This is the last in a series of position previews for the 2022 NFL draft, which runs Thursday through Saturday. Today: defensive backs.
THREE NAMES TO KNOW
CB Derek Stingley Jr., LSU: Stingley has been linked to the Vikings throughout the draft process, and if he's available when they pick, their decision might be relatively simple. He missed the end of the Tigers' season with a Lisfranc injury to his left foot, but had an impressive pro day workout on April 6, running a 4.37-second 40-yard dash and posting a vertical jump of 38 1⁄2 inches. He played for Vikings defensive backs coach Daronte Jones last year at LSU. He would be able to learn from former Tiger Patrick Peterson in Year 1, and could start immediately opposite Peterson in the base defense.
CB Trent McDuffie, Washington: If Stingley isn't available, the Vikings could consider spending their first-round pick on McDuffie, who's widely ranked as the No. 3 cornerback in the draft behind Cincinnati's Ahmad Gardner and Stingley. McDuffie is only 5-11, but he showed strong cover skills in college and could play in different spots in the NFL. His challenge will be showing he can press bigger receivers.
S Kyle Hamilton, Notre Dame: If Hamilton is still on the board at No. 12, he could present an intriguing option for the Vikings: a 6-4, 220-pound athlete with the range to play deep safety and the size to line up closer to the line of scrimmage. As Harrison Smith nears the final years of his career, the Vikings could line him up next to another Notre Dame product and use the pair to sow confusion on offense.
CB Tariq Woolen, UT-San Antonio: Woolen has played cornerback for only two years, and would require some work in the NFL, but his size and speed alone could make him the kind of prospect the Vikings deem to be worth a mid-round pick. He stands 6-4 and turned in a singular performance at the combine, running a 4.26-second 40-yard dash to go with a 42-inch vertical jump.
Since Rick Spielman got full control of the Vikings' roster in 2012, the team spent five first-round picks and a second-rounder on the defensive backfield, building one of the league's best defenses during the middle of Spielman's time with Mike Zimmer. But at the end of that run, only one of the six picks — Smith — is still on the roster, and the Vikings are again in need of a major investment at the position. They brought Peterson back, signed former Packers cornerback Chandon Sullivan and are still counting on 2020 third-rounder Cameron Dantzler to become a consistent starter. In Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and Kevin O'Connell's first draft together, though, Zimmer's old joke about how many corners a team needs ("just one more") rings true again.
VIKINGS' LEVEL OF NEED
High: If Stingley or Gardner is available when the Vikings are on the clock, it's hard to imagine they wouldn't take the best corner on their board. McDuffie might still be available if the Vikings decide to trade back a few picks, and players like Clemson's Andrew Booth could also catch their attention in the first round. But this might be the biggest need on the Vikings' roster. It wouldn't be a big surprise to see the Vikings take another first-round cornerback on Thursday night after Xavier Rhodes in 2013, Trae Waynes in 2015, Mike Hughes in 2018 and Jeff Gladney in 2020.