The Minnesota Vikings are a team on the cusp of being playoff contenders in the NFC. They have finally gotten things on track offensively with Kirk Cousins leading the way, but unfortunately for them, that coincided with their defense falling off a cliff.
This offseason some big personnel changes were made as Rick Speilman and Mike Zimmer were both fired. Replacing them are Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and Kevin O’Connell. Without much cap space, the team did what it could to address its needs in free agency.
Za’Darius Smith was their biggest addition as he will help bolster the pass rush opposite of Danielle Hunter. But, the secondary needs to be overhauled and the interior of the offensive line could also use some help.
The 2022 NFL Draft will provide the team with a chance to address those needs as well. Who could the Vikings be looking at with their first-round pick? Here are three ideal targets for Minnesota with the 12th overall selection.
3. CB Trent McDuffie, Washington
Cash strapped in free agency, the Vikings were unable to address their needs in the secondary. The team is desperate for an upgrade at cornerback, as they were among the worst team on the perimeter and slot corner Mackensie Alexander registered the lowest grade of any slot corner in the NFL.
It would not be a surprise to see the Vikings target a cornerback with their first-round pick and luckily for them, there are some excellent ones. One of them is Trent McDuffie out of Washington.
The only knock against McDuffie is his length, as he possesses everything else you want from a lockdown, No. 1 cornerback. He is versatile enough to line up on the perimeter or in the slot, which would enable him to shadow No. 1 receivers down the line.
Tenacious as a run defender as well, McDuffie is the total package. Cornerbacks sometimes have the toughest adjustment to the NFL, but McDuffie is someone the Vikings could plug right into their starting lineup on Day 1 without any worries.
2. C Tyler Linderbaum, Iowa
The Vikings’ offense has been solid the last two seasons as it is loaded with weapons in Justin Jefferson, Adam Thielen, K.J. Osborn, Dalvin Cook and Irv Smith Jr. But, the offensive line remains a trouble spot.
That trouble spot would turn into a strength with the addition of someone like Tyler Linderbaum. Centers are rarely highly regarded prospects in the NFL Draft, but Linderbaum is entering the NFL in a league of his own.
The former Hawkeye is hands down the best center prospect that PFF has ever come across in the college era. In 2020, he cemented himself as the best center in the nation but kicked it up another level in 2021 when he registered a grade of 95.4.
Minnesota could draft Linderbaum and not have to worry about the center position for at least a decade with him anchoring the offensive line.
1. CB Derek Stingley, LSU
Figuring out the pecking order for the cornerbacks in this year’s draft class is not an easy task. There are a lot of great players that will hear their name called at the position, but the one that could hear his name called 12th if he is still on the board is Derek Stingley Jr.
Stingley is the odds on favorite to go No. 12 to the Vikings and the organization would be excited if he is still available when they come on the clock. Stingley is the total package, exactly what you are looking for in a prototypical cornerback.
His biggest red flag is that he has played in only 10 games the last two seasons, so evaluators are going off of the potential he flashed entering LSU and during his freshman season. But that potential is tantalizing, as he has been a projected top pick in the NFL draft since he was in high school.
If he can remain healthy, he has a real chance to turn into one of the best cover corners in the NFL. For a team that has struggled on the defensive perimeter for so long, Stingley would be welcomed with open arms.