One of the most exciting times of the year is here for Minnesota Vikings fans and football fans in general, with the 2021 NFL Draft beginning Thursday night and wrapping up Saturday in Cleveland, Ohio. There have been plenty of headlines surrounding this year’s draft, including the plethora of quarterbacks set to go high in the first round as well as who will follow those players later in the opening round and beyond during the three-day selection process.
Where the Vikings Stand in the First Round of NFL Draft
For the Vikings, they have a few options on the table as to what they could do with the 14th pick on Thursday night. From who Minnesota could ultimately select, what position it might target with that mid-round selection or if the front office decides to move up or back in the draft. Before the draft begins at 7 p.m. Eastern Time on Thursday, here are three options the Vikings might have in the first round and how their decision will impact the rest of the draft for Minnesota.
Leading up to the start of the draft, Minnesota holds a total of 10 picks headlined by a selection in the middle of the first round. On Thursday night, which will feature just the first round of the draft, it will be telling what the Vikings strategy is for the draft when it is their time to pick. Of the 10 picks in the draft, Minnesota has one first-round pick (14), two third-round picks (78 and 90), four fourth-round selections (119, 125, 134 and 143), two fifth-round picks (157 and 168) and one selection in the sixth round (199).
In the past, the Vikings have made some moves on draft night by either trading up or down throughout the seven-round draft, so it wouldn’t be surprising if Minnesota made some trades at some point. Fortunately for the Vikings, they will have some solid options and prospects to choose from in the first round and in the following rounds.
Options for Minnesota in the First Round
Trade Up to Grab a Difference Maker
One option for Minnesota is to try and package up some picks or players to trade up in Thursday’s first round. The only way this would likely take place is if the Vikings saw a player worth trading up for in the first round that has fallen more than they expected or predicted.
One intriguing scenario could be if one of the highly-touted quarterback prospects falling to Minnesota to develop behind current quarterback Kirk Cousins. With Cousins set to resume his starting role under center for the Vikings in 2021, this hypothetical player would be strictly a developmental project for if or when Minnesota ultimately decides to move on from Cousins in the future.
Although the Vikings do have a limited amount of draft assets this year to offer up, a trade could include future draft picks or even a player and draft picks if they make the surprising choice to trade up in Thursday’s first round.
Trade Back and Gain Assets
The more likely option Minnesota ventures towards if it trades away the 14th pick in the opening round on Thursday night would be trading back. Since general manager Rick Spielman took things over in that role in 2012, he has often shown the likeliness to trade back and gain assets for both the current and future seasons.
The thing that makes this option more likely–if the Vikings trade the pick at all–is due to the bulk of the top 10-15 picks are expected to be quarterbacks. That would leave a lot of intriguing and talented non-quarterback prospects available in the middle of the first round, meaning teams with their eyes on those players might try to trade up to steal a guy they have their eyes on.
Minnesota is also without a second-round pick in this draft due to trading that pick away before the 2020 season to bring in defensive end Yannick Ngakoue, who was shortly after traded away to the Baltimore Ravens for a 2021 third-round pick. If Spielman and the Vikings could make a trade to move back a few spots in Thursday’s first round and also gain a second-round pick in the process, that would be the best-case scenario.
Stand Pat and Draft for Need
The obvious third option for Minnesota is that it remains still opt to not make a trade in the opening round of the draft. Sitting with the 14th selection in the first round, the Vikings will likely have their choice of who they would like to select at various points of need on the depth chart.
If Minnesota were to remain in its current spot at 14th overall, there are a few avenues the team could go down and a few areas of need to take a player at. Notably, the two greatest positions of need reside on the offensive line and the defensive line.
Some offensive linemen who could be on the board when the Vikings are on the clock include Oregon’s Penei Sewell, who is unlikely to fall to 14, tackles Rashawn Slater from Northwestern, Virginia Tech’s Christian Darrisaw, Teven Jenkins of Oklahoma State, Michigan’s Jalen Mayfield, Alijah Vera-Tucker from USC or Alabama’s Alex Leatherwood, amongst others.
On the defensive line and most notably edge rusher, the area of greatest need on that line, some prospects to keep an eye on include Michigan’s Kwity Paye, Gregory Rousseau and Jaelan Phillips from Miami, Georgia’s Azeez Ojulari, Penn State’s Jayson Oweh, and others.
Regardless of which option the Vikings decide to explore on the opening night of the NFL Draft on Thursday, they have plenty of decisions to make when it comes to strategy in building up the roster leading into the 2021 season. From trading up if a player or players fall to begin the draft, to trading back and racking up assets, or not doing anything and selecting the best player available at 14.
What Minnesota specifically decides to do with the 14th overall pick and which prospects the team examines will be a fascinating story throughout the three-day selection process.
Embed from Getty Images