Minnesota Vikings: Assessing the Vikings' Options with the 3rd Pick

Tim ArcandCorrespondent IJanuary 21, 2012

Minnesota Vikings: Assessing the Vikings' Options with the 3rd Pick

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    The Minnesota Vikings have their highest pick in the draft since they owned the first overall pick in 1968. The good news is, with so many needs, the only way the Minnesota Vikings can mess up the third pick in the 2012 NFL Draft would be to take too long to complete a deal in an attempt to move down, and fall two places in the draft—the exact scenario that occurred in 2003 when the Vikings were supposed to pick seventh and dropped to ninth.

    It wasn't all bad that year. With the ninth pick they selected defensive tackle Kevin Williams, who is a five-time First Team All Pro. The players selected at seven and nine? Quarterback Byron Leftwich and offensive tackle Jordan Gross, respectively. At the time, the Vikings said they got their man, and looking back, they were right.

    Enough looking back. Let's look at this year's draft, and the options the Vikings have.

    The only positions the Vikings don't have a hole to plug might be defensive end, punter and, arguably, quarterback. No matter who the Vikings select, he is sure to improve the team.

    There's been plenty of draft speculation lately. WalterFootball.com compiled an extensive list of mock drafts in cyberspace dating as far back as May of 2011. 

    The results from 243 drafts overwhelmingly have the Vikings selecting offensive tackle Matt Kalil from USC. In 35.8 percent of the drafts, he was the third player selected.

    Cornerback Morris Claiborne finished second on 21.0 percent of the mock drafts, followed closely by Oklahoma State wide receiver Justin Blackmon at 20.6 percent of the time.

    Quickly dropping off to round out the top four, North Carolina defensive end Quinton Coples was on 11 of the drafts—half of these were projected before the 2011 season. 

    There is always the option for the Vikings to trade their third pick and move down in the draft, picking up another draft pick or two, which is a very plausible option.

    Here are seven potential scenarios that could play out for the Vikings when it's their turn to make a selection.

Select Quarterback Andrew Luck

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    In only a bizarro world would the Vikings have the opportunity to select Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck. 

    There were actually four mock drafts that had Luck falling to the third spot in the draft. Three of these can be excused since they were published before the 2011 NFL season began, and the Colts decided to throw in the towel before even playing a game.

    As for the fourth, he must be associated with my ex-brother-in-law, who constantly wanted to give me financial advice. It just proves that you cannot always rely on what you read on the Internet.

    More than 90 percent of the mock drafts have Luck heading to Indy—which is a pretty good bet.

Select Quarterback Robert Griffin III

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    After the Colts select Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck, the Rams could go in any number of directions, but it is very unlikely they would take Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III.

    That makes the odds pretty good that the Heisman Trophy winner will still be available when the Vikings are on the clock with the third pick. 

    Whether "RG3" ends up in purple will depend on the confidence the Vikings have in Christian Ponder as their quarterback of the future. With plenty of teams looking for a quarterback, the Vikings could make this selection looking to trade Ponder.

    Along with Joe Webb, this would give them two quarterbacks that pose a threat to either run or pass the ball and would provide a consistent game plan for offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave, allowing for either Webb or Griffin to be at the helm.

    Of course, it would mean suffering through another season with a rookie quarterback.

    It's not likely the Vikings will go this route, but there is another option...

Select Quarterback Robert Griffin III from Baylor and Make a Deal

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    There are plenty of teams that are looking for quarterbacks in 2012. Cleveland with the fourth pick and Washington with the sixth are two that could be very interested in Robert Griffin III.

    Approximately one-third of the 243 2012 mock drafts published had Griffin as the popular selection for Cleveland.

    If the Rams draft offensive tackle Matt Kalil, then the Vikings could draft Griffin and work out a draft day deal, with the Browns or Redskins selecting Morris Claiborne or Justin Blackmon.

    In return, the Vikings would be sure to pick up an additional draft pick, giving them another opportunity to address one of their many needs. 

Look to Trade Down and Select Running Back Trent Richardson

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    Who would have ever thought that the Vikings would need to draft a running back—especially in the first round.

    With both Adrian Peterson and Toby Gerhart suffering late season knee injuries, this has become an area of concern. Sure, Gerhart should be 100 percent by training camp, since he does not require surgery.

    While Peterson is known for his recuperative powers, there's no guarantee that he will be as effective as he was in his first four seasons, when he averaged 1,445 yards and 13 touchdowns. 

    Trent Richardson had only one season as the starter in Alabama, but he made the most of it. He rushed for 1,679 yards and scored 21 touchdowns. He added 338 receiving yards and another three receiving touchdowns to surpass 2,000 yards from scrimmage. 

    Depending on who the Vikings make a deal with, Richardson could be available later in the first round, especially if the Browns are able to draft Robert Griffin III with the fourth pick.

    With so many needs in the Vikings' roster, this would not be a popular move, unless they get an additional second or third-round pick in the swap of first-round picks. Carolina and Jacksonville are two teams that could be looking to move up within range, allowing the Vikings to still be able to select Richardson.

Select Wide Receiver Justin Blackmon from Oklahoma State

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    The Minnesota Vikings desperately need a No. 1 receiver. Selecting Justin Blackmon would go a long way to filling that need. 

    While Percy Harvin is the Vikings' most explosive offensive player, he is best suited as the slot receiver or coming out of the backfield as a running back. Blackmon would complement Harvin well, providing the Vikings with a very good outside receiver. 

    A two-time Biletnikoff Award winner, he caught 232 passes for 38 touchdowns and 3,304 yards over the last two seasons at Oklahoma State.

    Putting Blackmon on the field with tight end Kyle Rudolph and Harvin would give Christian Ponder an excellent trio of targets. 

Draft LSU Cornerback Morris Claiborne

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    As bad as the Vikings' defensive secondary was this past season, there would not be a lot of criticism if they draft LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne with the third pick.

    Claiborne would be only the second defensive back taken in the first round in franchise history. In 1994, the Vikings selected Dewayne Washington with the 18th pick in the first round. 

    With the return of a healthy, but aging, Antoine Winfield, along with the possible return of Chris Cook, Claiborne would give the Vikings a huge lift at cornerback.

    Cook, whose status with the team hinges on the outcome of his trial in March for felony domestic assault, along with Claiborne as the Vikings' cornerbacks has the potential to be the best Vikings cornerback tandem since Bobby Bryant and Nate Write in the 70's.

    The only reason to make this pick is if the best option is no longer available.

    That option? By now it's pretty easy to determine who that might be... 

Jump All over Matt Kalil, Offensive Tackle from USC

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    If the St. Louis Rams pass on selecting offensive tackle Matt Kalil, the Vikings should take no longer than a nanosecond to race to the podium to make this pick.

    In franchise history, the Vikings have taken an offensive lineman four times with their first- round draft pick—and it's worked out pretty good in three of the four.

    The last time Minnesota selected an offensive lineman was with the seventh pick in 2002, when they drafted Bryant McKinnie. McKinnie played nine seasons with the Vikings before head coach Leslie Frazier released him in training camp this past season.

    In 1988, they drafted guard Randall McDaniel, who played 12 years with the Vikings and is in the Hall of Fame. With the first overall pick in 1968, they selected another future Hall of Fame player in tackle Ron Yary, who played 14 years with Minnesota.

    The only time it failed to provide any dividends was in 1970, when they selected John Ward with the 25th pick. In six seasons, Ward would only make three starts.

    Kalil could be the left tackle who anchors the Vikings' offensive line in 2012 and for the better part of the next decade and beyond.