The Minnesota Vikings approach the 2021 NFL Draft in dire straights.
Despite finishing fourth in total offense last season — a mark the team hadn’t reached since 2004 — the Vikings missed the playoffs with a 7-9 record, largely to the defense’s fault.
Another down year could lead the Wilf family to consider moving on from coach Mike Zimmer and general manager Rick Spielman, making the 2021 NFL Draft crucial for the Vikings braintrust’s job security.
Bleacher Report detailed a mistake that each NFL team cannot afford to make in the upcoming draft and, to no surprise, Minnesota’s must-avoid mistake falls on the defense.
Die-hard Vikings fan? Follow the Heavy on Vikings Facebook page for the latest breaking news, rumors and content out of Skol Nation!
Vikings Must Not Ignore the Secondary
Yes, Minnesota used three draft picks at cornerback in 2020, yet, Bleacher Report’s Kristopher Knox believes the team should not ignore the secondary once again.
Here’s what he wrote:
The Minnesota Vikings used the No. 31 overall pick on cornerback Jeff Gladney last year and spent the No. 30 overall pick on cornerback Mike Hughes in 2018. That shouldn’t prevent them from again targeting the secondary early this year, though.
The Vikings ranked a dismal 30th in net yards per passing attempt allowed in 2020. They also may lose safety Anthony Harris—who they franchise-tagged last offseason—in free agency.
Drafting a cornerback prospect like Patrick Surtain II or South Carolina’s Jaycee Horn would make a ton of sense at No. 14. If the Vikings aren’t willing to consider a cornerback that high, they could target a safety like TCU’s Trevor Moehrig, trade back and select a defensive back or prioritize the secondary on Day 2.
Regardless of what the Vikings decide to do, they won’t become contenders in the NFC without improving their lackluster pass defense. With Minnesota projected to be nearly $6 million over the cap, that will have to happen in the draft.
Vikings Defense Has Returning Pieces It Needs to Build Upon in Offseason
Zimmer’s defense surrendered the fourth-most points per game in the league last season (29.7). It was the worst performance by the team since Zimmer took the helm of the team in 2014.
Zimmer has yet to bring sustainable success to the franchise, making the playoffs every other year. Minnesota has since seen the team regress from its 2018 NFC Championship contender form — when the defense was ranked first in points and yards allowed.
But despite the surface-level disappointment, the Vikings, bolstered by its mammoth 2020 rookie draft class, have plenty of signs of encouragement: a real offseason to develop second-year talent; the expected return of Danielle Hunter, Anthony Barr and Michael Pierce; and another draft that will undoubtedly focus primarily of improvements on defense.
However, what moves Minnesota makes in the 2021 NFL Draft could prove to have a far-reaching impact. Spielman and Zimmer are seemingly in the hot seat in 2021, while quarterback Kirk Cousins entering the penultimate year of his contract with the team.
The direction of the team’s future could be determined by how well the cap-strapped Vikings reinforce the defense this offseason.
- Super Bowl Contender ‘Pushing Hard’ to Trade for Vikings’ Kirk Cousins: Report
- Adam Thielen, Chad Greenway Sound off on Vikings’ New Coordinator Hire
- Wild 3-Team Trade Proposal Has Vikings Dealing Cousins to Land Superstar
- Stefon Diggs Has Strong Message on Vikings’ Justin Jefferson
- Ex-Viking Stefon Diggs Sounds Off on Team’s New WR Coach
- Vikings Rookie Justin Jefferson Fires Back at Kirk Cousins Critics