EAGAN, MN (AP) — The Minnesota Vikings began the NFL draft with their highest first-round pick in six years on Thursday night and promptly packaged it in a trade with a division opponent to move down 20 spots for Georgia safety Lewis Cine.
The 6-foot-2, 199-pound Cine (pronounced SEEN) was one of several defensive standouts for the national champion Bulldogs in 2021. He was a third team Associated Press All-American, after leading the team with nine pass breakups and 73 tackles. He had one interception in 15 games.
Cine was the fifth defensive player from Georgia taken in the first round, an NFL record. Linebacker Quay Walker (22nd) and defensive tackle Devonte Wyatt (28th) both went to the Green Bay Packers.
With new general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah at the helm, the Vikings sent the 12th overall selection and pick No. 46 to Detroit for the 32nd, 34th and 66th overall selections. The net result of the 20-spot slide in the first round for the Vikings was an early third-rounder and a 12-spot jump in the second round.
Midway through a trade-filled first round full of twists and turns, the Lions used the No. 12 pick for Alabama wide receiver Jameson Williams, a potential superstar who slipped a bit because he’s recovering from a torn ACL.
There was a hard run on wide receivers in the first round, but the Vikings took themselves out of that mix with the trade. Justin Jefferson has put his name all over the team and league record books over his first two years, but stalwart Adam Thielen will be 32 before the season starts and will need a replacement sooner than later. K.J. Osborn emerged as a solid No. 3 option, too, but new head coach Kevin O’Connell came from the Super Bowl champion Rams, where three-wide receiver formations were the norm.
The Vikings have six-time Pro Bowl pick Harrison Smith entrenched at one safety spot, but he’s 33. Cam Bynum, a fourth-round selection in 2021, had a promising rookie season and would’ve been in line to start at the other spot until Cine entered the picture. The Vikings could’ve also snagged Notre Dame star Kyle Hamilton at No. 12, before they decided to move down. Hamilton went at No. 14 to Baltimore.
This is the first draft for Adofo-Mensah and O’Connell, the fresh-faced and forward-thinking new leaders of a franchise still seeking a Super Bowl title entering its 62nd season in the league.
They’ve both repeatedly referred to their working dynamic as a partnership, with collaboration becoming quite the buzzword in the building, but fair it or not this maneuver on Thursday night will be a major part of the analysis of the job Adofo-Mensah does over time in replacing Rick Spielman.
Spielman took charge of the draft room in 2007 and was given the general manager title in 2012, until being fired along with head coach Mike Zimmer about 3 1/2 months ago following an 8-9 finish for the Vikings in 2021.