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 or find them here on Friday mornings. Let's get to it.
Q: Which players could get more playing time in Detroit? Is there a chance we see the offensive line shuffle around? — Danny
AK: Defensive line and cornerback will see even more from newer faces. The Vikings will likely be without five injured defenders against the Lions: linebacker Eric Kendricks, defensive linemen Ifeadi Odenigbo and Jalyn Holmes, and cornerbacks Chris Jones and Cameron Dantzler. None practiced this week.
That keeps the doors wide open for defensive ends D.J. Wonnum, Hercules Mata'afa and Jordan Brailford, as well as cornerback Harrison Hand. Cornerback Dylan Mabin, signed off the Raiders' practice squad last month, could make his defensive debut in Detroit. A practice squad elevation or two seems likely with cornerbacks Tae Hayes and Cordrea Tankersley among those options.
The offensive line won't get shuffled that much, with Rashod Hill taking practice reps this week for left tackle Riley Reiff, who has been quarantined on the COVID list since Wednesday and may not be available against his former team. Right guard Ezra Cleveland, a former Boise St. left tackle, will stay put through at least this final game of his rookie season, according to coordinator Gary Kubiak.
Q: What are the chances the Vikings target a solid corner in free agency? One that starts opposite of Cameron Dantzler, who I think will be good, and allow Jeff Gladney to stay in the slot? — @thejakemeister3
AK: How solid? A truly solid cornerback in free agency costs a nice chunk of change that the Vikings typically don't hand over in a normal offseason, let alone one financially stricken with leaguewide revenue shortfalls expected to shrink the 2021 salary cap. With that said, you can likely expect runs at value-bin corners and safeties, particularly the latter where the Vikings swung and missed last spring on at least a couple veteran free agent safeties in Will Parks and Jeff Heath. A year later, they may need a starter with Anthony Harris headed for free agency.
At corner, the Vikings are returning five contributors in Mike Hughes, Gladney, Dantzler, Kris Boyd and Hand, but that group seems ripe for a veteran addition as well. I just wouldn't expect the cap-strapped Vikings to guarantee much, especially when also considering how the coaching staff feels about Gladney and Dantzler, whom they view as long-term starters.
Q: Why aren't the Vikings using this opportunity to evaluate quarterback Jake Browning or Nate Stanley? — @socialordirty
AK: The Vikings have been doing all season what many teams would like to do in Sunday's meaningless season finale in Detroit — getting looks at younger and inexperienced players. That will continue with the ongoing run of defensive injuries. While aforementioned defenders will play more, there certainly won't be a change at quarterback, where Kirk Cousins spoke recently about the team's mind-set about this game.
"It's important that we don't view this as the last game of this year, but really as the first game of 2021," he said. "That will help us kind of focus on where we're headed, what we're trying to build and try to get 2021 started off on the right foot."
Coaches are hoping next year's offseason workouts and preseason can happen, because that's where you'll see practice squad quarterbacks like Browning and Stanley get their initial chances. You'll hear coaches and players around the league talk about a culture factor, putting your best foot forward every week or risk losing the attention of veterans in the locker room. There are also pending free agents playing for next year's salaries, too, and their best chance to look good is with the best quarterback on the roster playing in a regular season game.
Q: Any chance Rick Spielman comes to the realization sometimes quality beats quantity in the draft? Or will we get all the seventh rounders again? — @scott_roberts25
AK: The Vikings currently have 11 selections in the 2021 NFL Draft, and just one in the seventh round (for now). But the second round is the most intriguing, even though their pick is sitting in Jacksonville for six games of Yannick Ngakoue. It should be expected already that the front office will be all ears regarding the Vikings' first-round pick, which could land anywhere from No. 9 to No. 15, pending results of season finales this weekend, given Spielman's history and the gap between their first pick and the next one in round three.
The bulk of the Vikings' draft capital is in eight picks between Rounds 3-5, offering plenty of chances to trade up and jump back into the second round. The Vikings have two third-round picks (one via Baltimore), three fourth-round picks (two via Chicago and Buffalo) and three fifth-round picks (two via Baltimore and Pittsburgh). Spielman has made four seventh-round picks in three of the last four years, so it's a safe bet they'll keep acquiring them as a way of circumventing post-draft bidding wars for undrafted free agents.