Another Diggs in Vikings’ Future?
Two weeks out from the NFL Draft it appears likely the Vikings will use at least one of their two first-round selections on a cornerback.
The present cornerback roster is alarmingly thin in quality and depth. Head coach Mike Zimmer, long a defensive guru, will want to make cornerbacks a priority in the college draft, along with mandatory needs at wide receiver and in the offensive line.
There might be seven quality cornerbacks available among the top 35 or 40 prospects. The Vikings, with first round selections at No. 22 and 25, could use one of their picks on Trevon Diggs from Alabama, and the brother of former Minnesota wide receiver Stefon Diggs now with the Buffalo Bills.
Trevon, a former receiver, is expected to be an NFL starter in his first or second season, according to NFL.com/prospects. At 6-foot-1, 205-pounds, Diggs is a physical cover man with the instincts of a receiver. Vikings decision makers shouldn’t allow past history with Stefon’s attitude to stop their drafting of Trevon.
Another corner likely available when the Vikings use their first round choices is TCU’s Jeff Gladney. He doesn’t match Diggs’ size at 5-10, 191 pounds, but he is athletic and feisty on the field. Gladney was known for his ball-hawking skills at TCU, and Zimmer is fond of physical defenders like his All-Pro safety Harrison Smith.
It’s probably a long shot the Vikings will use both of their first round picks on corners but Zimmer and general manager Rick Spielman have flexibility in the draft with 12 selections over the seven rounds. The franchise could put off drafting a wide receiver or offensive lineman until beyond the first round.
With a need to replace Stefon Diggs at wide receiver, the Vikings are fortunate the 2020 draft is rich in WR talent. In a S.I.com story last week listing the draft’s top 100 prospects, 16 of them are wide receivers (No. 100 is Golden Gophers WR Tyler Johnson). The Vikings will almost certainly find a high potential WR in the first two rounds of the draft. An out of the spotlight pick that could interest Minnesota in the middle or late rounds is Michigan’s Donovan Peoples-Jones.
Spielman has a reputation for swinging trades to improve his draft position. Gambling that he could meet team needs at corner and WR beyond the first round, what if he traded his No. 22 and 25 selections to move high enough to choose offensive lineman Tristan Wirfs? The Iowa star is among the most coveted linemen in the 2020 draft and the Vikings could use a newcomer contributing the way 2019 first-round center Garrett Bradbury performed as a rookie.
Zimmer likes to emphasize the running game and has one of the NFL’s best ball carriers in Dalvin Cook. The offensive line, a concern for years, remains a project, and that’s not good news for Cook or quarterback Kirk Cousins who often doesn’t respond effectively to pressure from pass rushers.
New U Season Tickets Total Impresses
Although the promotion of University of Minnesota football has been slowed by the coronavirus pandemic, the athletic department has already sold 2,067 new season tickets for the 2020 home schedule. That total is close to the 2,519 new season tickets for 2019 the U reported in September of last year after the home schedule was underway.
Included in the 2,067 new season tickets sold to the public (non-student tickets) are 278 tickets that were sold for $249 each. Those inexpensive season tickets were announced in late November last year, and prompted by the fan excitement of the Gophers’ impressive season.
Minnesota earned an 11-2 final record including a surprise Outback Bowl win over SEC power Auburn. The Gophers finished with a final A.P. ranking of No. 10 in the nation. That was the highest ranking for the program at season’s end since 1962.
As of May 13 last year the athletic department had sold only 858 new public season tickets. On May 1, 2018, the total of new season tickets was 817.
Season ticket sales to the public have been a challenge for several years, including modest totals of 21,691 last year and 21,663 in 2018. This week the U reported to Sports Headliners a total of 12,199 total season tickets sold so far. At this time of year renewals of tickets can be slow, and the pandemic could derail 2020 sales and even wipe out the season, but the Gophers potentially might surpass the 2019 total—fueled by last year’s success on the field and the promise of the 2020 team, that while needing to replace much of the defense, will have an exciting offense led by quarterback Tanner Morgan and wide receiver Rashod Bateman. Minnesota has won 15 of its last 19 games and the public is buying into fourth-season head coach P.J. Fleck.
Minnesota closed the season with sellouts in its final two home games as part of a fall that saw more fans coming to TCF Bank Stadium. Dennis Dodd of Cbssports.com reported last month the Gophers’ 2019 attendance increased by 21.9 percent and 8,275 fans per game—the largest overall increase of any NCAA program in the top 50 in total attendance.
Minnesota’s seven-game home schedule includes a nonconference visit by BYU and Big Ten powers Iowa and Michigan. Down the road, and a motivation to buy season tickets, is the 2021 opener against perennial national championship contender Ohio State.
The Buckeyes last visited Minneapolis in 2014.