Wide Left: Did the Vikings really nail both first-round draft picks?

Both Justin Jefferson and Jeff Gladney had positive reviews but...
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Wide Left is a Vikings blog written by superfan Blair Anderson, who someone convinced Bring Me The News to give him a platform to express his emotions. Here we go... 

Christmas morning came for Vikings fans and as the smoke cleared after the first round of the NFL Draft, fans everywhere had to be feeling a little disappointed.

The 2020 NFL Draft did not have the bevy of first-round trades that we've all been known to love and the Vikings didn't make the big splash to land a top-flight wide receiver or offensive tackle, which makes this draft a mixed bag.

However, there are a couple of thoughts that prevail in this first round and after slamming grain belts with no regard for human life, I thought I'd spill them here on the Wide Left blog. So here we go...

Is Justin Jefferson an upgrade on Stefon Diggs?

Overall, the selection of Jefferson looks like someone that can help this offense. The former LSU Tiger ran a 4.43s 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine and his comparisons on MockDraftable are mostly positive including Justin Blackmon (who was a beast before being thrown out of the league) and Reggie Wayne.

But there's one problem that makes me worry about this pick. Jefferson was a beast for LSU working out of the slot where he racked up 98.5 percent of his 1,540 yards.

This sounds great, but the Vikings opted to run many of their passing sets with two tight ends during the 2019 season. With Mike Zimmer obsessed with running the ball, putting Jefferson in his normal slot position where he took advantage of zone coverage but still registered seven drops (278th in the nation according to Pro Football Focus), isn't exactly promising.

With a deep receiving class, it's curious to wonder if the Vikings thought that Jefferson belonged in the same tier of Henry Ruggs (12th overall to Las Vegas), Jerry Jeudy (15th overall to Denver) and CeeDee Lamb, who the Dallas Cowboys took in an effort to exorcise the demons of passing on Randy Moss.

Jefferson has the athletic talent to be an instant contributor, but whether he's enough to make people forget about Stefon Diggs remains to be seen.

Was Jeff Gladney the best cornerback on the board?

As expected, the Vikings traded down from the 25th overall pick in the draft. The deal with the San Francisco 49ers gave them Brandon Aiyuk, but also allowed the Vikings to pick up fourth- and fifth-round selections to take Jeff Gladney.

Gladney is 5-foot-10 and 191 pounds, which makes him smaller than the prototypical Zimmer cornerback. Even his 4.48-second time in the 40-yard dash was below Zimmer's protocol, but he ran in the 4.3-second range one year ago.

Such a thought process echoes what Spielman said during his pre-draft availability, noting they had their eyes on some players that had better 2018 seasons than 2019.

Gladney fits that bill after posting an elite 90.6 coverage grade from Pro Football Focus in 2018 but seeing it drop to 71.7 last season. Even with the drop, Gladney stuck to Big 12 receivers like glue, forcing tight coverage on nearly 80 percent of his targets downfield.

This sounds like a rebound candidate, but the Vikings could have done better by selecting Kristian Fulton.

As a member of one of the most dominant teams in college football history, Fulton is bigger (6-foot-0, 197 pounds) and a tick faster (4.46-second 40-yard dash) than Gladney and had a three-cone time (6.94 seconds) that fits with the profile of backs selected in the Zimmer/Spielman era, according to The Athletic's Arif Hasan.

Bigger? Faster? Stronger? Nah, let's go with the other guy! Like Jefferson, this might turn out better than we think, but it sure draws some red flags. 

If Zimmer thinks Gladney is too small to play on the outside, he'll be thrown into the slot, where it took Mackensie Alexander multiple seasons to master the "How I made Deion Sanders 101" course Zimmer gives his rookies, the instant impact for a 23-year-old may not be what they're expecting.

The heir apparent to the Holy Rodgers?

With most of us in quarantine, we have binge-watched plenty of the 2009 season. As the Vikings soared to disappointment in another NFC Championship Game loss, the Packers were seeing the development of a young quarterback named Aaron Rodgers.

When the Packers selected Rodgers in the first round of the 2005 NFL Draft, we all laughed and wondered why they would do such a thing with Brett Favre on the roster. Rodgers sat for three years and eventually got his shot and eventually the "tHrEe SuPeR bOwLs" line from Packer fans turned into "fOuR sUPeR bOwLs."

On the surface, this decision to trade up for Jordan Love looks very similar. The Packers have a stud quarterback that wants to win now. He even went on Pat McAfee's radio show to reiterate that giving him a legit weapon would be a good idea heading into 2020.

To be fair, quarterback is a skill position, sooooo...

But then there's the concept of what teams are doing with the salary cap. Get younger. Get cheaper. Take advantage of that rookie deal. But because the grooming thing worked well with Favre and Rodgers, the Packers are throwing this out the window. 

And yet, there's still plenty of paranoia. We all laughed hard when the Packers selected a falling Rodgers and now they have a quarterback that has drawn comparisons to Patrick Mahomes.

We dodged this bullet once when the Bears took Mitchell Trubisky over Mahomes, but if Love turns out to be that good, will the Vikings suffer through another 15 years of Hall of Fame quarterback play?

Plus, it's not like the Vikings would have been psychotic to pass on a quarterback like they would have been by passing on Rodgers twice in 2005 when they had Daunte Culpepper coming off an MVP-caliber season.

But the Packers have to suck at some point. There's no way a team can be that lucky for that long. It's impossible.

Yet, here we are. If the Packers are right on Love, the Vikings will look stupid for having their hot mess of a quarterback get another Brinks truck full of money. If they're not, maybe the door can finally be open in the NFC North.

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