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NFC North Roster Additions: Vikings targeted depth on the offensive line

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Without much cap space, the Vikings have to hope that their draft picks are the key to improving their roster.

NFL: Minnesota Vikings-OTA David Berding-USA TODAY Sports

This is the conclusion of a three-part series looking at rookie acquisitions by the Green Bay Packers’ rivals around the NFC North.

The Minnesota Vikings had lost plenty of talent to free agency in the 2019 offseason, so hitting on their 2019 NFL Draft picks and undrafted free agents is critical to the depth of their roster should injuries arise. They targeted some needs in the first four rounds of the draft, but also managed to grab some depth at luxury positions like wide receiver.

The Vikings have had to work hard with the salary cap to maintain their roster, and have done so admirably. They managed to get Anthony Barr back under contract and agreed to an extension with tight end Kyle Rudolph to free up a bit more space for the season. However, if the returns on Kirk Cousins don’t start improving, that investment could turn out to be a huge sunk cost.

Drafted

Round 1: C Garrett Bradbury, R1, NC State;
Round 2: TE Irv Smith Jr., Alabama;
Round 3: RB Alexander Mattison, Boise State
Round 4: OG Dru Samia, Oklahoma
Round 5: ILB Cameron Smith, USC
Round 6: DT Armon Watts, Arkansas; S Marcus Epps, Wyoming; OT Olisaemeka Udoh, Elon Round 7: DB Kris Boyd, Texas; WR Dillon Mitchell, Oregon; WR Olabisi Johnson, Colorado State; LS Austin Cutting, Air Force

We previously wrote about the Vikings needing to make some high-quality picks during the draft in order to beef up the depth of their roster. Without a whole lot of wiggle room in terms of cap space, making the most of their fully-guaranteed QB was a priority. Drafting center Garrett Bradbury in the first and OG Dru Samia and Olisaemeka Udoh in subsequent rounds was a play at making their biggest weakness a strength.

Bradbury should be a guy who can plug in right away on the interior of the offensive line and make a difference. We’re not talking a Quenton Nelson type of game-changer, but having even a quality starter on the line is a big improvement.

With the addition of Irv Smith Jr., one would have thought that Minnesota would try to find a way to get Kyle Rudolph off the roster, but instead Rudolph got a new deal. Confusing, yes, but this way there are plenty of weapons for Kirk Cousins to go to and he loves throwing to tight ends. Adding Alexander Mattison in the third might suggest that they’re a little worried about Dalvin Cook’s ability to stay on the field. But with Latavius Murray moving onto New Orleans, having a viable back up running back is a good insurance policy.

Having seven picks in the last two rounds gave the Vikings a ton of shots at hitting on a potential starter other teams missed on, or a solidback up or two. Dillon Mitchell has a chance to contribute to the team. Behind Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen, it’s pretty uninspiring at the wide receiver position. Mitchell has good size and does a good job of getting open. Being able to play the slot and on the outside helps, too.

Undrafted FAs

S Micah Abernathy, FB Khari Blasingame, QB Jake Browning, WR Davion Davis, TE Brandon Dillon, WR Alexander Hollins, C John Keenoy, CB Nate Meadors, DT Tito Odenigbo and DE Anree Saint-Amour.

The Vikings’ crop of undrafted free agents this year is rather uninspiring in terms of finding a guy who could find their way onto the 53-man roster. It’s not a knock on their talent, per se, but the positions they’re battling for are already relatively set or had players drafted at their position in the sixth or seventh rounds.