Don't look now, but the 2021 NFL Draft is less than two weeks away.
This year's draft is scheduled to kick off Thursday, April 29, from Cleveland. Analysts from across the country have been releasing player evaluations and mock drafts left and right, and Arif Hasan of The Athletic recently broke down five names who have been mocked to Minnesota in the first round. Currently, the Vikings are slated to pick at No. 14.
Hasan looked at 120 mock drafts that have been submitted over the past two weeks to inform his article. He wrote:
While edge rusher is the single most-mocked position, overall the offensive line comes in more often than any other position group. That's a big shift from a few months ago when the most-mocked position (by a good margin) was edge rusher, and offensive linemen only constituted 20 percent of the selections for Minnesota in those mocks.
The five players Hasan delved into were USC guard/tackle Alijah Vera-Tucker, Virginia Tech tackle Christian Darrisaw, Michigan edge rusher Kwity Paye, Miami edge rusher Jaelan Phillips and Miami edge rusher Gregory Rousseau.
Hasan opined that Vera-Tucker, who played tackle for the Trojans in an abbreviated 2020, would make "an exciting guard prospect" for the Vikings.
Vera-Tucker only allowed two pressures in his first five games at tackle, only struggling against a future first-rounder in Oregon edge rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux, per Pro Football Focus. Vera-Tucker moves very well for a guard and should be capable of leading the way on screen passes, operating as a pulling guard on power plays and reaching the edge on wide zone-style runs like the ones out of which the Vikings base their offense.
According to Hasan, Paye was the "most-mocked player to the Vikings" in February and still has popped up in some recent mock drafts.
Long story short, he's a super-athlete with rare testing numbers for his position, good-not-great college production and a lot of work to do to add to his repertoire, both in terms of technique and strategy. He has relied too much on his pure athletic ability in college and will need some detailed coaching to unlock what he can do in the NFL, but the Vikings have coaching talent to spare in that regard. As a way to bolster the defense, he could be a critical piece.
To see Hasan's full piece, click here.
2 former Vikings make list of 'top 25 players not in the Hall of Fame'
OK, stop me if you've heard this one before: Jim Marshall should be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Every year, Marshall shows up on lists of the best NFL players who aren't yet in Canton, and he did again for CBS Sports' Bryan DeArdo's ranking of the top 25. He placed Marshall at No. 20 on the list and wrote the following:
A valued member of Minnesota's "Purple People Eaters" defensive line, Marshall holds numerous NFL records, including the most seasons played by a defensive player (20, along with Junior Seau and Darrell Green), most consecutive games by a defensive player (282), most consecutive starts by a defensive player (270), and most career fumble recoveries (30). Marshall, who was still a starter at age 42, helped the Vikings win three NFC titles along with the NFL Championship in 1969.
Another player on DeArdo's list also spent time in Minnesota, although the bulk of his career was in a 49ers uniform: running back Roger Craig was listed at No. 4.
The only running back on this list, Craig played an integral role in the 49ers success during the 1980s. A four-time Pro Bowler and member of the NFL's All-1980s Team, Craig became the first player in league history to have 1,000 rushing and receiving yards in the same season (1985). A three-time Super Bowl champion, Craig became the first player to score three touchdowns in a Super Bowl during the 49ers win over the Dolphins in Super Bowl [XIX].
Craig finished his NFL career by playing 1992 and 1993 for the Vikings, during which he appeared in 29 games. He totaled 535 rushing yards and five touchdowns for Minnesota, and he added 333 receiving yards and a score through the air.
View photos of the Vikings 2021 coaching staff.
Cronin: Vikings 2021 win total could depend on offensive line
As the 2021 NFL season approaches, ESPN asked its beat writers to handicap win totals of the teams they cover.
ESPN's Courtney Cronin was presented with over/under 8.5 wins for the Vikings. She predicted "over, but just barely," and explained her reasoning:
The Vikings used all their resources on retooling the defense in free agency and should fare far better against the run with the addition of Dalvin Tomlinson and the return of Michael Pierce, plus they finally have depth and experience in the secondary by adding Patrick Peterson, Xavier Woods and Mackensie Alexander. But Minnesota still has a handful of issues to address on the offensive line. If the Vikings don't fix their issues in pass protection, this offense won't be as explosive as it was a year ago, which could cost the team in the win column.
View the best offensive line photos of the 2020 season from Vikings photographers.
ESPN's Jeff Dickerson predicted the Bears to be under 7.5 wins, and Eric Woodyard predicted the Lions – who will enter their first season with QB Jared Goff – to be over five wins. And for the Packers? Rob Demovsky remained high on the NFC North team, projecting more than 11 wins for Green Bay.
Sure, the list of opponents looks brutally difficult (Chiefs, Ravens, Steelers, Seahawks and Rams among them), but the Packers look as if they're running it back for one more shot at a Super Bowl with largely the same team that went 13-3 last year and reached the NFC title game for the second straight season. The caveat here is that the whole thing must not go to pieces between Aaron Rodgers and the organization before the end of the year.