We’re almost there. The NFL Draft is only two weeks away, which means there will be mock drafts flying around everywhere, but without a first-round pick, the Vikings are often left out.
However, 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 second attempt:
48. Dion Dawkins, G, Temple
The Vikings may have signed a pair of offensive linemen this offseason, but their biggest draft need is still up front both immediately and in the future. On the interior there is currently no clear-cut starting right guard and center Joe Berger is 34 years old and at right tackle, Mike Remmers is a bandaid rather than a long-term solution.
Dawkins played tackle at Temple and has the potential to grow into starter on the outside, but is expected to be NFL-ready at guard. Pro Football Focus advanced stats ranked the 6-foot-4, 314-pounder as the seventh best run blocker and fourth best pass blocker in the draft. He allowed just two sacks in 2016 and eight over his three-year career.
NFL.com’s draft profile points out strength as his best asset:
“Quality tackle who operates with good balance and solid technique. Shows some good initial quickness and a smooth kick-slide out of his stance, but might be better in short areas as a guard rather than in open space as a tackle. He’s athletic enough to operate in space, but power appears to be his calling card. His wide-hand approach in pass protection could be a difficult habit to break, but he has the natural power to withstand bull rush that might come with that. Dawkins is a well-schooled, three-year starter who has chance to transition into an early starter.”
Here’s a look at other players taken just before Dawkins and after.
This scenario would leave the Vikings with a tough decision on Joe Mixon, the highly-rated running back who has serious character concerns after punching a woman in 2014. Dawkins’ potential to move over to tackle made him the choice over Feeney. Defensive line is an immediate need, but there were other players of similar talent to Worlmey who would be available later.
In the first simulation, we took Kamara. This time around, the approach was looking more toward the future with the No. 48 than just 2017.
79. Dalvin Tomlinson, DT, Alabama
A nerve issue in Sharrif Floyd’s knee has put his future in jeopardy, which means the Vikings have a need to fill that they didn’t expect. It’s unclear whether Datone Jones can play DT, Tom Johnson is a pure pass rusher and Shamar Stephen is best used in a limited role.
Tomlinson was one of the best run stuffers in the country and has terrific smarts and character that would fit with head coach Mike Zimmer.
His NFL.com draft profile suggests his pass rush skills might grow as well.
“Prototypical Alabama defensive tackle who wins with leverage, power and technique. Tomlinson’s powerful frame and ability to stack the run between the tackles could make him a scheme-flexible target in the draft. While he is likely to be drafted as a run bully, his history of operating in Alabama’s stunt-and-twist-oriented defense could help keep him on the field on third downs for teams using a similar concept. Tomlinson has a chance to become an early starter and should work into a defensive line rotation immediately.”
86. Amara Darboh, WR, Michigan
After losing Cordarrelle Patterson and Charles Johnson to free agency, the Vikings are in the market for a wide receiver. They have a choice between going after a playmaker, possess receiver or deep threat. Darboh is somewhere in between possess receiver and deep threat. The highest percentage of his routes were “Go” routes at Michigan and a 6-foot-2, 215-pounds with a 4.45 40-yard dash, he can be a deep threat, but might not have the athleticism to have that be his sole role.
Pro Football Focus’s draft analysis made this comparison:
“Like Brandon LaFell, there’s no one area in which Darboh excels, but he can be a productive complementary receiver, particularly in a vertical passing attack that gives him a chance to make plays down the field.”
Darboh’s experience playing with Jim Harbaugh’s pro style offense might help him step right into a role.
120. Kareem Hunt, RB, Toledo
An incredible 2016 with 1,475 yards with the Rockets put Hunt on the map. According to Pro Football Focus’s metrics, the elusive Hunt had the second best “Percentage Not Tackled on First Contact” of all draft prospects. He isn’t the fastest runner, posting a 4.62 40-yard dash, but is very shifty and has a compact body at 5-foot-10, 215-pounds.
Here is his NFL.com draft profile:
“Big back with plus vision and enough elusiveness to make the first defender miss. Feel for the rushing lane helps him choose the correct path between the tackles but lacks the burst to turn the 4-yard run into 14. Zone-scheme runner with serviceable hands out of the backfield. Adequate in most areas and has talent to become a backup that can step in and handle a bigger load if needed.”
128. Jake Butt, TE, Michigan
After losing Riki Ellison’s adult son to the New York Giants, the Vikings are in the market for a tight end. Ideally Minnesota would want a better athlete who could be a downfield threat or a better blocker, but Butt one of the country’s best pass-catching tight ends, pulling in 72.0% of the passes thrown in his direction over his three years as a Wolverine. His ability to get open underneath and snag every pass his way would be a fit in Pat Shurmur’s West Coast offense.
Here’s the bottom line of his NFL.com draft profile:
“In-line tight end with strong, natural hands and the toughness to make a living in the middle of the field as a chain-moving safety blanket. While he’s shown ability to operate as an intermediate target as well, he might lack the athleticism and separation to uncover against NFL safeties and some linebackers in man coverage. Butt must improve greatly as a blocker to reach his potential as a Y tight end. However, his ability as a reliable, productive target should earn him an early starter’s nod with a chance to become a solid pro.”
160. Dede Westbrook, WR, Oklahoma
While we already selected a wide receiver, running back and tight end, the Vikings need all the weapons they can get around Sam Bradford. Plus, they lost two receivers, a tight end and two running backs this offseason. The Vikings also lack a deep threat, which Westbrook was for Oklahoma.
As we’ve seen from Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen, the best wide receivers don’t always come from the first round. Opinions are all over the board on Westbrook. Pro Football Focus has him as the fourth best receiver in the entire draft. He ranked second in Yards per Route among all draft-eligible receivers, third in Deep Pass Yards and second in Deep Pass Catch Percentage, catching 62.5% of deep balls thrown his way.
Not everyone is as high on Westbrook as PFF. CBS Sports has him ranked as the 17th best receiver. CBS draft analyst Dane Brugler wrote:
“Skinny frame with narrow shoulders and twig limbs. Lacks power as a ballcarrier and limited after contact. Below average blocker due to poor body strength and waning effort – will make “business decisions” and avoid collision blocks. Catch radius questions with few examples on tape of him finishing contested catches on tape.”
In the fifth round, he’s a worthwhile risk.
199. Jadar Johnson, S, Clemson
Last year when either Andrew Sendejo or Harrison Smith were out, the Vikings’ secondary struggling mightily. Not only could the safety position use some better depth, it could also use a ball hawk that can rotate in depending on the situation. Johnson had five interceptions last year for Clemson and is known for his athleticism and ball skills, as the bottom line notes on his NFL.com draft profile:
“Explosive height, weight, speed prospect with terrific ball skills but an inconsistent approach in run support. Johnson’s ball production, despite just one season as a starter, will likely give a team confidence that he will continue to shine in that area on the next level. Johnson has starting NFL potential and a strong workout could push him up the draft board. However, he must improve his run support to be a long-time starter in the league.”
232. Hardy Nickerson
The Vikings aren’t in desperate need for a linebacker, but could use a special teams replacement for Audie Cole, who left in free agency.
NFL.com draft profile bottom line:
“Nickerson is a try-hard WILL linebacker in a 4-3 defensive front who might lack the instincts and consistency to make an NFL team. While the tackle production is solid, third day (Rounds 4-7) draft pick and special teams performer could be his ceiling. Based off the tape, making an NFL roster could be difficult.”
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