Does the lack of a first-round pick in this year’s NFL draft put more pressure on the Minnesota Vikings to make a “splash” in the second round?
If that’s the case, there is one controversial player they have investigated that NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock believes is under consideration. That player is former Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon, a first-round talent by nearly all analyst estimations but also a player that reportedly has been taken off numerous draft boards after video surfaced of him punching a female student two years ago.
“If I’m the GM, I take him off my board. As soon as I see that video, he’s off my board,” Mayock said. “However, more than half the league is doing their homework on this guy, and he’s going to play in the league. So if you’re in Minnesota and you [don’t] have a first-round pick, you’re doing your homework, in my opinion. So I don’t have any idea what they are or aren’t doing with Joe Mixon, but I would assume that’s a guy they’re looking at really hard, trying to evaluate him.”
Since informing Adrian Peterson that they weren’t going to bring him back in free agency, the Vikings signed veteran Latavius Murray to be their starter, but behind Murray is Jerick McKinnon and a couple of young and relatively unproven players in Bishop Sankey and C.J. Ham.
On talent alone, Mixon would be an upgrade, but the Vikings would be taking another public relations hit at the position after dealing with Peterson’s child abuse allegations in 2014.
Even if it isn’t Mixon and the Vikings are looking for an every-down running back to add to the stable in the first three rounds, many analysts see this as the best draft in a long time at that position.
Count Mayock among them.
After Leonard Fournette, Dalvin Cook, Christian McCaffrey and Mixon – place those running backs in any order you want – there are plenty of options on Day 2, which encompasses the second and third rounds.
“The last five years there’s been an average of seven running backs go in the first three rounds, which you typically are looking for a three-down back. This year I’ve got 11,” he said. “Once you get past that first group, which would include Joe Mixon, I don’t know, Curtis Samuel is more of a wideout. Some people think he’s a running back. But in the third round I’ve got guys like Samaje Perine, Kareem Hunt, Jamaal Williams. I’m not a huge D'Onta Foreman fan, but I think [some team will] take him somewhere late third round. But to me they’re all three-down backs. Foreman might not be a third-down back. He might be a first or second down. But we’ve got 10 or 11 guys right there that I think are three-down backs. You go with the draft, Marlon Mack is probably a three-down back. I look at Donnel Pumphrey as more of a third-down, change-of-pace guy that I love. You can get into the fourth and fifth round, Wayne Gallman, three-down back. James Conner, more of a first and second. So I think there is depth. There is quality at the top end, and I think there is depth throughout.”
Another option for the Vikings in the second round would be to look at offensive linemen, which is probably the biggest position of need on the team, perhaps even after signing Riley Reiff and Mike Remmers in free agency. There is nobody currently in the lead to assume the starting position left open at right guard after the release of Brandon Fusco.
“I also think they’re trying to remake that whole offensive line. And obviously it’s not a great offensive line year. However, I think at 48, you’re sitting there in the middle of the second round, you’ve got to be looking at guys like Taylor Moton from Western Michigan, Dion Dawkins from Temple, [Dan] Feeney from Indiana, [Pat] Elflein from Ohio State,” Mayock said. “Those are the kind of players that I think would fit into that range. And they’ve got to fix that offensive line. They’ve put a lot of work in it with Remmers and Riley, the two outside guys. But Dawkins, Moton can both kick inside to guard. Feeney and Elflein are inside players as well. So I think that helps them the most at offensive line.”
By skills and athleticism alone, Mixon is likely to be the most talented player still available when the Vikings’ first pick arrives at No. 48 overall. If that’s the case, they have already weighed the risks and rewards of such a selection, but nobody outside of Winter Park knows for sure how that decision will go.
“Without having a first-round pick, how do you make a splash?” Mayock asked. “How do you get a first-round talent?”
That’s Minnesota’s multi-million-dollar dilemma.