Vikings coach Mike Zimmer is fond of saying, “You can never have too many cornerbacks.”
With that in mind, it seemed likely entering April that the Vikings were thinking about taking at least one cornerback in the NFL draft. Now, it seems more likely they’re looking into selecting multiple players at that position in the draft, which runs Thursday through Saturday in Cleveland.
On April 5, Jeff Gladney, a starting cornerback last season as a rookie, was arrested in Dallas on a charge of third-degree felony family violence assault for an alleged incident on April 2. CBS 11, a Dallas-Fort Worth television station, has reported that, according to the arrest affidavit, Gladney allegedly struck a woman, “began strangling” her and “dragged (her) across the ground” while a vehicle they were in was moving.
It remains to be seen what will happen with Gladney’s case, and with his future in Minnesota. Sgt. Warren Mitchell of the Dallas Police Department said Monday that no information has been released on Gladney beyond a statement sent out April 5 confirming the arrest. The NFL is monitoring the case, and Gladney could end up being subject to a suspension.
With some knowledge of the Gladney situation, the Vikings will head into the draft with the idea it might be a good idea to beef up the cornerback spot more than they originally planned.
“There are a lot of good options in the middle rounds,” said draft analyst and former Vikings safety Corey Chavous. “I think this is probably one of the years where, if some of the top cornerbacks are gone and you decide that you want to go get some guys in the third round, you’re going to have plenty of options.”
The Vikings have taken cornerbacks in the first round in three of the past six drafts: Trae Waynes at No. 11 in 2015, Mike Hughes at No. 30 in 2018 and Gladney at No. 31 last year. They’re unlikely to take one with their No. 14 pick this year, and they don’t have a second-round pick. But the Vikings, who have 10 picks overall, could take in cornerback in the third round with their No. 78 or 90 picks and also could address the position later in the draft.
The Vikings entered last season with starting corners Waynes and Xavier Rhodes and nickel back Mackensie Alexander not returning from 2019. And Hughes was lost after six games with a neck injury. Rookies Gladney and Cameron Dantzler became the starters on the outside, and had some growing pains.
In free agency, the Vikings signed cornerback Patrick Peterson, an eight-time Pro Bowl selection, and brought back Alexander after he spent 2020 with Cincinnati. But both players are on one-year contracts, and Hughes is entering the final year of his deal. So the Vikings need to think about the long-term future at the position.
“There are going to be plenty of possibilities in the mid rounds,” NFL Network draft analyst and CBS game analyst Charles Davis said. “The University of Georgia has (three cornerbacks) who are going to get drafted. … Tyson Campbell and Eric Stokes, I don’t think get to the mid rounds, but a D.J. Daniel potentially could.”
Draft analyst Dane Brugler projects Stokes and Campbell as second-round picks and Daniel as a fifth-rounder. They’re three cornerbacks out of a loaded Southeastern Conference.
The top two corners in the draft are out of the SEC: Alabama’s Patrick Surtain and South Carolina’s Jaycee Horn, both expected to go in the first round. After that, in addition to the Georgia players, Brugler projects a handful of SEC cornerbacks going in the top six rounds: Kentucky’s Kelvin Joseph (second), Florida’s Marco Wilson (fourth or fifth), LSU’s Kary Vincent Jr. (sixth or seventh) and South Carolina’s Israel Mukuamu (sixth or seventh).
But perhaps the Vikings won’t have to look far to find a cornerback in the middle rounds. Brugler projects the University of Minnesota’s Benjamin St-Juste to be a fourth- or fifth-round pick.
“I just like his size more anything else,” Davis said of the 6-foot-3, 205-point St-Juste. “He’s a local kid, so they’ll know a little bit more about him. But I definitely like a bigger corner there, and he fits the bill.”
There’s also a good bit of cornerback depth coming out of the Big Ten. In addition to St-Juste, Brugler lists as going in the top five rounds: Northwestern’s Greg Newsome (first), Michigan’s Ambry Thomas (third or fourth), Michigan State’s Shakur Brown (third or fourth) and Ohio State’s Shaun Wade (fifth).