EAGAN, Minn. – It's no secret that the football world believes wide receiver is a key need for the Vikings in the 2020 NFL Draft.
In fact, more than half of the 17 draft experts in Version 8.0 of our Vikings Mock Draft Tracker have Minnesota taking a wide receiver in the first round at pick No. 22 or a few spots later with the 25th overall selection.
And if the Vikings do end up drafting an offensive playmaker Thursday night, Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman said Tuesday that it's a good year to focus on that position.
"This has to be one of the deepest classes that I've seen in a long time," Spielman said in a Zoom video call with the Twin Cities media. "I would say there's all kinds of flavor — there's speed guys, speed guys with return ability, bigger guys that are excellent route runners.
"I think you'll see there's a lot of teams that kind of go toward what their offensive scheme is, and what fits them," Spielman continued. "I know a lot of the discussions we've had on these receivers is, 'How are they going to fit in our offense?'
"We have a pretty good sense of the type of receiver that helps the quarterback and what's important in those traits," Spielman added. "There are a lot of good options, and like I said, I don't think only in the first round … you can get a lot of good receivers throughout this entire draft."
Many believe the position is one of need for the Vikings, especially after they traded Stefon Diggs to the Bills in March. (Minnesota received the 22nd overall pick as part of its compensation in that deal).
Minnesota's roster currently features 60 total players, including eight wide receivers, a group headlined by Adam Thielen. Tajaé Sharpe was a free-agent addition in March, and Bisi Johnson will look to take a step forward after a solid rookie season.
Chad Beebe will be looking to make an impact after missing the majority of 2019 with an ankle injury. Youngsters such as Bralon Addison, Davion Davis, Alexander Hollins and Dillion Mitchell are also on the roster.
Here are four other topics Spielman discussed Tuesday:
1. Diggs trade was 'best business decision for us'
Spielman spoke publicly Tuesday for the first time since the Vikings traded Diggs to the Bills in March for a handful of draft picks.
Spielman last spoke at the 2020 NFL Scouting Combine and said that there was no reason to believe that Diggs would be traded. He said Tuesday that Buffalo's offer was too good to pass up.
"We had no intention of trading Diggs at the combine," Spielman said. "He was a great player for us. He was great in the community.
"It was an opportunity that came up and evolved that we felt was good for Stefon and for us, and we decided to go ahead and make the trade," Spielman added. "But we'll always appreciate everything that Stefon has done for us here in Minnesota and wish him nothing but the best."
Diggs had 63 receptions for 1,130 yards and six touchdowns (four of which were 45-plus yards) in 2019.
"I won't get into last year, but I know how we felt about Stefon and what a playmaker he was for us," Spielman said. "I'm going to leave all of those internal discussions in-house.
"It just came to a point, I think, where the draft capital we were able to get for him was the best business decision for us, and it was also a good business decision for him," Spielman added.
Minnesota received the 22nd pick, a selection in the fifth and sixth rounds of this year's draft, and a fourth rounder in 2021 in exchange for Diggs and a 2020 seventh-round choice.
2. Solidifying the safety spot
Spielman made a handful of roster decisions this offseason, including placing the franchise tag on safety Anthony Harris.
And while there has been plenty of speculation and chatter about Harris' status with the Vikings, Spielman said Tuesday that he believes Minnesota has one of the league's top safety tandems in Harris and Harrison Smith.
With cornerbacks Xavier Rhodes, Trae Waynes and Mackensie Alexander now on new teams, Spielman said the Vikings will rely on Harris and Smith to provide stability and leadership on the back end in 2020.
"I know we have some big changes in the secondary," Spielman said. "One of the things — not only is Anthony Harris a great football player for us, and great in the community — but by us being able to franchise Anthony, we do have the safeties pretty well set, knowing that we're going to have a lot of young corners we're going to have to line up and play with."
Harris and Smith combined for nine interceptions in 2019, including six picks from Harris, which tied for the NFL lead. Harris was credited with 60 total tackles (team stats), along with a tackle for loss, a fumble recovery and 11 passes defensed
Analytics site Pro Football Focus graded Harris at 91.6 and Smith at 91.4, for the two highest grades awarded to safeties in coverage in 2019.
3. Chiming in on Cousins' contract
Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins chatted with the Twin Cities media on April 14, noting that the recent three-year contract extension he signed in March was a "win-win" for both the organization and himself.
Spielman on Tuesday used the same phrase, noting that the Vikings expect Cousins to take his game to even better place than it was in 2019.
"I think it was always around that length of the deal," Spielman said of the three-year extension. "I think it's where, Kirk had such a tremendous year for us, and I know how [Offensive Coordinator] Gary Kubiak feels about him and where he can even take himself to the next level, on the way he played for us last year.
"I think with the ability to extend him out and also give us some cap relief to do some things in free agency, it was a win-win for both sides," Spielman said.
Cousins threw for 3,603 yards with 26 touchdowns and six interceptions in 15 games in during a Pro-Bowl season in 2019.
4. An update on Griffen
Everson Griffen ranks in seventh in franchise history with 74.5 career sacks, but is currently a free agent after choosing to void his contract earlier this offseason.
Spielman said Tuesday that he's been in touch with Griffen, a fourth-round pick by the Vikings back in 2010, but noted that Minnesota's defense is undergoing a bit of a transitional period.
If Griffen is not in Purple for the 2020 season, he will be among a handful of starters — the three aforementioned cornerbacks and defensive tackle Linval Joseph included — that the Vikings will have to replace on defense going forward.
"I don't think things broke down. I've had some great conversations with Everson," Spielman said of his conversations with Griffen. "It's just like all the players that we've talked about – the Linval Josephs of the world, the Xavier Rhodes, Josh Klines – some of these guys that we've had to make some very, very difficult decisions on.
"It had nothing to do with them as football players, it had nothing to do with them as people or what they do for our community," Spielman added. "It's just sometimes … I would bet we've kept that defense together as long as anyone has in that six-year span. It's just, right now we're just in an evolution period of our roster. But all those guys are great players for us, and I wish all of them nothing but the best."