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Minnesota Vikings' 2019 draft: Analysis for every pick

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NFL draft profile: Garrett Bradbury (0:44)

Garrett Bradbury is a center from NC State who won the 2018 Rimington Trophy as the nation's top center. (0:44)

Breaking down the Minnesota Vikings' 2019 draft class:

Round 1, No. 18 overall: Garrett Bradbury, OL, NC State

My take: The Vikings walked away from the first round with a vast upgrade for the interior of the offensive line, which was arguably the team’s biggest need. By selecting Bradbury with the 18th pick and deciding against taking one of the tackles who fell to them (Andre Dillard, Jawaan Taylor and Cody Ford) or trading back to earn more draft capital, Minnesota made not one but two improvements to its O-line group. Bradbury says he’s willing to play wherever the Vikings need him, whether that’s replacing Pat Elflein at center or sliding into the vacancy created at left guard by Nick Easton’s departure in free agency. That position flexibility is critical for a team that is looking to work out its best starting five over the next four months and, as this team knows all too well, pays big dividends in allowing the unit to stay in lockstep if an injury arises. Minnesota nailed its first-round pick by addressing its most pressing need right off the bat and getting ahead of the inevitable run on offensive lineman that could occur in Rounds 2 and 3. General manager Rick Spielman knows the key to protecting quarterback Kirk Cousins and bettering a run game that struggled last season is to fix what’s going on up front.

Athletic on the interior: Bradbury’s stock skyrocketed after he put his athleticism on display at the NFL combine. The 6-foot-3, 306-pounder ran a 4.92-second 40-yard dash (third among OL), finished in the top five among his position group in the three-cone drill (first, 7.41 seconds) and short shuttle (tied for fifth, 4.53 second) and had 34 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press (second). Those physical attributes are eye-popping on their own, but how that athleticism projects within the Vikings' zone-blocking scheme is what makes him the ideal fit on the interior. For starters, the tight end turned guard turned center played in a similar system at NC State and was long considered a scheme fit in Minnesota. Couple his quickness, speed and athletic ability with the outside zone action the Vikings aim to run, and Minnesota will begin to make strides at running the ball more effectively. “I think that'll be a big strength of his,” coach Mike Zimmer said. “The big thing with these athletic guys is, if you can get them moving sideways and you can get one guy cut out of the gap, then this one-cut downhill run game should really be good for Dalvin [Cook].”

A perfect fit: Before Gary Kubiak was hired in Minnesota as an assistant head coach/offensive adviser, he spent last season scouting much of the 2019 draft class in Denver. Bradbury, according to Spielman, was one of Kubiak’s favorites. Having worked with O-line coach Rick Dennison for decades, Kubiak knew the type of player they both wanted and was able to help the Vikings zero in on drafting the guard/center based on how well he’d fit within the parameters of the offense. “One thing about these guys being together, they know the exact type of guy that they're looking for, and along with [offensive coordinator] Kevin [Stefanski], I think that this guy will be a really good fit, and then scouts, obviously -- everybody loved this kid in the draft,” Zimmer said. Bradbury’s durability certainly stood out to the Vikings. He played every snap of the season before sitting out the final 13 during a rout of Louisville in 2018, had just two penalties in 942 offensive snaps and did not allow a QB pressure in 1,026 total snaps last season.


Round 2, No. 50 overall: Irv Smith Jr., TE, Alabama

My take: Finally, the Vikings have the athletic complement they need at tight end to become more explosive in the passing game. Irv Smith Jr. is the ideal F-tight end -- one the Vikings can line up out wide, in the slot or in the backfield and has all the athletic traits needed to be an versatile pass-catching option. The 6-foot-2, big-bodied tight end (242 pounds) is a strong route runner and speedy threat, clocking a 4.63-second 40-yard dash at the NFL combine, which was the third fastest among all tight ends.

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NFL draft profile: Irv Smith Jr.

Irv Smith Jr. is a tight end out of Alabama who caught seven touchdowns for the Crimson Tide during his final season.

Acquiring a middle-of-the-field threat for quarterback Kirk Cousins was "crucial," according to director of college scouting Jamaal Stephenson and will allow the Vikings to tap into his ability to create mismatches and move him around the field. Though his run blocking is a "work in progress" according to Stephenson, the Vikings like his toughness and willingness to use his body and believe those two traits project improvement in those areas. The team fielded a "flood" of calls about trading back from the 50th overall pick but made the wise move to stay put because they felt Smith was too valuable to what they want to do on offense.


Round 3, No. 102 overall: Alexander Mattison, RB, Boise State

My take: On an active Friday when the Vikings went from eight to 12 draft picks, Minnesota added another running back. The Vikings passed on other areas of need -- cornerback, offensive and defensive lines -- when they traded back from No. 81 in search of what Spielman views as a possible replacement for Latavius Murray, who left in free agency. Mattison (5-11, 221) is a physical back who can carry the load and catch passes. Just like Murray, Mattison gets better the more carries he gets, averaging 4.7 yards per rush during his junior season and 30 carries a game during his final five games. The Vikings are intrigued with adding his skill set to a group that includes Dalvin Cook, Ameer Abdullah, Mike Boone and Roc Thomas. Minnesota likes what Mattison can add with his in-line vision, ability to go forward on contact, receiving skills and aid in pass protection.


Round 4, No. 114 overall: Dru Samia, OG, Oklahoma

The commitment to fixing the offensive line is real. The Vikings dug into some of the draft capital they obtained on Day 2 to trade up in the fourth round, sending the 120th and 204th picks to Seattle, to land Samia. After going heavy on defense in free agency, Minnesota opted to kick things off in the draft with four straight picks to help the offense. Like Bradbury, Samia provides the Vikings with some position flexibility given his first 10 starts in college came at right tackle before he notched 38 consecutive starts at right guard. That durability is important, as is how well he protected QB Kyler Murray during the 2018 season by not allowing a sack.

Although the Vikings signed former Titan Josh Kline to a three-year, $15.75 million deal with $7.25 million in guaranteed money, it’s apparent that there will be competition at several spots on the interior throughout the offseason, especially at right guard. “They definitely said the interior of the offensive line, and I would guess with them drafting Bradbury that it's probably 100 percent going to be guard, so whichever one they need me at,” Samia said of where he expects to play. Samia is the prototypical zone blocker with strong athletic abilities that allow him to reach laterally along with the movement skills needed to elevate things to the second level. That’s a major emphasis for the Vikings as they look to become more explosive in the run and re-ignite a dormant screen game. Another plus for Minnesota is his experience, albeit limited, at right tackle. If injury concerns arise, the Vikings have a capable backup in Samia to fill that spot.


Round 5, No. 162 overall: Cameron Smith, ILB, USC

My take: The Vikings made their first defensive selection of the draft in the fifth round after moving back four spots from No. 159 to 162 and acquiring another seventh-rounder. Cameron Smith doesn’t have the physical and athletic traits (6-foot-2, 238 pounds, 4.69 second 40-yard dash) that will blow coaches away but prides himself on being an instinctual player who reacts with quickness and anticipation. “I just think that my instincts are going to take over and I’m never going to get nervous,” Smith said. “You just kind of when the game gets picked up and everyone is playing faster, I just feel like a true player plays faster. I’m just excited to feel that speed.”

A four-year player for the Trojans who led them in tackles for three consecutive seasons, Smith likely works best as a downhill linebacker who can work in space. His time in college afforded him the experience of playing in a similar system as the defense Mike Zimmer runs in Minnesota. “I just felt like it would be a perfect fit walking in there. I feel like I wouldn’t have any issue learning the defense,” Smith said. Linebacker isn’t a massive need in Minnesota but behind Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks, the Vikings need more depth and could find their No. 3 in a competition between Smith and Eric Wilson. Smith could also carve out a role on special teams. The Vikings left a handful of good players on the board when they decided to trade back, including DE Charles Omenihu, who was available to Minnesota when it was slated to pick initially at No. 159, and it's possible the Vikings tried unsuccessfully to trade up for LB Blake Cashman and CB Michael Jackson, who were both gone by pick No. 158. Still, Smith is a great value pick for Minnesota and could be a great candidate to slide in a weakside linebacker.


Round 6, No. 190 overall: Armon Watts, DT, Arkansas

My take: Watts is still pretty raw, having appeared in just six games from 2016-17 before carving out a big role in 2018, when he exploded once presented with a starting opportunity. The Arkansas defensive tackle led the Razorbacks with seven sacks among his 49 tackles, including 8.5 for loss. He also tied for the team lead with three forced fumbles. Vikings coaches are intrigued by Watts’ upside, with his long, athletic frame and skillset being compared to veteran 3-technique tackle Shamar Stephen. Like the Vikings did when they drafted Jalyn Holmes last season and slotted him in as Sheldon Richardson’s understudy, Watts should benefit from a year working behind Stephen and others to really learn how to play the position. His versatility to play multiple spots along the defensive line along with his pass-rushing skillet could put him in good position to compete for a spot on the 53-man roster among a fairly deep group on the interior.


Round 6, No. 191 overall: Marcus Epps, S, Wyoming

My take: The Vikings haven’t drafted a safety since they landed Jayron Kearse in the seventh round in 2016 and with only three on the roster with NFL experience (Kearse, Harrison Smith and Anthony Harris), this was a position of need for Minnesota, even if just to add depth for training camp. Epps, who was projected by NFL.com as a priority free agent, may have a fairly difficult path to making the 53-man roster given his 6-foot, 191-pound frame is relatively undersized if he’s asked to play up in the box. However, his production at Wyoming, going from a walk-on to immediate contributor on defense, shows signs of promise. Epps notched nine career interceptions and defended 22 passes for the Pokes, solidifying himself as one part of the Mountain West’s best safety duo.


Round 6, No. 193 overall: Olisaemeka Udoh, OT, Elon

My take: This is a BIG offensive tackle. At 6-foot-5 and 323 pounds, Udoh’s size and speed (5.05 second 40-yard dash at the combine) make him an ideal developmental prospect who could thrive once he gets into the right system. On paper, he has the athletic traits the Vikings want to utilize in their zone scheme.

Having depth is never a bad thing, and the Vikings have been known to load up in the later rounds on offensive linemen they can utilize throughout the offseason and training camp. If Udoh can improve his abilities as a run-blocker and in pass protection, he has a chance of sticking around. He offered the right value for where Minnesota picked him in the sixth round.


Round 7, No. 217 overall: Kris Boyd, CB, Texas

My take: Given all the concerns Minnesota has with its cornerback group (Holton Hill's four-game suspension, Mike Hughes' recovery from a torn ACL, whether Xavier Rhodes can bounce back after a disappointing season), the Vikings needed to take a cornerback for depth purposes. They got a steal with this selection, as NFL.com projected Boyd to be a fourth-round pick. At 5-foot-11, 201 pounds, Boyd is a physical tackler who can make plays in space or up in the box. Some draft analysts believe his best fit would be a move to safety, but his skills against the run and aggressiveness in playing downhill are his biggest strengths at cornerback. Mike Zimmer's philosophy that a defense can never have too many corners is rooted in this pick. The Vikings have a viable option that could fill in on an as-needed basis if injuries become an issue again this season.


Round 7, No. 239 overall: Dillon Mitchell, WR, Oregon

My take: The Vikings have had success turning late-round and undrafted receivers into super-star talent, but the initial scouting report on Mitchell gives pause. NFL.com's Lance Zierlein says Mitchell "isn't big, has average speed and loses focus as a pass-catcher," and it's certainly a red flag when his route-running ability gets knocked for a lack of "discipline." The Vikings haven't been able to carve out a clear-cut No. 3 receiver behind Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs, and while it's logical to think the 6-foot-1, 197-pounder will face an uphill battle in vying for that position, his experience playing both outside and in the slot are good attributes to have. Mitchell is a solid stretch-the-field threat, logging an FBS-high 509 deep receiving yards last season, according to Pro Football Focus, and finished his college career with a single-season program record 1,184 receiving yards in 2018. He has extensive experience on kickoff and punt return, which is always beneficial for a prospect coming in hoping to carve out a role.


Round 7, No. 247 overall: Olabisi Johnson, WR, Colorado State

My take: Johnson is a tough, effective route runner who isn’t afraid to make contested plays. He developed into a deep-ball threat at Colorado State, averaging 14.6 yards per catch in his final two seasons, and is praised for his football character and knowledge of an expanded route tree. Johnson is a finesse athlete with his speed and calls himself a "technician" with the way he runs his routes. Fulfilling a core role on special teams may have elevated his stock from a college free agent to seventh-round pick given all the brings to the table from offense to punt return units. The Vikings are doing their best to put as many pass-catching options around Kirk Cousins as they can, and bringing Johnson in to compete for the No. 3 receiver role continues to fulfill that goal. It appears they got good value for this pick in selecting back-to-back receivers.


Round 7, No. 250 overall: Austin Cutting, long snapper, Air Force

My take: The Vikings wrapped up the 2019 draft with 12 picks, which is the most they’ve had in franchise history since the seven-round format began in 1994. Cutting, who is an acquisitions officer in the Air Force, is supposed to serve 24 months in the service upon graduation but can file for a waiver to adjust when he will need to fulfill his military obligations so it can coincide with his NFL career. According to PFF, Cutting was 97.9 percent accurate on long snaps over the past three seasons. The Vikings already have a veteran long snapper in Kevin McDermott, who is under contract through the 2020 season, but could have found his eventual replacement.