In a previous article, I discussed a list of draft rules that I believe the Vikings will likely follow for the 2020 NFL Draft based on their past tendencies. In this article, I will discuss a mock I performed based on those tendencies.
To help me mock the Vikings’ draft, I will use The Draft Networks’ Mock Draft Simulator with trades (which require a premium account), and to make my selections I will be using Jordan Reid’s recently published 2020 Draft Guide to assist me.
I created two different mocks. You can view the other one here.
The Vikings start with the following draft picks. I will keep track of trades, and explain my reasoning behind them.
- Round 1 – 22 Overall
- Round 1 – 25 Overall
- Round 2 – 58 Overall
- Round 3 – 89 Overall
- Round 3 – 105 Overall
- Round 4 – 132 Overall
- Round 5 – 155 Overall
- Round 6 – 201 Overall
- Round 6 – 205 Overall
- Round 7 – 219 Overall
- Round 7 – 249 Overall
- Round 7 – 253 Overall
I will follow the below set of rules when making my selections or trades. For an explanation, please read this article. Please keep these rules in mind when looking at the selections in the mock draft.
- Stay put in the 1st round and draft two of CB/OL/WR
- Trade up for CB/OL/WR with the 2nd round pick
- Trade both 3rd round picks
- Select an athletic edge rusher in the 3rd or 4th round
- Make at least 3 combined 6th/7th round picks
- Draft an LB on Day 3
- Do not draft a TE, QB, RB, K, P, or LS
- Make at least 10 total picks
Round 1, #22 Overall: Kristian Fulton, CB, LSU
At 22, the top available players at CB, OL, and WR were Kristian Fulton, Cesar Ruiz (or Josh Jones at OT), and Denzel Mims, respectively. At other need positions, Ross Blacklock (DT), Yetur Gross-Matos (EDGE), and Grant Delpit (S) were all on the board. This is a pretty neutral situation for the Vikings. Jordan has Fulton, Ruiz, Jones, and Mims rated very similarly. In this case, the pick is Fulton because I view CB as the Vikings’ greatest need. Jordan also has him rated marginally higher than the other players listed (all of the above, except Gross-Matos, who is rated 26, are rated between 29th and 37th on Jordan’s Big Board).
Fulton is Jordan’s 29th rated player, and CB4. He gives him an Early Second Round grade with the following report:
Because of so much turmoil during the earlier portions of his career, Kristian Fulton was a bit of a late bloomer, but he came into his own during the ladder portions while in Baton Rouge. Fulton is the prototypical press man corner in a heavy man-to-man scheme. He still has strides to make as far as playing the ball in the air and improving his play strength, but if he’s able to improve in those areas, he has the makings of being a high-end starter on the next level. Because of his upside and the tools that are already present, he will become a potential top-25 pick. All of Fulton’s flaw are correctable with proper coaching, but some patience must be shown in order to reap the benefits of what turns into the final product while his development continues its course.
Round 1, #25 Overall: Cesar Ruiz, IOL, Michigan
Patrick Queen and Jordan Love go off the board between the Vikings’ two first round picks, so the same board as above is available to us at 25. At this point, it’s a question between OL and WR. For me, this selection came down to the fact that OL drops off a lot quicker than WR does here in the draft, and I feel confident that I will be able to trade up for a WR of similar quality to Mims. Therefore, I take Ruiz, who started off his career as an RG, and can step in for Josh Kline on the Vikings.
Jordan ranks Ruiz as his 30th overall player, IOL1. He gives him an Early Second Round grade. Here is Jordan’s summary:
Cesar Ruiz entered Ann Arbor with plenty of hype and he firmly lived up to it. One of the younger draft prospects in this class, he will enter rookie mini- camp as a 20-year-old player. He got better as the year progressed and that’s exactly what you want to see from a younger prospect who started to figure the game out as he gained more reps. With experience at both center and guard, Ruiz has the versatility in order to play both on the next level. His strong hands and superior ability to latch on to win quick in a phone booth makes him a better fit in a man/power-based blocking scheme, but there’s an argument that can be made that he’s scheme proof and can play in any type. Ruiz projects as a top-40 selection, who should go on to be a starter very quickly during his career and go on to have a long lasting career at either guard or center.
Trade: Vikings trade 58, 201, and 219 to the Broncos for 46
As the middle of the second round approaches, the Vikings still have one WR available to them with an Early Second Round grade on Jordan’s board. There are still other options, including Tee Higgins, Michael Pittman, KJ Hamler, and Laviska Shenault, but the Vikings decide to trade up. They contact the Broncos, and are able to jump up 12 spots for just the cost of a 6th and 7th round pick. This turns out to be a good move, as there is a bit of a WR run before 58, and by that point the only remaining WR with a 2nd round grade on Jordan’s board was Higgins.
In this mock, we wanted someone with more explosive potential, and are quite happy with drafting:
Round 2, #46 Overall: Brandon Aiyuk, WR, Arizona State
Ayiuk makes the Vikings’ CB/OL/WR draft trio Fulton/Ruiz/Ayiuk. I’m very happy with that result. Waiting on a receiver paid off, as Aiyuk is ranked 39th, just two spots below Mims, who we considered at 25. He is Jordan’s WR6, and here is what Jordan says about him:
Brandon Aiyuk was a bit of an anticipated projection coming into the season. Stepping into the No. 1 receiving role for the Sun Devils, he lived up to what the coaching staff thought he could be after heavily recruiting him from the JUCO ranks. The positive aspect about Aiyuk is that every stop that he’s been on, he’s been able to get better while also dominating the competition. He demonstrated that same type of progress in high school, JUCO, and a similar type of path unfolded during his final season in Tempe. Now, entering the NFL, he’s once again forced with unlocking another layer to his development. An explosive option after the catch, but it’s everything before that where he needs to improve. Using his hands on releases, details in route stems, and at the top of his routes are where he must become better. Aiyuk projects as a top-40 pick that has a chance to be a productive target near the top of a receiving corps with time.
Aiyuk isn’t the most polished player, and while the Vikings need a contributor immediately, they do not need him to be the team’s top receiver, as they have Thielen. Aiyuk can fill in for some of the things Diggs did while learning on the job, and hopefully eventually taking the mantle from Thielen as the team’s lead receiver.
Trade: Vikings trade 89 to the Patriots for 100 and 241
The Vikings always look to move down in the 3rd. They have a multitude of options, including Matt Peart, Ben Bartch, Amik Robertson, Jonathan Greenard, Darrell Taylor, and Jabari Zuniga. This calls for a trade back. They contact a few teams, and the best deal they can get is for 100 and 241 from the Patriots. If you’ve read the other mock, you know I got 100 and 230 for this pick in that draft. I’m not sure why I couldn’t get the same deal this time. Oh well.
In the interim, Robertson and Taylor went off the board. However, Jordan’s top tackle remaining at 89 is still on the board, so the Vikings take:
Round 3, #100 Overall: Ben Bartch, OT, Saint John’s
Bartch is the type of prospect that the Vikings should be looking at in the mid rounds on the OL. The Vikings need two G, but the IOL class is weak. It makes sense for them to look at OT as well, especially players who can move inside to LG and then hopefully take over for Riley Reiff when the Vikings are in a position to move on from him. Bartch is a great athlete who dominated smaller competition. He’s also a local prospect, and played at Saint John’s in Minnesota. Since the Vikings are the closest team to him, it’s likely they’ll have the most information on him, especially in the bizarre circumstances surrounding the 2020 Draft. Bartch fits a need and has killed the pre-draft process. This pick almost makes too much sense.
Jordan has Bartch ranked 87th on his big board, as OT11. He gives him a late 3rd round grade, and has the following summary:
It’s not just his Division III status that has made Ben Bartch one of the best success stories of this draft class, but it’s how his determination paid off in order to fulfill his NFL dreams. A prospect that always seemed to have that do or die type of mentality when wanting to gain playing time on the field, he made the transition to offensive tackle seamlessly. Transitions have been a huge part of his pre-draft process and he continues to check each box during it. Prior to his injury during the final day of practices at the Senior Bowl, he was putting on an impressive display. In game play speed and strength are still areas that we are waiting to see how he he adjusts to on the next level, but Bartch has the capabilities of being a starting offensive tackle, but his most potential may be as a guard. Continuing to add strength and garner more reps to officially transition to the speed of the game will be huge boosts to him, but he’s a top-75 pick that could turn into a starter by the end of his rookie contract.
At the high end, Bartch could end up performing like Ali Marpet, who was drafted by the Bucs out of Hobart in 2015, started 13 games his rookie year, and now player guard for them at an All-Pro level.
Trade: Vikings trade 105 to the Broncos for 118 and 252
Realistically, the Vikings would have liked to take Jabari Zuniga at EDGE for pick 105. However, he went off the board at 101. Instead, the Vikings are left in a situation where they have a lot of players with similar grades on Jordan’s board at positions of need. K’Von Wallace, Alton Robinson, Reggie Robinson II, James Lynch, and Lynn Bowden are all given similar values. In this situation, I believe the Vikings trade back again. They find a partner in the Denver Broncos, getting picks 118 and 252 for 105.
The Vikings end up happy with the trade down, as only Wallace has gone in the picks in-between. Now they need to make a choice between the players listed above:
Round 4, #118 Overall: Alton Robinson, EDGE, Syracuse
Of the players listed above, Jordan had Alton Robinson rated highest. Robinson was a productive player for Syracuse who is also an excellent athlete.
Jordan had Robinson rated as an Early Fourth Round player, so taking him here makes a lot of sense. He ranked him 100th overall, and as EDGE13. Here’s his summary:
Relishing his opportunity, Alton Robinson took full advantage of his second chance. A career that looked bleak, he was granted extra faith from Syracuse and he rewarded them back perfectly. Possessing plenty of explosion and burst out of his stance, Robinson has the chance to eventually turn into an average starter. His natural traits give him an added boost early on he continues to figure out more tools to add to his repertoire. A projected top-75 pick who could prove to be more than worthy of his draft slot.
Round 4, #132 Overall: James Lynch, IDL, Baylor
By 132, Reggie Robinson is unfortunately gone. This pick is between Lynch and Bowden. Lynn Bowden is a great gadget player, but the Vikings have already taken a WR with gadget ability who is significantly better in Aiyuk. Therefore Lynch is the pick. This IDL class is weak, and the dropoff after Lynch is steep. Jordan has Lynch rated 108th on his board, as IDL10 with an early 4th round grade.
Lynch is undersized as an interior defender. The Vikings are ok with this for pass-rushing 3ts. They’ve attempted to turn Ifeadi Odenigbo, Hercules Mata’afa, and Jalyn Holmes into players that filled this role in recent years. At 285, Lynch has a head start, because Mata’afa and Odenigbo (who is now back to edge full-time and obviously quite good) started in the 250s. Lynch projects as a rotational player on pass rush downs, think like Tom Johnson. While the Vikings still have Holmes and Mata’afa, if they don’t think either can take over a bigger role, Lynch makes a lot of sense.
Lynch had absurd production at Baylor, logging 22 career sacks.
Trade: Vikings trade 155 and 253 to the Eagles for 146
At the very end of the 4th round, the Vikings see a player who they like creeping up towards the top of the board. Rather than stay put, they decide to take action and move up from 155 to 146 with the Eagles, sending 253 as well. They are targeting a player with Vikings bloodlines who recently played in the SEC Championship game:
Round 4, #146 Overall: J.R. Reed, S, Georgia
That’s right! In addition to Thad Moss, Randy Moss’ son, another son of a former “3 Deep” member is available in this year’s draft. That’s J.R. Reed, the son of Jake Reed. Playing safety for the Vikings requires a high level of football intelligence, which Reed has, and the ability to play multiple roles. Reed will never be a pure single-high safety, and is more comfortable in the box, but can play some deep zone while also playing the run.
Jordan has Reed as his SAF11 and gives him an early 5th round grade. Here is Jordan’s summary:
Athletic wise, J.R. Reed wasn’t one of the best on a talented Georgia defense, but when it comes to football intelligence and knowing the ins and outs of the scheme, he was one of the best in the country at that. The clear leader on the back-end and voice throughout, Reed was the communicator and one responsible for the calls on a down-to-down basis. The former Georgia safety has his flaws as a man coverage defender, but in a zone heavy scheme, his skill set could shine more. An extremely physical safety, Reed comes downhill recklessly and while there’s an unexpected hit/miss rate, you’re able to live with some of the mistakes that he makes because it’s a matter of playing too fast. Likely an early third day target, if able to figure out the kinks of his current game, he could turn into a down the line contributor as a defensive piece as a No. 3 or 4 safety on the depth chart.
Round 6, #205 Overall: Antonio Gandy-Golden, WR, Liberty
Having used their 5th round pick to trade up, the Vikings have quite a wait until their remaining 6th round pick. At this point, I still feel they need another WR and CB in the draft. There’s a player at CB I’m more comfortable waiting on, so the pick is Gandy-Golden. While they got their electrifying, after catch player who can play Z/Slot earlier in the draft in Aiyuk, they’re still looking for depth at X receiver. That comes in the 6’4″ 223lb frame of Antonio Gandy-Golden.
Jordan has Gandy-Golden ranked as WR24 on his board, and gives him a late 5th round grade. That’s solid value in the mid-6th. Here’s his report:
Breaking multiple school records, Gandy-Golden was the star of the Flames offense over his four-year career. Showing off his catch radius, route versatility, and strength at the catch point, he has created a standout resume for himself as a smaller school prospect. While Gandy-Golden isn’t an overly explosive threat, he is accustomed to winning vertically. He will need to continue to diversify his route tree in order to become a reliable contributor.
Trade: Vikings send 241 and 252 to the Panthers for 221
Above, I said the Vikings were willing to wait at CB more than WR. While that’s true, they still feel the need to maneuver up a bit to ensure they get their guy. Therefore, they trade two of their three remaining sevenths to the Panthers for:
Round 7, #221 Overall: A.J. Green, CB, Oklahoma State
Green is a developmental corner for Mike Zimmer to work with. At 6’1″ 202, he has the size to dominate in man coverage. Jordan has him rated as his CB16, 138th on his Big Board. This gives him an early 5th round value, and the following summary:
A.J. Green in an interesting case as he comes from a pass heavy conference, which has given him plenty of reps in the passing game. His technique is further along than some previous prospects that we’ve seen come from Oklahoma State, but he still has plenty of areas of his game where he needs to improve. Opinions will be mixed on which scheme he fits in best with, but his versatility and exposure to both will only help him in the long run. His competitive fire and natural drive to always remain aggressive will help his transition onto the next level. His tackling technique needs refining, but the effort is clearly there, which makes the habits correctable with proper coaching. After helping himself at the Senior Bowl and throughout the pre-draft process, Green is projected to become a top-100 selection. If placed in the proper scheme, he could quickly become a teams No. 3/4 outside corner as a rookie with the opportunities for growth and bigger roles during the earlier portions of his NFL career.
Round 7, #249 Overall: Cameron Brown, LB, Penn State
With the Vikings’ last pick, I am going to take the requisite Day 3 LB. This time the pick, Cameron Brown is more in the mold of an Edmund Robinson, an athletic player who eventually has starter potential than a ST player.
Jordan has Brown ranked as his LB13, and gives him a mid 5th round grade. Here is his summary:
A lanky presence on the second level of the Nittany Lions defense, Brown is a player that continued to get better as he gained more reps. Gaining experience at all three linebacker spots, he also spent time as an edge rusher in sub packages. Pegged as a SAM linebacker and frequent third-down rusher, teams will like Brown’s upside as a depth piece. Still scratching the surface of what he can be, he could continue to get better as he gains even more reps, which makes him and intriguing Day 3 option.
- Traded 58, 201, and 219 for 46
- Traded 89 for 100 and 241
- Traded 105 for 118 and 252
- Traded 155 and 253 for 146
- Traded 241 and 252 for 221
Is this a good haul for the Vikings? Do you think this or my other simulation was better? Would you have done something different than the players/positions I took? Let me know!