EAGAN — That draft was Spielman-sized.
Minnesota’s haul of 15 picks was actually larger than any before by Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman.
In fact, it set a record for the number of selections made by one team in a seven-round format of an NFL Draft (since 1994), topping the 1997 Dolphins and 2016 Browns classes that had 14 members apiece.
Never mind that the entire draft was held with Spielman, the personnel department and Vikings coaches scattered across the country in their homes, or that all public events in Las Vegas were canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Spielman saw the 12 selections he made last year and raised it another three. He entered the final day of the 2020 NFL Draft with 13 selections, thanks to a trade late Friday night. Minnesota wound up making 11 picks on Saturday while trading down a couple of times to add spots in the 2021 event.
The 11 choices tabbed in Rounds 4-7 joined a pair of first-rounders on Friday, plus one choice in the second round and another in the third.
Spielman told Twin Cities media members in his wrap-up video conference that he was unaware of breaking the NFL record.
“I never even thought of it to be honest with you. … All I knew is we were trying to manipulate the board. … It’s great to have that many picks,” Spielman said.
He noted that some uncertainty surrounded a new process of reaching agreements with undrafted free agents, which had a role in preserving draft capital.
1.22 (#22): Justin Jefferson, WR, LSU
Jefferson was Gary Kubiak’s favorite receiver in this deep class, and the Vikings, expecting the Eagles to potentially take Jefferson ahead of them, and Mike Zimmer said they attempted to trade up to get Jefferson ahead of them. However, no deal could be had. But the Eagles ended up going for Jalen Reagor, and so Jefferson fell to the Vikings anyway.
Jefferson meets an immediate need for the Vikings in filling the hole created by the Stefon Diggs trade, which is also how the Vikings acquired this draft pick. Jefferson is seen as one of the most pro-ready wide receivers in the draft, because of his route running ability.
Jefferson was the 8th ranked WR on the PFF big board, #32 overall.
1.25 (#25): TRADED DOWN
The Vikings traded this pick to the 49ers, for their picks #31, #117, and #176. The 49ers selected WR Brandon Aiyuk. Rick Spielman said Thursday night that they had a number of players available on their draft board that they could take at #25, so he felt okay trading back, knowing one of them would still be there. They said later that Jeff Gladney was #1 on their list.
1.31 (#31): Jeff Gladney, CB, Texas Christian (TCU)
Apparently Gladney was the top corner available on their draft board, and cornerback being a top position of need, the Vikings selected Jeff Gladney here. The Vikings had a video meeting with Gladney during the pre-draft process.
Gladney will compete for a starting CB job as a rookie.
Gladney was the 7th ranked CB on the PFF big board, #34 overall.
FRIDAY NIGHT, 4/24/20
Rick Spielman had mentioned the possibility/likelihood that the Vikings would move up on Day 2 of the draft, having accumulated additional draft capital and suggesting their was a lot of depth available at the top of each round – two and three. However, that was not to be.
2.26 (#58): Ezra Cleveland, OT, Boise State
The Vikings had been in trade talks with the Redskins for Trent Williams, including earlier on Friday, attempting to complete the trade. However, it was reported that Williams said he did not want to play for the Vikings (which he and his agent later denied), effectively killing any trade deal. Apparently the 49ers had also been in contract with the Redskins, and ultimately Williams was traded to the 49ers on 4/25/20.
But having had the trade deal with the Redskins fall through earlier in the day, the Vikings were forced into Plan B, drafting Ezra Cleveland with their 2nd round pick. Rick Spielman didn’t characterize it that way, however, saying the deal with Trent Williams fell through when they realized Cleveland would fall to them in the 2nd round.
The Vikings had a video meeting with Cleveland during the pre-draft process.
It’s not clear at this point if Cleveland will be ready to compete for a starting job this season, or whether he’ll be considered for only tackle or also a guard position. Cleveland’s arm length is less than optimal for a tackle, but otherwise his comparable at tackle is Brian O’Neill. As a guard his comparable is Joe Thuney. At the moment, play strength is a concern cited by many scouts – just as it was with O’Neill.
Cleveland was the 7th ranked tackle on the PFF big board, #58 overall.
3.25 (#89): Cameron Dantzler, CB, Mississippi State
The Vikings once again addressed the need at CB, after all three starting CBs departed this off-season, selecting Dantzler here. The Vikings had a video meeting with Dantzler in the pre-draft process.
Dantzler will compete for a starting outside CB job as a rookie.
Dantzler was the 9th ranked CB on the PFF big board, #50 overall.
3.41 (#105): TRADED DOWN
With one of the last picks in the 3rd round, a compensatory pick, Rick Spielman opted to trade down with the Saints, acquiring all of their remaining draft picks in compensation – #130 (James Lynch), #169 (Harrison Hand), #203, #244. The Saints selected TE Adam Trautman.
4.11 (#117): D.J. Wonnum, Edge, South Carolina
Apparently Wonnum had been scouted by Vikings’ DL coach Andre Patterson, in the course of watching tape on Javon Kinlaw, Wonnum stood out to Patterson and had the traits to develop, which led to his being drafted.
Wonnum will likely begin as third on the DE depth chart behind Hunter and Odenigbo.
Wonnum was not included in the PFF Top 250 big board.
4.24 (#130): James Lynch, DE, Baylor
The Vikings and Andre Patterson were also high on Lynch, whom they’d met twice in the pre-draft process, once at the Combine, and again by video. Rick Spielman said in his post-draft press conference that Lynch will be used primarily as an interior pass rusher initially.
If the Vikings move to a 4-3 under front, Lynch would likely play the 5T spot.
Lynch was the 14th ranked edge defender on the PFF big board, #99 overall.
4.26 (#132): Troy Dye, LB, Oregon
As far as I know the Vikings did not have any pre-draft meetings reported with Dye, who was the 3rd ranked LB on PFF’s big board – ahead of Kenneth Murray, who was a first round pick. Dye was #59 overall on PFF’s big board.
Dye is a modern linebacker/strong safety type player with the length and quickness to be a 3-down linebacker. He could also be used a big slot cornerback or strong safety. Dye has the potential to become the third linebacker for the Vikings as a rookie, and could also be a core special teams player.
Dye suffered a torn meniscus at the tail end of his last season at Oregon, so he didn’t do any drills at the Combine or his Pro day.
5.10 (#155): TRADED
The Vikings traded this pick to the Chicago Bears for a 2021 4th round pick. The Bears selected DE Trevis Gipson.
5.24 (#169): Harrison Hand, CB, Temple
Hand will likely compete as a depth player in the CB/S depth chart. He may be better at safety than cornerback, but will also need to make it as a special teamer first.
He was not included in the PFF Top 250 big board.
5.31 (#176): K.J. Osborn, WR, Miami
Osborn was drafted primarily as a special teamer who could take over both kick and punt return duties, as well as cover on the kick and punt teams.
As a depth receiver behind Thielen, Jefferson, Sharpe, and Bisi Johnson, he’s unlikely to see the field as a WR, particularly as the Vikings use more 2 TE and 2 RB sets these days.
Osborn was not included in the PFF Top 250 big board.
6.22 (#201): TRADED
The Vikings traded #201 and #219 to the Ravens for #225 and a 2021 5th round pick. The Ravens selected WR James Proche with #201, and S Geno Stone with #219.
6.24 (#203): Blake Brandel, G, Oregon State
Brandel is a likely guard in the NFL, although he played tackle in college. He’s a development project that will need time to add strength and improve technique. Most likely a practice squad guy.
Brandel was not in the PFF top 250 big board.
6.26 (#205): Josh Metellus, S, Michigan
Metellus will likely compete for a backup safety and special teamer spot.
He was not in the PFF top 250 big board.
7.5 (#219): TRADED – see 6.22
7.11 (#225): Kenny Willekes, DE, Michigan State
Willekes will likely compete with Wonnum for a depth spot at DE, behind Hunter and Odenigbo.
He was the 11th ranked edge defender on the PFF big board, #80 overall.
7.30 (#244): Nate Stanley, QB, Iowa
Stanley will likely compete for 3rd team duties with Jake Browning during training camp. Most likely a camp body, but a chance to make the practice squad if he beats out Browning.
He was not in the PFF top 250 big board.
7.35 (#249): Brian Cole II, S, Mississippi State
Cole will compete for a backup safety and special teamer spot with Josh Metellus.
Cole was the 28th ranked CB on the PFF big board, and #243 overall.
7.39 (#253): Kyle Hinton, G, Washburn
Hinton is a small school, traits-based pick with the strength and athleticism to develop – similar to Oli Udoh in that regard. He’s likely a year away from competing for even a primary backup role at this point, but could make the roster/practice squad if he shows good progress.
He was not in the PFF top 250 big board.
Following the conclusion of the draft, the Vikings signed the following college free agents (UDFAs):
Brady Aiello, OL, Oregon
Nevelle Clarke, CB, Central Florida
Quartney Davis, WR, Texas A&M (PFF #225 overall)
Myles Dorn, CB, North Carolina
Nakia Griffin-Stewart, TE, Pittsburgh
Tyler Higby, OL, Michigan State
Jake Lacina, OL, Augustana
Blake Lynch, LB, Baylor
David Moa, DT, Boise State