There will be 31 players selected in the first round of this year's NFL Draft, with the Dolphins having been penalized for league policy violations.
But just because there are 31 prospects chosen in the first round doesn't mean teams put first-round grades on that many players.
ESPN's Matt Miller recently released a list of 20 players he’s assigned first-round grades to, and he also made comparisons to current or recent NFL players. One of the current names he highlighted was Vikings tight end T.J. Hockenson, with whom he compared Notre Dame's Michael Mayer. Miller wrote:
Mayer is a throwback three-down tight end who can line up next to the offensive tackle and clear out in the run game or bring down passes up the seam. At 6-foot-5 and 249 pounds, he has elite size and uses it to produce all over the field to the tune of 67 catches, 809 yards and nine touchdowns in 2022. Mayer is a post-up, box-out red zone threat, and while he ran a 4.70-second 40-yard dash at the combine, his power, agility and instincts should keep him in the top 15 picks even at a non-premium position.
Miller gave four quarterbacks first-round grades and compared each to a different well-known NFL passer: Alabama's Bryce Young (Tua Tagovailoa), Ohio State's C.J. Stroud (Dak Prescott), Florida's Anthony Richardson (Cam Newton) and Kentucky's Will Levis (Matthew Stafford).
At wide receiver, a position some experts have predicted the Vikings may target in the first round, Miller compared Ohio State's Jaxon Smith-Njigba to CeeDee Lamb and USC's Jordan Addison to Keenan Allen.
Smith-Njigba finished the 2021 season with a record-setting Rose Bowl appearance (347 receiving yards, three TDs) but was hampered by a hamstring injury in 2022, limiting him to just five catches and 43 yards. It makes for a fascinating evaluation, but the 6-foot-1, 196-pound Smith-Njigba can still find himself in the top 15 picks. He shows excellent concentration and body control, and he can still get open even when the defense is keyed to stop him.
Addison transferred from Pitt to USC after winning the 2021 Biletnikoff Award for best wide receiver in college football. And he quietly put together an outstanding year playing on Pacific Standard Time, with 59 catches, 875 yards and eight touchdowns. Addison isn't a big receiver (5-foot-11, 173 pounds), but he plays with great power after the catch and has the footwork to create separation in his route tree.
Another position experts have mocked to Minnesota is cornerback.
Miller put first-round grades on three of them: Illinois' Devon Witherspoon (Darius Slay), Oregon's Christian Gonzalez (Byron Jones) and Penn State's Joey Porter, Jr. (Marlon Humphrey).
Porter has standout instincts and physicality. The 6-foot-3, 193-pound junior broke up 11 passes on limited targets in 2022, as opposing offenses stayed away from him. Porter has the length, toughness, speed and timing to be a top-tier NFL cornerback.
Click here to see Miller's full breakdown of 20 first-round projections.
NFL.com proposes 1st-round trade scenario for Vikings
Almost every year, teams conduct trades leading up to or on opening night of the NFL Draft.
NFL.com's Chad Reuter recently proposed five Round 1 trades he thinks could make sense for teams. He wrote:
Many deals for top-10 picks in recent drafts have happened in the weeks leading up to the event rather than while teams are on the clock. The Jets moved from the No. 6 overall pick to No. 3 overall a month before the 2018 NFL Draft (they ultimately chose Sam Darnold). The 49ers and Dolphins completed swaps in March 2021 (San Francisco traded places with Miami to move from No. 12 to No. 3, then Miami traded with Philadelphia to jump back to No. 6) to bring in a quarterback (Trey Lance) and elite pass-catcher (Jaylen Waddle) in that year's draft, respectively.
This year, the Panthers have already sent the ninth and 61st overall picks, as well as a 2024 first-round pick, a 2025 second-round pick and receiver D.J. Moore, to the Bears for this year's top overall selection. Carolina will, presumably, select a quarterback at that spot to stabilize the position.
One of the five trade scenarios involved Minnesota trading its 23rd pick, 87th pick and a 2024 first rounder to Philadelphia in exchange for the Eagles 10th overall pick received from New Orleans.
Vikings [General Manager] Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and [Head Coach] Kevin O'Connell might covet one of the top quarterback prospects in the class, with the idea that said prospect will take over for Kirk Cousins, who turns 35 in August and is [slated to hit] free agency after the 2023 season. Philadelphia [General Manager] Howie Roseman has made at least one trade involving a first-round pick in all but one of the past seven drafts. If the Eagles aren't interested in something like the above deal, the Vikings could still call other teams in the middle of the first round if they like one of the available signal-callers.
Moving from the late first round into the top dozen overall picks for a quarterback is not unheard of – in addition to the Bears jumping from No. 20 to No. 11 for Fields, the Chiefs (who grabbed Patrick Mahomes after going from No. 27 to No. 10 overall) and Texans (who selected Deshaun Watson after going from No. 25 to No. 12) made similar moves in 2017. Kansas City had a solid veteran on the roster (Alex Smith) when trading up – a similar situation to the one in which Minnesota finds itself. Not that I'm projecting [Will] Levis or [Anthony] Richardson to be as successful as Mahomes, but they both certainly have the potential to be longtime starting quarterbacks in the NFL.
The four other trade scenarios Reuter proposed were between the Cardinals and Colts, Bills and Seahawks, Chiefs and Giants, and Eagles and Raiders.