A team coming off a divisional playoff berth has several major items left on its to-do list before the 2020 season: Fortify the offensive line in front of Kirk Cousins, restock the depth chart at wide receiver after trading Stefon Diggs to Buffalo and — perhaps most importantly — ensure a smooth transition on defense after parting with four longtime starters this offseason.
Offensive tackle: With Riley Reiff turning 32 this year and set to make $10.9 million in 2020, the Vikings could find themselves thinking about the future at left tackle, either with a player that could succeed Reiff after this season or facilitate his move to guard.
Offensive guard: A move from Reiff could fill one starting spot here, but the Vikings still have to determine if Pat Elflein or Dru Samia can handle a starting job or if they’ll need to add another player who can compete.
Wide receiver: The Diggs trade leaves the Vikings with two receivers that have played more than one full NFL season: Adam Thielen and Tajae Sharpe. Bisi Johnson can play a bigger role in Year 2, but the Vikings might also want a downfield threat who can draw attention away from Thielen.
Quarterback: Is this the year the Vikings pursue one in the draft? They typically don’t draft QBs when they don’t need a starter, but they could benefit from adding a young passer that can develop behind Cousins.
Cornerback: With Xavier Rhodes, Trae Waynes and Mackensie Alexander now on other teams, the Vikings are left with Mike Hughes, Holton Hill and Kris Boyd at corner. Finding an immediate contributor — and maybe two — could be the most important task in this draft.
Defensive end: Ifeadi Odenigbo could move into a larger role with Everson Griffen gone, but the Vikings also need depth here with Stephen Weatherly leaving in free agency. Another pass rusher who can help spell Danielle Hunter and Odenigbo could be an early need.
Defensive tackle: Michael Pierce replaces Linval Joseph at nose tackle, and the Vikings still have Shamar Stephen at three-technique, but a more dynamic pass rusher could be worth exploring.
Safety: Especially if Anthony Harris — currently set to make $11.44 million on the franchise tag — is traded, the Vikings will need a starter next to Harrison Smith. Coach Mike Zimmer said this isn’t the most important position on the roster, but if Harris is gone, his departure would create a void.
The seven-round mock (with three projected trades)
Two first-round picks — and five in the first three rounds — could be used to address a number of pressing needs after an offseason of departures. Here’s a full seven-round mock draft, with our best educated guesses at how the Vikings will spend their 12 picks this week.
For an added wrinkle this year, we’ll project a few trades (using draft picks only, not players currently on the roster) ... so this list will not follow the Vikings’ actual draft order.
Vikings’ 12 picks
1. Round 1, No. 24 (projected trade from New Orleans with pick No. 88 for picks No. 22 and 105)
2. Round 1, No. 25
3. Round 2, No. 58
4. Round 3, No. 78 (projected trade from Atlanta for picks No. 88 and No. 132)
5. Round 3, No. 89
6. Round 5, No. 164 (projected trade from Dallas with pick No. 231 for pick No. 155)
7. Round 6, No. 201
8. Round 6, No. 205
9. Round 7, No. 219
10. Round 7, No. 231 (from Dallas)
11. Round 7, No. 249
12. Round 7, No. 253
FIRST PICK: Round 1, #24 (from New Orleans)
PICK: Josh Jones, OT, Houston
With the Patriots and Saints behind the Vikings, and potentially both in the market for a quarterback, this is where the Vikings will take an opportunity to move back from 22nd and still fill an immediate need. Jones is a good athlete who will need some work with his pass sets but could turn into the left tackle of the future.
Justin Jefferson, WR, LSU
The Vikings are thought to have interest in the 6-3 receiver, whose size and route-running skills would give them a solid option after the Diggs trade.
Javon Kinlaw, DT, South Carolina
If he slides in the first round, his strength and ability to explode off the ball might be too tempting for the Vikings to pass up.
SECOND PICK: Round 1, No. 25
PICK: Jeff Gladney, CB, TCU
The Vikings need a cover corner after the departures of Rhodes, Waynes and Alexander, and Gladney is one of the best in the draft. He’d be able to play all over the field and excel in man coverage responsibilities.
Kristian Fulton, CB, LSU
He’s a bit bigger than Gladney; he might not be quite as refined in coverage, but his size and strength would make him a good fit as well.
Jaylon Johnson, CB, Utah
If Gladney and Fulton are gone, Johnson is another strong cover corner option here, with aggressiveness and quickness that helps him overcome the fact he has shorter limbs than many corners in the draft.
THIRD PICK: Round 2, No. 58
PICK: Brandon Aiyuk, WR, Arizona State
The Vikings can afford to wait until the second day of the draft to address the receiver spot in a deep draft for wideouts, and Aiyuk could be a good fit for them here. His speed and tenacity after the catch have drawn some Cordarrelle Patterson comparisons, though he’d also need to learn from Adam Thielen and refine his route-running ability in the NFL.
Tee Higgins, WR, Clemson
If the Vikings wanted a bigger receiver here, Higgins might be the pick, with a 6-4 frame and soft hands that would make him an inviting target for Cousins.
Justin Madubuike, DT, Texas A&M
The Vikings met with him before the draft; he’d fit as a three-technique tackle who also could work as a nose on occasion. His pass-rushing skills have earned him a few John Randle comparisons.
FOURTH PICK: Round 3, No. 78 (from Atlanta through New Orleans)
PICK: Julian Okwara, DE/LB, Notre Dame
The higher third-round pick they’d acquired from the Saints makes it easier for the Vikings to move up here and take an athletic edge rusher that could be used in a number of different ways with Dom Capers adding ideas to Mike Zimmer’s defense, especially if he can add strength to play defensive line.
Kyle Dugger, S, Lenoir-Rhyne
With Anthony Harris’ future in question after the team placed the franchise tag on him, an investment in a safety such as Dugger — a tenacious Division II player who’s talked with the Vikings and could improve with good coaching — might make sense.
Austin Jackson, OT, USC
If the Vikings are still looking for a tackle in the third round, Jackson — who turned heads with his speed and mobility at the NFL combine — could be a good fit for their zone-blocking scheme.
FIFTH PICK: Round 3, No. 89
PICK: Matt Hennessy, C/G, Temple
He was a center in college, but his smarts, balance and fluidity in zone schemes could lead the Vikings to take him and see if they can make him into a guard.
Amik Robertson, CB, Louisiana Tech
At 5-9, he’d have to be a slot corner in the NFL, but his work in coverage and his tenacity have attracted attention. The Vikings met with him more than once before the draft.
Ben Bartch, OT, St. John’s
He put together impressive Senior Bowl practices in his bid to go from Division III football to the NFL. He could join Adam Thielen and C.J. Ham among the ranks of the Vikings’ local underdogs who made it.
SIXTH PICK: Round 5, No. 164
PICK: McTelvin Agim, DT, Arkansas
The Vikings like the potential of second-year tackle Armon Watts, and new assistant defensive line coach Imarjaye Albury coached both Watts and Agim at Arkansas. They could reunite Agim with his former teammate and coach and add a three-technique tackle with some promise as a pass rusher.
James Morgan, QB, Florida International
It’s rare for the Vikings to draft a quarterback when they don’t need a starter, but Morgan’s size and strong arm could help him flourish if he has time to learn behind Cousins.
Tyler Johnson, WR, Gophers
If questions about his speed mean he’s still around by this point of the draft, he could turn out to be a steal — and given the fact he shares an agent and trainer with Thielen, he’d come to the Vikings with a natural mentor.
SEVENTH PICK: Round 6, No. 201
PICK: J.R. Reed, S, Georgia
After passing on safeties several times earlier in the draft, the Vikings get a player here who has the potential to turn into a deep coverage safety with some work in the NFL.
Kevin Dotson, G, Louisiana-Lafayette
The Vikings met with him multiple times before the draft, and while he’d need to develop in a zone scheme, his size makes him an attractive option in the later rounds.
Cameron Clark, T, Charlotte
He’s another offensive line prospect the Vikings met with before the draft. He’d likely have to bulk up to be effective at the NFL level.
EIGHTH PICK: Round 6, No. 205
PICK: Dane Jackson, CB, Pittsburgh
After selecting Gladney in the first round, the Vikings come back to the corner position here to take Jackson, another feisty cover corner who might be a good fit in the nickel.
Tanner Muse, S, Clemson
He’s probably either an in-the-box safety or a linebacker in the NFL. He could replace another former Clemson safety, Jayron Kearse, who played a similar role.
Jared Pinkney, TE, Vanderbilt
The Vikings use multiple-tight end sets more than most teams in the NFL, and Pinkney’s ability as a blocker could help them replace what they lost in David Morgan.
NINTH PICK: Round 7, No. 219
PICK: Trevis Gipson, DE, Tulsa
The Vikings like to look for lean defensive ends in the late rounds; Gipson would need some work, especially as a run defender, but Vikings co-defensive coordinator Andre Patterson has a strong history of developing edge rushers.
Jake Hanson, G, Oregon
The 6-5 guard, who started at center as a senior, would need to develop, but his footwork could help him turn into a functional player in a zone scheme.
Binjimen Victor, WR
Ohio State. He’s 6-4, and if he can add strength to handle NFL cornerbacks, he could be worth a late-round look.
TENTH PICK: Round 7, No. 231
PICK: Sewo Olonilua, RB, TCU
A big back with good footwork for his size, Olonilua could add a different dimension to the Vikings’ backfield and potentially become a goal-line option or a blocking back.
DeeJay Dallas, RB, Miami
If the Vikings need a late-round pick to fill out their backfield, the converted QB might draw their attention with an edge that could also serve him well on special teams.
Carter Coughlin, LB, Gophers
He’s had informal meetings with the Vikings, who would have to decide if they can turn him into a reliable edge rusher in the NFL.
ELEVENTH PICK: Round 7, No. 249
PICK: Nate Stanley, QB, Iowa
Coming from a prostyle offense, where he’s shown some ability to change protections and make strong throws from the pocket, he could fit as a developmental passer for the Vikings.
Gus Lavaka, G, Oregon State
The 26-year-old lineman has an intriguing story, a big frame (he’s 347 pounds) and an impressive body of work in college. The Vikings have shown some interest in him as a late pick or undrafted free agent.
Jacob Phillips, LB, LSU
He’d need to work to turn into a starter in the NFL, but his size and speed could be useful for the Vikings on special teams in the meantime.
TWELFTH PICK: Round 7, No. 253
PICK: Jeff Thomas, WR, Miami
He’s not a big receiver, and would need to develop his route-running skills in the NFL, but has the speed and hands to be worth a late-round look.
Shyheim Carter, S, Alabama
The converted cornerback brings intriguing coverage skills to the NFL, but he’d need some work to develop as a safety.
John Reid, CB, Penn State
He’s an undersized corner who missed 2017 because of a knee injury but has good flexibility in coverage.