The Minnesota Vikings stand three weeks away from the NFL Draft and with plenty of holes on the roster, there's a big question of how General Manager Rick Spielman will fill them.
As the first wave of free agency wraps up, most analysts are dropping their latest mock drafts, perhaps giving Minnesota fans a better sense of how the Vikings will use their two first-round picks, Nos. 22 and 25.
The responses seem to be all over the board, but the one constant appears to be Justin Jefferson. Joe Marino and Jordan Reid of The Draft Network, Kevin Hanson of Sports Illustrated and Mark Schofield of USA Today's Touchdown Wire all have the LSU receiver staying in a purple and gold jersey and as a potential replacement for Stefon Diggs.
"[The Vikings] offense needs a receiver who can create after the catch as well as someone who can win at the catch point for Kirk Cousins," Schofield explained. "The Vikings can get both in Justin Jefferson. The LSU wideout can make defenders miss after the catch, and if Cousins needs a ball-winner, Jefferson can be that guy, too."
Along with finding someone to line up across from Adam Thielen, another favorite in the mock draft community is the Vikings' need at cornerback. TCU's Jeff Gladney is the name that came up the most in that conversation, showing up in mocks from Marino, Miller, Schofield and CBS Sports' Sean Wagner-McGough.
"It's a good thing the Vikings have an extra first-round pick due to the Diggs trade, because they're going to need as many picks as possible to rebuild a defense that got gutted this offseason," Wagner-McGough said. "Gladney an obvious fit. He's undersized, but a good cover corner. And the Vikings need some of those."
In addition to grabbing Gladney, Bleacher Report's Matt Miller also has the Vikings defense beefing up in the trenches, dedicating both picks to the defensive side of the ball and adding Iowa defensive end A.J. Epenesa at No. 25. Miller also predicts the Vikings will wait to select a wide receiver until taking Oregon State's Isaiah Hodgkins in the third round.
"We can't forget that the team also lost Everson Griffen this offseason and arguably has a bigger need at defensive end than at wide receiver," Miller said." That's especially important to remember in a draft loaded at one position (receiver) and thin at the other."
The rest of the names centered around wide receiver, cornerback or defensive line, which means that the Vikings are not expected to address their offensive line with someone like Houston's Josh Jones or Boise State's Ezra Cleveland.
But the most unique name of all came in Reid's draft, where he listed Auburn cornerback Noah Ibinoghene, who has only been playing the position for two seasons.
"He’s firmly placed his name into the first-round discussion," Reid said. "While he’s not as ready right now as some other options after only playing the position for two seasons, his upside is just as good as any cornerback in this class not named Jeffrey Okudah."
Gophers fans should remember Ibinoghene from the Outback Bowl as he returned a kickoff 96 yards for a touchdown.
Other names mentioned include Penn State's Yetur Gross-Matos (Hanson) and Clemson's A.J. Terrell (Wagner-McGough). Those names will likely change over the next three weeks as the Vikings prepare for one of the most important drafts in franchise history.
Other notable mock drafts
- Mel Kiper Jr. (ESPN) - No. 22 WR Denzel Mims, Baylor; No. 25 Epensa
- Todd McShay (ESPN) - No. 22 Jefferson; No. 25 CB Trevon Diggs, Alabama
- Charles Davis (NFL.com) - No. 22 S Xavier McKinney, Alabama; No. 25 Jefferson
- Lance Zierlein (NFL.com) - No. 22 DE Yetur Gross-Matos, Penn State; No. 25 DT Ross Blacklock, TCU
- Matt Miller (Bleacher Report) - No. 22 Gladney; No. 25 Epensa
- Jordan Reid (The Draft Network - No. 22 Jefferson; No. 25 Ibinoghene
- Joe Marino (The Draft Network - No. 22 Jefferson; No. 25 Gladney
- Kevin Hanson (Sports Illustrated) - No. 22 Jefferson; No. 25 Gross-Matos
- Mark Schofield (Touchdown Wire) - No. 22 Gladney; No. 25 Jefferson
- Sean Wagner-McGough (CBS Sportsline) - No. 22 Gladney No. 25 CB A.J. Terrell (Clemson)