We’re only weeks away now from the NFL Draft, which means there will be mock drafts flying around everywhere. So we’ve decided to take a little different approach.
The website FanSpeak has created an NFL Draft Simulator. You pick from a prospect list, then the simulator runs through the rounds until your team (in this case, the Minnesota Vikings) comes up, and then you get to make the pick. So each week leading up to the draft, we will make the Vikings’ picks and publish a new simulation exploring different ways they could go in the draft.
(You can do your own Vikings draft simulation here. PLEASE feel free to do your own drafts and leave the results in the comments or tweet them to @1500ESPN!)
So here is how things turned out for the Vikings on the first attempt:
48. Alvin Kamara, RB, Tennessee
The Vikings are looking for their LeSean McCoy or Le’Veon Bell with this pick. Kamara is a three-down back who was an explosive part of the Vols’ offense, averaging 6.2 Yards Per Carry over the last two years. He also showed his outstanding athleticism at the NFL Combine. As a good receiver, Kamara could be part of a three-headed monster with Latavius Murray and Jerick McKinnon right away with the potential to turn into a franchise back. The Vikings are in need of more offensive weapons, especially ones that fit the West Coast Offense.
Here’s what the draft board looked like around No. 48:
Both Ogunjobi and Dawkins would have made reasonable picks. Sharrif Floyd’s future is up in the air and the Vikings do not have an immediate answer at defensive tackle, but Dawkins has the athletic ability to develop into a full-time tackle and might be able to play guard right away.
In this scenario, the Vikings would have the tough Joe Mixon decision taken out of their hands and wouldn’t have a chance to pick the freakish tight end Evan Engram.
79. Pat Elflein, C, Ohio State
It was surprising to find Elflein still on the board at 79 as most mock drafts have him as a second-round pick. The Vikings need interior offensive linemen and the Ohio State product was easily the best on the board. He is considered a tireless worker, smart player and NFL-ready prospect who could either start at center and allow Joe Berger to move to guard or compete for the right guard position. His NFL.com draft profile includes this quote from an NFC West scout:
“You are getting a guy who will be great for your locker room and will get the rest of the offensive line on board. I think he could have the same fast impact on a team’s running game that Zach Martin had in Dallas. Safe draft pick to me.”
If there’s any team in the league that needs its running game improved, it’s the Vikings, who had the 32nd ranked running offense in the NFL.
Other possibilities with this pick included Penn State WR Chris Godwin and Iowa safety Desmond King.
86. JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR, USC
With free agency essentially bare and the Vikings losing two receivers (Cordarrelle Patterson, Charles Johnson) this offseason, coming away with a solid receiving prospect was important. Smith-Schuster is known as a competitor with a body type and playing style similar to Anquan Boldin. He isn’t a burner or a deep threat, but more of a rock-solid possession receiver who can win battles at the line of scrimmage and when the ball is in the air.
120. Jaleel Johnson, DL, Iowa
Johnson had a big year at Iowa, picking up 7.5 sacks and 10.0 tackles for loss. At 6-foot-3, 315-pounds, he profiles as the type of three-technique DT that could take the spot of Sharrif Floyd if the Vikings’ current starter can’t return from nerve damage in his knee. With one of the league’s elite nose tackles in Linval Joseph, it’s possible that a rookie could start right away, even if he isn’t a top pick.
Here’s the “bottom line” on Johnson per his NFL.com Draft Profile:
“Active defensive tackle with the motor and athleticism to find production in the NFL. Johnson doesn’t have the functional anchor that teams looking for a run-stuffer will be after. However, his effort, foot quickness and hand usage should create opportunities for him as a pass rusher. Johnson has the talent to become an eventual starter as a three-technique in a penetrating defensive front and could fight for rotational reps early on as a rookie.”
128. George Kittle, TE, Iowa
Chad Greenway would appreciate this draft with two Iowa players in a row.
Since most of the best options for playmaking tight end were off the board early, other needs had to be addressed, but Kittle offers speed and downfield ability that might play well alongside Kyle Rudolph. He’s 6-foot-4, 247-pounds and runs a 4.52 40-yard dash, making him a tough matchup for linebackers. Kittle also has good hands, as NFL.com points out, he only dropped one pass and made 48 catches last season.
160. Jerod Evans, QB, Virginia Tech
While the Vikings may have signed Case Keenum as their backup, we know exactly what Case Keenum is – an average backup quarterback with no upside. With a lot of players on the roster who are capable special teamers, it makes sense to pick a you-never-know quarterback instead of a low-ceiling defensive player or O-lineman with an extremely high chance of being a bust.
Also, there is a statistical study that hints at Evans as a potential sleeper.
199. ArDarius Stewart, WR, Alabama
Stewart decided to leave Alabama after being graded a second-round pick by the NFL Draft Advisory Committee. He was a top receiver for the Crimson Tide and runs a 4.49 40-yard dash. Taking a flier on a player with a second-round grade that drops to the sixth is always a strong play, even if he has risks involved. We have seen the Vikings make a lot out of long-shot wide receivers, so here’s another one to add to the mix.
232. Jessaman Dunker, G, Tennessee State
Two things about Dunker stand out: He ran a 4.98 40-yard dash. Studies have found that the 40 correlates to success with guards. And that he’s 6-foot-4, 320-pounds. The seventh round is perfect for long shots and the Vikings need more lottery tickets on the front line. Here’s what his NFL.com draft profile says:
“Dunker is an excellent athlete, but he is extremely raw and may not have enough core strength to consistently hold up against NFL power. His best chance is with a zone-oriented rushing team, but he will still need time to improve his technique and strength before he could become a factor on the depth chart.”