With the NFL Draft being three weeks away, the Minnesota Vikings still have numerous holes to fill at wide receiver, offensive line, defensive line and cornerback. They have done a great job in recent years at finding talent in the mid to later rounds for most of these positions. However, the cornerback position has been a position the team has focused on primarily in the earlier rounds.
Trae Waynes and Xavier Rhodes were both lost to free agency, and they were both first round picks when they entered the league. Mackensie Alexander was a second round pick out of Clemson, and he was also lost to free agency this offseason.
Although the Vikings cornerbacks weren’t great last season, it’s still going to be difficult to replace what was lost to free agency. The current starting cornerbacks on the roster are Mike Hughes, another first round draft pick, and Holton Hill.
If the Vikings want to contend in 2020, the cornerback position is going to have to get addressed more than once in the draft, assuming they don’t address it in free agency. Here are some names to keep an eye on heading into the final weeks leading up to the draft.
Jeff Gladney, TCU
It shouldn’t come as a shock if the Vikings use one of their first round picks on a cornerback. If that is the case, whoever is selected would be looked at as a day one starter. Gladney would be able to come in from day one and make the Vikings secondary better than what it is currently.
During his time at TCU, Gladney turned into an impressive cornerback. He is a fast, physical corner that is at his best in man coverage. A good word to use while describing good cornerbacks is the word scrappy, and he fits that description perfectly.
His quick feet matched up with his physicality in both coverage and in the run game make him an ideal fit for Mike Zimmer’s defense. Gladney would be able to come in immediately and make an impact, and is a top cornerback in this draft class. There are other cornerback needy teams in front of the Vikings, so it will be worth keeping an eye on Gladney on day one of the draft.
Kristian Fulton, LSU
Fulton is another cornerback that is grading out as a mid to late round first round pick. He is coming off of a National Championship season with the Tigers, so he is used to being under the bright lights.
While playing at LSU, Fulton showed that he plays with a lot of confidence at the position. He is another corner that is at his best in man coverage and has a physical play style. He is more than willing to attack the ball carrier, but could still use some improvement in that area.
Keeping Fulton in purple and yellow would be an option for the Vikings if he is still available with the 22nd pick. He would bring confidence, quick feet and very good coverage skills to the Vikings secondary.
Noah Igbinoghene, Auburn
Igbinoghene is an interesting cornerback prospect that seems like another good fit for Zimmer’s defense. He has a high ceiling, but he is still fairly raw at the position. He went to Auburn as a wide receiver, and has only played cornerback for two years.
Being able to switch positions in college and still have your name considered as a top 50 prospect is special. Igbinoghene is extremely athletic and shows great explosiveness while playing his new position. He is athletic and willing to come downhill in the run game, but still could use some improvement in that area.
A project cornerback with a lot of upside just screams Zimmer. He would be able to take Igbinoghene and work towards turning him into something special. The talent is there, and he will likely be taken in towards the end of the first round or early on day two.
A.J. Terrell, Clemson
Another cornerback that has experience playing under the bright lights, Terell is one of the more athletic corners in this draft class. He has good footwork and his bigger frame allows him to go up and create turnovers.
He has the tendency to use his hands a little too much when fighting with receivers, but also has the ability to win the jump ball. The athleticism is what jumps out on Terrell’s tape, something that Zimmer would be able to work with.
Working with cornerbacks that use too much hands should ring a bell to Vikings fans. Early in Rhodes’ career he had a similar issue, and the Vikings were able to turn him into one of the best cornerbacks in the league in 2017. He has since regressed, but Terrell would be another replacement option to help get the Vikings secondary back on track.
Damon Arnette, Ohio State
Arnette is a day one talent that might slip into the second round. He would bring a physical, twitchy play style with solid ball skills as well. He played alongside Jefferey Okudah, who most analysts are saying is the top cornerback in this draft class.
He is another corner that is at his best when he is manned up with the receiver across from him. He plays with a dog mentality, and it shows up in his film. He has good ball skills combined with the willingness to lay some big hits.
If Arnette falls into day two, he is a prospect worth trading up to get. Although he isn’t always mentioned as much as some of the top corners in this draft class, he has the ability to be one of the best to come out of this group. Pairing his physical play style seems like a perfect match for Zimmer and the Vikings.
Although the Vikings have numerous needs on both sides of the ball, the cornerback position is one of the most pressing needs. Zimmer is known for making cornerbacks great, and he is going to have to continue to do that in 2020.