The 2020 NFL Draft is fast approaching and the Minnesota Vikings are in excellent position to come out of the draft feeling great. Thanks to two first-round picks and four top-100 selections, the Vikings can address several key needs in the draft.
The blockbuster Stefon Diggs trade netted Minnesota the No. 22 overall pick, but it also created a significant need at wide receiver. The Vikings will also need to address their offensive line and reshape their entire defense after moving on from several former stars this offseason.
Addressing each of those needs with cheap, young talent will be even more crucial given the team’s limited cap space. Fortunately, there is enough talent in this year’s draft class to pull it off. As our full seven-round mock draft for the Vikings shows, pulling off a great draft can be accomplished.
First round, 22nd pick: Cesar Ruiz, offensive lineman, Michigan
The Vikings are committing to Kirk Cousins on another sizable deal and an extension could be looming for Dalvin Cook. If the Vikings want to ensure their backfield enjoys long-term success, they must address the offensive line. Luckily, the top interior lineman is waiting for them at the No. 22 selection.
It’s rare to find an interior offensive lineman with this combination of athleticism, skills and pure tenacity. Ruiz combines all of that into one package and he offers the versatility to step in immediately at center or guard. He also fits perfectly into the team’s zone-blocking scheme and he doesn’t turn 21 until June. We could easily be talking about a perennial Pro Bowl guard for the next decade-plus and the fit makes too much sense for the Vikings to pass on him.
First round, 25th pick: Noah Igbinoghene, CB, Auburn
The Vikings recently parted ways with another cornerback they took with the No. 25 overall selection. Xavier Rhodes provided Mike Zimmer’s defense with a shutdown corner for years before his play fell off in 2019. Now with Rhodes and Trae Waynes gone, it’s time for the Vikings to find a new eraser in their secondary.
Igbinoghene has been slowly moving his way up draft boards this offseason and recently received an invite to the virtual 2020 NFL Draft. A former track star who made the transition from receiver, the sky is the limit for Igbinoghene’s potential. He already has the outstanding athleticism, strength and size to become an outstanding cornerback, but he needs to learn to play the position. Minnesota’s coaching staff is the perfect group to help bring him along and if he develops, the Vikings will have a new cornerback locking down No. 1 receivers.
Second round, 58th pick: Michael Pittman Jr, receiver, Southern California
The Vikings need a receiver who can complement Adam Thielen and slide into the No. 2 role for this offense. It’s also crucial that this team doesn’t take a player that needs time to develop before Kirk Cousins can trust him to make plays. Fortunately, a loaded class at receiver allows Minnesota to address other needs in the first round and still land an NFL-ready receiver in this spot.
While Pittman doesn’t have great speed, he wins with his size at 6-foot-4 with an incredible ability to catch practically every football that is thrown his way. He knows how to get open on shallower routes and can make some plays deep down the field. Oh, he also can get physical with cornerbacks when asked to blocks and that will be especially appealing to a run-heavy team. Pittman Jr. is everything the Vikings are seeking for their system and he’d earn the trust of Cousins and the coaching staff quickly.
Third round, 74th pick: Raekwon Davis, defensive tackle, Alabama
Note: Vikings trade safety Anthony Harris and the 205th and 253rd overall picks to the Browns for the 74th selection.
After moving on from Linval Joseph and Everson Griffen creates an immediate hole along the defensive line. Adding Michael Pierce will help, but more reinforcements are needed to win at the point of attack. In the third round, the Vikings land a versatile defensive lineman who could be considered the steal of the 2020 NFL Draft if he develops.
Davis brings elite length, size and strength to the table immediately and he showed it in 2017 with 10 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks. He would combine for just 8.5 tackles for loss and two sacks across the past two seasons as he never developed as a pass rusher. Davis can contribute against the run early and be used in rotational sets, all while he learns the finer points of the position. The Vikings acquire this pick for Anthony Harris after contract talks went south.
Third round, 89th pick: Matthew Peart, offensive tackle, UConn
As we mentioned with Minnesota’s first-round selection, the Vikings need to build a stronger foundation along the offensive line for the future. Riley Reiff survived being a cap casualty this offseason. But if he doesn’t live up to his contract in 2020, the Vikings won’t hesitate to move on from him next year. If that happens, they need someone ready to step in immediately.
Peart is the perfect developmental tackle for this time. He brings surprising athleticism for a 6-foot-7 lineman and his long arms are a gift that NFL coaches love from a left tackle. What Peart needs to do is add strength to his frame, learn how to engage with defenders and how to win with his first punch. All of these things can be fixed and if the Vikings get through to him, they’ll have their left tackle of the future.
Third round, 105th pick: Jabari Zuniga, EDGE, Florida
There’s no such thing as too many edge rushers on a roster, but the Vikings would benefit from trying to hit that mark. This team also has a history of taking underdeveloped players and maximizing their potential, which makes Zuniga an ideal target. He showed flashes of dominance at Florida and tested well athletically at the NFL Combine. He could learn from Danielle Hunter, who knows a thing or two about developing into an All-Pro pass rusher, while providing this defense with fresh legs on passing downs.
Fourth round pick, 132nd overall: Gabriel Davis, receiver, UCF
Trading Stefon Diggs took away a top receiver and further exposed the complete lack of depth this team has at the position. Tajae Sharpe can be a solid addition and Pittman Jr. can help immediately, but that’s still not nearly enough. Now, the Vikings must add some vertical threats on the outside.
Davis simply loves to go deep and he’s done it so often that he can execute all of the finer details even with his eyes closed. Whether it’s tracking the football over his shoulder, making extended grabs, or going up to snag it out of the air, this is where he excels. We know the Vikings enjoy taking deep shots on the play-action, which is the perfect role for Davis. He doesn’t need to be an exceptional talent, his skills complement this offense perfectly.
Fifth round, 155th overall: Anthony Gordon, quarterback, Washington State
Cousins will be Minnesota’s quarterback for at least the next three seasons, but it wouldn’t hurt to take a chance on a project quarterback. Gordon isn’t Gardner Minshew. There’s much of his game that needs work. From reworking his mechanics to teaching him proper footwork and how to read coverages. He’s appealing, though, because of his leadership, work ethic and ball placement. A worthy gamble at this spot, given the other quarterback options available.
Sixth round, 201st overall: Reggie Robinson II, cornerback, Tulsa
After losing multiple corners in free agency, the Vikings need to address their lack of depth by addressing the position multiple times in the 2020 NFL Draft. As mentioned by The Athletic’s Arif Hasan, Robinson provides Zimmer with the king of length and explosiveness that Zimmer loves from his cornerbacks. At this point in the draft, ti’s about finding ways to strengthen the end of the roster and that’s even more true at a position of need. Robinson could develop into a nice rotational corner in a few short years and the Vikings will gladly take that.
Seventh round, 219th overall: Justin Strnad, linebacker, Wake Forest
Strnad could easily be a better NFL player than he was in college. He is also coming to the NFL at a time when teams crave linebackers who can drop back in coverage and have the athleticism to range from sideline-to-sideline. Strnad might need to begin his carer on special teams, but the upside exists for him to become a four-down player with a long career in the NFL. Given Minnesota’s desire to reshape their defense, Strnad is an excellent late-round addition to help accomplish that.
Seventh round, 249th overall: Jeff Thomas, receiver, Miami
A former star recruit, Thomas never quite lived up to his star potential. He always showed flashes of being a playmaker with lightning speed, easy acceleration and the ability to make people miss. However, he also dealt with multiple off-field issues at Miami and he couldn’t live up to his athletic potential. He is an excellent returner and that’s something the Vikings can use. If things don’t work out early, this is an easy pick to move on from. Thomas’ immediate impact returning kicks and punts gives him a shot at staying on an NFL roster.