Another first-round cornerback? Yes, Vikings have dire need.

This is the seventh in a series of position previews for the 2024 NFL draft, which begins Thursday. Today: Defensive backs.

Offensive line | Edge rushers | Receivers | Running backs | Tight ends | Quarterbacks

Vikings' outlook

After mulling retirement, safety Harrison Smith agreed to a pay cut to return for Year 13, the second under defensive coordinator Brian Flores. Smith, 35, has been a full-time player his entire NFL career, but he could be heading for a part-time, managed role, especially after the emergence of safety Josh Metellus last season. If the Vikings lean more on Metellus and Camryn Bynum as deep safeties, they may need more cornerbacks.

Veteran cornerback Shaquill Griffin agreed to a one-year, $4.5 million (up to $6 million) contract in March, bringing starting experience to the outside. Cornerback Byron Murphy Jr. could be freed up to play more in the slot, where he has thrived. But that means Griffin and another cornerback — a draft pick? Mekhi Blackmon? Akayleb Evans? — must hold down the outsides.

Two top 2022 draft picks, safety Lewis Cine and cornerback Andrew Booth Jr., return for a third season; both are expected to face competition to make the roster. The Vikings re-signed safety Theo Jackson. They also have cornerbacks NaJee Thompson, Jaylin Williams, Joejuan Williams and A.J. Green III under contract. Flores likes to play many defensive backs in varied personnel packages, meaning there will be snaps up for grabs this summer regardless of further additions.

Vikings' level of need

High. The Vikings need long-term solutions at cornerback, where they have rotated through struggling and inexperienced players ever since Xavier Rhodes, Terence Newman and Trae Waynes were a trio. Murphy is entering the final year of his contract, but he could earn another in Minnesota. Griffin is on a one-year deal. Evans had major growing pains last season and will be competing for his role in 2024. Blackmon also had ups and downs while assuming multiple roles as a rookie. The Vikings need development as well as more talent.

"You can never have enough corners," Flores said this month. "It's a passing league. There are a lot of great receivers. So you can never have enough."

Three names to know

CB Terrion Arnold, Alabama: Arnold (6-foot, 189 pounds) could be the first of two Alabama cornerbacks off the board along with his teammate Ga'Quincy "Kool-Aid" McKinstry (another potential first-round option for the Vikings). Arnold is frequently projected as the first cornerback drafted in Thursday night's first round, because he's a do-it-all player with ideal size coming off a career-high 12 pass deflections and five interceptions in 14 games last season. "He is a physical, face-up tackler," NFL Media analyst Daniel Jeremiah wrote. "Overall, I struggled to find much to criticize in Arnold's play, despite his lack of experience at the position, having arrived at Alabama as a highly-regarded safety prospect."

CB Quinyon Mitchell, Toledo: Mitchell (6-foot, 195 pounds) was hyper productive in the Mid-American Conference, racking up 46 pass deflections and six interceptions over the last three years. After being named a second-team All-American selection last fall, Mitchell ran a 4.33-second 40-yard dash at the scouting combine. His combination of speed and strength often gets drafted in the first round, which is why Mitchell is one of 13 prospects attending the NFL draft's opening night festivities in Detroit.

CB Nate Wiggins, Clemson: Wiggins (6-foot-1, 173 pounds) was named a first-team All-ACC selection after six deflections and two interceptions. His length and movement skills have been touted by one evaluator as a "defensive coordinator's dream." He may need to bulk up to withstand the rigors of defending an NFL rushing attack through 17 games every season, but Wiggins appears fit to transition into a passing league.

One sleeper

CB Max Melton, Rutgers: Melton (5-foot-11, 187 pounds) is the younger brother of Packers receiver Bo Melton, and could help cover his brother's team in Minnesota. Max Melton played both outside and slot coverage at Rutgers, where he had a career-high four tackles for a loss along with six deflections, three interceptions and a sack in 12 games last season. He had 10 deflections in 2022. Under Flores, the Vikings like versatile and aggressive players like Melton.