The Vikings put offensive line on the back burner during Thursday night’s first round of the NFL draft when using two first-round picks on receiver Justin Jefferson and cornerback Jeff Gladney. So, Friday evening’s second and third rounds may be a matter of when — not if — the Vikings will look to shore up quarterback Kirk Cousins’ protection.
General Manager Rick Spielman has three picks — No. 58 (second round), No. 89 (third round) and No. 105 (third round) — on Friday night to further repair the roster. Other NFL general managers did not wait to address the offensive line.
A flurry of first-round picks at offensive tackle thinned the Vikings options, including five who were drafted before Spielman was on the clock at No. 22 — Andrew Thomas (Georgia), Jedrick Wills (Alabama), Tristan Wirfs (Iowa), Mekhi Becton (Louisville) and Austin Jackson (USC). The draft’s top four tackle prospects were gone after the Buccaneers took Wirfs with the No. 13 pick.
Spielman jumped into position runs himself, taking the first round’s fifth receiver and sixth cornerback.
On Friday night, Spielman has a handful of intriguing options to address the offensive line, including Boise State’s Ezra Cleveland and Louisiana Lafayette’s Robert Hunt, for a Vikings group needing more muscle up front. The problem is 25 other teams are currently scheduled to pick before the Vikings. A remaining wild card is veteran left tackle Trent Williams, who has reportedly drawn trade interest from the Vikings. The Pro Bowler remained on the Washington Redskins’ roster after the first round.
Should the Vikings find an interior lineman, they have flexibility with left tackle Riley Reiff. He could stay at left tackle, or move inside to guard if a tackle is drafted. Regardless, the Vikings need a new right guard after releasing Josh Kline last month in a cost-cutting move.
Secondary reinforcements may continue in the second and third rounds. The cupboard still isn’t stocked at cornerback, where Gladney joins Mike Hughes, Holton Hill and Kris Boyd on the depth chart. While safety Anthony Harris was franchise tagged, his long-term future is not certain. The Vikings also missed on at least two veteran safeties — Will Parks and Jeff Heath — in free agency last month, so an addition there isn’t out of the question after also seeing Jayron Kearse and Andrew Sendejo sign elsewhere.
Gophers safety Antoine Winfield Jr. and LSU safety Grant Delpit are among the top options still available. Should the Vikings decide to draft another cornerback, prospects include Utah’s Jaylon Johnson, Alabama’s Trevon Diggs — Stefon’s brother — and LSU’s Kristian Fulton.
Defensive line is another key area of need. After losing defensive end Everson Griffen in free agency, the edge could be bolstered with a draft pick on Friday. The Vikings are expecting big things from defensive end Ifeadi Odenigbo, but the roster also lost No. 3 end Stephen Weatherly to the Panthers in free agency this offseason.
Defensive end prospects to watch on Friday include Penn State’s Yatur Gross-Matos, Iowa’s A.J. Epenesa and Auburn’s Marlon Davidson. Just two defensive ends — Ohio State’s Chase Young (2nd overall) and LSU’s K’Lavon Chaisson (20th overall) — were drafted in the first round.