After months of planning and preparation, the NFL Draft has finally arrived. This year’s draft lived up to the hype, with a flurry of trades and surprising picks. For the Minnesota Vikings, the NFL Draft was somewhat of a mixed bag. The Vikings picked up a handful of talented players but did not attack positions of need like many predicted. Here is an in-depth analysis of each of the Minnesota Vikings’ 2018 draft picks.
Pick No. 30: Mike Hughes, CB, UCF
At the University of Central Florida, Mike Hughes was one of the Knights’ biggest playmakers. Hughes displays excellent physicality when in press coverage and has the speed to run with any NFL receiver. He also has impressive ball skills for his size (5-foot, ten inches).
Last season, Hughes had 11 passed defended, including four interceptions. His combination of speed, ball-skills and physicality is rare among draft prospects and fits the mold of Mike Zimmer’s ideal cornerback. Additionally, Hughes adds value on special teams. With UCF, he returned three kicks back for six points (two kickoffs, one punt), including a game-winner against rival South Florida.
The main concern regarding Hughes is his lack of experience. Hughes only played at UCF for one season and has some issues with coverage. He will need coaching on footwork and route recognition to be successful at the next level. However, Mike Zimmer is one of the most widely respected defensive back coaches in the NFL, so these problems should be corrected.
Pick No. 62: Brian O’Neill, T, Pittsburgh
Heading into the draft, the Vikings biggest need was along the offensive line. General manager Rick Spielman believes that the answer is Pittsburgh tackle Brian O’Neill, who was taken at the end of the second round.
O’Neill is a tremendous athlete and has plenty of upside. He has very long arms and quick feet, which are essential for stopping NFL pass-rushers. O’Neill also avoided injuries throughout his entire career in Pittsburgh, making him a safe prospect.
With what he has in speed and quickness he lacks in strength and technique. Gaining some strength will help him be more dominant as a run-blocker, as well as giving him more versatility along the offensive line. He also showed inconsistencies in his footwork during Senior Bowl practice.
Despite this, O’Neill should be able to start at right tackle very early in his career. The Vikings’ offensive line is one of the thinnest in the NFL, and O’Neill should have an immediate impact.
The Minnesota Vikings did not have a pick in the third round. They traded down with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for their fourth and sixth-round picks.
Pick No. 102: Jalyn Holmes, DE, Ohio State
With the amount of talent in Ohio State at the defensive end position, Jalyn Holmes struggled to find a lot of playing time. However, when he was on the field, Holmes was a force to be reckoned with on the defensive line. He was an all-conference honorable mention in back-to-back seasons and had over ten sacks in that span.
Jalyn Holmes has plenty of upside due to his size (6-foot five, 285 pounds), but seems to be a player without a position. He doesn’t have the speed or technique to be a 4-3 edge rusher, and he isn’t quite strong enough to be a 3-4 defensive end.
Holmes will need time to develop and should benefit greatly from sitting behind Sheldon Richardson on the Vikings’ depth chart. As a rookie, he will likely be a rotational defensive end on 3-4 formations.
Pick No. 157: Tyler Conklin, TE, Central Michigan
You can add Tyler Conklin to the long list of former basketball players that made the transition to tight end. In 2016, Conklin looked like a future star at the position, with excellent hands and blocking ability. Like many former basketball players, he has great body control and knows how to get open on passing downs.
Unfortunately, Conklin suffered a severe foot injury that heavily impacted his 2017 play. His quickness and route-running looked dramatically different after the injury. Even without the medical issues, Conklin will still need to work on his ball skills, as he was often “boxed out” by defenders.
If he can bounce back from the injury, he could be a steal and an eventual replacement four Kyle Rudolph.
Pick No. 167: Daniel Carlson, K, Auburn
Despite having Kai Forbath on the roster, the Minnesota Vikings decided to select Auburn kicker Daniel Carlson in the fifth round of the NFL Draft. Carlson has one of the biggest legs in football, making 13 attempts from over 50 yards out. This will also be helpful on kickoffs, where Forbath struggled last season. Carlson looked like the best kicker in football in 2015 and 2016, but his accuracy did decrease slightly last season.
If he can stay confident and work on his mechanics, he can be the Vikings’ kicker for the next 15 years. He and Forbath will compete for the starting kicking job during training camp this summer.
Pick No. 213: Colby Gossett, G, Appalachian State
Colby Gossett is one of the bigger projects in the draft, both figuratively and literally. His massive size (six-foot five, 311 pounds) and strength make him appealing to run-heavy NFL teams. He can very easily burst off the line of scrimmage and push defensive linemen five yards downfield. Additionally, Gossett has not missed a start since 2014.
However, nearly every aspect of his mechanics will need to be worked on. From his wide hand placement to inconsistent footwork, Gossett will benefit greatly from a year on the practice squad. He has the ability to become a great guard, but his inaccuracies make him a liability in the passing game.
Currently, Gossett will spend time either as a backup or on the team’s practice squad. Once his mechanics are cleaned up, he can remake the Vikings’ offensive line into one of the league’s best.
Pick No. 218: Ade Aruna, DE, Tulane
From one project to another, Aruna is also a prospect with outstanding measurables with inconsistent tape. He is a talented edge rusher with the versatility to play in either a 4-3 or 3-4 scheme.
Aruna lit up the combine, finishing as a top performer in the 40-yard dash, vertical jump, and 20-yard shuttle. However, these athletic traits did not result in much production at Tulane. Aruna only tallied 11 sacks in three seasons, which is very low given his skills. In order to succeed at the next level, he will need to greatly improve his pad level and hand use to take advantage of tackles.
His raw ability and pass-rushing potential draws some comparisons to current Vikings defensive end Danielle Hunter. Hunter was also seen as an athletically-gifted project when he was selected in the third round of the 2015 Draft. He is now one of the league’s best up-and-coming defensive ends.
If coach Mike Zimmer can get similar results from Aruna, he could end up being a great value pick.
Pick No. 225: Devante Downs, LB, California
Downs’ value to the Vikings will be entirely dependent on his health heading into 2018. Prior to last season, Downs was one of college football’s best middle linebackers and was on the cusp of a breakout season. He lived up to the hype, tallying 65 tackles and three sacks in his first seven games.
Downs seemed destined to be a mid-to-high draft pick, but that all changed in a Week 7 game against Washington State. He suffered a “lower-body injury” and was ruled out for the remainder of the season. Very little is known about the injury, so his future in the NFL is up in the air.
If he can make a full recovery, Downs could compete with Ben Gedeon at the weakside linebacker spot and will earn playing time on special teams.
Featured image by Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
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