The 2022 NFL Draft is just 29 days away.
And with the first waves of free agency complete, the league's attention is quickly shifting to the end of April.
Analytics website Pro Football Focus recently looked at eight teams, with the Vikings among them, who may have a different first-round draft strategy after adding players in free agency.
PFF's Brad Spielberger wrote that a team's roster needs often become clearer as the draft approaches.
We can often learn what a club plans to do come April by how they kick things off in March, and with the info provided by major free agent signings across the NFL over the past 10 days, we set out to update our expectations for Round 1 in just a month's time.
From a Vikings perspective, Spielberger noted "Vikings fans" have used the No. 12 overall pick on a cornerback roughly 42-percent of the time, while edge rusher (24 percent) and interior offensive line (12 percent) were the next two most-popular picks.
Spielberger analyzed two position groups as a first-round fit, beginning with offensive line.
The new Vikings regime led by General Manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and Head Coach Kevin O'Connell has continued an organizational emphasis on defense thus far in their tenures but may look to pivot to offense to kick off their first draft class. After selecting center Garrett Bradbury in the first round in 2019 — in particular, because of his fit in the outside zone rushing attack that O'Connell is also expected to deploy — Minnesota has been underwhelmed with the return through three seasons.
The Vikings traded for interior offensive lineman Mason Cole before the 2021 campaign, and he filled in admirably at guard and briefly center when Bradbury was benched, playing his way into a three-year, $15.75 million contract with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Is the fact that a new group of decision-makers is willing to use the No. 12 overall pick on a center after a big miss at the position just a few years ago part of the reason they just got hired?
As for the cornerback spot, Spielberger noted that position group could use some reinforcements. But he also threw a curveball in the mix, too, adding that a wide receiver could potentially be in play with the 12th overall selection.
LSU cornerback Derek Stingley, Jr., battled in practice with Vikings breakout star wide receiver Justin Jefferson not long ago, and he also makes sense at this pick. However, another wideout could give Minnesota the best three receivers in the NFC North, helping seamlessly replace the soon-to-be 32-year-old Adam Thielen in the near future.
The Los Angeles Rams offense under O'Connell lined up in 11 personnel — three wide receiver sets — on 85% of plays in 2021, by far the highest percentage in the NFL. This isn't specific to Sean McVay, either, as the last time O'Connell was an offensive coordinator with Washington in 2019, his offense lined up in 11 personnel on 70% of snaps, seventh-most in the league.
Are we overlooking Minnesota as the first team to take a wide receiver this year? Ohio State's Garrett Wilson or USC's Drake London could be the last piece of a dynamic trio that resembles the likes of Randy Moss, Cris Carter and Jake Reed from the late 1990s.
Spielberger's article certainly opens up the options at No. 12 for Minnesota.
The latest Vikings Mock Draft Tracker was posted Tuesday, so give it a read for the latest projections from 18 draft analysts around the country.
Kiper updates big board ahead of draft
Draft season is the time to shine for Mel Kiper, Jr.
The longtime ESPN draft expert recently released his updated big board rankings of his top 25 players, a group that included 13 offensive players and a dozen on defense.
Michigan edge rusher Aidan Hutchinson topped Kiper's list.
Hutchinson had a consistently dominant season on the way to finishing as the runner-up in the voting for the Heisman Trophy. He had 14 sacks, 19 tackles for loss and two forced fumbles. He finished fifth in the country in pressure rate (16.5%). He is advanced as a pass-rusher — he already has a few go-to moves — and is relentless on every snap. Hutchinson dominated Ohio State at the end of the regular season, picking up three sacks. He played only 144 defensive snaps in 2020 before he sustained a leg injury and had to have surgery; the Michigan defense cratered after he was hurt. He was outstanding as a sophomore in 2019, putting up 4.5 sacks and creating havoc in the backfield (10.5 tackles for loss).
There were also three cornerbacks in Kiper's Top 25, with Stingley (fifth), Ahmad "Sauce" Gardner (eighth) and Trent McDuffie (12th).
Kiper broke down what McDuffie would bring to a team.
McDuffie only had two interceptions in three seasons at Washington — including zero in 2021 — but don't discount his ability to shut down receivers. He allowed just one reception of more than 20 yards last season, and he didn't allow any touchdowns. In fact, going back to the four games he played in 2020, he didn't allow any scores then, either. McDuffie can play in the slot or outside, and he can play press coverage. He's a really good player who is rising after a tremendous season.
Kiper also included three quarterbacks, four tackles and five wide receivers on his list.
Reed's wife to release new book
Beyond the above mention of Reed by Spielberger, we wanted to note that his wife, Vinita Gibson Reed, has written a book.
Flags, Fumbles, and Touchdowns will be released next month.
According to her website, Gibson Reed "encourages wives, mothers, and women to support their family without losing sight of their own goals and dreams."
Vinita shares real-life lessons she has learned from 27 years of marriage to empower women to clean out their relationship locker, prioritize their health and wellness, and motivate them to lace up for their own success."
More info can be found here.