Coach Kevin O’Connell’s first season with the Minnesota Vikings was a big success. They were labeled as a potential Wild Card team. Instead, the Vikings coasted to win the NFC North and went 11-0 in one-score games during the regular season, which set an NFL record.
However, Minnesota fell short in the postseason with a 31-24 loss against the New York Giants. In the end, a bad defense was too much to overcome. Improving the unit will be the focal point of the offseason. To truly contend, the Vikings must be a more balanced squad. Here’s how Minnesota can improve in the upcoming 2023 NFL Draft.
2022 Season Record: 13-4
Status of Coach: Kevin O’Connell – Safe
Positions needed by the Vikings
- Wide receiver
- Edge rusher
Notable Draft Picks
- Round 1, Pick 23
- Round 3, Pick 87
Potential First-Round Targets
After finishing 30th in allowed points per game and 31st in allowed yards per game, targeting defense in the first round is a must.
Despite investing their first two picks in the secondary in the 2022 NFL Draft, the Vikings’ pass defense remained one of the worst in the league. Minnesota needs to add another cornerback with Patrick Peterson entering free agency and former second-round pick Andrew Booth’s injury-riddled season. Fortunately, the No. 24 overall pick is a great spot to select a cornerback.
Georgia cornerback Kelee Ringo was once viewed as the top defensive back of the class. However, his stock is sliding ahead of the 2023 draft and he could be a late first-round selection, which makes Ringo an ideal candidate for the Vikings. The Georgia product still brings good upside with great length and speed. Ringo is at his best in man coverage. South Carolina’s Cam Smith is another option. Smith is aggressive in coverage with good ball skills and physicality. Plus, he can be a great tackler in space.
Cam Smith’s passer rating allowed in 2021: 36.5
Passer rating when throwing the ball into the ground every play: 39.6pic.twitter.com/uEr98vuFUa
— PFF College (@PFF_College) May 23, 2022
Linebacker is another intriguing option for Minnesota in the first round. The defense lacks a difference maker at middle linebacker with Eric Kendricks up-and-down play since the 2020 season. The Vikings could also use another outside linebacker to back up Danielle Hunter and Za’Darius Smith.
Trenton Simpson (Clemson) and Drew Sanders (Arkansas) are extremely versatile prospects. Simpson can man the middle linebacker spot with his great speed and coverage, and he can rush the passer. Simpson even played some safety at Clemson. Sanders could be the perfect fit as an outside linebacker. The 6-foot-5 prospect excelled as a pass rusher in college but also has the ability to play off-ball linebacker with his impressive agility.
Learn More About the NFC North Draft 2023
- Detroit Lions 2023 Positions Needed & First Round Draft Picks
- Green Bay Packers 2023 Positions Needed & First Round Draft Picks
- Chicago Bears 2023 Positions Needed & First Round Draft Picks
Potential Third-Round Targets
The Vikings do not have a second-rounder after sending it to the Detroit Lions for tight end T.J. Hockenson. Minnesota’s second selection will come late in the third round at pick No. 87. Assuming the Vikings go defense in the first round, they could look to upgrade on offense in day two of the draft.
Don’t write off Minnesota looking at a quarterback in the 2023 NFL Draft. Kirk Cousins is in the final year of his contract and turns 35 in August. Plus, the Vikings could need a new backup QB with Nick Mullens entering free agency.
Hendon Hooker (Tennessee) and Tanner McKee (Stanford) are on track to be second-rounders. Hooker has an excellent deep ball with good mobility but comes off a torn ACL. McKee is your traditional pocket passer at 6-foot-6 and consistently fit throws into tight windows in the 2022 season. If either drop to the third round, the Vikings could hop on the opportunity.
Finding a second wide receiver to alleviate pressure off of Justin Jefferson is another need. Veteran wideout Adam Thielen could be done in Minnesota with a potential out in his contract this offseason and potential suitors could come calling. Parker Washington (Penn State) is a big play threat with his ability after the catch. Cedric Tillman (Tennessee) is a big-body possession receiver at 6-foot-3 and is a great red-zone target.
The Vikings have plenty of interesting decisions to make in the 2023 NFL Draft.