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Lunchbreak: The Athletic Tabs 'Sensible' Prospects for Vikings in Each Round of NFL Draft

In looking ahead at the 2024 NFL Draft, it's impossible to predict how the board will shake out in the first round, let alone in the six rounds following.

That's why Alec Lewis of The Athletic proposed 10 different players “who make sense” for the Vikings in Rounds 1-7.

Lewis included four quarterbacks in his pool for night one: Drake Maye, Jayden Daniels, J.J. McCarthy and Michael Penix, Jr.

Maye's upside is undeniable. Daniels' accuracy from the pocket is littered throughout his 2023 tape. McCarthy has the presence and arm strength to hurl passes over the middle when necessary. It also feels right to include Michael Penix, Jr.'s name considering how desperate teams are for quarterbacks — and how much confidence Penix has in his arm.

What if Minnesota stays pat at No. 11 and doesn't go after a quarterback first? Lewis pointed to CB Quinyon Mitchell (Toledo), CB Terrion Arnold (Alabama), DT Byron Murphy II (Texas) or edge rushers Dallas Turner (Alabama) or Jared Verse (Florida State) as defensive options who could go "between picks 10 and 20."

The Vikings retooled their defense in free agency, but additional help, specifically at cornerback or on the interior of the defensive line, could help transform the unit.

The Vikings do not currently have a second- or third-round selection, so Lewis combined Rounds 2 and 3 for his next grouping of 10, which included Oregon QB Bo Nix, two guards and seven defenders.

Lewis wrote that General Manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah "has not shied away from trading up or down in the past, so it's always possible Minnesota targets a pocket on Friday night for a player the team likes."

All 10 players on this list fit a position of need. Jer'Zhan Newton, Braden Fiske, Michael Hall and Marshawn Kneeland could fortify the Vikings front. Ennis Rakestraw, Jr., Kool-Aid McKinstry and Marques Tampa would add depth and upside at outside cornerback. Zak Zinter and Cooper Beebe could be candidates to fill the left guard spot. And Bo Nix might have starter-level ability but has a relatively high floor as a backup.

The most interesting name on this list might be Kneeland. The 22-year-old only recorded 4.5 sacks this season. His 13.7 percent pressure rate, however, was well above average, and his size would bring some versatility to a coordinator who loves it.

Click here to see Lewis' full breakdown of prospects that could fit Minnesota's roster needs through all three days of the draft, which kicks off April 25.

ESPN's Matt Miller unveils list of 18 prospects with 1st-round grade

ESPN Draft analyst Matt Miller spends hours and hours evaluating prospects and ranking them according to grade.

He recently unveiled his list of players in this year's class to whom he gave a first-round grade, noting that it's not an automatic 32. Miller wrote:

NFL teams don't typically deem many prospects in a given class as Round 1-caliber talents and never 32 of them. More realistically, around 15 per class earn a real first-round grade, though the number varies by team and scouting department. These sacred evaluations are reserved for prospects who would be Day 1 selections regardless of year, and my own rule of thumb is whether the player would have been one in each of the past five classes.

Miller provided a summary for each of the 18 prospects on his list, and he also gave NFL comparisons for them.

At quarterback, Caleb Williams (Aaron Rodgers), Daniels (Lamar Jackson) and Maye (Justin Herbert) received first-round grades. Miller didn't give any running backs first-round grades this year, but five receivers landed on the list.

Miller compared LSU's Malik Nabers to former Vikings receiver Stefon Diggs, and Washington's Rome Odunze was compared to Ja'Marr Chase, who teamed with Justin Jefferson in college. Miller called Nabers this year's "best after-the-catch receiver."

The 6-foot, 199-pound Nabers averaged 18 yards per catch on 86 grabs last season, with 6.8 coming after the catch. He also turned in 14 touchdowns and 1,546 yards in a breakout season. Nabers' start-stop quicks are high-end, and his field vision to find running lanes with the ball in his hands is special. I also love that over the past two seasons he had a drop rate of just 3.1 [percent]. Nabers is sure-handed, fast, explosive and ready to be an NFL WR1.

Miller highlighted one tight end, Georgia's Brock Bowers, and compared him to 49ers star George Kittle. There were four tackles but no guards to receive first-round grades.

Defensively, Miller included two edge rushers, one defensive tackle and two cornerbacks: Arnold (Devon Witherspoon) and Mitchell (Jaylon Johnson).

Mitchell has had the best pre-draft process of any defensive player in the class. He followed a remarkable Senior Bowl week with a combine performance that included a 4.33-second 40-yard dash at 6 feet, 195 pounds. Mitchell is tough and physical, and he had six interceptions over the past two seasons.