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Vikes Can’t Obsess on First Round CB

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April 26, 2022

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What will the Vikings do Thursday night in the first round of the NFL Draft?

Former Vikings GM Jeff Diamond offered advice in a Monday interview with Sports Headliners. “If they are wise, you don’t want to get locked into a certain position of need which we all know is a corner for them.”

Diamond, the NFL Executive of the Year in 1998 when the Vikings went 15-1, learned long ago that “especially in the first round” it’s not prudent to become overly focused on need at a particular position. Unless a team is after a quarterback, take the best player available, he said. Don’t pass on a great player and settle for a good one to fulfill a need.

Diamond, who learned that philosophy from Bud Grant, Jerry Reichow and Frank Gilliam from the Vikings, was president of the Titans after he left Minnesota. With both organizations he believed there are limited opportunities to select a player who was all but certain to become a Pro Bowl level talent. “We always felt there were eight to 10 blue chip players in every draft,” he said.

The Vikings have several needs going into this week’s three-day, seven-round draft. They could, for example, benefit from taking an edge rusher at No. 12. Sports Illustrated’s mock draft has Minnesota selecting Eden Prairie High School and Florida State alum Jermaine Johnson.

Diamond sees Johnson as a top four prospect among edge rushers in this year’s draft. “I think that he’s a guy that has got a lot of talent. I think he runs well and has good effort and all that.”

With the new Vikings’ 3-4 defensive scheme, and injury uncertain for veteran pass rushers Danielle Hunter and Za’Darius Smith, the franchise could benefit from selecting an edge rusher in the first round and then choosing cornerbacks in the second and later rounds. Diamond suggests the club might follow that path and use the third round pick for a quarterback to compete with backup Kellen Mond (2021 draft).

Diamond describes it as “good strategy” to take a quarterback prospect in the third round. He doesn’t see the position as one of immediate need and rates veteran Kirk Cousins in the 10 to 15 range among NFL quarterbacks. With Cousins flanked by outstanding playmakers, and if the defense is upgraded, the Vikings can be a winner, Diamond said.

That’s not to say, though, the Vikings couldn’t improve their offense in the draft with a center, guard or tackle who is able to push existing starters or provide depth. With Tyler Conklin having been traded, and starter Irv Smith coming off a knee injury, Diamond sees the importance of adding a pass catching tight end in the later rounds.

Rounds four through seven may provide roster help at wide receiver, and multiple spots on defense including linebacker and safety. The Vikings are talented at wide receiver with their starters but adding a contributor in the draft can provide depth. “There’s a lot of talent at wide receiver this year (in the draft),” Diamond said.

This will be Kwesi Odofo-Mensah’s first draft as a general manager. Diamond’s guess is the Vikings won’t be wheeling-and-dealing during the draft and likely will retain most or all of their eight picks. He’s not an advocate of parting with your first round selection and not selecting a player until the second round.

“I am always apprehensive about trading out of the first round,” Diamond said. “A couple of occasions that we did it, it really didn’t pay off.”

This year eight franchises have multiple first round selections, meaning eight do not. Diamond can’t recall that circumstance before. The numbers could lead to trades involving both the 2022 or 2023 drafts.

Jeff Diamond

Among the many players Diamond is following are former Gophers Boye Mafe and Daniel Faalele. Mafe has created unexpected offseason buzz as a potential elite edge rusher and has drawn late first round or second round speculation. Faalele, the 6-8, 384 pound offensive tackle, has prompted similar talk but Diamond said there is concern about the Australian native staying under 400 pounds.

Diamond is a senior consultant for the Minneapolis-based Institute for Athletes, an established agency representing players. He is involved with recruiting and is familiar with many prospects for the 2022 NFL Draft.

Worth Noting

Diamond talking about the lengthy three-day draft: “To me the first couple rounds, (are) really fun to watch. Rounds four through seven a little tedious. And I kind of felt that way even as a GM and in the draft room because it gets so long and a little bit boring at times. …”

In Sports Illustrated’s mock draft top cornerbacks Derek Stingley Jr., Ahmad Gardner and Trent McDuffie will be selected No. 7, 10 and 11 respectively. At No. 24 in the first round the prediction is the Cowboys will choose Mafe.

Rocco Baldelli, the 2019 American League Manager of the Year, is criticized for game strategy but a move paying off this spring is batting Byron Buxton lead-off where he can often have more plate appearances than hitting further down in the order. He was in position to win Sunday’s extra inning game against the White Sox and did so with a three-run home run that put the Twins in first place in the AL Central Division.

Inspiring to see 100-year-old former Gophers’ ticket manager Tom Swain and Vikings legend Bud Grant, who turns 95 next month, in attendance at the Twin Cities Dunker Fund Dinner at U.S. Bank Stadium.

Who will be the Wild’s starting goalie in the first game of the playoffs next week? There could be a goalie controversy in the postseason but the guess here is Cam Talbot gets the first start over Marc-Andre Fleury. Remember when the Wild made the 2003 Western Conference Finals using goalies Dwayne Roloson and Manny Fernandez?

Wild home single game playoff tickets go on sale tomorrow at 2 p.m. via www.ticketmaster.com

The Wild’s Kirill Kaprizov, the NHL Rookie of the Year in 2021, turns 25 today.

Gable Steveson

Former Gopher footballer and ex-pro wrestling star Jumpin’ Jim Brunzell emailed about whether Olympic gold medalist Gable Steveson will be a hero or heel in the WWE. “Dave, I’ve never met Gabe but because of his size and cockiness I believe he’ll be a natural heel or bad guy! If they decide to make him a baby-face, or good guy, he’ll be a Hulk Hogan type who’ll out wrestle his opponent. And when his opponent fouls Gabe, he’ll make a big comeback and pin him with some suplex for the cover! Who knows?”

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David Shama

David Shama is a former sports editor and columnist with local publications. His writing and reporting experiences include covering the Minnesota Vikings, Minnesota Twins, Minnesota Timberwolves and Minnesota Gophers. Shama’s career experiences also include sports marketing. He is the former Marketing Director of the Minnesota North Stars of the NHL. He is also the former Marketing Director of the United States Tennis Association’s Northern Section. A native of Minneapolis, Shama has been part of the community his entire life. He is a graduate of the University of Minnesota where he majored in journalism. He also has a Master’s degree in education from the University of St. Thomas. He was a member of the Governor’s NBA’s Task Force to help create interest in bringing pro basketball to town in the 1980s.

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