NFL Mock Draft: Vikings Trade Down With Steelers For 2023 First-Round Pick

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As the 2022 NFL Draft approaches, the idea of the Vikings trading back in the first round continues to be one that makes a lot of sense. If players like Kayvon Thibodeaux, Sauce Gardner, Kyle Hamilton, and Derek Stingley Jr. are off the board, it might behoove GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah to move down and take a player with similar potential to one he could grab with the 12th pick.

It all depends on the Vikings’ draft board and how they have various players graded, but it seems like there are enough talented players at positions of need that Adofo-Mensah and company could feel good about moving down and still landing an impact contributor.

The benefit of that approach, as we saw last year when the Vikings moved from 14 to 23 and took Christian Darrisaw, is the additional draft capital you gain. Then-GM Rick Spielman landed two extra third-round picks from the Jets in that deal. But what if a hypothetical trade isn’t based around extra picks in this year’s draft, but rather a first-round pick in 2023?

That’s exactly the scenario presented by NFL.com’s Chad Reuter in his latest four-round mock draft. Here’s his proposed trade with the Pittsburgh Steelers:

  • Steelers get: Pick 12
  • Vikings get: Pick 20, 2023 first-round pick, 2023 third-round pick

The Steelers, whose current quarterbacks are Mitchell Trubisky and Mason Rudolph, need a QB of the future. So they come up and take Cincinnati’s Desmond Ridder at 12, making him the fourth QB taken (Malik Willis, Kenny Pickett, and Matt Corral all go in the top five in Reuter’s mock).

The return feels realistic and fair, based on precedent. In 2019, the Steelers traded a second and a third to move up ten spots for linebacker Devin Bush. And last year, in a similar deal to this one, the Bears traded a fifth, their 2022 first, and a 2022 fourth to move up from 20 to 11 for QB Justin Fields.

Based on rumors, it seems like the Steelers may be considering moving up, presumably for a QB. Take that with a grain of salt, but it’s understandable on paper.

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The interesting part of this trade is that Stingley, Hamilton, Jermaine Johnson, and several top wide receivers were still on the board at 12. So if the Vikings really like one of those players, they’re probably not moving down. But if they have concerns about that group of prospects, this makes a lot of sense. One year out, the 2023 draft class is viewed as a very strong one, and the Steelers’ first-round pick could end up being fairly high with either Trubisky or a rookie Ridder starting at QB.

Johnson, Stingley, Hamilton, and a couple receivers come off the board between picks 13 and 19 in Reuter’s mock. With the 20th pick, the Vikings draft Utah linebacker Devin Lloyd.

Although the Vikings have Eric Kendricks and Jordan Hicks as off-ball LBs, it’s a sneaky need for them. Kendricks is 30 and Hicks is 29. Minnesota’s young linebackers — Blake Lynch, Troy Dye, and Chazz Surratt — haven’t proven much. And in a 3-4 defense, there would be ways for coordinator Ed Donatell to deploy a versatile, talented player like Lloyd right away as a rookie.

Lloyd had an incredible All-American season in 2021 for Utah, racking up 110 tackles, 8 sacks, 22 total TFLs, 4 interceptions, and 10 total passes defended. Here’s the scouting report from The Athletic’s Dane Brugler, who ranks Lloyd as his top off-ball linebacker in the class:

A three-year starter at Utah, Lloyd played the “Mac” linebacker position in defensive coordinator Morgan Scalley’s 4-2-5 base scheme where he was asked to do a little bit of everything, including cover and blitz (inside and outside). A high school safety, he morphed into a playmaking linebacker and established himself as one of the best defensive players in the country, leading the team in tackles three consecutive years and becoming just the 10th consensus All-American in school history as a senior. Lloyd plays with speed and suddenness in his movements to weave through traffic in pursuit or change directions and make plays in coverage. He has room to improve his play strength and posture as a take-on player, but he does a great job scraping and sifting with his slippery athleticism and length to make plays at the line of scrimmage. Overall, Lloyd doesn’t have to come off the field with his impressive blend of instincts, chase speed and explosiveness to blitz, play the run and cover. He projects as a scheme-proof NFL starter and a better version of Los Angeles Chargers’ Kenneth Murray. 

The Vikings then address the secondary in the next two rounds of Reuter’s mock, taking Washington CB Kyler Gordon at 46 and Maryland safety Nick Cross at 77. And in 2023, they’re set up to add even more talent with two firsts, a second, and two thirds.

Depending on how you feel about Lloyd, that could be a home run outcome. They could also make a move like this and still take a defensive back or defensive lineman in the first round. Cornerbacks Trent McDuffie, Andrew Booth Jr., and Kaiir Elam were all on the board at 20 in this mock, as were defensive linemen George Karlaftis and Devonte Wyatt.

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