The 2021 NFL Draft is just one day away.
The event is slated to kick off Thursday from Cleveland at 7 p.m. (CT), and questions that have been posed for the past several months will start to be answered.
In anticipation, CBS Sports' Ryan Wilson predicted “the five biggest surprises” for this year’s draft, including "no trade-ups until pick No. 9 at the earliest." Wilson also opined that a defensive player won't be among the top 10 selections Thursday night. He wrote:
We … could be watching history unfold on Thursday should there be a run on offensive players to begin the draft. We all know the Jaguars are taking Trevor Lawrence, [Zach] Wilson appears destined for the Jets and the 49ers will take a quarterback at No. 3.
He mentioned tight end Kyle Pitts as an option for the Falcons at No. 4, along with tackle Penei Sewell or "even a quarterback." The Bengals could draft a tackle or receiver at No. 5, and Wilson said the Dolphins at No. 6 "desperately need a deep threat or O-line help."
While the Lions could go after a defensive player, Wilson said they should "find some playmakers" for quarterback Jared Goff, whom they acquired via trade this offseason.
The Panthers sit at No. 8 and even though they've recently traded for Sam Darnold … If [Justin] Fields or Trey Lance is staring you in the face, you'll think long and hard about taking him here. Other options are offensive line or cornerback. The Broncos at No. 9 – and like a lot of other teams in the top 10 – could be in the QB business here, and trading down is also an option. That brings us to the Cowboys, who sit at No. 10. They desperately need defensive help and this is the first time where it feels like defense is more likely than offense to be the selection ... assuming Dallas doesn't trade down.
Other "biggest surprises" that Wilson projected included Kentucky's Jamin Davis being the first linebacker off the board, two running backs going in Round 1 and, lastly, that six quarterbacks come off the board the first night. He noted, however, that the latter seems "the least-likely scenario."
What we do know, however, is that five quarterbacks are bona fide first-rounders, and likely off the board by pick No. 14 or so. But what happens after [Trevor] Lawrence, Wilson, [Mac] Jones, Fields and Lance are gone? The two most popular names remaining: Stanford's Davis Mills and Texas A&M's Kellen Mond.
Vikings Draft Virtual Happy Hour
The #VikingsDraft Virtual Happy Hour, presented by Miller Lite will kick off Day 1 of the 2021 NFL Draft from 5:30-6:30 p.m. CT.
The exclusive live-streamed social hour will give fans the opportunity to interact and celebrate with their favorite Vikings analysts, players and influencers across Vikings.com, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.
PFF proposes 4 potential first-round dark horses
As Pro Football Focus' Ben Linsey pointed out, "The NFL Draft always gifts us with a handful of surprises at the back end of the first round."
Similar to Wilson's predictions above, Linsey projected four first-round surprises but stuck to specific selections. He started with North Carolina receiver Dyami Brown, whom PFF listed 46th on its Big Board.
This wide receiver class is deep, but many of the players expected to go in the Day 2 range fall into the slot receiver category. That could lead to a situation where a team selecting in the back end of the first round reaches on Brown, one of the later-round prospects who can play both inside and outside.
Linsey then pointed to Houston defensive lineman Payton Turner, who came in 57th on PFF's Big Board. According to Linsey, "a few things are working in [Turner's] favor when it comes to potentially rising up boards."
The first is that there seems to be very little consensus about who the best prospects are in this crowded edge defender class. Rashad Weaver is listed 10that the position on one ranking and second on another. Prospects such as Jaelan Phillips, Kwity Paye, Azeez Ojulari, Jayson Oweh and Gregory Rousseau are all viewed as top edge defenders in the class, depending on where you look. There's a good chance that the boards in the NFL war rooms will be similarly varied.
Listed at 6-foot-6 and 268 pounds with 35-inch arms, Turner has the length and versatility to play both outside and inside.
The other two players covered by Linsey were Syracuse cornerback Ifeatu Melifonwu and North Dakota State tackle Dillon Radunz, a member of the 2015 Vikings All-State Team. He said the following of Melifonwu:
There isn't a box Melifonwu doesn't check physically. The height, weight, arm length and explosion he showcased in his pro day jumps are ideal for the position. NFL coaching staffs and front offices love to believe that they can get the most out of elite athletes, and that gives Melifonwu a better chance than most to sneak into the first round despite some legitimate questions about his game.
Linsey said, "Radunz's 28th-place rank on PFF's big board signals that a first-round selection wouldn't be that much of a reach" but pointed out that the lineman has been mocked mostly as a second- or third-round pick.
Radunz needs to add some weight and strength to his frame, but the athleticism is certainly there to hold up outside. A strong Senior Bowl where he finished the week as the highest-graded tackle in attendance only strengthened his claim to be one of the first tackles to come off the board. It was a much-needed strong showing that backed up high-level play as a pass protector across two seasons at North Dakota State. He allowed just 24 pressures across 715 pass-blocking snaps in his FCS career.
Vikings I.Q. Presented By Pepsi
Pepsi will partner with the Minnesota Vikings to offer fans an interactive, free-to-play social and gaming experience through the Vikings App called Vikings I.Q. Fans will have an opportunity to make real-time Draft predictions, socialize with other Vikings fans and win prizes from Pepsi! To play, simply download or open the Vikings App then click Menu > Fantasy Games > Vikings I.Q.