The Minnesota Vikings have invested heavily into their defense this offseason, but they are far from done, and with a glaring need at the cornerback position it feels like the obvious choice at pick number 12. There are three cornerbacks the Vikings should draft in the first round. So much talent in fact that it will likely leave Vikings GM, Kwesi Adofo-Mensah, with a tough decision to make when the team is on the clock.
Cornerbacks The Vikings Should Draft
Three players, in particular, are early front runners for the Viking’s first-round selection. Their names are Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner, Derek Stingley Jr., and Trent McDuffie.
With a high likelihood of one of these players landing in Minnesota, it’s important to take an in-depth look at what each of these exciting prospects will bring to the table.
Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner, Cincinnati
Gardner, a top-two prospect according to many experts, may be the best corner in this year’s draft class. He did not allow a single touchdown in coverage his entire college career. His exceptional length at 6’3″ allows him to get his hands on wide receivers at the line of scrimmage and disrupt their routes.
During his time at Cincinnati, Gardner has become a tremendous man coverage corner. He especially excels at the trail technique, where he will follow the receiver from behind and mirror their movements. Gardner’s rare combination of athleticism and skill were key factors in him allowing only 9.3 yards per game in coverage this past season, per PFF.
Gardner’s weight at 190lbs has caused a small level of concern for some scouts who believe that his frame might be too small for the NFL.
Another critique of Gardner’s game is that he needs to improve as a tackler in run support. He too often resorts to weak arm tackles that allow opponents to simply shrug off his contact.
Derek Stingley Jr, LSU
What Derek Stingley Jr. put on tape back in his freshman season in 2019 during LSU’s National Championship run was nothing short of special. The 2019 season is the reason NFL scouts rank Stingley Jr. so high. However, his injury history may detract from his value.
Stingley is the complete athletic package for a cornerback. He has great speed, size, and explosiveness. Combining that elite athleticism with his ability to anticipate and read the field in front of him is what makes him truly special.
Stingley has a relationship with current Minnesota Vikings Defensive Backs coach, Daronte Jones, who was with him at LSU this past season.
As talked about earlier, Stingley has been dealing with injuries these past two seasons and has been able to put very little on tape for scouts to watch. However, in those 10 games that he has played since the 2019 season, he hasn’t looked quite like the same player he was during his freshman season.
The culmination of these two factors has forced scouts to look at him as a possible “boom or bust” prospect. If he can return to that 2019 form then he could be an elite corner in the NFL, but that ‘if’ is something some GMs may not be willing to take a risk on.
Stingley will have another chance to persuade scouts on Apr. 6th during his pro day with LSU.
Trent McDuffie, Washington
McDuffie, who was a 3-year starter at The University of Washington, only allowed 16 catches on 296 passing snaps this past season, per PFF. He also has a fiery competitive attitude and is willing to go in hard on tackles.
McDuffie spent a lot of time in Cover-3 zone this past season which is a defensive coverage that makes him responsible for one deep third of the field. Because of this, he has developed great route concept recognition skills.
During the time that he wasn’t in zone coverage, he flashed the ability to play tight man-to-man coverage.
McDuffie lacks the physical tools of a true NFL lockdown corner and many have touted him as having “T-Rex arms.”
He hasn’t competed against quality opponents in man-to-man coverage. This is no fault of his, however, it does leave question marks hanging above his head.
McDuffie also did not face much elite-level competition in the Pac-12.
All these things combined have forced scouts to put McDuffie a tier below Gardner and Stingley who are considered elite.
Who will the Vikings choose?
It’s tough to say. But most experts have either Gardner or Stingley falling into the Vikings’ lap at pick 12. Most mock drafts have Stingley as the player who drops far enough for Kwesi Adofo-Mensah to snatch him up. This pattern can be attributed to Stingley’s injury history which will most likely sway GMs into preferring the healthier Gardner ahead of him.
Barring any trades, one of the cornerbacks the Vikings should draft should be available when they are on the clock at pick no. 12. That is very exciting!