The Vikings didn’t wait long to address their biggest remaining need, selecting Mississippi receiver Laquon Treadwell with their first pick in the 2016 NFL draft on Thursday night. Throughout the rest of the draft, though, the defending NFC North champs kept an eye toward the future.
Not only did General Manager Rick Spielman acquire a pair of midround picks in next year’s draft, he scooped up a handful of developmental prospects who probably will see the field this season only if they stand out on special teams. Only Treadwell can be penciled into the starting lineup here in early May.
So let’s take one last look at Treadwell and the eight-man draft class with my five Vikings takeaways from another busy draft weekend out at Winter Park.
1. Treadwell and Josh Doctson both would have been a strong fit.
Once the Houston Texas grabbed Notre Dame deep threat Will Fuller with pick No. 21 in the first round, the Vikings knew they were guaranteed to get one of the two wide receivers who best fit what their passing attack needed. Perhaps they preferred Doctson, the TCU standout who went No. 22 overall to the Washington Redskins. Or maybe not. But one suspects they would have been content with either Doctson or Treadwell, their eventual choice at No. 23. Those two pass-catchers are a little different. Doctson is an acrobat, and Treadwell is more of a bully. But either would have been a strong partner for quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, who should be more willing to “let it loose” down the field now that he has a strong, big-bodied split end in Treadwell.
2. The writing is on the wall for Captain Munnerlyn next offseason.
After a rocky debut in 2014, Munnerlyn, the veteran cornerback, admittedly cut down on the freelancing in 2015. The result was a fine bounce-back season for the scrappy slot specialist. But Munnerlyn is entering a contract year and turns 29 next offseason, so the Vikings might be hesitant to re-sign him. Enter Clemson’s Mackensie Alexander, a first-round-caliber talent who dropped to the Vikings late in the second round. The Vikings will start him out in the slot, meaning he could push Munnerlyn for playing time this season. As we saw last year with top pick Trae Waynes, coach Mike Zimmer won’t just hand a starting job to a high draft pick, so Munnerlyn is the early favorite in that battle. But with a strong rookie year Alexander could make him expendable.
3. Kentrell Brothers could be the future starter at middle linebacker.
The Vikings drafted Brothers in the fifth round because he was a tackling machine at Missouri and projects as a core contributor on special teams. Because of the team’s depth at linebacker, that third phase likely will be the only way Brothers gets on the field as a rookie. But down the road, his instincts and tackling ability could earn him a regular role on defense, even though at 6 feet tall he is shorter than Zimmer prefers. Brothers could have limitations in pass coverage at the NFL level, something director of college scouting Jamaal Stephenson acknowledged over the weekend. But if he develops into an early-down run stuffer, the Vikings can play Brothers in the middle and move Eric Kendricks to weakside linebacker, which may be his best position.
4. Moritz Boehringer was worth a late-round gamble for the Vikings.
The Vikings selected one of the most interesting draft prospects in recent memory, making Boehringer, a wide receiver, the first player to be drafted straight out of Europe. When scouting Boehringer, the only game tape the Vikings had to watch was his German Football League highlight reel on YouTube, which was similar to watching a grown man catch passes and run past a pack of middle schoolers. After attending Boehringer’s pro day, where the 6-4 German posted ridiculous speed and agility scores, the Vikings knew they had to have him. There is at least a decent chance Boehringer never ends up seeing the field in Minnesota. But there aren’t many athletes that tall with that kind of athleticism, so why not give developing him a shot?
5. You can’t always get what you want, but about that safety spot …
Even though they signed veteran Michael Griffin to a one-year deal this offseason, one could make an argument that safety was a top-three need for the Vikings entering the draft. But they passed on the position until the seventh round, when they took Clemson’s Jayron Kearse, the 20th safety to be selected in the draft. Kearse is another interesting prospect because of his 6-4 frame and long arms, making him similar to George Iloka, a safety Zimmer helped develop with the Cincinnati Bengals. But it is telling he was available in the seventh round. It is hard to address every need in one draft, even for deeper teams like the Vikings. So they need Griffin to regain his form from a few years ago or a young safety such as Antone Exum to step up.