Breaking down the top 5 cornerbacks projected to the Vikings based on their pre-combine statistics
This year, the Minnesota Vikings currently hold the 12th overall pick. The last time they picked this high, they selected quarterback, Christian Ponder, in 2011, and eventual Ring of Honor running back, Chuck Foreman, back in 1973. As of now, they also have one pick in rounds 2, 3, 5, and 7 and three picks in the sixth round. While the Vikings also have a need to improve the offensive line, the top prospects will most likely be taken by teams earlier in the draft.
As such, focusing on defense will be the better way to go. The Vikings ended the season near the bottom in almost every defensive category with the worst being against the pass ranking at 28th. While there were some highlights, the team was absolutely terrible on the defensive side of the ball.
The pass defense allowed about 11.7 yards per completion and 29 touchdowns through the air. For the majority of the season, opposing offenses targeted Bashaud Breeland 88 times and he allowed 64% of passes thrown his way to be completed for an average of 13.9 yards per completion. He also allowed the most touchdowns on the team with 7. On the other side of the lines, Patrick Peterson allowed 64% of passes thrown his way to be completed for an average of 11.5 yards per completion. Though those numbers for Peterson are better than both 2019 and 2020, it still isn’t the best. Even if they resign him (which they should), he is not a long-term solution and Dantzler needs a buddy on the opposing side of him.
Below is TPL’s top 10 overall cornerbacks in the draft. But here we will be breaking down the best fits for the Vikings.
5. Georgia’s Derion Kendrick
He stands at 6’0 and weighs 190 lbs. Kendrick has only been a DB the past three seasons but in all three years, he received all-divisional honors. In 2019 and 2021, he was on the second team, and in 2020, he was on the first team. He had 43 tackles, two interceptions, and a touchdown in 2019 then in 2020, he fell a little bit and only had 18 tackles, one interception, and one sack. However, he was able to bounce back in 2021 and get 41 tackles and 4 interceptions. However, his biggest issue came in February 2021, when he was dismissed from the Clemson University football team for “disciplinary reasons,” and then he transferred and started for Georgia. Outside of that, he is a solid DB that could add a lot to the debilitating secondary.
4. Clemson’s Andrew Booth Jr.
He stands at 6’0 and weighs 200 lbs Booth played in 13 games as a true freshman at Clemson in 2019, recording four tackles and as a sophomore in 2020, he started four of 11 games, recording 27 tackles, two interceptions, one sack, and a fumble recovery for a touchdown. In 2021, he was a first-team All-ACC member with 37 tackles and 37 interceptions. His biggest issues are that he is relatively inexperienced compared to the above prospects and by his admission, Booth relies on his athleticism over his football intelligence. This honestly could be seen as confidence or misguided cockiness. The former is wanted and the latter is not. Which represents Booth more? We’ll see.
3. Florida’s Kaiir Elam
He comes in at 6’2 at 194 pounds. He’s taller than Stingley but he also has had injury issues that kept him out of three games last season. However, he is a great option if the below two choices are taken. He earned starting reps as a true freshman due to injuries and took over a full-time starting role on the outside of UF’s defense as a true sophomore. According to Pro Football Focus, Elam allowed only 53 catches for 636 yards across 114 career targets which is a completion percentage given up of 46.5%. He started 26 games and gained 78 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, five interceptions, 20 pass breakups, and a fumble recovery. Last season’s injuries require him to ball out at the NFL Combine but if he does, he is a solid choice at 12 if the top 2 are not available.
2. LSU’s Derek Stingley Jr.
Most draft boards have him as the top corner mostly due to his 73 tackles, 2 fumbles, and 6 interceptions over the past three seasons. Stingley is arguably the best pure cover corner who could bring a lot to the team. However, even if available, there is still a reason for putting Stingley at number two because he essentially sat out all of the 2021 LSU season due to a left foot injury that required a medical procedure. This makes his health status a little unknown and that he re-injured the same foot is a little concerning.
He most likely will not be available because he is at the top of almost every secondary deficient team’s list. His highlights show that he can match up with receivers of all shapes and sizes. Stingley, during his freshman year, snagged 6 interceptions to go with 15 pass deflections. He did however take a slight step back as a sophomore but even so, he seemingly always knows where the ball is, and he takes his 6-foot-1, 195 pounds body anywhere to get it. While unlikely to fall to Minnesota, he is a star waiting to happen and if number one is taken then Stingley should be grabbed up instantaneously.
1. Cincinnati’s Ahmad Gardner
If available, the Vikings should bring the “Sauce” to Minnesota. Gardner is a big, physical corner who stands 6’3′ and weighs 200 lbs, and has shown that he is comfortable being left on an island. He can step in immediately and play outside or even in the slot. His size is the biggest draw as Stingley is only 6’1″ and weighs 195 lbs. While not much bigger, Gardner was only 188 when he started at Cincinnati, and this allows for even more growth. The Vikings have not had a big corner since Xavier Rhodes, and he was 210 lbs when he was drafted. Gardner could easily gain those extra 10 lbs to become equal or better than Rhodes. Additionally, he has a long wingspan, and its length is similar to that of Rams superstar Jalen Ramsey which can provide a huge advantage at the catch point.
Best Fit (If Available)
The most amazing thing about Gardner is that he did not allow a passing touchdown during his entire collegiate career. He also only allowed 117 receiving yards all year and no receptions in the red zone, according to Pro Football Focus. Overall, he had a 26.7 completion percentage and only 1.9 yards per target this season. As such, Gardner made first-team all-ACC in each of the past two seasons and was the AAC Defensive Player of the Year in 2021. There is a slight concern for his relatively thin frame but as stated, he has grown since his first outing at Cincinnati. Outside of that, he is a tall, physical, and ultra-athletic corner who shined in press-man coverage during his college career. According to PFF, he didn’t allow a touchdown in over 1,000 coverage snaps during his three years at Cincinnati. This is who the Vikings should absolutely take if he falls to them at pick 12.
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