A brief two-week stint of the 2022 regular season arrived for the Minnesota Vikings, where the team’s defense appeared to “figure it out.” This occurred during road games at the Washington Commanders and Buffalo Bills.
While the defense was mostly formidable in those contests, those eight quarters, in hindsight, were the beginning of the end, as the Vikings defense was exposed the following week at home versus the Dallas Cowboys and never really recovered.
Mel Kiper Has Defense on the Brain for Vikings in 1st Mock Draft
Because of that sad path, coupled with the Vikings defensively lifeless effort in the playoffs against the New York Giants, the franchise must improve the defense in the next few months, a process that began last week with the termination of defensive coordinator Ed Donatell.
And left up to credible draft pundits — in this case, ESPN’s Mel Kiper — Minnesota will indeed proceed defensively in the 2023 NFL Draft as Kiper foresees the Vikings choosing cornerback Emmanuel Forbes from Mississippi State.
Forbes, who turned 22 two weeks ago, is considered by most a 1st- or 2nd-Round talent in this year’s draft. Kiper explained the selection for the Vikings in his first mock draft, “Veteran Patrick Peterson was the Vikings’ top corner this season, but he’s a free agent, and even if the team brings him back, it should start thinking about the future in the secondary.”
“Safety Lewis Cine, Minnesota’s first-rounder last April, played just two defensive snaps before breaking his left leg and missing the rest of the season. He should make a full recovery, but can the Vikings improve on the outside too? Rookie second-round pick Andrew Booth Jr. played in just six games due to injury, and he’s not a lock to start,” Kiper added.
The Vikings currently have five possible starting cornerbacks in their roster orbit: last year’s rookies Andrew Booth and Akayleb Evans, veteran Cameron Dantzler, and free agents Patrick Peterson and Duke Shelley. Peterson and Shelley were the most productive corners for the 2022 Vikings, but neither man is contractually obligated to return in 2023.
“Whoever takes over for fired coordinator Ed Donatell needs options. 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,” Kiper concluded.
The Vikings ranked 27th in 2022 per defensive DVOA, 30th in points allowed, and 31st in yards allowed to opponents, so the defense needs all the help it can get.
Meanwhile, with Donatell jettisoned, Minnesota is interviewing four prospective defensive coordinators this week: Sean Desai (Seattle Seahawks), Brian Flores (Pittsburgh Steelers), Ryan Nielsen (New Orleans Saints), and Mike Pettine (Vikings). The decision on Donatell’s replacement could arrive in days — and a couple of weeks at the latest.
The only knock on Forbes, at least for Vikings draft purposes, is that he could be obtained in Round 2. Various mock drafts already peg Forbes for the 2nd Round. In that vein, the Mississippi State alumnus could be a “reach” for the Vikings.
Forbes is known for his competitiveness and slender build.
The NFL Draft begins in 90 days.
Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Subscribe to his daily YouTube Channel, VikesNow. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sal Spice. His Vikings obsession dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ and The Doors (the band).
All statistics provided by Pro Football Reference / Stathead; all contractual information provided by OverTheCap.com.