After a trip to the 2017 NFC Championship, the Vikings had high hopes for the 2018 season when they signed Kirk Cousins. He was viewed as the missing piece to what looked like a Super Bowl caliber roster, so they gave him whatever he wanted to be their new signal caller.
Unfortunately for Minnesota and fortunately for the Bears, their investment didn’t pay off as they had hoped in year 1. They finished second in the NFC North and failed to punch their ticket into the playoffs by losing their last game of the season to the Bears.
Now, to solely blame Cousins for their unraveling wouldn’t be fair. Yet, there seems to be some feelings of buyer’s remorse towards the Viking’s 84 million dollar investment. Which is why their draft was all about making sure that Cousins had enough help to succeed.
Struck Gold With Garrett Bradbury, Center, Round 1, Pick 18
I know Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman must have been itching to take the first corner off the board, but he made the right move by selecting Garrett Bradbury. It’s no secret that the Vikings’ offensive line is the Achilles Heal of their roster.
Their interior especially was extremely leaky, giving up 18 sacks last season (according to Pro Football Focus). That said, Bradbury is exactly what the doctor ordered. He can step right in at center and allow a struggling Pat Elflein to move to his natural position at guard.
— NFL (@NFL) March 1, 2019
Also, bringing in Gary Kubiak as an offensive adviser tells me that the Vikings want to continue to run outside zone concepts. This running scheme is Bradbury’s bread and butter because of his rare mobility and space blocking skills.
All in all, Bradbury was a home run selection for Minnesota. He might not cure all of their offensive line woes but they should be noticeably better than they were last year.
Struck Out With: Alexander Mattison, Running Back, Round 3, Pick 102
My bone to pick with this selection is less about the player and more about the other factors surrounding the pick. I actually liked Mattison as a prospect and think he is going to be a really solid player. I just didn’t see the sense in picking a running back this high for Vikings.
I know Dalvin Cook hasn’t been able to stay healthy and that they lost Latavius Murray in free agency. Yet, it looked like they already had two promising backs in Mike Boone and Roc Thomas (who showed out last preseason) waiting in the wings.
It seems like the more sensible thing to do would’ve been to find out what they have in those guys before spending a high pick on another back. Especially when you consider the other needs that they have on their defensive and offensive line.
Khalil Mack threw Riley Reiff (313 lbs) to the ground with one arm. My goodness. pic.twitter.com/fikwBqnLjx
— NFL Update (@MySportsUpdate) November 19, 2018
I know they are invested in Riley Reiff and Brian O’Neil at offensive tackle. Yet, both of them struggled last season and wouldn’t keep me from spending a premium pick on another tackle.
Also, veteran defensive end Everson Griffen was almost a cap causality this offseason, so I imagine his days in Minnesota are numbered. The 3rd round would have been a great spot for them to look for a guy that they could potentially develop to be Griffin’s replacement.
Again, I believe Mattison will be a fine running back and an early contributor, but it just felt like they could’ve got more bang for their buck addressing a more important position.
Rookie Playing Time Predictions
- Garrett Bradbury (C): Day 1 impact starter
- Irv Smith Jr. (TE): Most likely a day 1 starter
- Alexander Mattison (RB): Rotational player
- Dru Samia (OG): Should compete for a starting job
- Cameron Smith (LB): Back up/Special Teams
- Armon Watts (DT): Rotational Player
- Marcus Epps (S): Special Teams/Practice Squad
- Oli Udoh (OL): Back up/Practice Squad
- Kris Boyd (CB): Practice Squad
- Dillon Mitchell (Slot WR): Should compete for a starting job/Special Teams
The Vikings draft was clearly all about getting Kirk Cousins more help. They finally addressed their offensive line in the first round, got a tight end that is similar to what Cousins was successful within Washington, and reinforced their running game by grabbing another bruiser in between the tackles.
That said, I actually really liked what the Vikings did from a non-Bears perspective. However, their efforts to improve their offensive line might be too little too late. I say this because they want to compete for a Super Bowl right now, and it usually takes a year or 2 for rookie offensive linemen to fully get adjusted to the NFL.
So, even though I believe Bradbury will immediately make their offensive line better. I still think it’s very likely that he has his fair share of rookie mistakes in his first season. Especially playing against the defensive fronts the NFC North has to offer.
Reason No. 1 to be very concerned with rookie T Brian O'Neill having to start games this season: pic.twitter.com/vTS5sgEox0
— Brandon Thorn (@BrandonThornNFL) September 26, 2018
Lastly, for all of the help the Viking got Cousins, they did not prioritize offensive tackle highly enough in my opinion. I know I mentioned it earlier, but I don’t know how anyone could feel confident with Brian O’Neil and Riley Reiff as their starting tackles.
I realize that they could not of realistically improve their entire offensive line with the draft capital that they had. Which means that their chips are on the table with these guys and they have to hope that they play better. Fortunately for the Bears, I am not as hopeful that they will.