While the normal buzz of the season continues, and righteously so, amid a fabulous 7-1 start, it’s never too early to look ahead to the future of the NFL… right? The Vikings are a team that at first glance wouldn’t appear to be in dire need of help, their 7-1 have beaten quality opponents, and were handed their only loss by the only NFC threat, and quite a daunting one. However the purpose of today’s deep dive is not to compare NFC contenders, or how the Vikings performed in their most recent game (in short, not great) but instead to begin the process of scouting a good fit in the 1st Round of the 2023 Draft for the Purple and Gold.
Where we must begin is the Vikings draft position, which is, barring any never-before-seen catastrophic collapse, the late 1st Round, which we’ll classify as picks 24-31. All playoff teams will be between 20-31, and where they stand right now, the Vikings should be among the top 3 seeds, putting them at minimum in that range. Without a franchise altering trade, they will miss out on the premiere prospects of the draft at Defensive Line, in Will Anderson, Myles Murphy and Jalen Carter, QB, with Bryce Young and CJ Stroud, CB, with Kelee Ringo, and finally Tackle with Paris Johnson. Should one of these players’ names be called at the Vikings pick, expect there to have been a major injury or extremely lucky fall. Today, we’ll focus on deepening the secondary, which has proven to be just as much of a problem as an inconsistent offense. Players on the back end like Patrick Peterson, Chandon Sullivan, Harrison Smith and Andrew Bynum have held it down, however they will need an injection of talent, considering the ages of Smith and Peterson, and the lack of elite talent in the rest of the corps.
Look no further than A&M soon-to-be product Antonio Johnson. Johnson is a defensive back with immaculate measurables, coming in at 6’3, 200 pounds, with a 40-yard time in the 4.4’s. Despite size that some may think will make him more of a clunky, slow safety, he has extremely quick and agile feet, and moves in one fluid blur. With his height comes a perfect match of elite ball-tracking skills, which allows him to contest any ball, and lets his length make up for any small difference in speed in man coverage. To finish it all off, Johnson is an elite block-shedder for the Cornerback position, able to get off most any tight end or pulling lineman’s attempts. There are some weaknesses in his game, which luckily enough, are all able to be fixed within a short time in the NFL locker room. A 6 ‘0 DB will never be able to put in enough work to grow vertically, and be able to cover bigger, taller and faster players easier, however Johnson will be able to add functional strength to improve his physical tackling skills. Another thing NFL coaches will be able to fix in Johnson is how he uses his length and height to make up for deficiencies in speed when going up against the shiftiest and speediest the league has to offer. Johnson projects to be picked in the middle to late first round, and could require a trade up for the Vikings to nab him, however they may just be lucky enough for him to fall into their laps.
NFL Comparison: Sauce Gardner