The Minnesota Vikings entered the 2020 NFL Draft with two first-round picks. After selecting LSU wide receiver Justin Jefferson with the 22nd overall pick, Minnesota traded back with the San Francisco 49ers, moving down six spots and taking TCU cornerback Jeff Gladney with the 31st overall pick.
Gladney became the second Horned Frog selected in the first round, following teammate Jalen Reagor, who the Eagles nabbed with the 21st overall pick. One of the more accomplished defensive backs TCU has had in recent years, Gladney appeared in 44 games over four seasons after redshirting in 2015. The 6-foot, 183-pounder finished his career with 146 total tackles and five interceptions.
Minnesota entered the draft needing a cornerback after former All-Pro Xavier Rhodes signed with the Indianapolis Colts and 2015 first-rounder Trae Waynes left for the Cincinnati Bengals. The Vikings failed to address the position in free agency, but adding Gladney in the first round will give the team a much-needed boost in coverage. NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero tweeted Thursday that Minnesota did its homework on Gladney, and perhaps hits like these helped sway their decision.
Jeff Gladney hit power for a cornerback is pic.twitter.com/jDBuAjBbCK— TM (@CFBLive247) April 19, 2020
As Pro Football Focus revealed, Gladney has been one of the toughest corners to work against over the last few seasons. The TCU product has forced 49 incomplete passes since 2016, second-most from any corner prospect in this draft, according to PFF. Gladney has been tested against some of best wide receivers in the Big 12 including Baylor’s Denzel Mims, Texas’ Devin Duvernay, Oklahoma’s CeeDee Lamb and Iowa State’s Hakeem Butler.
Gladney logged an incredible 1,487 snaps and saw 232 targets in his five-year career at TCU. Only three other FBS cornerbacks played more snaps or saw more targets over the last four seasons, according to PFF, and his career coverage grade of 89.8 ranks ninth among all FBS corners who totaled at least 1,000 snaps over the last four years.
Vikings RD 1 pick Jeff Gladney has forced the most contested targets (45) in college football since 2018. pic.twitter.com/U2NWZGYFNb— PFF Draft (@PFF_College) April 24, 2020
Gladney will have an opportunity to start right away, and if he can secure the No. 1 corner position over veteran Mike Hughes, he’ll be seeing the likes of Green Bay’s Davante Adams and Chicago’s Allen Robinson twice a year. But Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer lauded Gladney’s competitiveness during a KFAN radio interview, and Gladney’s toughness has been highlighted throughout the draft process, which included running a 4.48 in the 40-yard dash on a torn meniscus at the combine.
#Vikings fans get excited! Jeff Gladney is the most physical CB in the draft. Buckle up receivers!!!— Emmanuel Acho (@thEMANacho) April 24, 2020
What makes him special- #AchoAnswers @DomClare @nacholeber @ArifHasanNFL #NFLDraft #Skol pic.twitter.com/Iq76LWelno
While he redshirted his first season due to a knee injury, Gladney’s durability made him a staple on the TCU defense over the last four seasons. His experience as a No. 1 corner for the Horned Frogs will help him transition to the NFL, where he’ll have the chance to take on the opposing team’s most talented receiver on a weekly basis. It will be exciting to see how the 2019 First-Team All-Big 12 corner performs at the next level.