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 listen for answers on the weekly Access Vikings podcast. Let's get to it.
Q: What are the weakest and strongest parts of the Vikings roster post draft? — @supersandrue
AK: The most talent on this Vikings roster remains at the skill positions, where running back Dalvin Cook, tight end Irv Smith Jr., and receivers Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen form one of the NFL's best corps around the quarterback. They've got some depth, too, particularly in the backfield with fullback C.J. Ham and No. 2 back Alexander Mattison joined by an athletic newcomer in fourth-round running back Kene Nwangwu (pronounced Wahn-goo). He'll effectively try to replace former No. 3/special teamer Mike Boone, who signed with the Broncos in free agency. Speaking of free agency, the secondary got a lot stronger with the additions of corners Patrick Peterson and Mackensie Alexander, and safety Xavier Woods. It may sound counterintuitive with Christian Darrisaw and Wyatt Davis drafted early, but we can't know if the offensive line is better until they take NFL snaps. Darrisaw has big shoes to fill after former left tackle Riley Reiff became one of the group's most reliable blockers. And where's the pass rush coming from? Stephen Weatherly and rookies Patrick Jones II and Janarius Robinson are the reinforcements at defensive end, where Danielle Hunter and D.J. Wonnum return. The coaching staff will have to manufacture interior pass rush, by moving players around, as the defense relies on run-stopping defensive tackles in Dalvin Tomlinson and Michael Pierce. Linebacker is also an open question, one the team answered with third-round pick Chazz Surratt. He and former Bengals linebacker Nick Vigil are the main additions since losing Eric Wilson in free agency.
Q: What are the odds that the Vikings' O-line is now set for the next 6-10 years with Bradbury, Cleveland, Davis, Darrisaw, and O'Neill? — @brianburge3
AK: The only player you can confidently make that bet on is right tackle Brian O'Neill. Center Garrett Bradbury's first two seasons haven't lived up to his 18th-overall billing, which is the most valuable pick at center in Vikings franchise history. He'll need to improve. So will second-year guard Ezra Cleveland, who is nine starts into his NFL career. But if the Vikings get a new deal done with O'Neill, which is expected this offseason, they'll have a projected starting five – should that include third-round guard Wyatt Davis – signed through 2022, at least. That would quickly become 2023 should the Vikings exercise Bradbury's fifth-year option. But very few things in the NFL are set for 6 to 10 years, especially five-man groups. A reasonably optimistic expectation is the Vikings find three long-term solutions out of this young five. Right now, they've got one in O'Neill, while two rookies haven't taken an NFL snap yet.
Q: Which player drafted right after their pick will the Vikings most regret not taking? — @angelakg
AK: The one getting a lot of attention is ex-Clemson WR Amari Rodgers, who went seven picks after the Vikings took Surratt in the third round. But much of that is because Rodgers, a do-it-all weapon for the Tigers, went to Green Bay. Later that round, the Vikings took Wyatt Davis at No. 86 overall. A pick later, the Chargers got former Illinois guard/center Kendrick Green. The Vikings could've made that choice for many unknown reasons, whether Green's inconsistent game film, or any medical or personal flags. But Green's athletic testing numbers were among the best for any lineman in this class. On the surface, the Vikings' pick of Davis over Green may be the best example of Mike Zimmer's pivot to get bigger, not faster, on the O-line. How Davis and Green develop will be linked because of their consecutive draft slots.
Q: Where's the Kyle Rudolph money going in June? Defensive backs and Danielle Hunter/Brian O'Neill contracts? — @donraul007
AK: The Vikings released Rudolph in March, and he's since signed with the Giants. But the team designated him as a "post-June 1" release, which is a financial quirk that allows an NFL team to spread remaining cap charges from a cut player over two years. The Vikings front office pushed a $2.9 million charge for Rudolph onto the 2022 books, giving them additional space this year, but not until June. In total, they'll get roughly $7.9 million in cap space on June 2. They've got about $7 million in space right now, meaning they'll have about $14 million once the salary of the 51st player, nearly $800,000, replaces Rudolph (only the top 51 cap hits count in the offseason). Where's it going? Signing draft picks, possible extensions, and in-season flexibility for injury replacements. That's also enough room to sign a modest free agent, perhaps like ex-Jaguars receiver Dede Westbrook, who's coming off a torn ACL in October. With 85 of 90 roster spots filled, expect some more additions. Extensions can be structured to save immediate cap space for veterans like safety Harrison Smith and Hunter, but a new deal for right tackle Brian O'Neill (counting just $2.75 million against the cap) will eat up some space.
Q: The drafting of Irv Smith Jr. in the second round cleared the path to eventually moving on from Kyle Rudolph. What pick this year signals an expiration date? — @bfranzwa
AK: The Vikings drafted two possible long-term replacements for current players in third-round quarterback Kellen Mond and linebacker Chazz Surratt, both the team's highest draft picks at the positions since 2014 and 2015, respectively. Mond's path is less clear, however, due to the difficulty of playing NFL quarterback, Kirk Cousins' contract that runs two more years, and a leaguewide lack of success in developing mid-round QBs (not named Cousins or Russell Wilson). Surratt is only entering Year 3 at linebacker, and he's set an impressive trajectory based on his disruptive play at North Carolina. He could also see playing time as soon as he's ready after last year's No. 3 linebacker, Eric Wilson, left in free agency. Plus, Anthony Barr is now set to become a free agent next year.
Q: How long before we can judge the better draft GM between Rick Spielman and George Paton? — @leecvn72
AK: The rule of thumb is generally three years before judging an NFL draft class. So, it'll take a few years before anybody can thoroughly evaluate Paton's first crack as the Broncos general manager after leaving Rick Spielman's side in Minnesota. Spielman has called Paton an "incredible talent evaluator" and invaluable right-hand man as they worked together in Chicago, Miami, and Minnesota across more than two decades. Bears quarterback Justin Fields' career is an interesting link between the two, since they both opted against going for the dual-threat QB. Paton instead drafted cornerback Patrick Surtain II at No. 9 overall, and Spielman chose not to part with the draft capital necessary to trade up while Chicago jumped to No. 11 for Fields. Paton's next draft move was very Spielman-like, as he traded up in the second round for ex-UNC running back Javonte Williams.Paton then traded back twice in the third round before taking UW-Whitewater guard Quinn Meinerz. Stop me if you've heard any of that before.