Minnesota Vikings 2016 NFL Draft: Top 3 Needs

Now that major free agent signings have been finalized, the Last Word On Sports NFL department will be looking at the top three needs for each team heading into the 2016 NFL Draft. Today, the Minnesota Vikings are the focus. After a big jump into the playoffs in 2015, the Vikings moved from pick 11 last year to pick number 23 this year. They also have picks 54, 86, 121, 160, 198, 240, and 244 in this draft.

Minnesota Vikings 2016 NFL Draft: Top 3 Needs

Wide Receiver

Last year, the Vikings relied on a 5th round pick and rookie in Stefon Diggs to be the teams leading wideout. He led the Vikings in targets, at 84, catches with 52, yards with 720, and was second behind Kyle Rudolph in touchdowns with four. Anyone who knows the landscape of the league knows that if that is your top threat’s statistics for a season, you were not passing it well.

The Vikings tried to plug guys with high upside in like Charles Johnson and Cordarrelle Patterson, but neither were able to consistently stay in the lineup. They both struggled to beat out Mike Wallace and Jarius Wright for playing time and that gives you little hope for more to come. Wallace is now gone, so in terms of success they are looking at a depth chart of Diggs, Wright and major questions.

They failed to do much in the off-season to address the position (and even cut Wallace), so they have to have their eyes on the draft. At pick 23, almost every mock draft you see points to a talented receiver on the board being taken by Minnesota. The way that I see it, there is a top tier of wideouts that consists of Laquon Treadwell, Josh Doctson, Michael Thomas and Corey Coleman. If one of those four is around at 23, which many think will be the case, it would be in their best interest to jump on it. Another possibility early is Sterling Shepard. He would fit perfectly in the offense, but doesn’t have major upside, so the question with him would become is he worth a first-round pick, or do you address another need in the first and hope he is there in the second?

Offensive Line

The Vikings offensive line was an absolute mess last year. They started without right tackle Phil Loadholt and center John Sullivan for the year due to season-ending surgeries. They also essentially learned that their former top five pick, and current starting left tackle, Matt Kalil not only did not live up to the hype, but he is probably on the road to being a career backup swing tackle. The Vikings drafted T.J. Clemmings in round four last year, and while he showed some growth after being throw into the lineup due to the Loadholt injury, he is a very raw option, and should be looked at as a guy who can start in two years, more so than next year.

Loadholt and Sullivan will be back and the team went out and signed Alex Boone this offseason to fill a hole at guard, but there will still be holes. Kalil and Loadholt both have just one year left on their deals, and if a quality tackle is there in the first round, he may be able to unseat Kalil next year. Taylor Decker from Ohio State and Jack Conklin from Michigan State are two guys who have the possibility of being around late in the first round and still have quality to be worthy of the pick. In the second round, they could be looking to guys like Jason Spriggs, or even Vadal Alexander, who has been able to play guard and tackle.

While they signed Boone to sure up the left guard spot, they could also find another starter at guard at some point. Guard is an undervalued position, and some guys to watch for the Vikings in the first three rounds could be Cody Whitehair from Kansas State, Joshua Garnett from Stanford, Vadal Alexander, or Christian Westerman from Arizona State. The question really is not if they will draft a lineman, but how early and how many will they end up taking?

Weak Side Linebacker

It isn’t the most pressing need, like the offensive line and the wide receiver position is, but at some point they will want to add on defense. They will more than likely draft an interior defensive lineman to be a depth player, and at some point they will look to take a linebacker. The Vikings re-signed Chad Greenway this year, but to a one-year deal on the idea that this is his last season in the NFL. They signed Emmanuel Lamur, who will probably rotate in with Greenway this year and be a depth piece, but he has always been just a depth piece, and he is only signed for two years.

Since it is not a pressing need, the Vikings have the luxury to sit on it and not have to push a player into a pick too high due to need. It also puts them in play for a complete wild card like Jaylon Smith. Smith, out of Notre Dame, was probably going to be a top ten pick, but a very bad leg injury has some questioning if he will play again. He could seemingly go anywhere from the first round to the third, and depending on how the Vikings see the board breaking on the line and at wideout, they could really take him in any round. Deion Jones and Su’a Cravens are two other Day 2 guys who would fit the role, and would probably benefit from not having to play right away.