Minnesota Vikings 2021 NFL Draft Recapby James Dudko May 4, 2021 1 comment
General Manager Rick Spielman, head coach Mike Zimmer, and the Minnesota Vikings stuck to a trusted formula during the 2021 NFL draft. They beefed up the trenches on both sides of the ball, added depth at key positions, and may even have found their quarterback of the future. Not bad for draft work.
Make sure to check out all of our 2021 NFL Draft Team Recaps.
Best Pick: Christian Darrisaw (Round 1, Pick 23)
The Vikings hit it out of the park with their first pick. Not only did Spielman address an obvious need, but he also landed a prospect perfect for the offense Klint Kubiak and Rick Dennison will call in 2021. Darrisaw is not just an able replacement for Riley Reiff, who joined the Cincinnati Bengals in free agency. The former Virginia Tech left tackle is a run-blocking behemoth who will help the bell-cow of Minnesota’s offense, running back Dalvin Cook, reach even greater heights.
Darrisaw is quick getting out into space and delivers a thump when he reaches the second level. Those traits are ideal for a running scheme still deeply rooted in the outside zone-stretch play. Kubiak learned it from his father Gary, while line coach and run game coordinator Dennison coached the outside zone with the Denver Broncos and Houston Texans.
The trade with the New York Jets that netted the Vikings two third-round choices sealed this pick getting the highest possible grade. Spielman moved back nine spaces after sending the 14th overall pick to the Jets and still got the left tackle he wanted. He also used those extra third-rounders to select Kirk Cousins‘ backup (for now at least) Kellen Mond, and guard Wyatt Davis.
For more on Darrisaw, check out our scouting report on him here.
Worst Pick: Zach Davidson (Round 5, Pick 168)
Davidson suffers a bit here from an unfavorable comparison with the man he’ll try to replace, Kyle Rudolph. The latter was a punishing blocker whose ability to set the edge was a major asset in the Vikings’ running game. Davidson is a big target at 6’7″, but he’s more of a move tight end than an in-line ‘Y’, able to support the offensive line. His inconsistent play strength means Davidson will have a tough time replacing what Rudolph offered Cousins in the red zone.
Sleeper Pick: Patrick Jones II (Round 3, Pick 90)
Taking Jones with the pick they received from trading Yannick Ngakoue to the Baltimore Ravens last season was more smart work by the Vikings. Jones has a chance to become one of the better value picks from this draft class. He is a versatile edge-rusher who can line up at either defensive end spots and even slide inside in some looks. More importantly, Jones played in a scheme at the University of Pittsburgh built on a four-man rush from a fast and relentless defensive line. Zimmer knows this formula well because he learned it on the staff of the Dallas Cowboys in the mid-90s and early-2000s. He has trusted a 4-3 scheme for most of his career since.
The Vikings also have a decent history of selecting capable pass-rushers in the middle rounds. Danielle Hunter came off the board in the third round in 2015, while Everson Griffen developed nicely after being a fourth-rounder in 2010. Jones has a good chance to follow suit, not only because of his scheme fit but also because he was not fully healthy during the pre-draft process. Hamstring issues hurt his stock, so the Vikings got something of a sleeper who is yet to show pro coaches his best game.
For more on Jones II, check out our scouting report on him here.
It’s hard finding things not to like about what the Vikings did during this draft. Even the Davidson pick, which looks like a reach on paper, has a chance to reward Spielman. Undersized, mobile tight ends have thrived in the Kubiak offensive blueprint before. Think Owen Daniels with the Texans and Broncos.
The prevailing theme from the Vikings’ performance is one of a team that stayed committed to being big, tough, and active in the trenches. It is still a winning formula in the modern NFL. As long as the Cousins and Mond dynamic doesn’t become a controversy ahead of schedule, this will be a playoff team in 2021.
Overall Grade: A