With the Minnesota Vikings releasing wide receiver Mike Wallace it is seemingly more likely that they will draft a receiver in the first round this year, unless they make a move in free agency. ESPN draft expert Mel Kiper Jr. even had the Vikings taking TCU receiver Josh Doctson at No. 23 overall, and that was before the news regarding Wallace.
The Vikings have more needs than just wide receiver, though. So far in the NFL’s negotiating period prior to the start of free agency, the two positions they seem the most interested in are safety and offensive line.
In a conference call on Tuesday, Kiper discussed multiple players along the offensive line that he believes would be good fits for the Vikings outside of the first round.
“If you’re looking at an offensive lineman with versatility I would think you would go for, at that particular point in the second round, Cody Whitehair would look really good in a Viking uniform,” the draft analyst explained. “I had him in the first in the previous mock, didn’t have a great workout, so I think second round for him. So he provides exactly what you’re looking for. Vadal Alexander from LSU provides some versatility, as does Isaac Seumalo from Oregon State – Seumalo more a third/fourth, Alexander a two, Whitehair a two.”
Alexander and Whitehair are both very talented players, hence their second-round grades, but they play a little differently.
Both are versatile players who are expected to play guard at the next level, but Whitehair provides you with a player who can also move to center and Alexander is someone who can also move over and play right tackle.
Some other players along the offensive line that Kiper seemed to be high on who he saw going in later rounds are guards Joe Dahl from Washington State and Spencer Drango from Baylor, as well as offensive tackle Brandon Shell from South Carolina.
“I’m a Dahl guy,” Kiper said. “I’ve been talking about Dahl a lot throughout the course of the year. Brandon Shell is a guy who has the talent, has the ability, to go into the National Football League and in two or three years be saying, ‘OK, where did he come from? Why wasn’t he picked a little early?’ He’s got the length, tremendously long arms, huge hands and he 6-5½. And he’s very light on his feet for a 325 pounder, so if you look at the third round for him. Dahl’s going to drop a little bit because he’s not going to be a left tackle, but I thought as a guard he showed well at the Senior Bowl. He’s 6-4, 305 pounds. Here’s a guy that can move very well, athletic. I think he’s a pure guard. May take him a year to transition, but in year two, year three you could have a starting guard there you picked up in the fifth or sixth round.”
Even though all indications point toward the Vikings going after a safety hard in free agency, there is still a chance they address the position in the draft, especially if they are not able to come to terms with a free agent. Kiper discussed some who he could see the Vikings targeting outside of the first round.
“Safety wise, when you’re talking the second round it would be Karl Joseph, West Virginia,” he said. “Maybe Darian Thompson, Boise State, if he runs better – had 17 career interceptions. I thought he was a two and then he had the subpar 40 at the combine, but I would say Joseph from West Virginia and maybe Darian Thompson from Boise State.”
Kiper went on to explain that this year’s group of safeties is not that great, but teams could end up finding some good depth in the third, fourth or fifth rounds.
“A couple kids I like, Sean Davis out of Maryland because he can play corner or safety,” Kiper explained. “I think Miles Killebrew, Southern Utah, is a little overrated, but he could be in the second-, third-round mix. Justin Simmons, Boston College, with eight career interceptions, real good length, he could be a nice pick in the fourth or fifth round.”
What the Vikings ultimately decide to do in free agency will affect what they do in the draft, but fans can start to get an idea of what the team is looking for by the players they are showing interest in. At this point in time, it is clear they are looking to improve both the offensive line and safety position before the start of next season.
It may take some time for some of these players to develop, but they are all players that Kiper believes could have an impact in the NFL in the coming years.