Rubado: Vikings take advantage of loaded 2020 draft class

When it comes to the Minnesota Vikings, I am one of the first ones to express my cynicism. But after watching the 2020 NFL Draft, I believe general manager Rick Speilman and head coach Mike Zimmer turned in a near-perfect performance.

To be fair, when you look at the Vikings team needs and the depth of those positions in this draft class, it's hard to screw it up. The Vikings needed a wide receiver and a cornerback more than they needed oxygen.

Justin Jefferson

After Minnesota dealt star wideout Stefon Diggs to the Buffalo Bills for a pick package, including the No. 22 overall selection in this year's draft, the Vikings receiving corps consisted of Adam Thielen, Tajae Sharpe (acquired in free agency from the Tennessee Titans) and Olabisi Johnson. Even with a top-15 receiver in the league, quarterback Kirk Cousins is going to need another target if he wants to have success in the passing game.

With that 22nd pick, the Vikings took Justin Jefferson. The Louisiana State University wideout is arguably the most pro-ready player at his position in this draft.

LSU ran a pro-style system under Joe Brady (new offensive coordinator for the Carolina Panthers), which saw Jefferson as mostly a slot receiver. The year before LSU's offensive reinvention, Jefferson split out wide. His versatility in the passing game and understanding of a pro-style offense is what separates him from the top-three receivers in this draft.


Henry Ruggs III (Raiders), Jerry Jeudy (Broncos) and CeeDee Lamb (Cowboys) all have more talent than Jefferson, but it could take them longer to adjust to the speed and style of the game. I love the Vikings snagging Jefferson at 22, and he should be a suitable replacement for Diggs.

Jeff Gladney

I was initially surprised the Vikings went with a guy like Jeff Gladney after they traded down six picks to No. 31, but after watching the tape, I'm sold.

This guy is physical and isn't afraid to deliver a hit. He does an excellent job of finding the ball in the air in deep coverage and is good at keeping short routes in front of him. From what I've seen, he can handle zone and man coverage. He's smart, and he's fast.

The problem with Gladney comes in his size. At 5 feet 10 inches tall and 190 pounds, he's smaller than the average NFL cornerback. It'll be interesting to see what happens when he has to go up against a receiver like Davante Adams or Michael Thomas; guys that have the same quickness with more size on them.

I have seen some people say that Gladney was a reach at 31, but I disagree. I think we need to consider what the Vikings lost at corner from last season and how badly they needed a pro-ready guy.

Xavier Rhodes, Trey Waynes and Mackenzie Alexander are gone. That leaves the Vikings with Holton Hill and Mike Hughes. Even though it's both of their third seasons in the league, they haven't started every game in a full season. Hughes tore his ACL six games into his rookie season, while Hill served an eight-game suspension for performance-enhancing drugs.

Gladney has all the intangibles of a guy that's ready to step in on day one and make an impact.

Best of the rest

It would be a miracle if the Vikings didn't get at least three starters and a handful of impact players from this draft class. Spielman set a draft record for 15 picks by one team and accumulated more picks for next year's draft.


Many people are concerned with the offensive line. While it may have failed to give Cousins time in big games this year, it's an incredibly young group. Ezra Cleveland from Boise State University is an excellent selection because he has shown versatility. He can take snaps from both tackle positions and learn from a guy like Riley Reiff.

Cameron Dantzler was a value pick in the third round out of Mississippi State. He's more of a project than higher-rated corners in this class, but there's a ton of upside. Against LSU, he clamped every receiver across from him. Dantzler is another fun toy for Zimmer to mold into a potentially every-down player.

I love where the Vikings went in the fourth round. Rounds 4-7 are about finding high-upside players with low-risk picks.

DJ Wonnum out of South Carolina is a fast EDGE rusher that can step in and play on third downs in his rookie season. His main comparison is Danielle Hunter, so that's all you need to know.

The Vikings may have gotten one of the steals of the draft at No. 130. James Lynch is precisely the kind of player fans have been clamoring for on the defensive line. He's addicted to getting to quarterbacks, and he can do it from anywhere. He had 13 sacks last year at Baylor, and 22 in his career. He won Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year and is a first-team All American. He lacks in run defense but makes up for it with his pass rush.

Troy Dye expected to go higher at the start of the 2019 college football season but fell to pick No. 132. He's a lot like Anthony Barr in his tackling ability and play-recognition, but he has injury issues. Staying on the field was a problem at the University of Oregon. He's also undersized, but that wasn't an issue for him in college. Dye was the best player on defense for the Ducks the last two seasons when he was on the field. We could see him in the linebacker rotation during his rookie season.

I believe the Vikings turned in the second-best draft of any team in the NFL. The Ravens stole the show by filling the little needs they have with pro-ready guys. I also like what the Cowboys did. They gave Dak Prescott weapons and beefed up their defense.

The last three days made it feel like sports are closer to coming back even if they aren't. If there is an NFL season, the Vikings made the right moves to stay a contender.

Jared Rubado is the sports editor for the Detroit Lakes Tribune and the Perham Focus. He moved to the area in September of 2021 after covering sports for the Alexandria Echo Press for nearly three years. Jared graduated from the University of Augustana in 2018 with degrees in journalism and sports managment.
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