Coming out of the 2021 NFL Draft with 11 selections, the Minnesota Vikings set out to improve upon their 2020 season while also having an eye towards building for the future. Their NFC North-leading draft selections should help accomplish both of those elements, and they could potentially turn this year’s class into immediate help in a division that could see Aaron Rodgers depart.
Six selections went towards addressing their offense and five were used on defensive players, so general manager Rick Spielman and his team of evaluators worked the board and got their players. Here are the grades for all 11 selections the Vikings made:
No. 23 Overall: Christian Darrisaw, OT, Virginia Tech – A
After trading back from the 14th overall selection with the New York Jets, the Vikings did not make their first selection of the 2021 NFL Draft until the 23rd pick. After sending the 14th and the 143rd pick, they received the 23rd, 66th and 86th picks from the Jets, helping stock up their top-100 allotments.
Offensive tackle Christian Darrisaw, frequently seen as the second-or-third best tackle prospect in this year’s draft behind Penei Sewell and alongside Rashawn Slater, fell to the Vikings and was an outstanding value selection that late. With the potential for Darrisaw to have gone in the Top 12, the VT product is an immediate plug-and-play option on this team’s OL and should help keep Kirk Cousins upright and Dalvin Cook efficient and healthy.
Even with the reports that the Vikings were considering taking QB Justin Fields if they had remained at 14 and if the Bears had not jumped up to 11th to take him, getting Darrisaw and two additional early picks made a ton of sense.
No. 66 Overall: Kellen Mond, QB, Texas A&M – B-
Grabbing what projects to be the signal-caller of the future in Texas A&M’s Kellen Mond was an interesting usage of the Vikings’ second selection. Not having a second-round pick to their name after trading it away, they were a part of a mini run of QB’s in the third round–which involved Kyle Trask (TB) and Davis Mills (HOU) going off the board around the same time.
Mond projects well into the league, having played in a collegiate scheme that involves transferable elements that can help his progression. But there are reasons that he was a part of the second-tier crop of QBs, and that gap may provide Cousins with enough leeway to hold onto the starting job for two to three seasons before seriously being challenged.
The Vikings had more pressing needs that they should have addressed at this point, but Mond was seen as more of a luxury for the team and they can afford to bring a QB along on a developmental path to see if he can replace Cousins.
No. 78 Overall: Chazz Surratt, LB, North Carolina – A-
Todd McShay feels that this may end up being the Vikings’ best selection of the draft due to the value in which they were able to pick LB Chazz Surratt. Looking like the likely option to replace Eric Wilson, Surratt’s sideline-to-sideline play projects nicely alongside both Eric Kendricks and Anthony Barr.
This was not a year of solid LB prospects, as this class was led by Tulsa’s Zaven Collins and Notre Dame’s Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah. With Surratt presenting solid value there with this team’s second selection in the third round, the Vikings did well to grab another depth piece that could hold a solid role Day 1.
UNC LB Chazz Surratt was the bench press champ today with 27 reps (had 28 in the video but one didn’t count).
27-28 reps would be 85th-90th percentile for off-ball LBs. Dude is strong. pic.twitter.com/Myvt6gYqPB
— Trevor Sikkema (@TampaBayTre) March 4, 2021
No. 86 Overall: Wyatt Davis, G, Ohio State – A-
With interior lineman Josh Myers having joined the Green Bay Packers in the second round, Wyatt Davis marked another Ohio State lineman in the NFC North division and the team’s second OL in four selections.
Davis is a solid option to help man any of the guard spots for the Vikings, and he will contribute with Darrisaw in helping an area that used to be the downfall of the team. Comparing Davis and Illinois’ Kendrick Green, who went to the Steelers one pick later, could show which Big Ten option was better.
No. 90 Overall: Patrick Jones II, EDGE, Pittsburgh – C-
The fourth and final third-rounder for Minnesota saw them attack the defensive front, selecting Pittsburgh’s Patrick Jones II for their edge rushing department. Seen as an option that can use his quickness to get around tackles, Jones looks to be quite the up-and-down prospect.
Bucky Brooks sees him as a “boom-or-bust playmaker” that will produce but also have his fair share of misses. OKLA’s Ronnie Perkins may have been a better, more predictable selection for edge rusher.
No. 119 Overall: Kene Nwangwu, RB, Iowa State – C
Holding special teams value as a kick returner, Iowa State’s Kene Nwangwu comes to the Vikings as the likely RB3 behind Cook and Alexander Mattison. While having a smaller stature, his elusiveness could translate into some third-down receiving work, but he is not built as a pass-blocking option.
“The Minnesota @Vikings select Kene Nwangwu, Running Back, Iowa State.”
Congrats, @KWang3_ !
Watch the 2021 #NFLDraft April 29 – May 1 on @nflnetwork
— Cyclone Football (@CycloneFB) May 1, 2021
No. 125 Overall: Camryn Bynum, CB, California – B
Having come out of Cal as a cornerback, Camryn Bynum will likely transition to safety in Mike Zimmer’s offense, and he will hopefully end the streak of using selections on DBs that don’t pay off. His physicality is the biggest trait of Bynum’s, and coming from the Pac-12 and their passing numbers certainly will help get him up to speed for the Vikings quickly.
No. 134 Overall: Janarius Robinson, EDGE, Florida State – B
The second edge rusher in their draft class, Florida State’s Janarius Robinson brings power to the DL and should see a role right away in his rookie season. Helping address a lacking pass rush that can never have too many options, Robinson will likely start out as a situational option that helps spell those in front of him on the depth chart.
No. 157 Overall: Ihmir Smith-Marsette, WR, Iowa – B+
Grabbing their first receiver of the draft in Iowa’s Ihmir Smith-Marsette injects even more speed into their offense, and he can help press Nwangwu for return duties. Smith-Marsette was one of the hotter names in the later rounds, and the Vikings were able to get its WR3/4 to pair with Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen.
No. 168 Overall: Zach Davidson, TE, Central Missouri – C-
Drafting tight ends out of small schools seems to be the trend for NFC North teams, and the Vikings followed suit this year with Central Missouri’s Zach Davison.
He has not played since 2019 due to the pandemic, but his is a moldable TE prospect who also has a solid line of punting in college, which could provide him with some roster security … potentially.
No. 199 Overall: Jaylen Twyman, DT, Pittsburgh – C-
Jaylen Twyman is READY for the NFL — as he heads to the Minnesota #Vikings with Pick 199 pic.twitter.com/E022bNHw8J
— Cam Mellor (@CamMellor) May 1, 2021
With their final pick, the Vikings went back to Pitt for DL help and grabbed DT Jaylen Twyman, who has his fair share of question marks surrounding him. While his 10.5 sacks from the 2019 season stands out, his absence at the Pitt pro day certainly made it seem like his future interests may not be in the NFL.