Who should the Minnesota Vikings draft with the 14th pick?
By: Menachem Ickovitz (Twitter: @menudo_man)
The Minnesota Vikings hold the 14th pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. There are multiple positions and players they can target in this draft as both their offense and defense took a step back in 2020 from 2019. The Vikings did deal with some key injuries but still had opportunities to be better in 2020.
The one major bright spot last season was rookie wide receiver Justin Jefferson. Jefferson was picked with the 22nd pick, which the Vikings acquired from the Buffalo Bills in exchange for wide receiver Stefon Diggs. Jefferson caught 88 passes for 1400 yards and seven touchdowns.
The Vikings have already been busy this off-season revamping the defense. They have added defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson and cornerback Patrick Peterson to the team. While both are expected to make huge contributions in 2021, the Vikings still need more help on defense and the draft is a perfect place to get that help.
This is an important year for head coach Mike Zimmer. He cannot afford to go 7 – 9 again (or worse) like he did in 2020. If the Vikings do not make the playoffs Zimmer will probably be fired, so the Vikings need to add players who can be major contributors right away.
Kwity Paye, Edge, Michigan
The Vikings had the fifth fewest sacks in the NFL in 2020 with 23. They tried to improve the pass-rush last season by trading for Yannick Ngakoue, but that didn’t last long as he was traded from the Vikings to to Baltimore Ravens at the end of October. Adding Kwity Paye will add a young impact player with a lot of upside.
While Paye has only had 8.5 sacks in his previous 16 games, putting him on the other side of Danielle Hunter will help both of them get pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Additionally, with Dalvin Tomlinson on the inside, the defensive line would be much improved.
At Michigan, Paye was moved around to try to utilize his athleticism. At the NFL level, especially early in his career, it will behoove whoever drafts him to keep him in one spot so he can learn proper technique. It will also help him as he is not very experienced, having started only 19 games in his college career.
Gregory Rousseau, Edge, Miami
Gregory Rousseau is one of many players who opted out of the 2020 season. In 2019 he had a breakout season with 15.5 sacks and 19.5 tackles for loss. While he only put up these huge numbers in one season he has the athleticism and instincts to do this year after year.
Much like if the Vikings draft Paye, Rousseau will give them a young player with a lot of upside. For both Paye and Rousseau, having co-defensive coordinator/defensive line coach Andre Patterson there to teach them much like he did with Danielle Hunter when he came out of LSU in 2015 is a big advantage over other teams that could draft them.
DeVonta Smith, Wide Receiver, Alabama
Selecting DeVonta Smith might seem like a luxury pick as opposed to picking for need, however, if Smith is there it would be difficult to pass up the opportunity. Smith had a great season in 2020 at Alabama, garnering the Heisman Trophy.
If the Vikings do draft him, he will start off as the third receiver behind Jefferson and Adam Thielen and he will eventually replace the 31-year old Thielen. Thielen had a good 2020 season, catching 70 passes for 925 yards and 14 touchdowns, which was the most touchdowns by a Vikings receiver since Randy Moss had 17 in 2000, but he is still getting older at a position where rookies are making big contributions on a yearly basis.
Devonta Smith had the opportunity in 2020 to step up at Alabama thanks to Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs joining the NFL and Jaylen Waddle dealing with an injury. Smith showed himself to be a true number one receiver with big-play speed and excellent route-running abilities. The one knock against Smith is his size but that didn’t affect him in college.
Alijah Vera-Tucker, Guard/Tackle, USC
The Minnesota Vikings are looking for a new tackle after the loss of Riley Reiff who signed with the Cincinnati Bengals. Due to Vera-Tucker’s ability to play both guard and tackle, he makes sense for the Vikings.
In last year’s draft the Vikings added Ezra Cleveland, who played tackle in college but was moved to guard with the Vikings. If the Vikings add Vera-Tucker this year, they have the flexibility to decide who they would rather have at guard and rather have at tackle.
Vera-Tucker’s strength and balance is on display in pass protection. Additionally, he has excellent awareness and when he does get beat, he recovers quickly. As a run blocker he takes excellent angles on defenders and is often in a good spot.
He was a three-year starter for USC with very good technique. He gets to the second level quickly and still has room to grow athletically. He has drawn comparisons to current Kansas City Chiefs lineman Kelechi Osemele, who has been a good player since being drafted in 2012 by the Baltimore Ravens.
Christian Darrisaw, Tackle, Virginia Tech
Christian Darrisaw has been starting for the Hokies since 2018. He is a dynamic blocker and because he is fast to get to the second level, he would fit with the Vikings’ wide zone run scheme. His athleticism and playing experience give him the edge over other offensive line prospects.
If the Vikings want to keep Ezra Cleveland at guard, taking Darrisaw would give them the perfect opportunity to plug him into the lineup to replace Riley Reiff. Darrisaw’s awareness and upper-body strength are just two of the many qualities that will make him a day one starter.