After seven weeks on the sidelines, all the sports leagues shut down and forced social distancing continuing in the middle of this tragic coronavirus pandemic, which has killed 53,000 Americans and physically and mentally challenged our way of life, the NFL Draft was like a breath of fresh air, a chance to exhale. Really, in many ways it has given us a glimmer of hope that we are getting closer to hopefully getting back to our normal ways of life.
Even though there were no crowds of fans gathered and it was all on TV, it was good just to see four and five people together in the same room with each other, draftees not avoiding each other and wearing masks. The Vikings drafted 15 players, including LSU star receiver Justin Jefferson. Jefferson had a sensational junior season for the 15-0 national champion Tigers with 111 catches for 1,540 yards and 18 touchdowns.
The Vikings used the number-22 pick of the first round acquired in the Stefon Diggs trade with Buffalo. Diggs, remember, was a fourth-round pick, so in theory the Vikings have a better potential star and he’s a winner.
The Vikings, as we know, suffered severe losses in unrestricted free agency, losing six starters off last year’s (11-7) playoff team. With their second first-round pick, the Vikings grabbed TCU cornerback Jeff Gladney. The Vikings lost both starting corners, remember.
In the second round, the Vikings drafted Boise State offensive tackle Ezra Cleveland. In the third round, the Vikings drafted cornerback Cameron Dantzler from Mississippi State. In the fourth round, the Vikings had three picks, selecting D.J. Wonnum, an active defensive end from South Carolina; James Lynch, a defensive tackle from Baylor; and Troy Dye, an outstanding linebacker from Oregon. Dye led Oregon in tackles all four years.
In the fifth round the Vikings again had multiple picks, selecting Harrison Hand, a corner back from Temple, and K.J. Osborn, a wide receiver from Miami.
In the sixth round, two more Vikings were picked: tackle Blake Brandel from Oregon State and safety Josh Metellus from Michigan. In the seventh round, the Vikings added four more players: defensive end Kenny Willekes from Michigan State, quarterback Nate Stanley from Iowa, safety Brian Cole II from Mississippi State, and guard Kyle Hinton from Washburn.
Team headquarters are still shut down for all 32 NFL teams, and this week there will be no rookie Mini-Camps, so teams will not be able to move forward normally.
On paper the Vikings are getting high grades for great work in the draft. They had an NFL-high 15 picks. Rick Spielman and Mike Zimmer maneuvered and put their heads together and forged forward.
There’s still a lot of work to do, however—several veteran and rookie free agents are available unsigned. Now it’s a matter of let’s wait and see if we can catch a break and beat this coronavirus opponent, which is still spreading.