5 players the Vikings could’ve drafted instead of Jeff Gladney

(Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images) Jeremy Chinn
(Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images) Jeremy Chinn /
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Minnesota Vikings
(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) Antoine Winfield Jr. /

Antoine Winfield Jr. – CB/S

This is the one that will forever hurt the most. The stars aligned for the Vikings to take this perfect fit for their team, not only from a player standpoint, but from how huge of a star he would’ve become in the Twin Cities. Instead, they passed on him for an alleged felon.

Antoine Winfield Jr. was meant to play in Minnesota and for the Vikings. He grew up watching his dad play for the Purple for many years and then he attended college at the University of Minnesota. He was a star there despite being undersized. He routinely made highlight-reel plays and showed up in the biggest moments. Prior to the draft, he made it well known that he would have loved to play for the Vikings.

He was still available when Minnesota was on the clock, and the crew from ESPN even showed his living room while the team was making its decision.

The Vikings ultimately took Jeff Gladney and missed out on a very productive rookie season from Winfield. In 2020, he racked up 94 tackles, three sacks, and one interception for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

His big-play ability and knowledge of the game, unsurprisingly, carried over to the NFL, and he is now looked at as one of the best young defenders in the league.

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The Vikings have made bad decisions in the past, but taking Gladney over Winfield may just be the darkest blemish on Rick Spielman’s career as the team’s general manager.