The Minnesota Vikings made a lot of fans happy on Thursday night by selecting Christian Darrisaw in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft. A 6-foot-5, 314-pound monster, Darrisaw will be plugged into left tackle and provide a solution to their offensive line woes.
If there was a draft party at U.S. Bank Stadium, fans would have applauded the move to grab Darrisaw and several picks in an effort to move into the second round on Friday night. However, they would have gone wild had they traded up to draft Justin Fields.
What did the Cowboys want for the No. 10 pick?
The Vikings didn't technically pass on Fields but there was an opportunity to get him early in the first round. With Fields sliding down the board, he reached the Dallas Cowboys and the 10th overall pick.
Several quarterback-needy teams were looking to grab their quarterback of the future but the Philadelphia Eagles made the decision to move up and select wide receiver DeVonta Smith.
It was a small price to pay as the Eagles gave up the 12th and 84th selections. With the following pick, the Chicago Bears paid much more to get Fields.
The Vikings could not afford to give up the two first-rounders, a 2021 fifth-rounder and a 2022 fourth-rounder to move up with the Giants at No. 11, but it was the decision not to trade up with Dallas that should upset Vikings fans who were wishing for a QB.
If the Cowboys were asking for a third-round pick, the Vikings should have pounced. Minnesota's 78th overall selection would have trumped the Eagles' offer and allowed them to select their quarterback of the next decade.
Of course, that's speculation. Maybe the Cowboys put a much higher value on Philly's No. 12 pick over Minnesota's No. 14. It's a mystery, but the price the Eagles paid wasn't astronomical.
Was Mac Jones an option?
Alabama QB Mac Jones was on the board when the Vikings went on-the-clock at 14, but Minnesota traded back and the Patriots wasted no time taking Jones at No. 15.
When asked about passing up on the chance to take Jones, Spielman said: "We’ll see what happens tomorrow. All I’m worried about is what we’re trying to get accomplished (Thursday)."
According to ESPN's Courtney Cronin, the Vikings were 100% willing to trade up for one of the top offensive tackles in the draft. "The Vikings tried to trade up to land one of the top 2 offensive tackles taken, per sources, but when that didn’t pan out, they kept their eye on a prospect they liked all along and got him 9 spots later than they were supposed to," Cronin reported.
Cronin also said Fields "may have been a target," but Spielman declined to discuss who he was targeting in the event he had moved up.
If the Vikings simply weren't considering taking a QB in the first round, then that's an entirely new indictment on a franchise that has struggled to find a decade-long starter the way the best teams in the NFL usually do.
Can the Vikings exceed expectations?
With Aaron Rodgers reportedly wanting out of Green Bay, the door to win the NFC North has been cracked open. The Vikings are a team that has plenty of good pieces and could have a surprising season similar to the 2017 campaign.
That year, the Vikings came off a similar disappointing 8-8 season but used their strong 2015 draft class to improve to 13-3 and reach the NFC Championship Game. With the Vikings using Case Keenum to reach that mark, there's no reason why the Vikings can't do the same with Kirk Cousins under center in 2021.
But there are flaws the Vikings can't ignore. Even if Darrisaw solidifies the offensive line, it might not be enough to keep Cousins from digging his own grave. According to Pro Football Focus, Cousins was responsible for 15% of the pressures he faced last season.
And a new left tackle might not be enough to stop Cousins from crippling stretches, such as the first six games of last season when he tossed a league-high 10 interceptions. Can and old dog like Cousins be taught new tricks?
There is no guarantee that Fields would have come in and played at the same level as Cousins but it could have moved the franchise forward. If he becomes a star for the Bears, the Vikings will regret not moving up a few spots to get him.