Two ideal fits for Vikings’ NFL Draft needs

In less than a week, all 32 teams will convene in the “City of Brotherly Love” for the 2017 NFL Draft.  The first round kicks off on April 7th at 8 p.m. ET, a round that the Vikings will be sitting out unless a trade is made.  The Vikings traded their first round pick to the Philadelphia Eagles prior to the start of the 2016 season in exchange for quarterback Sam Bradford following Teddy Bridgewater’s season-ending knee injury.  This marks the first NFL Draft since 2010 that the Vikings will not be selecting in the first round, making their middle round picks critical to get right.

The list of positional needs that the Vikings can address in this year’s draft is seemingly endless, but I’ve narrowed the focus to two positions that should be addressed in the early to middle rounds.  Among the two positions I have identified two prospects that the Vikings should consider who can immediately make an impact upon arriving to Winter Park.

Strong Safety:

Year in and year out the Vikings are on the lookout for a complimentary safety to Harrison Smith, but so far none of them have met Zimmer’s expectations.  Last year’s draft provided the Vikings with Clemson’s giant of a safety, Jayron Kearse, who saw limited action during his rookie campaign.  Kearse showed some signs of improvement over the course of the season, but he is not seen as a long-term solution at this point in time.  Enter a safety out of NC State who could fit that mold whom the Vikings could select as late as the third round.

Josh Jones 

A freight train of a safety with ample size and speed, Jones is not afraid to lay the lumber as one would hope from a strong safety.  Far from a one trick pony, however, Jones has the ball skills and closing speed to make plays in coverage.  The only knock on Jones seems to be his over-aggressiveness that can lead him to take poor angles on tackles when trying to line up a big hit instead of simply making the tackle.

Unlike Kearse who seemed to shy away from contact and needed a kick in the butt to get engaged, Jones is the polar-opposite who plays like his hair is on fire, which may need to be reigned in at times.  If a coach were to choose which attitude they would prefer from their strong safety, they would unanimously take the latter.

Running Back:

After over 10 years with the Vikings, the Adrian Peterson era in Minnesota is over and the team now turns their attention to finding the heir apparent.  Obviously there will never be another AP and to expect the same production from an incoming rookie running back is foolish.  However, finding a running back who is better suited for today’s NFL by providing superior pass protection and pass-catching abilities in addition to running between the tackles is very possible.

Joe Mixon:

Mixon has been one of the most hotly contested prospects in this year’s draft class, and it is not due to his talent on the field.  Last year a video surfaced of Mixon striking a female that caused an outcry of condemnation leading to, among other things, Mixon not being invited to participate in the NFL Combine.

For the record, I think what Mixon did was heinous and despicable, but at the end of the day, this is a business, and the business succeeds when the team is winning ball games.  Bottom line, Mixon can help a team win ball games.

A jack of all trades so to speak, it’s hard to find a weakness in Mixon’s game.  A true three-down back that can flat-out produce with the ball in his hands, Mixon is the prototypical running-back for today’s NFL mirroring Le’Veon Bell in terms of size and ability to do it all. If character concerns were not part of the discussion, Mixon would undoubtedly be a first round pick in this year’s draft.

Honorable mention:

The Vikings will need to address the offensive line in this year’s draft, but with the class being a weak one for offensive line prospects, my hope is that they will wait until rounds four or five to select one instead of passing up on one of the prospects mentioned above.  If they do decide to go with a lineman in the earlier rounds, guard Dan Feeney out of Indiana may be one to keep an eye on.

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