Evaluating the Vikings' top draft needs, WR additions and RB depth

Nine days from now, Minnesota Vikings players will head back to work to begin phase one of the NFL’s voluntary nine-week offseason program. Minnesota’s roster makeup has changed considerably throughout the early portion of the offseason and will see a host of new additions with the draft a couple of weeks later.

It’s been a while since we’ve done a Vikings mailbag, and there were some good questions posed about what Minnesota might do with the 30th overall pick and others related to recent free-agent signings. And with last week’s top-30 visits, now’s a great time to dive into some of the movement going on in Eagan.

With how the Vikings handled their financials in free agency, spending big on a quarterback and three-technique defensive tackle, the draft is where Minnesota will make upgrades on the offensive line. Finding the right protection for Kirk Cousins is a huge priority -- one I expect Minnesota to address with the 30th overall pick. The question is where they’ll place the bigger emphasis -- at guard or tackle. The Vikings hosted a handful of big-name O-line prospects last week, including offensive tackles Mike McGlinchey (Notre Dame) and Connor Williams (Texas), which was an important continuation of their scouting efforts. However, I think they’ll want to address the guard position early to find a plug-and-play replacement for Joe Berger. On another note, if that happens, it’s fairly certain that Mike Remmers will find himself back at right tackle.

This year’s guard class is loaded, so I’ll understand the questions that come up about why Minnesota wouldn’t want to wait until the second or third round to draft their next right guard. Length is such a critical asset at the position and as the rounds progress, the guards in the 6-foot-4 or above range won’t be available. I doubt Quenton Nelson will be on the board when Minnesota drafts (I also don’t think they’ll trade up in the first round), but there’s a host of other guards that could fill an immediate need for the Vikings when they pick at 30. Keep an eye on names like Will Hernandez, Isaiah Wynn, Frank Ragnow, Billy Price and Braden Smith.

Mike Zimmer’s “change of scenery” remark regarding Laquon Treadwell wasn’t a glowing compliment, but it’s now or never for the former No. 1 pick. Minnesota signed Kendall Wright as someone it expects to grab hold of the No. 3 receiver role, but that doesn’t mean Treadwell won’t have every opportunity to show why he should be getting those targets from Cousins. Wright was among the most productive slot receivers in the NFL last season with an 80.4 catch rate, according to Pro Football Focus, but he has outside experience and can be moved around depending upon where Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs are lined up.

If we know anything about the principles of Philadelphia’s West Coast scheme and what John DeFilippo is going to install in Minnesota, this offense is going to be reliant upon having a ton of pass catchers, including hybrid tight ends that can make athletic grabs and stretch the field. I think the Wright signing and adding Tavarres King for depth challenges the entire receiving corps -- with Treadwell at the forefront -- to find how they can contribute in this offense. Guys like Stacy Coley and Cayleb Jones also have a big opportunity ahead of them in OTAs and training camp to show what they can add as Minnesota looks to expand how it uses its receivers further down the depth chart (Coley should also be a contender in the return game).

Minnesota needs a No. 3 running back. Mack Brown re-signed during free agency and was spotted in a photo with Kirk Cousins, Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen during a workout last week. Might the Vikings want to give Brown the same workload they had Jerick McKinnon handle in 2017? It’s possible, but in three seasons he hasn’t been too involved in Washington or Minnesota’s backfields. I’d expect the Vikings to look anywhere from the fourth round on for a running back (they don’t currently have a fourth-round pick, FYI) that they can use situationally behind Dalvin Cook and Latavius Murray. There are other needs they’ll want to address in the earlier rounds on the offensive line and at cornerback, tight end and linebacker, but finding a running back in this class for depth purposes and thinking down the line as Murray’s possible replacement if he leaves in free agency next year won’t be hard to do. I wrote this before, but I like Jaylen Samuels (NC State), Mark Walton (Miami), Justin Jackson (Northwestern) and Kyle Hicks (TCU) for this type of role with the Vikings.