The Minnesota Vikings made some interesting choices in their quiet offseason. They signed cornerback Patrick Peterson to a one-year contract in hopes of reviving his play and acquired Dalvin Tomlinson to fortify their defensive interior.
Last season, the team missed the playoffs after finishing with a 7-9-0 record. If the team wishes to bring playoff football back, then they need to knock the upcoming draft out of the park.
The Vikings’ biggest need is a toss-up between the offensive line and edge defender. However, with their lackluster pass-rush and All-Pro defensive end Danielle Hunter reportedly unhappy with his contract situation, Minnesota should consider using their No. 14 overall pick on edge.
Further, the team faces the Aaron Rodgers-led Green Bay Packers twice a year and if Jared Goff somehow rediscovers his MVP level of play with the Detroit Lions, this need becomes more pressing. The Vikings could use an upgrade over Stephen Weatherly in getting to the quarterback. Weatherly is more of a rotational piece, having just a combined six sacks in the last four seasons where he played a total of 56 games.
Compared to previous years, there is no can’t-miss, top-5, or maybe even top-10 talent at edge rusher. On the bright side, this means the Vikings have a chance to pick the best player at a premium position at No. 14.
The ranking for edge rushers in this year’s draft is not as defined as the other positions, but a favorite is Kwity Paye from Michigan. Aside from having a name that just rolls off the tongue, Paye is a great athlete and carries his 6-fot4, 272-pound frame well. He has ridiculous agility that should translate well in the NFL.
Kwity Paye's LEGENDARY three-cone drill pic.twitter.com/PwM260bcpt
— Austin Gayle (@PFF_AustinGayle) January 21, 2021
Despite his physical tools, his playstyle does not regularly overwhelm blockers with his strength, but rather, he uses his polished technique and myriad of moves to disrupt plays. He has shown continuous improvement at the collegiate level and is also a force in the run game. Paye plays with a high motor, does not give up on plays, and has a very high pressure rate. He is versatile enough to even line up inside.
If Paye is unavailable at where Minnesota is picking, the front office should consider trading down to find their next edge defender. Should there be a reasonable offer, the Vikings can still select someone like Miami’s Jaelan Phillips.
Phillips has an impressive 6-foot-5, 265-pound frame and has more than enough strength to regularly shed blocks and make plays. He displays great athleticism and ideal length. Phillips also has the bend to beat blockers and get to the passer.
Should an offensive lineman get a hold of him, he has a series of moves and counters at his disposal. While he is known mainly for his work in passing situations, he is very stout against the run.
The major issue with Phillips is his injury history. He left UCLA due to concussions and has had issues in the past with his ankles and wrist. These concerns could make him have a draft-day slide and still be scooped up by Minnesota after trading down.
Hopefully, whoever the Vikings pick as Hunter’s pass-rushing partner will turn out to be like Everson Griffen or even better.