While TCU Horned Frogs receiver Josh Doctson was the most-mocked player to the Minnesota Vikings in the 12 national mock drafts we surveyed, two players were sent to the Vikings in the mock drafts – Mississippi Rebels wide receiver Laquon Treadwell and Ohio State Buckeyes linebacker Darron Lee. While the Treadwell pick makes a lot of sense because the Vikings are in desperate need for a true No. 1 receiver, the Lee pick – made by ESPN’s Mel Kiper and CBS Sports’ Rob Rang – is a little more of a head scratcher.
The Vikings have two young, starting linebackers in Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks. They will likely consider re-signing Chad Greenway for another year, too, and if they do re-sign him he is going to want to play, not sit behind a rookie. It is not often that a first-round pick will sit in their rookie season, but the Vikings proved that they are not afraid to make them sit by having Trae Waynes mostly ride the bench on defense for almost the entire 2015 season.
Another thing that makes the Lee pick a little puzzling is that the Vikings have spent a first- or second-round pick on the linebacker position the past two seasons and there are positions of greater need on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball.
Also, the Vikings ran a majority of their plays out of the nickel defense last year, which consisted of Barr and Kendricks. Both players seemed to be comfortable playing in that role and will likely hold the positions again in 2016. So it seems odd to spend a first-round pick on a player who would have a limited role on the team.
But let’s look at Lee as a player. There is no doubt he is physically talented and could help out any team that took him. He comes in at 6-foot-2, 228 pounds, has the ability to quickly diagnosis what is happening in front of him and has the uncanny ability of finding the best route to the ball carrier. He is also a very athletic player, which was shown by the fact that he was the quarterback of his team in high school.
He is good in coverage, changes directions quickly, has quick feet and good agility, which is what you usually want in an NFL weak-side linebacker. That is the position the Vikings will need to fill once Greenway retires, but as stated earlier that likely will not be for another season as the veteran has already expressed his desire to return to the team in 2016.
Like any rookie, though, Lee does have some flaws to his game. At 228 pounds, he is on the smaller size for an NFL linebacker and what hurts that even more is that he tends to use his arms more than he should when tackling. He has some balance issues and will often miss his target with his shoulder/body and is forced to try to bring them to the ground with an arm tackle.
This is something that could be very costly in the NFL, but if the Vikings do select him with their first-round pick they could sit him for a year behind Greenway and have him work on improving that aspect of his game.
Lee could end up being a good fit for the Vikings system, but it might just be a year too early for the Vikings to draft a linebacker early once again. It would be hard to justify having a first-round pick sit for an entire season for the second year in a row when there are other spots that need an immediate upgrade, most notably positions on the offensive side of the ball that have been a little neglected the past couple drafts.