MINNEAPOLIS -- Because the Minnesota Vikings traded their 2017 first-round pick away in the Sam Bradford deal last September, we've been exempt from some of the mock draft fun as pundits make their predictions about whom teams will select in the first round.
But no longer! ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay released dueling two-round mock drafts Wednesday, and each of them has the Vikings addressing a different need with the 48th overall pick later this month. In both cases, though, they picked players who could help address shortcomings of recent Vikings first-round picks at the same positions.
Kiper has the Vikings taking USC wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster with the 48th overall pick, giving the team another big wideout in the mold of Anquan Boldin after the Vikings took Laquon Treadwell in the first round last year. And McShay has the Vikings picking Florida defensive tackle Caleb Brantley -- who could step in at 3-technique tackle, where former Florida defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd is dealing with potentially career-threatening knee injuries.
The Vikings likely need to address both positions in the draft; coach Mike Zimmer has said the team might need to add one or two receivers after losing Cordarrelle Patterson and Charles Johnson in free agency, and the rotation at 3-technique tackle is very much undecided with Floyd trying to return and Datone Jones possibly working at the spot.
From here, it seems easier to see the Vikings looking for help at tackle with their first pick; they again struggled to stop the run in 2016, particularly when teams tried to run away from Linval Joseph, and Brantley would add some strength to the group. He might not have the kind of quickness that's made Floyd a disruptive pass-rusher when he's healthy, but Brantley could play at both the 3-technique and nose spots, and would add some depth to the group while Floyd's status gets sorted out.
Smith-Schuster would fill a need for the Vikings, as well, after Treadwell caught just one pass as a rookie. Zimmer sounded optimistic last week that Treadwell would improve in his second year, and he'll have a new wide receivers coach in former Purdue head coach Darrell Hazell. But the Mississippi product has much to learn about how to be successful in the NFL, and the Vikings could certainly look for a receiver with one of their early picks. Smith-Schuster, like Treadwell, isn't seen as a burner, but he ran a 4.54-second 40-yard dash at the combine and seemed to understand some of the route-running nuances in college that Treadwell was trying to master last year.