The 2023 NFL draft is about two and a half months away, but it still dominates the conversation. In the mock draft roundups I have been doing, I aggregate all of the mock drafts from main outlets and see what they have the Vikings doing.
So far in 98 mock drafts, the Vikings have done the following.
It’s become an incredibly popular selection for the Vikings and it’s really easy to see why. They only have three cornerbacks on their roster with the 31st-scoring defense last season.
Cornerback will and should be a priority for the Vikings this offseason, but it shouldn’t be in the first round. Here are five reasons the Vikings shouldn’t take a cornerback in round one.
Cornerback is a weak-link system
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The Vikings currently have three cornerbacks on the roster in Andrew Booth Jr., Cameron Dantzler and Akayleb Evans. All of them (you can argue Booth Jr. hasn’t) have shown a semblance of being a capable starting cornerback. Nurturing the young cornerback room should be a priority.
The thing with cornerback is that it’s a weak-link system. Just don’t have anyone that is egregiously bad and put them in positions to succeed. Ed Donatell failed to do the latter with PFF’s 3rd and 4th-ranked cornerbacks in coverage.
The biggest example of this is the Cincinnati Bengals. Their best cornerback was arguably Eli Apple and he’s just slightly above average. Put them in positions to win and you don’t have to force it. Is it great to have an elite cornerback? Absolutely it is, but it’s far from necessary.
Free agency has some good options
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One thing that I firmly believe in is that you fill holes in free agency and go into the draft to take great football players. If you force yourself to take a position in the draft, that’s how you end up with Christian Ponder.
Free agency this year is flush with corners that the Vikings can target and not break the bank for. AND highlighted some of those earlier this week with the hiring of Brian Flores. There are a few corners that thrive in man coverage and a multitude of players that have been successful in Flores’ defense. Guys like Eric Rowe, Nik Needham and Marcus Peters could come at a nice discount.
Brian Flores maximizes talent
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When you look back at some of the defenses that Flores was a part of, he did a really good job of developing talent. Guys like Nik Needham grew leaps and bounds under his tutelage.
The biggest one that benefited from Flores was Eric Rowe. A second-round pick of the Philadelphia Eagles, Rowe looked like a bust after his first season. The Eagles traded him to the New England Patriots and Flores played a major part in making Rowe a versatile player on the back end. He played for Flores in six of his eight seasons and that development paired with the next reason is a major reason why the Vikings should wait on drafting a cornerback.
The cornerback class is absurdly deep
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The Vikings picked a really good year to need a cornerback. The free agency group has a lot of good talent, but the draft class is absolutely stacked. I have done full evaluations on 11 players so far and nine of them got second-round grades with the other two just missing out with very high third-round grades. You can check out my rankings with links to all of mine scouting reports here.
The consensus top three cornerbacks of Christian Gonzalez, Joey Porter Jr. and Devon Witherspoon are likely to all be gone by the time the Green Bay Packers are on the clock at 15th overall. After that, it’s going to be a true pick of your preferred type of player with a lot of guys that could end up being the fourth, fifth and sixth cornerbacks off the board. With how many talented players are going to be available and with them not likely to play much in year one, taking a guy in round three to develop for a season might be the smartest play.
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As much as my preference would be to wait on cornerback, I don’t think it’s a bad strategy to take one at 23rd overall. There is talent there to be had and with overall value. My biggest thing is that you can maximize value by taking a player in the middle of day two and using your first pick on a player at a different position. Getting a wide receiver to play right away with Justin Jefferson and getting a cornerback with your second pick who likely grades higher than the pick you take him with is a smarter strategy.
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