Josh Jackson a luxury choice for the Vikings

Minnesota doesn’t have a lot of needs, but the Iowa cornerback would be a good value.

After finishing last season 13-3 and going to the NFC Championship game, the Minnesota Vikings haven’t been quiet this offseason.

Minnesota made arguably the biggest move in free agency by signing starting quarterback Kirk Cousins to a fully guaranteed $ 84 million contract. Starting defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson was also signed a one-year prove it deal, eliminating what many considered the team’s biggest draft need.

That leaves the Vikings looking toward the offensive line or maybe in the secondary. The team could be drafting for the future with linebacker Anthony Barr, wide receiver Stefon Diggs and defensive end Danielle Hunter all free agents after this season.

Christopher Gates of The Daily Norseman is here to make the pick for the Vikings in the SB Nation NFL writers’ mock draft.

30. Minnesota Vikings: Josh Jackson, CB, Iowa

Gates: Since those big, stupid jerkfaces from Jacksonville took the guy that we had our eye on THE ENTIRE TIME, we were forced to shift focus on where we go with our first-round selection.

(Full disclosure: The guys from Jacksonville aren’t really big, stupid jerkfaces. They did totally steal our guy, though.)

With Price, Wynn, and Hernandez all off the board, there wasn’t an interior lineman that I was really in love with at this point, and the depth of the guard class means that the Vikings could get a plug-and-play starter in the second round. So, we instead move our focus to what might be the Vikings’ next-biggest need, and that’s in the secondary. The Vikings have a pretty solid trio of corners already in Xavier Rhodes, Trae Waynes and Mackensie Alexander, but in this league you can’t be deep enough at corner.

That’s where the selection of Iowa cornerback Joshua Jackson comes in. Jackson led the nation in interceptions this past season with eight, returning two of those for touchdowns. To this point, his reputation is as more of a “zone” corner, but he can do just fine in press coverage, too. Jackson only started for one year at Iowa, and was a wide receiver when he got to Ames, which seems to have helped him a lot in terms of ball skills and route anticipation. He’s got the sort of size that Mike Zimmer seems to like in his cornerbacks, too, and with his physical gifts his ceiling might be as high as any corner in this year’s class.

Would Jackson step in and start immediately? Probably not. But with the Vikings not having picked up the fifth-year option on Waynes yet (though it would be surprising if they didn’t) and Alexander still having issues with consistency, Jackson would step in and immediately give the Vikings the deepest group of corners anywhere outside of Jacksonville. Plus, it would be nice to have him around for the inevitable series or two in (seemingly) every game where Rhodes limps off the field and has to sit out. There’s no reason for Jackson to be here at this point, but if this happens on draft night, Jackson would have to be a serious consideration for the Vikings if none of the linemen they like are there.

Analysis: This is the hard thing about the draft sometimes. Hernandez is exactly the player the Vikings need in this draft. He’s a perfect scheme and need fit. Jackson is a good player, and my highest rated available with this pick. So from a value standpoint it’s good. Because of Minnesota’s current secondary depth, it is somewhat of a luxury selection.

For Minnesota, it’s true that Jackson is a better zone player than man. That’s not too much of a problem because the Vikings often flip-flop between the two in game. The trouble can be how fast Jackson can pick up the defense. It’s one that puts a lot of stress on the secondary, so he’ll have to be ready to go from the jump to make an impact as a rookie.

Dan Kadar’s top five players remaining

  • 23. Orlando Brown, OT, Oklahoma
  • 24. Rashaan Evans, LB, Alabama
  • 26. Jaire Alexander, CB, Louisville
  • 30. Mike Hughes, CB, Central Florida
  • 31. Harrrison Phillips, DT, Stanford

Coming up at 11 a.m. ET is the 31st pick in our mock draft with Rich Hill of Pats Pulpit back on the clock making his second pick for the New England Patriots.

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