The Minnesota Vikings clearly hit on their first pick in the 2020 draft, but another early pick is one they’d take back now.
The Minnesota Vikings got an extra 2020 first-round pick from the Buffalo Bills for Stefon Diggs, and to say Justin Jefferson was an instant success is an understatement. Despite not starting until Week 3, Jefferson posted an even 1,400 yards and seven touchdowns on 88 catches.
The Vikings’ own first-round pick a year ago was No. 25, until they made a deal to move down to No. 31 with the San Francisco 49ers. With the departures of Xavier Rhodes, Trae Waynes and Mackensie Alexander in free agency, a cornerback seemed like a certain pick as head coach Mike Zimmer faced rebuilding the secondary. Minnesota took two cornerbacks later in the draft (Cameron Dantzler and Harrison Hand).
Minnesota Vikings: Mike Zimmer screwed up the first-round
With the 31st pick, the Vikings took TCU cornerback Jeff Gladney. Turning himself in on recent felony assault charges has put a cloud over his football-playing future, but the regrettable nature of the pick is purely for football reasons.
Gladney played all 16 games as a rookie, with 15 starts. He played 89 percent of the defensive snaps for the Vikings, as he led all rookie corners with 958 snaps (along with 99 special teams snaps). So some of the numbers he allowed were driven by simply never leaving the field, and being thrust into a big role without the benefit of anything close to a normal offseason.
Still, if Zimmer was focused on taking a cornerback, Antoine Winfield Jr., Jaylon Johnson and Trevon Diggs were still on the board at No. 31. All three showed themselves well as rookies, as did Dantzler (third round, No. 89 overall) late in the season. If the Vikings wanted to double-up on wide receivers in the first round, which is unlikely but not impossible to consider, Michael Pittman Jr. and Chase Claypool were available too.
If he’s on the field, Gladney may be a far better player in 2021. But the Vikings missed an opportunity to add a player who was better right way and might still be far better moving forward, as their defense took a real downturn in 2020.