Heading into the 2018 NFL Draft, many assumed that the Minnesota Vikings would be using their first-round selection on a guard or a tackle to help improve a weak offensive line. However, this is not what ended up happening.
Instead, the Vikings went ahead and chose to use last year’s first-round selection on UCF cornerback Mike Hughes. It was not a choice that many saw coming from Minnesota. But with Mike Zimmer as their head coach, maybe it was something that actually shouldn’t have been so shocking.
This year, the Vikings find themselves in a similar position as they prepare for the upcoming NFL Draft. Minnesota is in need of upgrading their offensive line, but the temptation of using an early-round selection on a cornerback continues to exist with Zimmer as the team’s head coach.
During three of the last four years, the Vikings have used either a first or a second-round pick on a corner. Minnesota added Trae Waynes with their first selection in 2015, then the Vikings went ahead and picked Mackensie Alexander during the second round in 2016, and finally Hughes was taken by Minnesota with their first-round pick last year.
Interestingly enough, the Vikings have only drafted one cornerback outside of the first two rounds since 2015. So if Minnesota is going to add another a corner in this year’s draft, their recent past indicates that they will do so with a selection in either the first or second round.
Since Waynes and Alexander are entering the final seasons of their contracts, the Vikings do currently have a slight need for another cornerback.
Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer has never been shy about his affinity for cornerbacks. After the Vikings made a somewhat surprising decision to select UCF corner Mike Hughes with their first-round draft pick last year, Zimmer explained the team’s choice by stating that, “you can never have too many cornerbacks.”
It doesn’t seem likely that Minnesota will be using their first-round selection on a corner again this year (one never knows with Zimmer though), but they do appear to be taking a good amount of interest in a young defensive back from Kentucky.
Derrick Baity is a 6-foot-2, 197 pound corner who started 41 games during his four-year career at Kentucky. In his four seasons, Baity accumulated six interceptions and 25 pass deflections to go along with 148 total tackles.
He’s not considered among the top cornerback prospects in the 2019 draft class, but he’s definitely someone that the Vikings could end up using one of their late-round selections on.
During Kentucky’s recent Pro Day, Zimmer spent some time meeting with Baity and giving him some pointers. The Vikings also met with the young corner at this year’s East-West Shrine Game.
Baity certainly has the build that Minnesota looks for in their corners. But his cover skills still need some polishing and that is something that Zimmer would probably love to help improve.
With Mike Hughes coming off an ACL tear and both Trae Waynes and Mackensie Alexander entering the last year of their current contracts, it seems likely that the Vikings are going to strongly consider drafting a cornerback this year.
Mike Zimmer frequently reminds reporters that a team can never have enough corners.
He did so a year ago when Minnesota tabbed Mike Hughes with the 30th overall pick. He reinforced the message after Hughes delivered a pick six in his NFL debut, becoming Minnesota’s only rookie to accomplish the feat in his first pro game.
Unfortunately for the Vikings, Hughes suffered a torn ACL in Week 6, bringing a promising campaign to a screeching halt.
Hughes and Trae Waynes (first round) and Mackensie Alexander (second round) have all been added with early picks since Zimmer’s arrival. The DB guru also helped develop 2013 first-round pick Xavier Rhodes into a Pro Bowler and All-Pro.
Matthew Coller of SKOR North noted the importance of cornerback play to both participants in Super Bowl LIII on his way to writing about an athleticism metric that has been developed by website Relative Athletic Score.
The New England Patriots were widely praised for their defensive scheme against the Los Angeles Rams in the Super Bowl, but talent and depth at the defensive back position certainly played a role. Pro Football Focus ranked the Patriots No. 2 in coverage in the NFL only behind the Chicago Bears, who sported the league’s best defense. The Rams, who slowed down Drew Brees and the Saints in the NFC Championship, had the fourth best coverage grade by PFF’s metrics.
Relative Athletic Score combines height, weight and wingspan with performance at the NFL Scouting Combine to grade athleticism on a scale of 1 to 10.
Waynes has the highest RAS among current Vikings at 8.58, followed by Rhodes at 8.37.
Turns out this is Zimmer’s type of year for cornerbacks in the draft. Many of the projected picks between the first and third rounds have athletic profiles with similarities to the current crop of corners in Minnesota.