After advancing to the NFC Championship Game in 2017, the Vikings missed the playoffs last season with a record of 8-7-1. They finished 19th in scoring at 22.5 points per game and 9th in fewest points allowed at 21.3 per game. Which areas were addressed In the NFL Draft to help the Vikings return to the post season in this year? The first several selections are examined below.
Round 1 (18th), Garrett Bradbury (OL) NC State
Bradbury played as a back up at guard In 11 games during the 2015 season. He moved into a starting role in 2016 and was honorable mention All-ACC in 2017, starting all 13 games at center. Bradbury gained national recognition as a senior as the top center and was first-team All-ACC.
Bradbury has all the physical tools and fits well into the Vikings offensive philosophy of zone blocking. Bradbury was once a tight end, who moved to guard and then center, so displays speed, quickness and durability. Those attributes will make him a key part of an offense that wants to establish the run.
Round 2 (50th), Irv Smith Jr (TE) Alabama
Smith didn’t catch a pass in limited time as a freshman in 2016, but played in 14 games in 2017, catching 14 passes for three touchdowns. He stepped into his own in 2018, named to the second-team All-SEC after hauling in 44 passes for 710 yards and seven touchdowns.
Not a great blocker, Smith has the physical traits to improve in that part of the game. What he does bring is speed, running the third fastest time of all tight ends at the combine, to go along with strength and solid route running skills. It’s likely that Smith will be used in a variety of roles, including some time outside or in the slot.
Round 3 (102nd), Alexander Mattison (RB) Boise State
As a freshman in in 2016, Mattison averaged 4.9 yards per carry, gaining 329 yards and four touchdowns. Surpassing the 1,000 yard mark on the ground as a sophomore, Mattison was honorable mention in the conference. Putting himself firmly on the national map as a junior, Mattison was in the ten in the country in rushing yards (1,415) and touchdowns (17).
At 5’ 11” and 220 pounds, Mattison is a workhorse kind of back who runs very physically. He displays numerous NFL quality skills, including the good hands out of the back field, solid pass protecting ability and strength to add yards after contact.
Round 4 (114th), Dru Samia (OG) Oklahoma
Samia started nine games as a freshman at right tackle but moved to right guard as a sophomore in 2016, earning All-Big 12 honors at that position. Thriving at right guard again in 2017, Samia was second-team All-Big 12 and earned the same as a senior. Samia was also recognized by the Associated Press as second-team All American.
Samia displays versatility that instantly adds depth to the Vikings offensive line. He fits well into the zone-blocking scheme used by the Vikings with his good lateral movement. Samia showed lots of durability and proved to be an excellent pass protector, not allowing a sack all last season. Although Samia will be used at guard, he has enough experience at tackle to play there in case of an emergency.
Round 5 (162nd), Cameron Smith (LB) USC
Smith had an immediate impact at USC, recording 78 tackles and three interceptions as a freshman. His efforts earned him All-Pac-12 honorable mention, despite playing in only 10 games dues to injury. In 2016, Smith had 83 tackles including seven for loss of yardage. One of the top linebackers in the country in 2017, Smith lead USC with 112 tackles and was first-team All-Pac-12. Although his numbers declined in 2018, playing in only 10 games, Smith has 81 tackles, including 7.5 for loss of yardage.
Smith makes up for relatively lack of size and speed with sound football knowledge that enables him to react quickly to situations on the field. There is little risk for the Vikings in this pick in the fifth round and enough upside to Smith that he should be a solid special teamer, back up and possible starter down the road.
Round 6 (190th), Armon Watts (DT) Arkansas
Watts played in 11 games as a back up in 2015 but played in only six games combined over the next two season. He became a starter in 2018 and showed some ability, recording a team best seven sacks, three forced fumbles and 49 overall tackles.
Although having only one year of playing time under his belt, Watts showed enough athletic ability and skills for the Vikings to take a late round shot. Not needing to step on the field this year, Watts can learn behind the veterans entrenched on the line. Another positive is his ability to move to various places along the line. Watts has a good chance to earn a spot on the roster or at the very least on the practice squad.