The Vikings focused on the perimeter during Thursday night’s first round when drafting receiver Justin Jefferson and cornerback Jeff Gladney. Now it’s likely time for the trenches.
General manager Rick Spielman has three picks on Friday night — No. 58 (second round), No. 89 (third round), No. 105 (third round) — to further the Vikings’ roster repair. It’s unlikely they stay put, however, since the Vikings have 12 picks left and can trade up for desired players.
“There’s a lot of depth through this second and third round,” Spielman said Thursday night. “Hopefully look forward to manipulating the board to go get some more significant players.”
Here’s a quick rundown of the top players available in areas of need.
C/G Matt Hennessy (Temple) — The Vikings need at least one new starter on the offensive line after cutting right guard Josh Kline. Hennessy (6-4, 307 pounds) could step into that role after he was a finalist for the nation’s best center in 2019.
OT Josh Jones (Houston) — Jones (6-5, 319 pounds) is one of the top offensive tackles remaining after six went in the first round. He was projected to get first-round attention, and the Vikings met with Jones over videoconferencing this month, so perhaps the athletic big man is still on their radar.
OT Ezra Cleveland (Boise St.) — Cleveland (6-6, 311 pounds) caught some buzz with a strong combine in February, when he paired a 4.93-second 40-yard dash with 30 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press. Scouting reports claim he needs to add strength, but would immediately fit a zone run game like the Vikings.
OT Matt Peart (UConn) — A rare combination of size and athleticism while needing to add strength and refine his play — sound familiar? The Vikings took a similar swing on Brian O’Neill in the second round a few years ago. That was viewed as a reach then, but Peart (6-7, 318 pounds) has similar upside given time to develop.
DE Yetur Gross-Matos (Penn St.) — He’s not the weight-room monster like Danielle Hunter, but Gross-Matos (6-5, 266 pounds) has similar size with even longer arms. He could develop into a similar type of terror on the outside if he gets stronger and refines his moves.
DE A.J. Epenesa (Iowa) — The former Hawkeyes star isn’t an athletic freak (by NFL standards), but he’s strong and skilled for his experience. Epenesa (6-5, 275 pounds) is billed as one of the safest draft picks at defensive end in this class because of this reliability.
DT Justin Madubuike (Texas A&M) — Mike Zimmer will “always be looking for a three-technique” defensive tackle, as he’s said, and Madubuike (6-3, 293 pounds) could be that guy he’s looked for in Minnesota. Shamar Stephen can be solid, but Madubuike brings the upside Zimmer covets.
DT Ross Blacklock (TCU) — Inconsistent, but gifted, Blacklock (6-3, 290 pounds) was projected by many to be a first-round pick. He may not last long during Friday’s second round. He’s a ravenous interior pass rusher who has the talent to solidify a defensive line.
CB Bryce Hall (Virginia) — Why not double up on corners? Hall (6-1, 202 pounds) has the long arms and big body to potentially shore up an outside spot after Xavier Rhodes and Trae Waynes left. New first-round pick Jeff Gladney can play the slot, so Hall could compete on the outside.
S Ashtyn Davis (Cal) — The Vikings don’t draft safeties very early, unless it’s 2012 and he’s Harrison Smith, but Davis (6-1, 202 pounds) might be too intriguing to pass up in the back of the third round. Davis has “rare physical gifts,” according to his NFL.com draft bio, and just needs refinement. The former track star didn’t play football until his third year at Cal.