The most notable trade this offseason involved the Minnesota Vikings. The Vikings said goodbye to their star wide receiver, Stefon Diggs for four picks including a first-round pick in the 2020 draft. With that pick, the Vikings made a solid selection in Justin Jefferson who excelled at LSU.
However, Minnesota lost a lot of notable pieces this offseason. At the top of that list are Everson Griffen and Stefon Diggs. Nonetheless, the addition of Yannick Ngakoue will be a viable replacement for Griffen. However, with key pieces gone, can Kirk Cousins still lead the Vikings to a playoff berth?
Round 1, pick 22: Justin Jefferson (WR) LSU
Round 1, pick 31: Jeff Gladney (CB) TCU
Round 2, pick 58: Ezra Cleveland (OT) Boise State
Round 3, pick 89: Cameron Dantzler (CB)Mississippi State
Round 4, pick 117: D.J. Wonnum (DE) South Carolina
Round 4, pick 130: James Lynch (DL) Baylor
Round 4, pick 132: Troy Dye (LB) Oregon
Round 5, pick 169: Harrison Hand (CB) Temple
Round 5, pick 176: K.J. Osborn (WR) Miami
Round 6, pick 203: Blake Brandel (OL) Oregon State
Round 6, pick 205: Josh Metellus (S) Michigan
Round 7, pick 225: Kenny Willekes (DE) Michigan State
Round 7, pick 244: Nathan Stanley (QB) Iowa
Round 7, pick 249: Brian Cole (S) Mississippi State
Round 7, pick 253: Kyle Hinton (G) Washburn
Draft Grade: A
The Vikings had an exceptional draft led by 6-foot-1 wide receiver from LSU, Justin Jefferson. Minnesota made the most selections in the 2020 NFL Draft with an astonishing 15 picks. Their 15 picks filled team needs including wide receiver, offensive line and even cornerback. Minnesota might just have had the best draft this season when compared to the other 31 teams.
With the 22nd pick in the 2020 NFL draft, the Minnesota Vikings selected a replacement for Diggs. Jefferson is a younger and quicker receiver than Diggs and it showed in their 40 times. He finished in the top 87 percent of all wide receivers in the 2020 combine when it came to 40 times. Jefferson ran a 4.43 40 time while Diggs ran a 4.46 at the 2015 combine.
With Joe Burrow as his quarterback, Jefferson had one of the best wide receiver season in LSU history. Last season, Jefferson caught 111 passes (most in a season in LSU history) for 1,540 yards (third-most in a season in LSU history) and 18 touchdowns (second-most in a season in LSU history behind former teammate Ja’Marr Chase).
Jefferson did not disappoint at LSU and will not on the Vikings either. In the long run, Minnesota won this trade as Jefferson will make many Pro Bowls and be an instant factor.
One of the best-run stuffers in the league was going to join the Minnesota Vikings on a three-year, $27 million contract, but Michael Pierce’s decision to sit out the 2020 season will put his debut in Minnesota on hold.
Besides Pierce, Minnesota did not have any major success in the offseason. To replace Griffin is a tall task to ask of anyone. However, Anthony Zettel will compete to start in place of Griffin in the 2020 season. Zettel is a former 49er defensive end who has never had any major success in his four-year career.
The Vikings will be his fifth team to play for in five years. In 2019 in Cincinnati and San Francisco, Zettel combined for six tackles with zero sacks. Zettel hasn’t started since 2017 when he started all 16 games for the Detroit Lions. In that season, he had 6.5 sacks with 43 tackles and one forced fumble.
With the addition of Yannick Ngakoue, Zettel will now be more of a role player in Minnesota. As for Ngakoue, the Vikings get an absolute stud on their defensive line.
Ngakue is coming off a season where he had 8.5 sacks to go along with 41 tackles. Minnesota traded a second and a conditional fifth-round pick for him. Hopefully, Ngakoue is a better fit in Minnesota than he was in Jacksonville.
Other Key Additions: Tajae Sharpe (WR) and DeMarquis Gates (LB)
In terms of offseason, the Vikings suffered the most blows to their team. They lost four defensive starters from a season ago. The biggest one being four-time pro bowler Everson Griffen.
Entering his 11th NFL season, Griffen became a free agent after Minnesota declined his team option for the 2020 season. Coming off a Pro Bowl season, Griffen finished with eight sacks, 41 tackles and 24 quarterback hits.
In his 10 year career, Griffin ranks 15th among active players with 74.5 sacks including three double-digit sack seasons. Replacing him will be a difficult feat.
The blockbuster trade involving Diggs set the world in a frenzy. When looking back at Diggs’ career, he has produced each and every year. However, he has never made the Pro Bowl. His talent was oftentimes overlooked due to Adam Thielen.
Although he was the second option in Minnesota, Diggs still had 63 catches for 1,130 yards and six touchdowns in 2019. In Buffalo, Diggs takes full responsibility as the first option. Diggs could thrive being the first option or struggle like JuJu Smith-Schuster did when he converted to being a wide receiver one.
The Vikings allowed way too many important pieces to leave this offseason. As a result, as great as the Vikings’ defense once was, they will not be elite in 2020. The offense will still put up great numbers with Kirk Cousins and Dalvin Cook, but the defense will be this team’s downfall. They won’t win the NFC North but will try to make one of the three wild card spots in this upcoming season.
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