Offense now the focus for the Vikings in the 2021 NFL Draft?

(Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images) Kirk Cousins
(Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images) Kirk Cousins /

With the majority of their free-agent activity occurring on defense, will the Minnesota Vikings look to fill their offensive needs during the 2021 NFL Draft?

We already knew that fixing the defense was going to be a top priority for the Minnesota Vikings this year. With the Vikings’ defense having an underwhelming performance last season, head coach Mike Zimmer wasn’t about to let the unit struggle again in 2021.

So to improve the defense, Minnesota has signed several established veteran free agents this offseason, including Dalvin Tomlinson, Patrick Peterson, Xavier Woods, Mackensie Alexander, Nick Vigil, and Stephen Weatherly. Zimmer and the Vikings are hoping that these new additions will get the team back to being one of the NFL’s best on the defensive side of the ball next season.

The only offensive free-agents Minnesota has signed this year are Rashod Hill, Chad Beebe, and Ameer Abdullah, who were all members of the team last season. If the Vikings are going to add any new pieces to their offense this year, it seems like this will be taken care of in the 2021 NFL Draft.

Which major offensive needs can the Minnesota Vikings fill in the 2021 NFL Draft?

Currently, Minnesota holds the No. 14 pick in the first round of this year’s draft, and then they also have two selections in the third round. These three picks will likely be their best chances to find prospects that can have an instant impact next season.

With guys like Dalvin Cook, Justin Jefferson, Irv Smith Jr., Adam Thielen, and Kirk Cousins, the Vikings don’t have a ton of offensive needs this year. But they still have plenty of areas on their offense that can be improved during the 2021 draft.

First, Minnesota has to figure out what they’re going to do with their offensive line. Are they going to shift Ezra Cleveland or Brian O’Neill over to be their new starting left tackle? If they move Cleveland, who will they choose to be their new starting right guard? Who will be their starting left guard, and if they keep Cleveland and O’Neill in the same roles that they had last season, who will be the team’s new starting left tackle?

The path the Vikings take might depend on which offensive line prospects are still available when it comes time for them to make their first-round draft pick.

If Minnesota ends up with Northwestern’s Rashawn Slater or USC’s Alijah Vera-Tucker, then there’s a good chance that Cleveland or O’Neill could end up as the team’s new starting left tackle for 2021. But if a prospect like Virginia Tech’s Christian Darrisaw lands with the Vikings, then the odds of Cleveland remaining at right guard next season seem pretty high.

Aside from fixing the offensive line, finding a new No. 3 receiver is probably the Vikings’ second-biggest need for their offense this year.

There are a few paths Minnesota can take in the 2021 draft to fill this need too. Depending on who is still available in the first round, the Vikings could possibly grab someone like Alabama’s DeVonta Smith, who could not only be the team’s new No. 3 receiver in 2021, but he could also be the eventual replacement for Thielen.

If Minnesota would rather find a pass-catching prospect who can be both their third receiver and their new punt or kick returner, they can probably wait until their two draft selections in the third round to add someone who fits this mold.

As was the case last year, the 2021 draft is expected to be full of talented receivers, and guys like North Carolina’s Dyami Brown, Mississippi’s Elijah Moore, and Clemson’s Amari Rodgers are just a few of the players the Vikings could select in the third round to be a returner and a receiver for them next season.

With Minnesota placing most of their focus on defense during this year’s free agency period, it should allow them to really dive into figuring out which offensive prospects from the 2021 draft pool can make a big impact for them next season.

Then again, the Vikings could just continue to load up on defense during this year’s draft, and no one would be surprised since Zimmer is still the guy leading the charge. Wouldn’t that be fun?