As the 2023 NFL Draft draws closer, the speculation of what direction the Vikings will take in the first round continues to rise.
Minnesota currently has the 23rd overall pick in this year's draft after the Vikings went 13-4, clinched a division title and reached the postseason. It will also be just the fifth time in franchise history the Vikings will select at that position, most recently drafting left tackle Christian Darrisaw in 2021. Minnesota has also drafted wide receiver Laquon Treadwell (2016), defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd (2013) and receiver Lance Rentzel (1965).
Media experts spoke with Vikings Entertainment Network's Gabe Henderson and Tatum Everett at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis on Tuesday and Wednesday and shared their thoughts about what route Minnesota could take with the 23rd selection.
Tom Pelissero of NFL Network told Everett there's a lot of directions the Vikings might go at that draft position.
"There is depth of receiver and there is depth at corner. You're just hoping, you know, the best possible guy ends up dropping in your lap and you get value," Pelissero said. "Because that's the biggest thing we know about [General Manager] Kwesi [Adofo-Mensah]; whether it is trading with the division rival, what you're doing with your own roster, free agents, you're looking to find hidden value in different places. So getting the best football player possible, there's not a lot of positions where I'd say there's no way they draft there."
CBS analyst Charles Davis and NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah projected the Vikings will turn toward the secondary in the first round, particularly at cornerback.
Davis told Henderson this year's corner class offers plenty of depth and value.
"I think at the top of the deal you've got to say, 'OK, there's a very good chance that if you want a corner, you're gonna get a top-level guy [at No. 23]," Davis said. "A Devon Witherspoon out of Illinois. A Joey Porter, Jr., out of Penn State. A Christian Gonzalez out of Oregon. A Kelee Ringo out of Georgia if you like traits, because he might be the most gifted corner in this draft. Somebody in that [group] is likely to still be around and likely to have an opportunity to get it."
In his latest mock draft, Jeremiah had the Vikings selecting Maryland's Deonte Banks. Jeremiah told Everett that Banks' 6-foot-2, 205-pound frame could fit well in Defensive Coordinator Brian Flores' system.
"He's big, physical and fast," Jeremiah said. "He's competitive as well. He's not a perfect player; there are times he can get a little bit sticky in some of his transition movement, but at that point in time in the draft, get a height, weight, speed corner who can play the football. I think he's got a chance to be a really good fit. And it's obviously a spot that needs to be addressed [for Minnesota]."
The Vikings could also look toward the other side of the ball with their first-round pick. Mike Renner of Pro Football Focus told Everett there are four wide receivers who could fall to Minnesota at No. 23: TCU's Quentin Johnston, Ohio State's Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Boston College's Zay Flowers and USC's Jordan Addison.
"I don't think any of [those players] are top 10, top 12 type of picks like we saw last year," Renner said. "I think you will see a run [of receivers getting drafted] start in the teens or in the middle of the first round. All four of those guys could be off the board by the time the Vikings are picking there at No. 23, but I do think that's where your dream is. Just one of those guys falling because of how teams could focus on Justin Jefferson and be completely unafraid of anyone else on that Vikings roster beating them deep."
One expert — Jordan Reid of ESPN — told Henderson he anticipates the Vikings trading back for a second consecutive year.
"Well, only having four picks right now before the compensatory pick selection comes out, where [the Vikings are] expected to get an extra pick in the fifth round from [former tight end] Tyler Conklin, I think the logical thing for them to do right now is to trade back," Reid said. "Just because you have so many holes – cornerback, wide receiver, even defensive line. So I think in order to address some of these needs, especially early on, you want to have more darts at the dart board. The more the better. So I think for Kwesi, the logical thing for him to do, or what he could do, is trade back from [No.] 23."
Whatever path the Vikings choose to navigate with the pick, Cynthia Frelund of NFL Network told Everett that Adofo-Mensah will be thinking about what's best for the team in the long run.
"I think what he does [well] is he takes the available assets — so I say that meaning to be free agents or draft picks — and mixes them together for what's achievable for the Vikings," Frelund said. "Meaning you're not picking for second or third [overall], which is a good thing, but at the end of the day, it's not like you're picking right at the top, so you have to figure out where those spaces are and also remember this is a long game, not a short game.
"He's got to think about things not just for this year, next year, the other years, but like 10 years down the line," Frelund added. "He's trying to do the best given the available assets, and I think that's what that asset mix is — you'll see him create the best return on investment for that."