For the first time since 2006, the Vikings will have someone other than Rick Spielman in charge of their draft. New General Manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah gets his first chance to select a rookie class this weekend, with the Vikings trying to restock a roster that has missed the playoffs each of the past two seasons thanks in part to some underwhelming draft classes in Spielman's final seasons. If the team is to return to the playoffs in 2022, it could again need help at the position it emphasized perhaps more than any other in the first round under Spielman: cornerback.
Here are the team's top needs to address heading into the NFL draft on Thursday (Round 1, 7 p.m.), Friday (Rounds 2-3, 6 p.m.) and Saturday (Rounds 4-7, 11 a.m.). The draft will be televised on Ch. 5, ESPN and NFL Network.
Guard: The Vikings signed Jesse Davis and Chris Reed to modest deals this offseason, and the two veterans will compete for the starting right guard spot through training camp. If the Vikings can find a player they can develop into a starter, they might be able to fill out their line for the next several years exclusively with homegrown players.
Tight end: Irv Smith, who's returning from a torn meniscus, is heading into the final year of his rookie contract with plenty to prove, and the Vikings lost Tyler Conklin in free agency. That could lead them to look for another pass-catcher at the position, both to give them an option this year if Smith's recovery is slow and to start in the future if the team decides to let Smith leave after 2022.
Wide receiver: The Vikings might be in the market to add here, with new coach Kevin O'Connell likely to spread things out more frequently than the team has in recent years. Adam Thielen, who turns 32 in August, has a $19.96 million cap hit in 2023 — the same year the Vikings will need to decide if they're going to give Justin Jefferson the latest record-breaking receiver deal. A young, affordable option, in other words, could help.
Center: Though O'Connell has sounded optimistic about Garrett Bradbury this spring, the 2019 first-rounder will be a free agent after this season if the Vikings don't pick up his fifth-year option this spring. Bradbury has struggled frequently enough that the Vikings could look toward the future at the position, particularly if there's someone they feel can handle big defensive tackles in pass protection.
Cornerback: The Vikings used four first-round picks and a second-rounder on corners in Spielman's final nine drafts. None of those five players are still on the roster, and third-year man Cameron Dantzler is the only Vikings corner under 25 who has started more than six games. So after years of picking corners in the first round — to the point Spielman joked about it before his final drafts in Minnesota — the Vikings could be back in the market for just one more.
Defensive end: This position figures to change in the Vikings' new 3-4 base defense, with Danielle Hunter likely moving to outside linebacker and rushing the quarterback from there. But the Vikings still could use another option here; Harrison Phillips and Dalvin Tomlinson both seem like nose tackles in a 3-4, and even if Tomlinson lines up at defensive end, the Vikings need to solve the other spot.
Safety: Harrison Smith turned 33 in February and carries a $19.22 million cap hit in 2023. The Vikings have Cam Bynum, a fourth-rounder last year, set to play next to Smith this season, but if Notre Dame's Kyle Hamilton intrigued them enough, they could take him in the first round, or look for another safety later in the draft to groom alongside Bynum.
Linebacker: This is more about depth that anything else, with Hunter, Eric Kendricks, Jordan Hicks and Za'Darius Smith set to start in the base defense. But Hunter, who'll be 28 in October, is the youngest player in the group, and the Vikings could think about another developmental player here, especially if they're worried about Hunter and Smith getting injured again.