Matthew Coller is an experienced football writer who covered the Vikings for 1500ESPN and Skor North for four years. Also a published author, Coller writes a weekly Vikings column for Bring Me The News, and you can find more of his work at Purple Insider.
A message for NFL Network’s draft expert Daniel Jeremiah: Thank you, good sir. Seriously.
This week Jeremiah released his second mock draft and with the 14th overall pick he projected the Minnesota Vikings to select Heisman Trophy winning wide receiver DeVonta Smith.
If you’re wondering, yes, this is the first time I’ve ever thanked someone for a mock draft selection.
But there’s good reason. Jeremiah is the first mainstream draft expert to assign the Vikings a weapon on offense. Everywhere else you look, you’ll find defensive ends, defensive tackles, offensive tackles and maybe even a linebacker if somebody projects Anthony Barr as a cap casualty.
That’s not to say the Mel Kipers or Todd McShays are wrong for thinking that the Vikings will most likely bolster the trenches. In fact, the odds are heavily in their favor. It’s just that Jeremiah’s pick opens a window for Vikings fans to think about the possibility of something different from the status quo. It gives some credibility to the idea that the Vikings could look to push the offense as far as it will go rather than looking at their 11th rank in points scored and saying that’s good enough.
Of course, Jeremiah’s pick was met with a lot of groans from those who are exhausted from watching Kirk Cousins be pressured from the interior of the offensive line. But his simple little decision to plug in Smith’s name gives everyone free rein to argue about it now, right?
We can show that Cousins has always had high pressure rates because they’re inherent to the way he plays quarterback and that giving him more weapons will actually reduce pressure because opponents won’t be able to load up coverage on Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen on third downs which is where Cousins gets the majority of his pressure.
We can also point to that other time the Vikings didn’t absolutely need another wide receiver but Dennis Green decided he just couldn’t pass up on that kid from Marshall. Or how the Tampa Bay Buccaneers just kept adding and adding weapons for Tom Brady even though he already had two elite receivers. And on and on…
OK, OK, all of that is aside from the point. And sure the offensive line still needs help, we all agree on that. The point, however, is that Jeremiah’s proposal for the Vikings to draft college football’s most dominant receiver gives hope to the possibility of a highly entertaining offseason. It cracks the door open for Vikings fans to consider the chance that the team will do something that takes them by surprise and drives them to buy a Smith jersey or download the latest Madden roster the second the first round of the draft is over.
Who knew one man’s mock could be so powerful?
Anyway, all of that is said to say this: There’s all sorts of ways the Vikings could spend their cap space and draft capital this offseason but the most predictable ways aren’t all that compelling. If you’ve been following along at all, you could probably recite the plan in the middle of your sleep. Get a relatively cheap guard in free agency, sign a receiver somebody else didn’t want, draft a defensive lineman, sign a defensive lineman, sign a DB that Mike Zimmer knows, restructure some contracts, draft a kicker in the sixth round and so forth.
Admittedly, all that might actually be a decent plan. Restocking the defense is absolutely needed following a season in which Mike Zimmer’s team ranked 29th in points allowed is pretty important. Spending like crazy on a guard doesn’t fit the positional value chart and the Vikings haven’t used WR3 in recent years.
But drafting Smith going all-in on giving Cousins every chance in the world to drive a dominating offense -- well, that would be cinema.
Since arriving with the Vikings, there’s always been some type of holdup with Cousins, whether it’s the guard position or offensive coordinator or the fact they allowed Laquon Treadwell to be his No. 3 receiver. Drafting a player like Smith (while presumably still spending some cap space to add to the O-line) would mean giving everything to Cousins and saying, “let’s see it,” as he heads into Year 2 of a three-year extension.
Again, you might be right in thinking the road more traveled is the safer one to get into the playoffs in 2021 but it sure as heck isn’t the most gripping.
By now Vikings fans have seen a lot of just-get-into-the-playoffs type years. Since 1992, the Vikings have won between six and 11 games in all but four seasons. They’ve been eliminated in the Wild Card or Divisional round 11 times. At that rate, you would think any opportunity to push the chips to the middle of the table would be welcomed with open arms.
Maybe you’re thinking, “sorry pal that’s not going to happen.” Alright, fine. But one thing the Vikings always have going for them is their ability to pull a rabbit out of a hat. Sometimes those shockers don’t work out i.e. getting Randy Moss back in 2010 or the Sam Bradford trade and sometimes those aggressive moves do work out like with Brett Favre in 2009. What all of those things have in common is that they made things pretty darn unpredictable. Sports are at their best when they’re unpredictable — even offseason sports.
Anyway, you don’t have to root for this offseason to be unpredictable. But at least Daniel Jeremiah put that option on the table. So thanks for that, DJ.