The regular season ended without a playoff appearance for the Vikings, which obviously means we have now entered Mock Draft season. We don’t know the full draft order yet, but we know the top 20, including the Vikings’ spot at No. 11. Let’s kick off Mock Draft season with a preliminary look.
Before we begin mocking, let me first just say that I’m going to be presenting mock drafts at Vikings Journal on a regular basis the next several months – not because I think I’m going to get them all correct, but as a vehicle for discussion. Nobody ever gets their mock drafts 100 percent right. Nobody ever really comes close. There are always surprise picks, teams that take someone considered “out of the box” (we’re looking at you, Raiders) and, of course, trades. Lots and lots of trades. There’s no way to forecast trades other than to predict they will happen (we’re looking at you, Rick Spielman).
With that said, I’m going to start slowly with my first mock draft of the offseason, and just forecast the top 20 picks – the draft order that we know so far. The rest of the order will be determined, of course, by what transpires in the NFL playoffs that begin this weekend. The draft begins April 30 so we have plenty of time to ramp up.
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon
As I sit here on Jan. 1, this one feels pretty obvious. The Buccaneers need a quarterback to build around and they have their pick of any of them with the top selection. This has to be Mariota unless someone can come up with a compelling case otherwise. I’m not convinced Mariota will be a superstar at the NFL level, but he’s a great athlete, makes all the throws, he is very accurate, mechanically sound and intelligent. And he stays out of trouble off the field.
- Tennessee Titans – Leonard Williams, DE, USC
This pick – and whether or not the Titans select Jameis Winston as many people think they will – is the key to the entire first round. Winston’s talent on the football field is undeniable. Many call him the most talented quarterback in this draft. It’s the off-field stuff that concerns me greatly and will absolutely concern the Titans or any other team that considers drafting him, especially after what happened with Johnny Manziel this season. I could absolutely see the Titans trading out of this spot or simply selecting Williams, who is near the top of everyone’s board and addresses a position of need. Williams is the safe pick and the Titans might feel okay about rolling with Zach Mettenberger. If they take him and no one else trades into this spot for Winston, he will slide until a team in need of a quarterback either trades up to take him or can’t pass on his potential when he falls in their lap.
- Jacksonville Jaguars – Randy Gregory, DE, Nebraska
The Jaguars could go in any number of directions. They don’t need a quarterback and will likely be hoping that Williams slides this far. In my scenario, he won’t. Thus, they could go with a defensive end like Gregory, as I have them slated doing, or maybe Shane Ray from Missouri. This is too early for them to grab a running back; however, not too early to select one of the top offensive linemen or even a wide receiver like Amari Cooper.
- Oakland Raiders – Shane Ray, DE, Missouri
The Raiders are known for either reaching for speedy skill position players or doing something unexpected. Or both. That makes them tough to forecast. The safe, and some would say smart, move would be to select a guy like Ray to give them a speedy edge rusher to team with Khalil Mack in the front seven.
- Washington Redskins – Brandon Scherff, OT, Iowa
With Gregory and Ray off the board, the Washington front office might just elect to address another big position of need and select the consensus top offensive tackle in the draft, though there are some who feel Scherff will be a guard at the next level. Whatever the case, he’s a blue chip offensive lineman.
- New York Jets – Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State
If Winston doesn’t go No. 2 to the Titans, he could slide this far barring a trade. The Redskins could take him at five, but they have plenty of other needs to address as well. The Raiders are set at quarterback with Derek Carr. The Jets need a quarterback of the future unless someone left there still thinks Geno Smith is that guy. If so, Winston could slide down to the Rams at No. 10.
- Chicago Bears – Landon Collins, S, Alabama
The Bears have talent at receiver, which would seem to rule out someone like Amari Cooper or Devante Parker here. And who knows what happens if they deal Jay Cutler between now and Draft Day. For now, let’s project them to go with defense because everyone knows they need help on that side of the ball. You don’t often see safeties go this high in the draft, but Collins has a chance to be special and is easily the top-rated player at his position.
- Atlanta Falcons – Vic Beasley, OLB, Clemson
The Falcons need defense and the consensus seems to be they will be looking for help rushing the passer early in the draft. That makes a guy like Beasley, who tied for third in the nation with 12.0 sacks this season, a very good fit.
- New York Giants – Dante Fowler Jr., DE, Florida
It sure would be interesting if the Giants took Amari Cooper here to pair with Odell Beckham Jr., but that might be a little too much fantasy football and not enough reality. The reality is that they have much bigger needs on the offensive line and front seven on defense. The G-men are preparing for a life without Victor Cruz just in case he doesn’t return from his torn patellar tendon as the same player. That makes Cooper a distinct possibility here. Defense wins out in this scenario, as I have them taking the versatile Fowler.
- St. Louis Rams – Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama
Cooper isn’t getting past a wide receiver-starved team like the Rams; that much seems certain. I know a lot of Vikings fans are hoping Cooper falls in their laps, but it’s not happening in my Mock Draft 1.0.
- Minnesota Vikings – Devante Parker, WR, Louisville
The Vikings have needs on the offensive line, at linebacker and in the defensive secondary. With Collins off the board, the only worthwhile safety is gone. Most of the cornerbacks feel like a slight reach at this point, but that remains a possibility, especially if head coach Zimmer has much to say about it. Linebacker remains a need, but trading back to get one or selecting help in subsequent rounds (or via free agency) feels more likely. That leaves offensive line and wide receiver. There are no interior linemen worthy of selecting here, according to most observers. There are plenty of tackles that would make sense here, however – guys like Cedric Ogbuehi, La’El Collins, T.J. Clemmings, Ereck Flowers and Andrus Peat. Having said all that, I think the Vikings will give their quarterback an old teammate from Louisville to play catch with. That’s what I’m going with for Mock 1.0.
- Cleveland Browns – Danny Shelton, DT, Washington
If Josh Gordon is traded before the draft, the Browns might be looking for a wide receiver here and continue the run on wideouts. They’ll probably be upset if the board plays out this way and the top two wide receivers go off the board right in front of them. They also have needs on both lines and at linebacker, though. And remember, they have another pick at 19. Shelton gives them immediate help up the middle against the run.
- New Orleans Saints – Cedric Ogbuehi, OT, Texas A&M
Most people feel the Saints will address their offensive line needs with this pick, and who am I to argue? There will be a glut of quality tackles available here if the board falls this way. Ogbuehi is probably the best bet, but Ereck Flowers or T.J. Clemmings might be my pick for the Saints in future mock drafts.
- Miami Dolphins – Ereck Flowers, OT, Miami (Fla.)
Other than quarterback I think the Dolphins could go anywhere with this pick. Running back or wide receiver are definitely possible, as is offensive line, defensive line and linebacker. Continuing the run on quality offensive linemen feels like the best bet at this time and they’ll find a Hurricanes lineman right in their back yard.
- San Francisco 49ers – Eddie Goldman, DT, Florida State
The 49ers have a young quarterback, young running back (Carlos Hyde) and dozens of veteran receivers so I don’t see them going with a skill position player here. There once-dominant offensive and defensive lines could use some upgrades, especially if free agent guard Mike Iupati leaves in free agency and signs with a team like, oh I don’t know, the Vikings. The run on offensive line might continue, but defensive line is just as possible. The Niners will pan for Gold(man). #sorrynotsorry
- Houston Texans – Kevin White, WR, West Virginia
Houston, we have a problem… somehow neither Mariota nor Winston slipped this far. You’ll have to find a quarterback elsewhere. I think there’s a good chance the Texans stay on offense with this pick, though. That defense should continue to be pretty good with that J.J. Watt fellow and maybe even last year’s top pick Jadeveon Clowney playing again. In this scenario, White gives them an heir apparent for Andre Johnson and a great pairing for DeAndre Hopkins on the other side – for whoever they find to play quarterback.
- San Diego Chargers – T.J. Clemmings, OT, Pittsburgh
The Chargers could go cornerback here, especially if Brandon Flowers leaves via free agency, but they also could really use some help on the offensive line. Fortunately for them, there are still some quality tackles available, starting with Clemmings, Collins and Peat.
- Kansas City Chiefs – Jaelen Strong, WR, Arizona State
Let me say this slowly: the Chiefs finished 29th in passing offense and did not have a single wide receiver score a touchdown this season. Again: zero wide receiver touchdowns. Wide receiver is a big need, and they might trade up to get Cooper, Parker or White. I don’t have any trades in my Mock 1.0 so they need to stand pat at 18 and I think they’ll reach a bit to address the need. I think Devin Funchess profiles as more of a pass-catching tight end in the NFL. The Chiefs have that already. They’re reaching for Strong in my scenario.
- Cleveland Browns (from Buffalo) – Devin Funchess, WR, Michigan
The Browns were hoping Kevin White fell this far after missing out on Cooper and Parker with their earlier first-round pick. But they’re the Browns so life is never fair. They even got sniped on Jaelen Strong. Funchess is a distinct possibility if they want to keep him at wide receiver.
- Philadelphia Eagles – Trae Waynes, CB, Michigan State
The Eagles have a big need at cornerback and, whaddaya know, a consensus top cornerback in this year’s draft is still sitting there. They won’t pass on Waynes if the board falls this way.
So there it is; Mock Draft 1.0 is in the books. I probably got 17 of the 20 wrong (like most other mockers) but it’s a good talker. In future mock drafts, I’ll do the entire first round (once we know the order) and maybe even go two rounds if I have nothing better to do. You never know.
As we sit here in early January who do you see the Vikings taking and how do you feel the draft will play out?
Bo Mitchell is the Vice President of Content at SportsData, head writer at VikingsJournal.com, co-host of the Fantasy Football Pants Party at 1500ESPN.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America.
You can follow Bo on Twitter at @Bo_Mitchell