NFL Draft best available players for Minnesota Vikings: Kool-Aid McKinstry, Maason Smith

NFL Draft best available players for Minnesota Vikings: Kool-Aid McKinstry, Maason Smith

By Oghale Apr26,2024

EAGAN, Minn. — The Minnesota Vikings exhausted a good portion of their draft resources Thursday night.

Trades with the New York Jets and Jacksonville Jaguars to move up for J.J. McCarthy and Dallas Turner cost the team multiple late-round selections in exchange. But the Vikings entered the 2024 NFL Draft without a Day 2 pick, and that remains the case. If anything, now it’s even harder to imagine the Vikings moving back up into the top 100.

That said, here is a list of 10 potential options if Minnesota finds a way to climb up the board once more.

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Day 2 options

Player

  

School

  

Position

  

HT, WT

  

Cooper Beebe

OL

6-3, 322

Maason Smith

DT

6-5, 306

Braden Fiske

DT

6-3, 292

Ennis Rakestraw Jr.

CB

5-11, 183

Mike Hall Jr.

DT

6-3, 290

Payton Wilson

LB

6-3, 233

Zak Zinter

OL

6-6, 309

Kool-Aid McKinstry

CB

5-11, 199

Jer’Zhan Newton

DT

6-2, 304

Cedric Gray

LB

6-1, 234

Focusing on a couple of guards here felt necessary. Both Kansas State’s Cooper Beebe and Michigan’s Zak Zinter are sensible depth options who could push Blake Brandel at left guard.

Elsewhere, defense is the focus — specifically, defenders who are versatile, football-intelligent and productive.

Cornerback is an obvious need whether the Vikings choose to address it Friday or Saturday. Ennis Rakestraw Jr. and Kool-Aid McKinstry are physical, man-to-man corners who are ready to play outside. Defensive tackle is another clear need, which is why Maason Smith (LSU), Mike Hall Jr. (Ohio State) and Braden Fiske (Florida State) could all be worth a trade up.

Linebackers Payton Wilson (NC State) and Cedric Gray (North Carolina) are the wild cards of the group. The Vikings don’t necessarily need to use their dwindling draft capital on the off-ball linebacker position, especially with Blake Cashman and Ivan Pace Jr. in tow. Still, adding another second-level defender who can range across the field and add depth feels like it could only help what Flores wants to build.

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Day 3 options

Player

  

School

  

Positions

  

HT, WT

  

Cedric Gray

LB

6-1, 234

Jalyx Hunt

Edge

6-4, 252

Nehemiah Pritchett

CB

6-0, 190

Mohamed Kamara

Edge

6-1, 248

Khyree Jackson

CB

6-3, 194

MarShawn Lloyd

RB

5-8, 220

Qwan’tez Stiggers

CB

5-11, 204

Javon Solomon

Edge

6-1, 246

Blake Watson

RB

5-9, 200

Tyrice Knight

LB

6-0, 233

Day 2 might be awfully quiet, but Day 3 figures to contain some fireworks. The Vikings have five selections in the final four rounds, including two in the sixth and two in the seventh.

Again, Minnesota is likely to focus on the defense. Jalyx Hunt (Houston Christian), Mohamed Kamara (Colorado State) and Javon Solomon (Troy) are not big-name prospects with prototypical NFL impact player measurables, but they all produced impressively in college. Kamara and Solomon ranked first and fourth last season, respectively, in sacks in the FBS among 411 defenders who rushed the passer on at least 200 snaps.

Nehemiah Pritchett (Auburn), Khyree Jackson (Oregon) and Qwan’tez Stiggers (CFL) are cornerbacks the Vikings have scouted intensely over the past few months. The aforementioned Gray and Tyrice Knight (UTEP) are productive linebackers who would add depth to a young off-ball group.

And then there is Blake Watson of Memphis, a shifty running back who could contribute in designer looks as an offensive weapon.

The later rounds are rife with depth. Minnesota needs high-end talent at numerous spots, but filling out the roster with capable players — especially on defense — on rookie deals will likely be the focus on Day 3.

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(Photo of Maason Smith: Matthew Hinton / USA Today)

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