ESPN Expert Jordan Reid Reveals Likely Vikings Defensive Draft Targets to Paul Allen

Photo: Paul Allen - @PAOnTheMic (X)

The Minnesota Vikings, along with the rest of the NFL, are in Indianapolis this week at the annual scouting combine. While most of the news that’s come out of Indy so far has been about current players and possible free agent signings, front offices will soon turn their attention to the hundreds of draft eligible prospects who are ready to get poked, prodded and scrutinized at Lucas Oil Stadium, both physically and mentally.

And when that happens, ESPN NFL Draft expert and insider Jordan Reid — who also happens to be a huge Vikings fan — believes general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah, head coach Kevin O’Connell and defensive coordinator, Brian Flores, will gravitate to some specific defensive players he has projected across the first couple days of picks, come April.

Defensive players the Vikings may target in NFL Draft – per Jordan Reid (ESPN)

Reid sat down with Paul Allen on KFAN Radio Tuesday for their regularly scheduled combine interview and he was excited about eight defensive playmakers that he believes the Vikings are either already interested in or soon will be.

At approximately the 45-minute mark of the above episode, Reid dives into the defensive players he likes for the Vikings. Remember, Jordan bleeds purple and gold and started his path to ESPN writing and doing video/podcast content on the Vikings, along with the NFL Draft. There’s no team in the league that Jordan Reid has his finger on more than our Vikings. If he says Kwesi & Co are or will be interested in someone, you listen.

DL Jer’Zhan Newton – Illinois

minnesota vikings Jer'Zhan Newton draft target
Ron Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Newton is one of the most experienced defensive linemen in this year’s draft class. The three-year starter brings juice and strength as a run defender. He also had a career-best 7.5 sacks for the Illini last season.

“He was the focal point of that defense (Illinois) coming into the year, and he upped his game. Over 700 snaps last year, which was 8th in the FBS last year. So, he doesn’t come off the field…If you’re asking him to strictly be a three-technique, penetrate and get up the field right now, and you can also move him around, I think he would be a great fit.”

ESPN Draft Analyst Jordan Reid on KFAN Radio Tuesday

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If Minnesota is looking to bring both depth and energy to their defensive interior, the 6-2, 300-pound Newton could be a wise first-round selection for HC Kevin O’Connell and DC Brian Flores.

CB Terrion Arnold – Alabama

Any cornerback that is coached by Nick Saban at the highest level is going to have quite the future. This is exactly the case with Arnold. The Tallahassee native had a whopping five interceptions last season and proved that he is a great tackler.

“I think he’s the best cornerback in the draft…He’s played slot, he’s played outside, and he’s a very, very good athlete…You’re talking about somebody that is such an easy mover and has really good ball skills.”

ESPN Draft Analyst Jordan Reid on KFAN Radio Tuesday

He jumped from 45 total tackles in 2022 to 63 in 2023. If Minnesota is looking for a player that has all the potential to be an elite defender, the All-American in Arnold is one of those guys.

CB Quinyon Mitchell – Toledo

Quinyon Mitchell has a lot to love about him. Not only can he play against against anybody, but he can also shut anybody down. He combined for 37 pass break-ups over the last two seasons. He also combined for six interceptions. He has a good size (6-0, 196 pounds) and all the intangibles that he needs to be a big-time player for a long, long time.

Related: 10 Fastest Minnesota Vikings 40-Yard Dash Times at NFL Scouting Combine

“He was the best player at the Senior Bowl to me. He was absolutely terrific. He’s probably going to be one of the best testers at the Combine. It wouldn’t surprise me if he ends up running in the low-to-mid 4.3s, jumping 40+, and then exceeding 11 feet in the broad jump…He’s going against Marvin Harrison Jr. back in 2022, and he held up. So being a Toldeo corner, he was fantastic.”

ESPN Draft Analyst Jordan Reid on KFAN Radio Tuesday

CB Kool-Aid McKinstry – Alabama

Kool-Aid McKinstry

Kool-Aid McKinstry was the Robin to Terrion Arnold’s Batman in 2023. Opposing quarterbacks were terrified to throw his way. After having 15 pass break-ups in 2022, Mckinstry had just 7 in 2023. Kool-Aid is one of Reid’s favorite cornerbacks in the draft.

“Another one of my favorites in this draft class. Kool-Aid had a lot of buzz coming into the year…He had a great year last year…He’s probably going to be a back-end-of-the-first-round type of player. He’s one the Vikings are going to like quite a bit too.

ESPN Draft Analyst Jordan Reid on KFAN Radio Tuesday

Regardless, he doesn’t give up big plays. Like Quinyon Mitchell, McKinstry has solid size (6-1, 196 pounds) and a great track record going up against great players when given the opportunity. Look for the All-American to be in the mix for the Vikings in round 1.

CB Cam Hart – Notre Dame

He might not grab all the headlines because he most likely won’t be a first-round pick, but Cam Hart is a guy to watch. He started 47 career games in college, so it’s fair to say that he has loads of experience under his belt.

“He’s about 6-2, 210 pounds. He was a wide receiver when he first got to Notre Dame. So those ball skills have transitioned over to the cornerback position. He was another that was terrific down at the Senior Bowl. A really good tackler…Somebody who is really instinctive.”

ESPN Draft Analyst Jordan Reid on KFAN Radio Tuesday

In addition to being a great tackler, the Baltimore native has a nose for the ball seeing as he forced three fumbles in 2023. With his size and intelligence, perhaps Brian Flores could find a way to move him around. Having a versatile defender with size is a great weapon for any defense.

LB Cedric Gray – North Carolina

Despite being a little undersized (235 lbs), Gray is a tackling machine. He combined for 265 total tackles over the last two seasons. So, just imagine if he improves his wrap-up tackling and vision. The NFL is changing in terms of the types of linebackers that teams employ.

“He’s a really good athlete…Sideline-to-sideline guy. Very good in pass coverage…He needs to clean up his eyes a little bit… He has to be a little bit better of a wrap-up tackler.”

ESPN Draft Analyst Jordan Reid on KFAN Radio Tuesday

Smaller, faster defenders that can do it all. In addition to being a productive tackler, Gray also had 5 sacks, 4 passes deflections, and multiple forced fumbles in 2023. He’ll be a guy to watch for Minnesota.

LB Payton Wilson – N.C. State

Payton Wilson
Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

“I think he’s going to be a really explosive tester. He won every ward that you can think of in the country last year. He’s had a couple of season-ending knee injuries, so medicals are going to be really big for him.”

ESPN Draft Analyst Jordan Reid on KFAN Radio Tuesday

Payton Wilson is a guy that can become an All-Pro kind of player, if he remains healthy. Again, that is a big if. He recorded 138 tackles last season for the Wolfpack, in addition to recording 6 sacks and 3 interceptions. He is all over the field and has the potential to be a very, very steady defensive piece if he can stay off of the injury report.

LB Ty’Ron Hopper – Missouri

Hopper is a smaller linebacker (6-2, 221 pounds), which is exactly why he could be great in this Vikings defense. His athleticism and speed allows him to drop back into pass coverage while also keeping an eye on the events in the backfield.

“Really explosive. A little raw…But his pass coverage and blitzing, I think Flores is going to like him a lot.”

ESPN Draft Analyst Jordan Reid on KFAN Radio Tuesday

The more speed on defense, the less productivity comes for the opposing offense. He is a fourth-round or fifth-round pick that could really make some waves as a smaller linebacker.

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