Minnesota Vikings: Early look at 2021 NFL Draft needs

Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images) /
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Gregory Rousseau, Minnesota Vikings, 2021 NFL Draft
2021 NFL Draft prospect Gregory Rousseau (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images) /

Minnesota Vikings 2021 NFL Draft Need: Defensive Line

The Vikings finished the 2020 season as one of the worst defensive units in the NFL. Minnesota allowed the fourth-most points scored and ranked sixth-worst in the NFL in yards allowing, struggling against both the rush and effective passing teams. While the Vikings featured a young secondary, their defensive struggles begin at the line of scrimmage.

Minnesota burned a second-round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft after trading for Yannick Ngakoue but was able to obtain an additional third-round pick for Ngakoue after trading the failed experience to the Ravens. The Ngakoue trade will burn Speilman one final time as the Vikings do not currently possess a second-round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.

The Vikings will get a boost to their defensive line with the return of 2020 free agent signing Michael Pierce who opted out of the 2020 season for COVID-19 concerns. Pierce will make his Vikings debut this fall alongside 2021 splash free agent signing Dalvin Tomlinson. Tomlinson, the former Alabama and Giants defensive tackle, should be an immediate impact player on the defensive line.

Tomlinson gives the Minnesota Vikings an established run-stopping lineman. Alongside Pierce, Tomlinson should be a semi-productive pass rusher from the interior as he recorded 3.5 sacks and 8 tackles for loss with the Giants. Pierce’s return and the signing of Tomlinson should address any immediate concerns at the defensive tackle position, allowing the Vikings to focus on edge rushers.

The Vikings ranked 28th in the NFL in pressuring the quarterback and recorded just 23 sacks for the year. While rookie fourth-round pick D.J. Wonnum created some pressure as a rotational end, he did not have a breakout year putting the Vikings on hold entering the 2021 NFL Draft.

While the Minnesota Vikings signed Danielle Hunter, the current depth chart and Ngakoue trade indicate there is an immediate need to address at defensive end. The 2021 NFL Draft projects to be deep with edge rusher and with two third-round picks and three fourth-round picks, Spielman could hold off on selecting an edge rusher until day two.

Of all positions of need entering the 2021 NFL Draft, selecting an edge rusher could provide the Vikings the best return on the 14th overall pick without the need of trading up. There does not project to be the “can’t miss” prospect at the position like Chase Young or the Bosa brothers from previous drafts.

The Vikings could have their pick of edge rushers when they are on the clock. Miami’s Gregory Rousseau’s 15.5 sacks and 19.5 tackles for loss trailed only Young in the 2019 season before Rousseau decided to opt-out of the 2020 college football season.

While the Hurricanes missed out on Rousseau last fall, UCLA transfer Jaelan Phillips was a more than adequate replacement and could be selected higher than Rousseau in the 2021 NFL Draft. Phillips transferred to Miami after struggling with injuries at UCLA and put together a dominant one-year career with Miami, registering eight sacks and 15.5 tackles for loss in the shortened 10 game season. Phillips and Rousseau both possess similar measurables and would be ideal fits in any defensive front.