ESPN Senior Draft Analyst Mel Kiper, Jr., participated in an online audio call Monday to cover his second Mock Draft for 2021.
The popular prognosticator was available for about 90 minutes as a moderator tried to work in as many questions as possible.
No direct questions about the Vikings were fielded, but the player Kiper has predicted to the Vikings came up tangentially — and somewhat ironically — in a question about his slotting of Alabama cornerback Patrick Surtain II to the Dallas Cowboys at No. 10.
For starters, Kiper has mocked Southern Cal tackle/guard Alijah Vera-Tucker to the Vikings at No. 14 in each of his two mock drafts so far.
In the most recent edition, posted on Feb. 25, he wrote the following:
"I'll stick with Vera-Tucker here because of his versatility. He played guard before moving to left tackle for USC last season. He impressed there and rocketed up draft boards. I think he'll probably stick at tackle in the NFL. We know [Head Coach] Mike Zimmer will always push for the Vikings to draft a defender, and this could also be a spot for a pass rusher or defensive back."
It is also worth noting that he has Vera-Tucker as the third offensive lineman off the board, a spot after he pegged Rashawn Slater's selection out of Northwestern by the Los Angeles Chargers. Kiper has Oregon tackle Penei Sewell heading to Cincinnati via the fifth overall pick.
So how did Kiper get from a direct question about Surtain to Vera-Tucker?
Have at it, Maestro of the Mock.
"Surtain is a technically, fundamentally sound corner who tackles. Coverage, a little iffy at times this year," Kiper said Monday. "I think [Virginia Tech's Caleb] Farley is a better cover guy but doesn't tackle nearly as well as Surtain, is not as complete a player, and he opted out and didn't play this year. I think Jaycee Horn, you could make an argument — I think Jim Nagy has got Jaycee Horn as his number one corner. So if you go away from those three, you would look at Rashawn Slater, the offensive lineman from Northwestern, Alijah Vera-Tucker, the offensive lineman from USC who played left tackle but had been a guard. Slater played left tackle and right tackle.
"If you want the offensive lineman at 10, you can get one of those two," Kiper added. "If you want corner, you're probably going to be staring, maybe, all three in the face. At worst, two of those three corners would be there, so I think it's offensive line or corner for Dallas. They have other needs, but it seems kind of set up for one of those two positions."
After Vera-Tucker, the next offensive lineman in Kiper's recent mock is Virginia Tech tackle Christian Darrisaw at No. 19 (Washington Football Team), followed by Alabama center Landon Dickerson (to the Steelers at No. 24). Kiper said Dickerson's upside is strong enough for this spot despite his need to recover from an injury sustained in the CFP National Championship.
Kiper also is currently projecting Oklahoma State tackle Teven Jenkins to the Bills at No. 30 and Stanford tackle Walker Little to the Chiefs a pick later for a total of seven offensive linemen in the first round.
View photos of current Vikings players during their time at the NFL Scouting Combine over the years.
Across the line?
While some believe offensive line will be the position the Vikings boost with a first-round pick, others are projecting that Minnesota will bolster its defensive line.
Kiper, who has 14 total defensive players going in the first round of his current mock, was asked about potential fits for a defensive end to join the 49ers and thrive with a Wide 9 technique.
There again are indirect nuggets that could apply to the Vikings.
"This year, in terms of the first round, it's not going to be that type of player in that type of spot. There's just nobody to consider that high, in terms of the first round, in terms of athletic value," Kiper said. "I don't have a defensive player going until 10. I don't have a defensive lineman going until you get down to 21."
After Surtain at 10, Kiper has the following defensive players:
12. Micah Parsons, LB, Penn State to Detroit (after a trade that allowed San Francisco to move up to No. 7 and draft Ohio State QB Justin Fields)
15. Caleb Farley, CB, Virginia Tech to Denver (after a trade that allowed New England to move up to No. 9 and draft North Dakota State QB Trey Lance)
16. Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina to Arizona
17. Trevon Moehrig, S, TCU to Las Vegas
18. Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, LB, Notre Dame to Miami
21. Gregory Rousseau, DE, Miami to Indianapolis
22. Jaelan Phillips, DE, Miami to Tennessee
23. Kwity Paye, DE, Michigan to the New York Jets via a past trade with Seattle
25. Christian Barmore, DT, Alabama to Jacksonville via a past trade with the Los Angeles Rams
26. Zaven Collins, OLB/DE, Tulsa to Cleveland
28. Jayson Oweh, DE, Penn State to New Orleans
29. Joe Tryon, OLB/DE, Washington to Green Bay
32. Azeez Ojulari, OLB/DE, Georgia to Tampa Bay
"Rousseau can play outside and can play inside," Kiper continued in his response to the question about the 49ers. "He was pretty effective inside. That's where he was able to do a really good job at Miami two years ago. Phillips is an outside guy, so Phillips could be that guy. Kwity Paye could be that guy, but that's too early when you're talking about the 12th pick in the draft. Now, if you trade down a little from 12th, you could. I think 12 is way too high."