a mock draft of all players who are slated to be free agents later this month.
Benjamin explained the premise behind his unique idea:
What if the veteran market were conducted like the draft, with all 32 teams getting to pick through available players based on their record? What if, instead of bidding with lucrative offers, you could simply "draft" a free agent's rights for the upcoming season? It's nonsensical, we know, but how often is NFL offseason buzz grounded in reality?
But with that in mind, Benjamin drafted a free agent to the Vikings with the No. 14 pick.
He tabbed defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson to Minnesota to help beef up the Vikings defensive line.
This pick is not as sexy as an edge rusher, but the Vikings have been trying for a while to get a true big man at the heart of their D-line. Tomlinson's huge frame would take some pressure off the rest of the line and LB corps.
Tomlinson is listed at 6-foot-3 and 318 pounds. A 2017 second-round pick by the Giants, he has played in and started all 64 games in four seasons of his pro career.
The former Alabama standout has 207 total tackles, 8.0 sacks, five pass deflections and a forced fumble.
The Vikings could be in the market for a defensive tackle (besides the expected return of Michael Pierce) to help shore up a run defense that ranked 27th with 134.4 rushing yards allowed per game in 2020.
Minnesota allowed 95-plus rushing yards in all but one game this past season, and gave up a season-worst 264 rushing yards (and seven rushing scores) on Christmas Day against the Saints.
McShay projects edge rusher to Vikings
While Benjamin offered an interesting look in his mock draft, ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay put out the third edition of his own mock draft Friday morning.
McShay projected an early run on quarterbacks, as his top four overall picks (and five of the first nine selections) were signal callers.
The focus on quarterbacks and offensive players (11 of the McShay's first 13 picks were on that side of the ball) meant that Minnesota was in position to take an edge rusher at No. 14.
McShay did just that as he tabbed Michigan's Kwity Paye to the Vikings.
It has been nearly a decade since the last time that the first 13 teams all passed on pass-rushers (Seattle took Bruce Irvin at No. 15 in 2012). But the Vikings are seeking more impact players on the edge, and while Paye hasn't necessarily piled on production stats at Michigan (8.5 sacks over his past 16 games), he can slip blocks and has some power. Minnesota's 23 sacks were the NFL's fifth fewest last season.
Paye had 11.5 sacks and 23.5 tackles for loss in 38 career games with the Wolverines. He was also a popular pick to Minnesota by experts in the Vikings Mock Draft Tracker: Version 3.0 that was released earlier this month.
The Vikings currently have 10 total draft selections, not including compensatory picks.
John Randle connects with Morten Andersen
Two Pro Football Hall of Famers, one podcast.
Vikings Ring of Honor defensive tackle John Randle had already wrapped his career by the time that kicker Morten Andersen joined Minnesota just before the 2004 season, but the two players built quite a relationship over the years.
Randle recently joined Andersen's "Great Dane Nation" podcast to share his amazing backstory and some of the most vivid moments from his colorful career. Randle detailed all of the homework that he and teammates did with film study and taking notes.
"We watched a lot of film. You are stalking your opponent. You try to learn as much as you can about the team and about the players," Randle said. "I tried to figure out if the guy was right handed or left handed. I tried to figure out so much information. We started doing the data and figuring out a lot of teams were passing on first down. The data all came in. We watched so much film — I'll give you a good example … we played the Bengals one year and Boomer Esiason got [multiple] sacks. [People asked,] 'How'd you get to him?' We watched so much film on him that we figured out he had this little flaw that he did. When his helmet was double-strapped, it was a pass. When it was a single strap, it was a run play."
Randle also described noticing a leg movement that Bernie Kosar would do right before the ball was snapped, which helped Minnesota avoid jumping offsides during a hard count by Kosar and the detailed notes Randle would collect on repeat trips to Pro Bowls while many other players were partying.
"Success favors the exceptionally prepared," Andersen said.
The full podcast is available here.