Tuesday, June 25, 2024
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Minnesota Vikings one of seven teams that revealed identity with 2024 NFL Draft

During the NFL Draft process, every team is trying to improve their team both for the now and for the long-term by using a hybrid of “best player available” on their board and addressing clear team needs.

But for some teams, the NFL Draft can be their chance to reshape their teams’ identity. And for these seven teams, it not only was a vessel to add talent to their roster, but a major step in upgrading, altering, and transforming their teams’ future.

Chicago Bears (In win-now mode)

The Bears entered the 2024 NFL Draft process with an obvious choice at first overall in Caleb Williams, their new franchise quarterback, and many questions beyond that. And even before draft weekend, it was fairly clear what their plan was: Build this team to win ASAP with Williams at the helm.

The team traded their fourth round pick for Keenan Allen and their fifth round pick for Ryan Bates, to further bolster the offense. Then they opted not trade down from the ninth overall pick (to acquire more draft capital) and instead picked Williams’s favorite receiver in the draft in Rome Odunze.

Add in that they added OL depth in Kiran Amedijie and the first punter off the board in Tory Taylor, and they’ve clearly done everything they could to give Caleb Williams and their offense every chance to be a top-half of the league unit in his rookie season.

Washington Commanders (Coveting playmakers in rebuild)

Washington, under new GM Adam Peters, was slated to take a quarterback at No. 2 overall, but determining what identity he wanted this team to be was still to be determined. Based on his draft selections, it’s clear he values impact playmakers over size and clear positional value.

After taking maybe the most dynamic quarterback in the draft in Jayden Daniels, he followed it up with a dynamic yet undersized interior defensive lineman Johnny Newton, Tyrann Mathieu clone yet scheme limited nickel Mike Sainristill, and versatile yet non-traditional tight end Ben Sinnott in the second round.

Washington, a team with ample talent inherited by Peters, has the weapons and versatile players to make an impact early if these rookies can find their footing quickly.

New England Patriots (Valuing competition at WR and OL)

After much conversation, the Patriots decided to stick at third overall and selected Drake Maye with their third pick. But after that, it’s clear this team, now under Eliot Wolf and Jerod Mayo’s command, is clearly valuing heavy competition across the rest of their offense.

They drafted Ja’Lynn Polk and Javon Baker in the second and fourth round, respectively, a year after drafting slot receiver of the future Pop Douglas and two years after spending a second-round pick on Tyquan Thornton. Those four players combined with veterans like Juju Smith Schuster, Kendrick Bourne, KJ Osborn and more, is a 9 to 10 man battle for the 6-7 roster spots
on the Patriots opening 53, with no spot in the receiver room guaranteed.

And along the offensive line, the competition may be even stiffer. After extending Mike Onwenu, signing Chukwuma Okoafor in free agency, and drafting three OL a year ago, the Patriots drafted Caedan Wallace early in the third round to be their left tackle of the future and Lasyden Robinson in the fourth to challenge at guard. Altogether, the Patriots likely have around 15 players vying for the 9-10 offensive line spots on their roster.

Minnesota Vikings (Very confident in roster and depth)

Minnesota has been aggressive in the draft over the last few years, but this year, they took it to another level, putting a lot of trust in their past draft picks and current overall roster.

The Vikings moved up one pick to select J.J. McCarthy, their quarterback of the future but, barring Sam Darnold struggling, isn’t expected to play much as a rookie.

And in a combination of two trades, one with the Texans earlier in the draft process and a second on draft night with the Jaguars, the Vikings altogether traded their second, fifth and sixth round picks in the 2024 draft and their second, third, and fourth round picks in the 2025 draft to select Dallas Turner.

Along with losing three picks in next year’s draft, the Vikings only had one other pick in the 2024 draft’s top-170 picks, and selected Khyree Jackson at corner. 

The Vikings are banking on their current roster to protect, support and guide the Sam Darnold/McCarthy offense this year and beyond.

Los Angeles Rams (Replacing Aaron Donald in the aggregate)

Replacing Aaron Donald, the best defensive player in NFL history, can’t be done with one player. But as Billy Beane did with the Oakland As in the early 2000s with Jason Giambi, the Rams used the 2024 draft to try and recreate Donald in the aggregate.

With their first two picks, the Rams drafted the class’s best power edge rusher in the draft in Jared Verse and his college teammate, the incredibly explosive and flexible defensive tackle Braden Fiske. Pairing these two already cohesive pass rushers to play alongside Kobie Turner, last year’s defensive rookie of the year runner-up, will allow their defensive line to hit the ground running.

Additionally, the team added two depth pieces on Day 3 in defensive end Brennan Jackson and defensive tackle Tyler Davis, turning a positional unit that may have been in a weakness into one of the strongest parts of the Rams roster this year and for the future.

Pittsburgh Steelers (Reshaping their offensive line)

Many around the league and covering the draft fully expected the Steelers to address their offensive line need early in the draft. But I don’t think anyone expected how much they wanted to revamp their unit.

The Steelers drafted not one, not two, but THREE offensive linemen in the first four rounds of the draft, adding potentially their left tackle (Troy Fautanu), left guard (Mason McCormick) and center (Zach Frazier) of the future in one draft, though there’s some wiggle room on where exactly each of these three will play.

And this is just a removed from the Steelers drafting Broderick Jones in the first round to be one of their bookend offensive tackles. In just two years, the Steelers may have four of their five starting offensive linemen drafted from just these two draft classes.

New York Jets (All in on Aaron Rodgers)

It was no surprise that the Jets used their first round pick to bolster their offense to aid Aaron Rodgers. But it was a surprise that the Jets used not one, but four of their first five draft picks on the offensive side of the ball.

They started with their left tackle of the future (and potentially their left guard of the 2024 season) in Olu Fashanu, but then added Malachi Corley, an impact perimeter and potentially slot receiver with awesome run after catch ability for Aaron Rodgers, and Braelon Allen and Isaiah Davis in the fourth and fifth rounds to add to their already strong running back room.

Offensive line, receiver and running back were already positions of strength for the year based on their past early draft picks and 2023 and 2024 off-season signings, but it’s clear the Jets both trust their defense and know that all their available assets need to make sure Aaron Rodgers stays healthy and is able to get them to the promised land this season.

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