The case for the Vikings to take a defensive end early in the 2021 draft

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Jack White
·3 min read
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Minnesota has already gone out and fixed a lot of the problems with last season’s defense.

But there is one position that could still use some tuning up. The Vikings could use a starting-caliber defensive end besides Danielle Hunter and the NFL draft might be a good way to find one.

I’m not going to necessarily advocate for the team to draft a defensive end in the first round. It would be great if the Vikings did that, but drafts are complicated and you can’t just go for need and need alone. So this is an argument for Minnesota to at least prioritize defensive end in the 2021 NFL draft. Here is why:

DE Danielle Hunter

Minnesota Vikings defensive end Danielle Hunter. Photo: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

I get it. The Vikings already have a good defensive end in Hunter. That's why the team needs another one. Due to Hunter being out in 2020, Vikings fans have only seen what the defensive end can do when he's playing opposite another good defensive end like Everson Griffen. People who think that Minnesota doesn't need another good defensive end are oftentimes assuming that Hunter will have the same numbers as he did in 2019 and 2018. If Minnesota rolls with Stephen Weatherly or D.J. Wonnum opposite Hunter and doesn't try to make a major upgrade beyond that, Hunter's production level could go down, because opposing offenses could double team him more frequently.

Minnesota has shored up a lot of needs already

Minnesota Vikings cornerback Mackensie Alexander. Photo: Raj Mehta/USA TODAY Sports

The Vikings have added free agents who could start at safety, corner, defensive tackle and guard this offseason. Outside of offensive line, Minnesota doesn't have all that many gaping holes in its starting lineup. But then there's defensive end. If the Vikings don't take a rookie who can come in and start, that defensive end spot could be a weakness.

Assuming Weatherly or Wonnum can thrive is risky

Minnesota Vikings defensive end D.J. Wonnum. Photo: AP Photo/Bruce Kluckhohn

The Panthers presumably thought Weatherly would take a leap in a bigger role at defensive end, which is why the team gave him such a big deal. However, Carolina ended up cutting Weatherly this offseason. The Vikings can't make the assumption that Weatherly will be able to have adequate production in a massive role on the defense. As we saw when Weatherly was in Minnesota last time, he can be a decent reserve option. It would be great if Wonnum takes a leap. He might even start over a defensive end that Minnesota drafts in 2021. But it's too risky to assume he will. Minnesota needs insurance beyond those two, in the form of an early draft pick.

It's a premium position

Minnesota Vikings defensive back Mackensie Alexander (20) and defensive lineman Danielle Hunter. Photo: Brad Rempel/USA TODAY Sports

In the NFL, some positions are just more important than others. The premium positions are left tackle, cornerback, quarterback, wide receiver and defensive end. The Vikings already have at least decent players at most of those positions. If Minnesota had two good players at defensive end, the pass rush could affect opposing quarterbacks and the defense could get more stops.

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