There is no way to sugarcoat how bad the Minnesota Vikings defense was last season. While head coach Kevin O’Connell was focused on utilizing the offense more efficiently, defensive coordinator Ed Donatell flopped. Each positional group on defense struggled, and now it’s time to right the ship.
With just four current draft picks to their credit, it will certainly be difficult for Minnesota to overhaul a unit that was nearly dead last in the league. The organization made a step in the right direction by firing Ed Donatell, but they must get his replacement correct and provide more assets to be utilized.
Is Defense for Vikings in Round 1 of Draft a Given?
ESPN NFL Insider Mel Kiper released his first mock draft and has Minnesota landing Mississippi State cornerback Emmanuel Forbes with the 23rd overall selection. A few other cornerbacks could go off the board first, and Oregon’s Christian Gonzalez is projected to be taken just five picks earlier by the division-rival Detroit Lions.
Of Forbes, Kiper says, “Forbes was an interception magnet for the Bulldogs; he had 14 over three seasons, including six in 2022. He gave up a few big plays, but he has tremendous potential as a cover corner.”
Patrick Peterson is a free agent, and we still haven’t seen what either Andrew Booth Jr. or Akayleb Evans can do over a significant stretch of time. To project the Vikings landing a corner is hardly outlandish.
What can be sure is that Minnesota must reinvent its defense with limited resources. Having just a few picks, and facing salary cap limitations, general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah can’t afford to miss or get it wrong. Had the Vikings seen more from their rookies in year one, maybe the secondary would be less needed. Lewis Cine played just two defensive snaps this season, and neither Booth Jr. nor Evans could stay healthy. An impact corner coming out of the draft could make a substantial difference.
With the Vikings drafting so late in the first round, it’s unlikely they’d be able to get their ideal pick on the offensive side. The benefit there is that they don’t view that as much of a need at this point. Justin Jefferson is a superstar, tight end is taken care of, and the bookends on the offensive line are currently set in stone.
Where one area of intrigue could be for Minnesota with how Kiper’s draft takes shape is the running back position. Dalvin Cook could undoubtedly be a cap casualty this offseason, and Alexander Mattison could be on the way out as well. With only Kene Knwangwu and Ty Chandler left over, a difference maker there may make sense. Texas running back Bijan Robinson should be available at 23, and though that would be a luxury pick, it makes sense if Minnesota views him in the vein of an Adrian Peterson type.
At the end of the day, it’s hard to see Minnesota wanting to go anywhere but their most significant deficiency. Needing to overhaul a defense that constantly had their offense behind the eight ball, it would benefit O’Connell and the Vikings to have a unit better able to keep them in the game.
Maybe it’s not a cornerback, or maybe it is, but defense seems to be critical in Minnesota’s draft.
Ted Schwerzler is a blogger from the Twin Cities that is focused on all things Minnesota Twins and Minnesota Vikings. He’s active on Twitter and writes weekly for Twins Daily. As a former college athlete and avid sports fan, covering our pro teams with a passion has always seemed like such a natural outlet.