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Intriguing defensive players the Vikings could take in the NFL Draft

After spending $40 million in free agency, the Vikings probably aren't done fixing their defense.
Kwity Paye

Michigan edge rusher Kwity Paye. 

After finishing 27th in yards allowed and 29th in points allowed, Mike Zimmer had enough of his defense. The Minnesota Vikings head coach admitted he was "down in the dumps" looking at his depth chart at the end of the season and the team responded by pouring $40 million into the unit during free agency.

Even with the spending spree, the Vikings defense still needs some work. This year's draft class is not ideal to fill needs at edge rusher, safety and cornerback but a run on offense could help give Minnesota the defensive player they want if they stay at pick No. 14.

Kwity Paye

The Vikings have built their defensive line by finding players with strong athletic traits. This formula helped them acquire Danielle Hunter in 2015 but they haven't had the same success in recent years.

Paye fits the mold as an athletic rusher that can get to the quarterback. While his performance at his pro day was impressive, the video of his 3-cone drill has gotten the most attention. At 6-foot-2, 261 pounds, Paye ran the drill in under 6.5 seconds. By comparison top receiver prospect Ja'Marr Chase ran his 3-cone drill in 6.96 seconds.

Andre Patterson has built his reputation on turning players like Paye into superstars. Adding the No. 1 player on Bruce Feldman's freaks list would be a great addition to his stable of "pet cats."

Jaelan Phillips

Phillips arrived at UCLA as a five-star recruit but his path to the draft was a rocky one. He was struck by a car while riding a scooter on campus in 2018 and medically retired after suffering a concussion during a game in 2019.

But Phillips transferred to Miami and showed the tools that made him a coveted prospect. Phillips recorded eight sacks for the Hurricanes and quickly became one of the best edge rushers in the country.

At 6-foot-5, 260 pounds, Phillips ranked in the 80th percentile or higher in every drill except for bench press. If his medicals check out, the Vikings would be getting a potential top-10 talent.

Caleb Farley

At 6-foot-2, 207 pounds, Farley has the size to play in Zimmer's press-man scheme but his health is a big question. Farley had a microdiscectomy in his lower back last month but provided video of his 4.28-second time in the 40-yard dash to show what he can do when healthy.

With Patrick Peterson and Mackensie Alexander on one-year deals and Mike Hughes in the final year of his contract, the Vikings will add a corner at some point during the draft. If they choose to do it early, Farley would be an excellent selection.

Patrick Surtain II

Surtain's father was a Pro Bowl corner but he has carved out his own name at Alabama. Surtain cracked Nick Saban's starting lineup as a true freshman and earned PFF's second-highest coverage grade among cornerbacks with at least 200 coverage snaps.

While Surtain doesn't have the athleticism that Farley has, he makes up for it with his technique. With teams unwilling to throw in his direction, Surtain has the makings of a shutdown corner.

Jaycee Horn

Another corner with NFL bloodlines, Horn was right with Surtain as one of the best corners in the SEC. At 6-foot-1 and 205 pounds, Horn has the physical tools to play a press-man style but his style of play translates on the field.

With his ability to get in the face of receivers, Horn has a game similar to Xavier Rhodes. While his tendency to grab and push receivers will need to be toned down in the NFL, he's a cornerback that will make opposing receivers call for help.

Christian Barmore

Michael Pierce and Dalvin Tomlinson will provide the beef in the middle of the Vikings' defensive line but they still need to find an interior pass-rusher. 

Barmore is inconsistent but turned his game up in the College Football Playoff with 12 pressures in wins over Notre Dame and Ohio State. His game is reminiscent of Sheldon Richardson and could at least provide a key rotational piece at 3-technique.

The Rest

Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah - The Vikings have tried to get into the "slinebacker" trend with Jayron Kearse but it didn't pan out. Owusu-Koramoah is a better athlete that can play both safety and linebacker in the NFL. With a penchant for big hits, he would add some physicality to the Vikings' defense.

Trevon Moehrig - Although the Vikings added Xavier Woods, he's on a one-year deal. Moehrig is a ball-hawking safety in the mold of Anthony Harris and could add depth behind Harrison Smith.

Gregory Rousseau - Rousseau has similar physical traits to the edge rushers listed above but doesn't have much experience. He racked up 15.5 sacks during his redshirt freshman season in 2019 but opted out of the 2020 season. He'll need time to develop but could be an impact player.

Jayson Oweh - While Paye was No. 1 on Feldman's freaks list, Oweh has made the list in each of the past two seasons. He ran a 4.39-second 40-yard dash and has the explosiveness to wreak havoc on the edge. With the ability to stop the run, Oweh is another player the Vikings could covet.

Jamin Davis - The Vikings don't need to take a linebacker but Anthony Barr is in the final year of his contract. Davis was one of the biggest beneficiaries of having college football in 2020. While his coverage needs work and he needs to add size, he could develop into Barr's replacement.

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