Thank you for submitting questions for this week's Vikings mailbag. You can always send questions to @Andrew_Krammer on Twitter or firstname.lastname@example.org, and find answers here or on the Access Vikings podcast. Let's get to it.
Q: Is the Chazz Surratt pick a signal of their plans with Anthony Barr? — @joel stegman
AK: It's a significant resource based on a real possibility. The Vikings accepted the possibility of Anthony Barr leaving after this year when they agreed to restructure his contract in a cost-cutting way that makes him a free agent next spring. Surratt, drafted 78th overall out of North Carolina, then became general manager Rick Spielman's highest pick at linebacker since 2015 when Eric Kendricks was taken in the second round. Keep in mind he's entering just his third year at the position. The former UNC quarterback showed intriguing potential while racking up first-team All-ACC honors as a senior with 7.5 tackles for a loss, six sacks and three pass deflections in 11 games. Physically, he's not a projected "replacement" for Barr in the Vikings' schemes at 6-2 and 229 pounds. Spielman called Surratt the "modern NFL-type linebacker," first citing his ability to cover and run. While developmental, he adds another sideline-to-sideline option after the Vikings drafted Troy Dye in 2020's fourth round and just lost Eric Wilson in free agency. Throughout last year, it was also clear the roster desperately needed more and better options at linebacker. Combine that with their decision to give Barr an opportunity to walk after this year, and Surratt arrives as the third Day 1 or Day 2 linebacker under Mike Zimmer.
Q: Curious how you think the Vikings did compared to the rest of the NFC North? — @jayrunquist
AK: With the attention on quarterbacks, the NFC North's investments were also concentrated on the lines. The Vikings, Packers, and Lions each spent at least two picks within the first three rounds on either offensive or defensive linemen, while the Vikings and Lions had three such selections. Whoever comes out with the better production in the trenches – and how new Bears quarterback Justin Fields transitions to the NFL – will end up telling the story. Quarterback is the priority, and the biggest draft-day happening revolved around the news that Aaron Rodgers wants out of Green Bay. The Vikings, by default, gain a lot of ground if somehow both Rodgers and Matthew Stafford exit the NFC North in the same offseason. Zimmer's track record against rookie/inexperienced quarterbacks is noteworthy in this regard if he ends up facing four games of Fields and Jordan Love, plus two games against Jared Goff. Fields could be a real problem down the road, but the Vikings' 2021 prospects in the NFC North are looking up.
Q: Will tackle Christian Darrisaw and guard Wyatt Davis start Week 1? — @Haaland09JJ18
AK: The Vikings should hope so. They're not going to publicly say so, but Darrisaw and Davis might as well be penciled in as the left tackle and left guard, even as Davis will have to earn it over returning starter Dakota Dozier. Swing tackle Rashod Hill is a very capable placeholder for Darrisaw at left tackle, should the rookie need it, but obviously a first-round pick comes with starter expectations. Davis is an intriguing fit, and an example of Zimmer's decree to get bigger on the offensive line, because he's not viewed as the type of nimble blocker they'd been prioritizing. His NFL.com draft profile pegs him as a fit for power run schemes due to his strength but "average athleticism," which is a departure from the styles of Garrett Bradbury, Brian O'Neill, and Ezra Cleveland. Zimmer wanted more strength up front, however, and both Darrisaw and Davis are expected to bring it. Davis should join Darrisaw as a starter as soon as possible.
Q: Will passing on Amari Rodgers to take the linebacker from North Carolina, then have the Packers take Rodgers, come back to bite? — @miller70chev
AK: Depends on who's quarterbacking in Green Bay. But the younger Rodgers, the former Clemson slot target drafted in the third round by the Packers, could become a problem for Minnesota. The former four-star recruit did just about everything for the Tigers, leading some to project him as a possible Deebo Samuel-type threat in the NFL. Samuel is a yards-after-the-catch monster, eluding tacklers with a unique blend of speed, agility and muscle. Rodgers is smaller at 5-9, but he's still 214 pounds and moves quickly. He might be the best skill-position player they've added in the draft since Davante Adams in 2014; he's at least their highest-drafted receiver since then. The Vikings didn't prioritize receiver depth as much, coming away with a speedy target in the fifth round in Iowa's Ihmir Smith-Marsette.
Q: Is there much of a money difference between going to a team in the seventh round vs. undrafted free agency, given the potential signing bonus? What about contractually? — @beauschmaltz
AK: The biggest difference for a fringe player financially is making the team — the 53-man roster, that is. You are most likely to get less guaranteed up front if you're an undrafted signing compared to a seventh-round pick. Quarterback Nate Stanley, a 2020 seventh-round pick, got about $78,000 guaranteed up front in a signing bonus, which is a fixed amount based on the draft slot. An undrafted signing that year, receiver/special teamer Dan Chisena, got $60,000 guaranteed up front in a negotiation with the Vikings. However, because Chisena made the 53-man roster and stayed on it, he also earned the rest of his $610,000 salary in 2020. He ended up making more than Stanley, who was waived out of camp and added to the practice squad; his draft contract was ripped up, and he earned about $143,000, according to OverTheCap.com, on last year's taxi squad. Draft contracts come with a standard length of four years, while undrafted deals are three years. But a player can't reach unrestricted free agency without four vested seasons, which is why undrafted players become "restricted" free agents after their third season.