A number of Minnesota's cornerbacks -- Patrick Peterson, Mike Hughes and Mackensie Alexander -- will be UFAs after the 2021 season and last year's first-round pick -- Jeff Gladney -- had a disappointing rookie campaign (PFF's 102nd-graded corner). In addition, safeties Harrison Smith and Xavier Woods are scheduled to become free agents in 2022 as well. The Vikings allowed the third-most 20-yard pass plays (63) and tied for allowing the most 40-yard pass plays (12) in 2020. In other words, there's a good chance they use their first-round pick on the secondary and Mike Zimmer gets a versatile safety prospect with Bolden here.
In the 2021 NFL draft we did not see an interior defensive lineman until the top of the second round. Could that change in 2022? If so, Perrion Winfrey is one of the leading contenders to force that issue. In 2020, his first season with the Oklahoma Sooners after playing junior college football at Iowa Western, Winfrey was named a Second-Team All-Big-12 selection by the conference's coaches. He played in all 11 games with eight starts, notching 19 tackles, including six for a loss.
The Minnesota Vikings added nose tackle Jaylen Twyman in the sixth round of the 2021 NFL draft, but could add Winfrey into the mix as another interior defender early in 2022.
McDuffie heads into his junior season having earned coverage grades of 83.7 and 77.6 in his first two years for the Huskies. He's also one of the best tackling corners in the country, with only two misses on 64 career attempts.
Karlaftis dominated in 2019 with 17 tackles for loss, 7.5 sacks, 54 tackles, an interception and a forced fumble. But the 6-foot-4, 275-pound edge rusher was limited to three games in 2020 after testing positive for COVID-19. Patrick Jones II, the Vikings' fourth third-round choice on Friday night, provides depth on the edge but isn't likely to be a high-impact starter opposite Danielle Hunter. Karlaftis can be that. After being among the top five teams in sacks in 2018 and 2019, Minnesota ranked in the bottom five in 2020, with 23.
Over the last six years, Florida has produced 11 defensive back draft picks, including several first-rounders, and Elam is next in the pipeline. He needs to cut down on the penalties and improve his tackling, but his length and ball skills help him shut down passing windows.
The Vikings could use someone like Pickens on the outside. Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen are a nasty 1-2 combo at WR, but Minnesota would benefit from having a stud who can consistently win on the perimeter. Pickens is 6-foot-3, 200-pounds with some sudden explosiveness and speed. Pickens also has an absurd catch radius and a real knack for playing with strong awareness near the sideline. Assuming the ACL injury he suffered this offseason does not ruin him, Pickens is going to be a star.