2023 NFL Draft: How draft experts graded the Vikings
One of the things that is common after the conclusion of the NFL draft is draft grades. The exercise here is somewhat futile in nature. What can you gather from grading a draft that is random at best when the players haven’t played a game yet?
It’s simple. You should grade them based on how you saw the draft class. If you ranked a player at 30th overall in the class but they went at No. 20, that’s not good value. We will get the full picture of these classes in three years.
What do the experts think about the Vikings draft class?
Doug Farrar-Touchdown Wire
Kiyoshi Mio-USA TODAY Sports
Kudos to the Vikings for addressing their most prominent need with two cornerbacks in the second day of the draft, but the real star of this group is Addison, the best pure route-runner in this class. Pairing him with Justin Jefferson will tie opposing cornerbacks in knots. Mekhi Blackmon is an underrated defender who allowed an opponent passer rating of 46.1 last season, and while Jay Ward needs more finishing work, it’s good to see progress at a position in need of legitimate island guys — because when Brian Flores is your defensive coordinator, you’re going to play on islands.
I’m not sure how Jaquelin Roy lasted until the fifth round — his tape seemed more like second- or third-round stuff to me — and if UAB running back DeWayne McBride can solve his fumbling issues, his speed and contact balance will win out impressively.
Mel Kiper Jr.-ESPN
Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports
The Vikings got just two defensive snaps from rookie safety Lewis Cine, last year’s first-round pick, and they entered this draft without a second-rounder because it was dealt for tight end T.J. Hockenson last fall. So while I thought for a little bit on Thursday that they might go for quarterback Will Levis at No. 23, they opted for a prospect who can make an immediate impact. Jordan Addison will fit well as the No. 2 wideout behind Justin Jefferson. Addison can run any route, and he can line up all across the formation. He just knows how to get open.
Minnesota went back to USC for cornerback Mekhi Blackmon (102) in Round 3. I had that one as a little bit of a reach with better corners on the board. I liked defensive tackle Jaquelin Roy (141) in Round 5; he can be solid nose tackle. I don’t see NFL starter traits for quarterback Jaren Hall, but he was extremely productive over the past two years. I never mind a Day 3 quarterback selection too much. Running back DeWayne McBride (222) is my favorite selection for Minnesota; he is a top-100 prospect on my board. He averaged 155.7 rushing yards per game last season, and he can break tackles in the open field. He isn’t likely to be a third-down back as a rookie, but he’s a natural runner once he gets the ball.
This is a small class, but Addison fills a massive need. I’m just curious to see how much Blackmon can play as a rookie, because Minnesota has available snaps for him.
Pro Football Focus
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Day 1: The Vikings stick at No. 23 overall and come away with a talented wide receiver to pair with Justin Jefferson. Addison was the Biletnikoff Award winner with Pittsburgh in 2021 before transferring to USC. He finished the past two seasons with 25 touchdowns from 159 receptions.
Day 2: One of PFF analyst Sam Monson’s favorite players in the draft, Blackmon is coming off by far the best season of his college career. On the field for 907 snaps, he produced a 90.6 PFF grade and allowed just 47.6% of the passes thrown into his coverage to be caught. He missed only two tackles in 2022.
Day 3: Ward failed to grade above 61.0 in both seasons in which he played 600 or more snaps. His 53.6 coverage grade and 65.9% completion rate allowed don’t inspire much confidence, but he does offer some versatility in that he can play outside, in the slot and at safety.
Roy addresses a need as an interior lineman with the strength to hold up at the point of attack, frequently battling with SEC offensive linemen. While he isn’t the quickest player off the line, Roy can bull over interior offensive linemen and produced a 10.1% pass-rush win rate in 2022, which is solid on the interior for a 300-pounder.
Hall performed very well in a cozy situation at BYU the past two years. He is an excellent athlete who is undersized with mediocre arm strength. He has the luxury of sitting behind Kirk Cousins, who wins with smarts and moxie. Hall will need to show the same traits against NFL pass rushes if he hopes to succeed long-term.
McBride earned an elite 94.1 grade in 2022 with 4.6 yards after contact per carry, 25 carries of 15-plus yards, which ranked seventh, and 76 missed tackles forced. We haven’t seen much receiving from McBride, but it may just be a lack of opportunity. He could be a perfect fit in Minnesota’s zone scheme.
Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports
Addison will complement star receiver Justin Jefferson so well from the slot that it seemed the marriage was fate. Tight end T.J. Hockenson cost the team its second-rounder, which may prove wise if the Vikings are able to extend or re-sign him next offseason. Blackmon’s competitiveness and sticky coverage met a crucial need.
Ward is a tough-minded safety who can play some nickel for the Vikings, picking him after gaining a 2024 fifth-round pick when trading down. Roy was an excellent value in the fifth as an active interior defender. Hall is a developmental passer but flashed the velocity and accuracy of an NFL starter as often as some other quarterbacks selected before him. McBride went two rounds later than I expected.
Vinnie Iyer-The Sporting News
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
The Vikings started off with a bang taking Addison to pair with Justin Jefferson. They lost their way with shaky consecutive selections for corner, but quickly rebounded with a steal of Roy. Hall and McBride may not be the late-round answers, but their developmental plan put the Vikings on track to think more about life with Kirk Cousins and Dalvin Cook, likely in 2024.
Thor Nystrom-Fantasy Pros
Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports
Considering Minnesota’s poor cornerback room, it couldn’t have been easy to pass on CB Joey Porter Jr. at 1.23. But ultimately, the Vikings made the correct three-dimensional-chess call, calculating that the depth of the CB class and weakness of the WR class would present a superior prospect at the former when the team came back on the clock in Round 3.
The Vikings ended up trading down off that pick – swapping No. 87 to San Francisco for No. 102, No. 164 and No. 222 – to up its pick allotment from five to seven. In lieu of the team’s cap issues, that was sage. At No. 102, the Vikings took Mekhi Blackmon.
I believe the Vikings when they say they were going to take Blackmon at No. 87 – he’s a perfect fit for new DC Brian Flores’ uber-aggressive scheme. Blackmon fist-fights you off line, is sticky in man, and is an enthusiastic run defender who rarely misses tackles.
The Addison and Blackmon “USC special” couplet was qualitatively superior to, for instance, the alternate reality of CB Joey Porter Jr. and WR Charlie Jones had Minnesota chosen to walk that path.
Minnesota’s lack of equity and cap problems boxed them into a corner that they needed to continue to punch out of on Saturday. With one exception, I just didn’t see that.
I’m not a fan of either of the LSU defenders that the Vikings took. And there’s a 98% chance that the Vikings lit the No. 164 pick on fire when they took the wildly inconsistent QB Jaren Hall. They’d telegraphed that they were going to take a quarterback and couldn’t help themselves when a splash-trade opportunity didn’t present itself early.
The one Day 3 pick I liked was RB DeWayne McBride. RB Dalvin Cook will almost assuredly not be on the 2023 roster. In a post-Dalvin world, McBride could surprise immediately. You don’t want McBride on the field on passing downs, but he’s a natural runner with real skill. McBride’s 36% career missed-tackle rate trails only Bijan Robinson and Javonte Williams in PFF’s nine-year history.
The Real Forno Show