It’s draft week and just a few days until the first round is underway Thursday at 7pm CT.
Lots of different scenarios that could play out on Thursday night, so let’s get into it.
As it stands now, here are the more likely scenarios with teams picking ahead of the Vikings at #14.
Locked on QB Trevor Lawrence.
Locked on QB Zach Wilson.
First real hinge in the draft is here. Ian Rapoport reports that the 49ers have narrowed their choices to between QB Mac Jones and QB Trey Lance. Many believe that 9ers head coach Kyle Shanahan’s pick has always been Mac Jones, but that others in the organization aren’t so sure. 9ers GM John Lynch said he defers to Shanahan to make the QB call, so my guess is that the 49ers choose QB Mac Jones here, to the dismay of a large part of their fan base. Ownership could still nix that decision and order Lance to be the pick, but outside of that it seems like Mac Jones will be drafted by the 49ers here.
That is likely to start a frenzy of activity with teams in the top 9 picks to maneuver for QBs Justin Fields and Trey Lance. Some teams outside the top ten could also make inquiries, but trading up that far seems less likely- but not impossible.
The Falcons will have the first option on available QBs here, and have sent full contingents to Justin Fields’ pro days, including HC & GM, so it’s a possibility that they view this as their best opportunity to draft a successor to Matt Ryan, who turns 36 shortly and is a combined $92 million cap hit for them over the 2022-2023 seasons. The Falcons have a new head coach and general manager, so they may view this as an opportunity to begin a re-build, or at least secure their future franchise quarterback.
Consensus opinion, however, is that they take TE Kyle Pitts, who many regard as the best non-QB prospect this year, and try to contend for at least another season with Ryan. Rumor is that the Falcons could be looking to trade Julio Jones, effectively replacing him with Pitts, in order to deal with a bad salary cap situation.
TE Kyle Pitts seems like the more likely option, but it wouldn’t be hugely surprising if they decided to take a successor to Matt Ryan here.
The Bengals aren’t gonna take a QB here, and I don’t think there is a reason for a team to trade up beyond Miami for a QB, so it seems likely the Bengals will stay put and draft at this spot. Consensus view is split between WR Ja’Marr Chase (reuniting him with Joe Burrow) and OT Penei Sewell. The Bengals don’t have an immediate need at tackle, however, and the general scouting view is that there is a bigger drop off at WR this year than at OL after the first few picks, so I suspect the Bengals will go with Ja’Marr Chase, unless Kyle Pitts is on the board, in which case they’ll go with him. The Bengals have picks #38 & #69, and could address their OL situation with those picks.
Albert Breer reports that the Dolphins were hoping for either Kyle Pitts or Ja’Marr Chase at #6, and if they’re not available they could trade down. If Justin Fields and/or Trey Lance are still on the board here, there could be some demand from a team like the Broncos, who may want to jump Carolina, and potentially Detroit as well, for a quarterback. If the Dolphins don’t trade, they could go with another WR like Davonta Smith or Jaylen Waddle, or OL – most likely OT Penei Sewell. For the same reason as the Bengals, I suspect the Dolphins would go with a WR, most likely Davonta Smith, and look to address OL later, perhaps at their pick #18 and/or #36.
New regime in Detroit, and this will be their first pick. Rumor is that the Lions would prefer to trade down, and this could be another possibility for the Broncos, or another team, if they want to trade up for a QB. If they don’t trade down, QB is a possibility for them as well, as is cornerback, offensive line, wide receiver, and LB Micah Parsons. The Lions have the least at WR, and need to give Jared Goff some weapons, so barring a trade down, WR Jaylen Waddle could be the pick here. Rumor is that the Eagles want to trade up for a cornerback ahead of the Cowboys, so here or Carolina could be possibilities, along with Denver. I doubt Denver or Carolina would risk trading back if their preferred QB was available, however.
The Panthers could go QB here, but it doesn’t seem as likely that they’ll trade up for one, as they’re looking to add more picks, rather than spend them trading up. If Justin Fields is available here, I suspect the Panthers will not pass on him. There has been some reporting from other GMs that this is Carolina’s intention. They seem more interested in Fields than Trey Lance, if both were available. My guess is that Fields is available here and they take him.
If all goes as above, that means Trey Lance would be available here to the Broncos, and that’s the pick. If not, Micah Parsons is reportedly Vic Fangio’s favorite. All signs point to the Broncos wanting a QB with their first pick.
#10 Dallas Cowboys
The Cowboys have been heavily connected with taking a cornerback here, and if Patrick Surtain is available, he’ll be their pick. Otherwise, the Cowboys are rumored to be open to trading back, and the Vikings could be in play here, if Penei Sewell is available.
#11 New York Giants
The Giants’ GM Dave Gettleman isn’t one to trade down, and also likes LB Micah Parsons, so if he’s on the board, he’s likely to be their pick. CB Jaycee Horn is also an option, along with an edge rusher, and a few others. Parsons would seem to be the highest ranked of the bunch, however, so I’d expect him to go here.
The Eagles are looking for a cornerback here, and would probably take Jaycee Horn if he’s available. The Eagles could also be a candidate to trade back with the Vikings, who may want to jump the Chargers for an offensive lineman, especially if Penei Sewell is available.
#13 Los Angeles Chargers
The Chargers are expected to go offensive line here, and that’s clearly a big need. Chargers QB and former Oregon Duck Justin Herbert is pushing for them to draft former teammate Penei Sewell, and that could well be their pick here if he’s available. It’s unclear if the Chargers would entertain trading up to secure Sewell’s services, but that remains a possibility. If Sewell is gone, rumor is that the Chargers prefer Christian Darrisaw to Rashawn Slater.
If the draft unfolds as above, and assuming the Vikings don’t trade up, OL Rashawn Slater would be perhaps the highest ranked prospect on the board, although LB/S Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah is ranked higher on some boards.
In any case, the Vikings could simply take Slater here, plug him into LG or a tackle spot (sounds like he definitely wants to be a tackle, not a guard), and move on, feeling lucky that Slater fell to them and that they filled a big need with perhaps the best player available.
They could also consider a move down, depending on how far and the compensation, but they’d have to be willing to forego Slater for that compensation- the potential prospects trading would yield in return. This is a calculation not only based on what players they could get in moving down, but also how big a gap they perceive between a Slater or other top offensive lineman they could get here, and one they could get later on in the draft.
That’s not a simple calculation, but one worth considering if they feel they can come out ahead.
Perhaps the Dolphins at #18, for example, may be willing to move up for Slater, who reportedly was a consideration at #6, as they need a tackle. The Patriots, Cardinals and Raiders could all potentially take a tackle ahead of the Dolphins, so trading up would likely be the only way for them to land Slater.
The Dolphins have two 2nd round picks, but no 4th rounders, so perhaps they’d be willing to exchange their #18 and #50, for the Vikings’ #14, #90, and #134. That’s one point off in the Jimmy Johnson value chart. The Vikings would then gain a 2nd round pick, and have selections at #18, #50, and #78 in each of the first three rounds.
At #50, the Vikings would likely have offensive linemen such as G/C Quinn Meinerz or T Alex Leatherwood available to them. At #78 G Brady Christensen may be there. Others too at both spots. That would leave them with the #18 pick to select a top defensive end, for example. Or, they could select a top guard like Alijah Vera-Tucker at #18, and use the #50 pick to address other needs, or use it in combination with another pick to move up if a prospect the Vikings could use surprisingly falls out of the first round.
Lots of possibilities.
The key is if the Vikings do indeed have an opportunity to trade down, and what the difference is between the offensive lineman they could draft at #14, and the one they could draft later on. If it’s not such a big difference, trading down for another pick could be well worth it, particularly if they’re looking more for a guard than tackle.
Guys like Brian O’Neill and Ezra Cleveland were both taken at the end of the 2nd round, and have turned out better than some of the first round picks in their draft class so far.
We’ll see what the Vikings do Thursday night.