Thanks to all the readers who submitted questions via Twitter for this morning’s Vikings Q & A session. Let’s get started …
Susie Stinton (via email): Which do you think is greater, the loss of Stefon Diggs or the loss of key defensive players? Which will be easier to fill?
AK: More than 4,500 defensive snaps – or 37% – need to be replaced on the Vikings defense, which is before a potential trade with safety Anthony Harris. The defensive overhaul will be the bigger undertaking just based on numerous vacancies. The Vikings deploy fewer receivers than just about any NFL offense, which isn’t to understate the hole Diggs leaves out wide, but a few players will be asked to step up compared to 7-10 affected defenders from starters to reserves. Despite last year’s defensive issues, the Vikings still ranked fifth allowing 18.9 points per game.
@alrmpls: While it probably makes a lot of sense to move back, what are the chances that the Vikings package some of their current picks to move up for a top OT, CB or WR?
AK: This is intriguing, since the Vikings typically don’t enter a draft with 12 picks (they typically accumulate them in draft-day trade backs, including five deals last year) and a high-end safety in Anthony Harris they’re willing to deal. So why not try to trade up if the right player falls in range? It would go against trend, however. Since Spielman traded up for Harrison Smith (2012), Cordarrelle Patterson (2013) and Teddy Bridgewater (2014) in first rounds, he’s primarily focused on trading back at a frenetic pace. By my count, the Vikings accepted 20 draft-day pick swaps in the last five years with only four deals to move up for Dalvin Cook, Pat Elflein, Daniel Carlson and David Morgan.
@TSchwartz28: What will an exclusively online draft process look like?
AK: The NFL informed teams of the first-ever “virtual draft” earlier this month, an outcome the Vikings braced for since all team facilities closed late last month. They’ve installed individual monitors that will display the team’s draft board in the homes of many key executives, coaches and scouts, many of whom have run simulations to prepare. The NFL has reportedly considered fallback options, including a 32-team conference call on landlines, in case of a technical difficulty. The league has asked draftees not to gather in groups larger than six when cameras are rolling.
@musiknw: Chances the Vikings take a QB in the middle rounds?
AK: Slim to none, if the Vikings’ track record is any indicator. While scouts have done plenty of homework on this quarterback class, Spielman has not drafted a quarterback outside the first round as GM. The last one taken was John David Booty in 2008’s fifth round. The Vikings have three quarterbacks under contract after reworking Kirk Cousins’ deal and re-signing Sean Mannion, along with Jake Browning. Cousins turns 32 in August and is on a three-year deal structured in a way – charging $45 million against the cap in 2022 – that begs to be reworked for another commitment down the road.
@FromAdopt: What does the front office believe is the biggest need going into the draft?
AK: Without being a fly on the wall, I’d have to imagine cornerback is at or near the top of the list. Losing three starters at one position – regardless of uneven production – is a difficult turnaround in one year. Behind cornerback, the offensive line, wide receiver and the defensive line have major holes following the free-agent exodus. After leading the league with 12 draft picks last year, the Vikings again sit with 12 picks for next week.
@DenBaskett: How many rookies need to be competent starters to not lose major ground this season?
AK: Fans should be looking for the 2018 and 2019 draft classes – with cornerback Mike Hughes, center Garrett Bradbury, tight end Irv Smith Jr. and guard Dru Samia, among others – to fill vacancies, too. Bradbury and tackle Brian O’Neill were the only two starters last year from those classes, leaving room for Hughes to start at cornerback, Smith to pick up slack after the Diggs trade and Samia to compete for a backup job, at least. With two first-round picks, the Vikings should be looking to land another two opening-day starters as well.
@JonasHoyBruun: Do you see the rift with Stefon Diggs as something that could possibly affect the Vikings’ interest in Trevon Diggs, given his very close relationship with his brother?
AK: That’s up to Spielman, who has not been available to reporters since trading Stefon Diggs to Buffalo last month. While Vikings scouts and coaches will grade former Alabama cornerback Trevon Diggs as any other player, Spielman has long touted the Vikings’ ability to find the right “psychological profiles,” which they incorporate into rankings on their draft board. They try to project how a player will fit the organization, too, which are questions they’d want answered before drafting Trevon Diggs.