EAGAN, Minn. – The Vikings made history in the 2020 NFL Draft.
Not only did Minnesota – along with all 31 other teams – conduct their drafts entirely remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the Vikings also netted a whopping 15 selections, a league record for a seven-round draft.
With the three-day event now in the rearview mirror, how did General Manager Rick Spielman and the Vikings do?
Only time will truly tell, of course, but analysts and experts around the league have released their immediate reactions. We will have a full report-card roundup for you Tuesday, but for now, let's look at the rankings by The Athletic's Dane Brugler, who included Minnesota in his top five "favorite NFL draft classes" of 2020.
Brugler gave the following disclaimer for his ranking system:
The two most important criteria: quality of talent and value of where the player was taken. Teams with more draft picks had an obvious advantage, but value is still imperative. Also important: I did not include future draft picks acquired or active players who were involved in draft trades to rank these draft hauls. For example, Stefon Diggs didn't factor into the Buffalo Bills spot on this list or DeAndre Hopkins with the Cardinals ranking.
For each team, Brugler expanded on his favorite selection and a "Day 3 pick who could surprise."
He ranked the Vikings draft class as his fourth-favorite, highlighting first-round pick Jeff Gladney as his favorite of Minnesota's 15. The cornerback has shown during his time at TCU that he is battle-tested and ready to learn from Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer. Brugler wrote:
My No. 3 ranked cornerback, Gladney isn't tall, but he is long with quick feet and the bulldog mentality to challenge receivers up and down the field. Under the tutelage of Mike Zimmer, he will continue to iron out the kinks in his game and be a valuable inside-outside performer.
Brugler had quite the Day 3 pool to pick from, but the player he most believes has a chance to surprise is Michigan State defensive end Kenny Willekes, whom the Vikings drafted 225th overall.
There were 11 to choose from, including Kyle Hinton, one of my favorite "small school" players this year. But I chose Willekes because he is used to outperforming what is expected of him, and I bet he will do that as a seventh-rounder. He is a natural fit in Minnesota's scheme and culture.
How did the rest of the NFC North fare in Brugler's rankings?
He ranked the Lions 11th, highlighting Georgia RB D'Andre Swift as his favorite Detroit selection. The Bears, who made their first pick in the second round and added a 10th – 10th! – tight end to their roster, were ranked 22nd. And as for the Packers? They came in at No. 28 on Brugler's list.
To view his full rankings and evaluation, click here.
ESPN poses 'biggest post-draft question' for each team
Now that teams have had a chance to add to their rosters through free agency (which will continue to see action), the NFL Draft and UDFA options, which questions still remain to be answered?
ESPN asked each of its 32 NFL Nation reporters to identify his or her respective team's biggest question coming out of the draft.
For the Vikings, Courtney Cronin asked, "What will the offensive line look like?"
As a refresher, Minnesota returned four of its five starting linemen from the 2019 season: left tackle Riley Reiff, left guard Pat Elflein, center Garrett Bradbury and right tackle Brian O'Neill. The Vikings released Josh Kline, who started 13 games at right guard last season, this spring.
Cronin opined that Minnesota "made a home-run pick" at No. 58 by selecting Boise State tackle Ezra Cleveland, who will be reunited with former Broncos teammate Alexander Mattison. She emphasized that the Vikings were able to snag Cleveland on Day 2 without trading up. Cronin wrote:
Missing on trading for [Washington tackle] Trent Williams worked out for the best for the Vikings, who saved a bunch of money and have a young, potential franchise left tackle in the fold.
Cronin pointed out that O'Neill had a full offseason ahead of his rookie campaign, during which he was called on to start in Week 6, but "this season's truncated offseason program might not afford Cleveland time to develop."
GM Rick Spielman said Riley Reiff is going to hold down the "left side" for now, but does that mean at his current position (left tackle) or a move to guard with a possible contract restructure? The Vikings will be shuffling the interior of the offensive line with a "wide-open competition" at both guard spots.
SKOR North tabs '5 most intriguing picks' from Vikings Day 3
Delving specifically into these picks, Matthew Coller of SKOR North put together a list of his five "most intriguing" Day 3 selections, including all three defensive linemen: South Carolina DE D.J. Wonnum (117th), Baylor DT James Lynch (130th), Oregon LB Troy Dye (132nd), Michigan S Josh Metellus (205th) and Michigan State DE Kenny Willekes (225th).
Coller wrote the following of Wonnum:
While the Vikings new DE produced only 26 pressures on 299 pass rush snaps last year per PFF, he scored a 40-yard dash, broad jump and vertical jump in the 80thpercentile or above among players at his position. Those athletic skills [are combined] with his arm length of 34 inches and 6-foot-5, 258-pound frame.
Setting the bar at Danielle Hunter would be unfair to Wonnum, but Hunter isn't the only player with this type of profile to become a contributor for the Vikings along the defensive line in recent years. Stephen Weatherly, who [signed with the Panthers in free agency], had a similar height/weight, arm length and speed combo.
With Everson Griffen unlikely to return to Minnesota, the Vikings will need a rotation of rushers, which likely starts with former Day 3 pick Ifeadi Odenigbo and opens the door Wonnum to contribute if he adapts quickly.