How will Minnesota coach O’Connell and GM Adofo-Mensah impact Vikings’ draft decision in Round 1?

2022 NFL draft

You can almost hear an audible groan from Minnesota Vikings fans whenever the name Tyler Linderbaum comes up.

Sure, he’s a nice prospect, but are you sure he’s going to be a better pro than struggling starter Garrett Bradbury, a 2019 first-rounder? And doesn’t the team need a cornerback? Or even another playmaking receiver? And what if one of the Vikings’ pass rushers gets hurt – isn’t outside linebacker a greater need than another center?

And what about quarterback? It’s a new coaching staff led by a head coach, Mike O’Connell, who was a QB player and coach, and general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah, an analytics guy who once gave a presentation during the league’s annual coaching summit on how to evaluate QBs.

All valid points.

In terms of the latter, you can probably cross of QB for Minnesota’s pick in the first round, No. 12 overall. The Vikings are probably locked into the polarizing Kirk Cousins until 2024 after recently giving him a one-year contract extension with a no-trade clause. Sure, the new regime would probably like to start over with a QB of their own choosing, but 2021 third-rounder Kellen Mond of Texas A&M still gives them a young option should Cousins falter or get injured.

Instead, combine the backgrounds of O’Connell and Adofo-Mensah to get a feel for the type of player Minnesota is looking for on Day 1.

O’Connell is coming off a Super Bowl win as the Los Angeles Rams’ offensive coordinator. Although Los Angeles is infamous for its use of draft picks as trade fodder, the Rams also value playmakers at premium positions (QB, WR, edge, CB, for example).

And then there’s Adofo-Mensah, who may have the most impressive non-football background of any personnel man in the league. He has a bachelor’s degree in economics from Princeton and a master’s degree in economics from Stanford. In terms of analytics, he once said: “(Analytics) is about evolution, not revolution.”

Therefore, it’s reasonable to think the team will focus on playmakers who also shine from an analytical standpoint. Think Aidan Hutchinson over Kayvon Thibodeaux, for example.

Here’s three prospects who fit that bill:

CB Derek Stingley, LSU

Fanspeak-Jake Rigdon ranking: No. 7 overall

Stingley has had a roller coaster past few weeks, with his stock taking a dip following the Combine and now trending back up following LSU’s pro day. He suffered a Lisfranc injury on the first day of LSU’s camp last summer and tried to play through it for three games until finally succumbing and receiving surgery. That was just the latest injury for the 6-foot, 190-pound junior, as he combined to play in 10 games the past two seasons after playing in all 15 games as a freshman.

But, by all appearances, Stingley seems healthy again. He recently posted 40 times of 4.37 and 4.44 seconds and had a vertical leap of 38.5 inches at LSU’s pro day, according to school numbers. Stingley also drew praise for how he performed in positional drills.

Here’s what Stingley had to say about the Lisfranc injury (via ESPN): “I feel fine right now. It doesn’t even feel like I hurt it in the first place.”

One other thing Stingley told reporters that should have Vikings fans drooling over the possibility of drafting him: “I just want to be the greatest ever – like, ever.”

DL Devonte Wyatt, Georgia

Ranking: No. 20 overall

Minnesota has plenty of young talent along its defensive line (Kenny Willekes, Patrick Jones, James Lynch, Jaylen Twyman and Janarius Robinson) and two salty veterans (Dalvin Tomlinson and free agent signing Harrison Phillips).

But it’s possible none of them are as good as Wyatt is right now.

Sure, Wyatt’s 6-foot-6, 341-pound Georgia teammate Jordan Davis gets the bulk of the attention, but analytics gurus question the wisdom behind drafting a player in the first round who’s never played more than 350 snaps in a season.

And while a 3-4 defensive lineman isn’t a “playmaker” position, O’Connell had a full year to see what kind of impact a lineman like Aaron Donald can have on the entire defense. Wyatt has some positional flexibility, too, as the 6-foot-3, 304-pound senior can also line up at nose tackle. He’d likely line up at defensive end for Minnesota.

Here’s what The Athletic’s Dane Brugler said about Wyatt in his recently released draft guide (subscription required): “He fires off the ball and competes with the speed and effort to make an impact on all three downs.”

The one knock on Wyatt? His age. Wyatt is one of the older prospects in the draft after turning 24 on March 31.

WR Drake London, USC

Ranking: No. 12

Minnesota arguably has one of the best wide receiver duos in the league with 2020 first-rounder Justin Jefferson and savvy veteran Adam Thielen. Plus, the team recently restructured Thielen’s contract, so he’s not going anywhere any time soon.

However, Thielen, who will be 32 next season, has battled injuries in recent years, missing 11 games the past three seasons. Will Ragatz of Inside The Vikings says the team can restructure Thielen’s contract again in future seasons, or he could eventually become a cap casualty after next season, albeit an expensive one with a lot of dead money.

Further muddying the receiver waters for Minnesota: the development of slot receiver K.J. Osborn, a 2018 fifth-round pick out of Miami. Osborn is still on a very reasonable contract that runs through 2024. He finished last season with 50 receptions for 655 yards and 7 touchdowns.

But say Thielen misses more time, or Osborn or Jefferson suffer injuries. Anyone of those losses could wreak havoc on the offense. And if two of those receivers go down? Even worse.

Keep in mind, the Rams aren’t shy about adding talent, including last season when they added Odell Beckham despite the presence of All-Pro receiver Cooper Kupp. Beckham turned out to be vitally important, too, as he arrived the day after Robert Woods went down for the season with a torn ACL.

So it’s reasonable to assume O’Connell wants as many top-end receivers on the roster as possible.

Could the Vikings still add one in the second or third round? Of course, but they won’t find a comparable talent to the 6-foot-4, 219-pound London. The junior played just eight games before an ankle injury cost him the rest of the season, but London still finished with 88 receptions for 1,084 yards and 7 TDs. He also had 19 contested catches, according to PFF.

And London often lined up inside at USC, which is important because some analysts believe his best fit might be as a big slot receiver, ala Larry Fitzgerald in the later part of his career.

Which of these prospects will Minnesota take in the first round? Find out in Fanspeak’s latest Vikings mock draft.

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