Skip to main content

Mel Kiper Jr. has Vikings taking a cornerback in his first mock draft

Mike Zimmer may be gone, but the tradition lives on.

If you thought that Mike Zimmer's departure meant the Vikings were done taking cornerbacks in the first round of the NFL Draft, Mel Kiper Jr. has something for you.

In his first mock draft of the season, the ESPN draft guru has the Vikings taking Cincinnati cornerback Ahmad "Sauce" Gardner with the 12th overall pick in this year's draft.

"Since 2013, the Vikings have drafted four cornerbacks in Round 1 ... and not a single one of them is still on the roster," Kiper explained. "Coach Mike Zimmer and general manager Rick Spielman are out, and the new regime will inherit a good, not great, roster with a couple of significant voids, particularly at corner. Veteran Patrick Peterson was signed to a one-year deal last offseason, so he's a free agent, and I'm not sold that Cameron Dantzler is a quality starter. They should jump at the chance to take Gardner, a lockdown corner who presented problems for opposing offensive coordinators in 2021."

In 14 games this season, Gardner was one of the top cornerbacks in the country. He allowed just 0.26 yards per coverage snap, recorded three interceptions and ranked 10th among qualifying cornerbacks with an 87.2 Pro Football Focus grade as the Bearcats qualified for the College Football Playoff.

While Gardner could be a big piece to a revamped secondary, many will be fixated on Vikings' decision at quarterback. 

Kirk Cousins is due for an NFL-leading $45 million cap hit next season, which puts pressure on the Vikings. Even if the Vikings decide to let Cousins play at his massive salary, they could be in the market for a quarterback to take over in 2023.

"With Cousins not locked in long term, I thought about a quarterback here," Kiper admitted. "But Gardner is too good to pass up for a team in glaring need."

Liberty's Malik Willis (11th overall to Washington) is the only quarterback off the board before the Vikings' pick in Kiper's first mock but that could change throughout the offseason. If the Vikings want to move on it, appears they will at least have options.

Next Up


The Raptor Center's ambassador, Nero the turkey vulture, dies at 47

Nero helped save the California condors before taking up his post as an education ambassador.

Ben Leber

Ben Leber named new permanent co-host of 'Twin Cities Live'

The former Minnesota Vikings linebacker was introduced Friday afternoon.


APM Reports, maker of 'In the Dark' podcast, nixed by Minnesota Public Radio

MPR said "select programming elements" of APM Reports will be incorporated into MPR News.

storm, severe

The latest on holiday weekend severe weather chances for MN

The most significant severe threats are Sunday night and again on Monday.

Arianna Vos

Charges: Driver was drunk, high in head-on crash that killed 19-year-old woman

The young woman killed in the crash was a college student studying zoology.


Motorcyclist killed in Ham Lake after passing in the turn lane

The motorcyclist was hit by a car turning onto the road.

Keith Ellison

Minnesota gets cut of Ford settlement over misleading ads

The $19.2 million settlement centers on Ford's C-Max hybrid and Super Duty pickup truck.

Richfield High School

Richfield High School closed for day after threat

District officials say the threat is not believed to be credible.


Josiah Scott

3 sleeper cornerbacks the Vikings could take in the NFL Draft

In a deep class, the Vikings could wait to add depth or a project.

Screen Shot 2020-03-29 at 12.36.38 PM

5 second-round cornerbacks the Vikings could select in the NFL Draft

The Vikings could find value if they choose to wait.

Justin Jefferson

Who could the Vikings select in the first round of the NFL Draft?

A lot of experts are centering around LSU wide receiver Justin Jefferson.

Xavier Rhodes

Offseason preview: What changes will Vikes make at cornerback?

A staple of the Vikings' defense may see major changes this spring.

Kenny Willekes

Vikings draft pick Kenny Willekes shows off his athleticism

The scouting reports may have been off on the seventh-round pick.