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Why Denzel Mims, A.J. Epenesa make sense for Vikings in NFL draft

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Vikings still need to fill big offensive gaps (0:54)

Courtney Cronin provides an update on the Vikings' moves so far in free agency, including Kirk Cousins' contract extension and trading Stefon Diggs. (0:54)

The Minnesota Vikings have an additional first-round selection after trading wide receiver Stefon Diggs to the Buffalo Bills last week in return for four draft picks, including No. 22 overall. Vikings general manager Rick Spielman could very well address needs on offense and defense with that pick and the No. 25 selection in the April 23-25 NFL draft.

Minnesota needs to add some speed at wide receiver, and Baylor's Denzel Mims, who goes to the Vikings at No. 22 in ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr.'s latest mock draft, boasts a combination of size (6-foot-3), speed (4.38-second 40-yard dash) and body control that would make him a fit as an outside option. His performance at the scouting combine inevitably helped his draft stock in a crowded class of talented receivers. In addition to clocking the third-fastest 40 time among wideouts, Mims had a 38.5-inch vertical leap and 131-inch broad jump.

Mims had two 1,000-yard seasons at Baylor, capping off his career with 66 receptions for 1,020 yards, 12 receiving touchdowns and 15.5 yards per catch. That would give the Vikings a viable deep threat to replace Diggs, who had the second-most receptions (15) on throws of 20-plus yards downfield last season, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.

The Vikings wrapped up the first wave of free agency with an uncertain outlook for the 2020 season. Expecting to find an immediate replacement in the draft for Diggs is a tall order, evident by the first-round receivers selected under Spielman since 2006 who did not pan out (Percy Harvin, Cordarrelle Patterson and Laquon Treadwell). But the Vikings have no choice and have to find another weapon for quarterback Kirk Cousins and play opposite Adam Thielen.

Drafting Mims will add an important layer to the offense. He primarily lined up as an outside receiver on the left side but has experience working the slot. The Vikings lined up Diggs in a number of different spots, so finding someone who could do the same begins to fill a big hole.

Kiper also has the Vikings selecting Iowa defensive end A.J. Epenesa in the first round (No. 25 overall) to fill the void left by Everson Griffen, who said goodbye to Minnesota last week in an Instagram post and will test the market as a free agent.

Griffen's consistent production since becoming a starter in 2014 also won't be easy to replace. He had eight sacks and 24 knockdowns last season, and the Vikings need to find a way to replace that production with either a new starter or a rotation at edge rusher. The Vikings also saw Stephen Weatherly depart in free agency, so building out depth at the end spots will be critical.

Epenesa's length and power will be a strong draw for the Vikings at pick No. 25. He had 30.5 tackles for loss, 22 sacks, eight forced fumbles and seven pass deflections in his last two seasons at Iowa. If his stock dips due to a lackluster performance at the combine, the Vikings would be hard-pressed to pass up the player praised for his strength, pass-rushing moves and strong hands.

The defense has undergone a multitude of changes this offseason and is left with several holes, most notably in the secondary, where the Vikings are down to new starters at cornerback and have no safety depth. Those areas of need will inevitably be addressed in the draft.

But replenishing the pass rush with younger talent will be critical to Minnesota's success in 2020, leading the Vikings to consider selecting a defensive end in the first round for the first time since 2005, when they drafted Erasmus James 18th overall.