The Vikings last week posted a clip of a video call from the first round of last year's draft, as their decision-makers nervously waited to see if the Eagles would snatch Justin Jefferson a pick before Minnesota could take him at No. 22.
In the middle of the clip, general manager Rick Spielman floated the possibility of trading back from the Vikings' second pick at No. 25 to get a cornerback. "You think?" coach Mike Zimmer said, to which Spielman responded, "Yeah, the corners are sitting there."
At the end of the clip, as the Vikings exulted in disbelief when the Eagles took Jalen Reagor, Zimmer reminded Spielman the Vikings would be on the clock again soon. Spielman cracked, "Yeah, I know. I'm fine. We got the receiver; we don't need any defensive guys," to which Zimmer dryly responded, "No, I'm used to it."
There's a bit of truth in every joke, the saying goes, and the repartee between the most powerful men in the Vikings' football operation provided a glimpse of the careful balance they've forged in seven years together.
The Vikings have made eight first-round picks in those seven drafts. Four — including a league-high three cornerbacks — have come as the Vikings have built one of the NFL's best defenses in that time, constructing the roster in the image of a coach who believes strongly in winning with excellence on that side of the ball. They've used their other four picks on offense, trading back into the first round for quarterback Teddy Bridgewater in 2014 and becoming one of four teams to select two first-round receivers in that time.
They've got the 14th pick in the draft on Thursday night, with their second-round pick in Jacksonville's possession as a result of the Yannick Ngakoue trade last summer. The Vikings' two most obvious needs, at it seems now, will quite literally be staring one another in the face during practices: They could use another pass rusher for a defensive line that sorely missed Danielle Hunter last season, and even after three first- or second-round picks in the past three years, their offensive line has question marks (especially after the Vikings cut tackle Riley Reiff in a cap-saving move this spring).
Before a season where the continuation of their partnership could hinge on a return to the playoffs, Spielman and Zimmer will have to find balance again.
"I think there's some depth on the offensive side," Spielman said on Tuesday. "It doesn't mean that you don't take the best player available at 14, so if there's a player on defense that we value and the next player on offense is in a box below us that we don't think is the same quality of player, we're still going to stick to the philosophy of trying to take that best player available.
"There are certain positions there's a lot of depth through that second and third round where, [by] moving up you can actually fill two needs if that's what we elect to do. Or if we sit there, I still believe we can fill some needs on the offensive or defensive side if we just stay with our two third-round picks right now. But we're not locked in on one position, I can tell you that."
The fact the Vikings have two third-round picks and four fourth-rounders could help them move back into the second round on Friday night. Spielman said Tuesday he's confident the Vikings have what they need to move around the draft board as they see fit.
They could fill one of their offensive line needs at No. 14 with a tackle like Northwestern's Rashawn Slater or Virginia Tech's Christian Darrisaw, while a player like USC's Alijah Vera-Tucker could step in at guard as Ezra Cleveland, a second-rounder last year, moves back to tackle.
On defense, the Vikings are believed to be interested in pass rushers like Miami's Jaelan Phillips and Michigan's Kwity Paye, who could play alongside Hunter or step in if the defensive end's neck or contract concerns mean he's not on the field.
Or, if a quarterback like Ohio State's Justin Fields slides in the first round and the Vikings decide not to spend a first-rounder on their QB of the future, they could create a market with teams looking to jump in front of the Patriots at No. 15 and possibly pick up a second-round pick by moving back in the first round.
"I don't take it very serious at this time [when people say], 'Hey, if our guy's there, would you be willing to trade back?'" Spielman said Tuesday. "We haven't been really making any active calls on trying to trade up, either. I think a lot of that evolves as the draft process goes on Thursday and throughout the draft – depending on who's on the board and how teams covet players. But I can say this, just adding to that, that we feel very confident if we do not move up or down in the draft, we're going to get a very good football player at 14."
The Vikings can't solve all of their needs with one player, though — and as they enter the draft with one pick in the first two rounds, they'll have to work carefully to address both Zimmer's defense and their ongoing efforts to improve things in front of Kirk Cousins.
With no second-round pick, Spielman said, "You just deal with whatever circumstance you have. I don't know if we'll be that patient or not. Again, yet to be determined. If that's what it is, then you're patient and you just follow your draft board. But we'll see what happens."