Minnesota Vikings Mock Draft: Morris Claiborne over Matt Kalil?
We are quickly approaching the 2012 NFL draft, and there's still so many questions that have yet to be answered.
For starters, where will Peyton Manning be playing in 2012? Teams like the Cardinals, Redskins, Dolphins and Jets are interested, but which one will pull the trigger?
Also, we know Robert Griffin III is going to be a top-five pick, but will that involve a trade from a team like Washington, who owns the sixth overall pick?
Hopefully within the coming months we will be able to get answers to some of these questions, but until then, we are only able to speculate.
As for the Minnesota Vikings, they own the third pick, and have plenty of options.
A lot of what the Vikings do, however, will be based upon whether or not the Rams decide to trade down from the second selection.
Whether or not they do, talents like Matt Kalil, Riley Reiff, Justin Blackmon and Morris Claiborne are sure to be on their radar.
So, will the Vikings look to solidify the left side of their line with a dominant tackle like Kalil, or draft one of the best cornerback prospects in quite some time in Morris Claiborne?
Maybe they'll even surprise us all and draft Robert Griffin III. Besides, stranger things have happened before.
Without further ado, let's take a look at who the Vikings will be taking with the third pick, and who they'll be targeting in Rounds 2 through 7.
Round 1 (3rd Overall): Matt Kalil, Offensive Tackle, USC
Matt Kalil (75) talking with reports after USC's victory over Utah.
Harry How/Getty Images
Weeks ago, I believed that the Vikings were the favorites to trade down with the Redskins. Now, I'm a firm believer that the St. Louis Rams will be the team to pull it off.
If the Redskins do trade up, it will be to take Robert Griffin III. With Andrew Luck a virtual lock to go No. 1, this will leave Matt Kalil available at pick No. 3.
The Vikings offensive line was abysmal last season, and it made a big difference in both the run and pass game.
Minnesota signed former Colts guard Charlie Johnson to start at left tackle, and needless to say, it didn't work out whatsoever. Don't expect him back next year, folks.
John Sullivan is there to stay at center for the Vikings, but they have question marks at all four other positions on the offensive line.
However, landing a dominant left tackle can completely turn around an offensive line. Think about how much better the Browns are with Joe Thomas, and how improved the Cowboys' offensive line was in 2011 with Tryon Smith.
Matt Kalil was listed as 295 pounds only a week ago, but he has since told reporters that he's gained 15 pounds, in order to help boost his strength.
Like Kalil, Tryon Smith did this last year, bumping up from around 280 pounds to 310. It clearly worked for Smith, and there's no doubt that it will work for Kalil, as well.
Round 2 (35th Overall): Alfonzo Dennard, Defensive Back, Nebraska
Alfonzo Dennard receiving a hug from head coach Bo Pelini.
Eric Francis/Getty Images
Alfonzo Dennard, who was at one point a projected top-15 selection, has since fallen to the second round. Why, you ask?
Dennard, being a senior, elected to participate in the Senior Bowl. However, Dennard looked average against receivers in practice, and suffered a hip injury in the actual game.
Despite the mediocre Senior Bowl week, Dennard is still one of the top talents in the draft. He's very agile and has the ability to play at either cornerback or safety.
Fortunately for the Vikings, they have needs at both cornerback and safety, so they'll be able to use Dennard in whatever way they choose.
Dennard is extremely physical, and plays best when playing in man-to-man coverage. He tends to lose receivers when giving them a 10-yard cushion.
With a solid combine, Dennard will cement himself into the top 40 picks. I don't see him being a first-rounder, but the Vikings won't hesitate to snatch him up early in the second.
Round 3 (67th Overall): Tommy Streeter, Wide Receiver, Miami
Tommy Streeter (8) saying his prayers before facing Virginia Tech.
Joel Auerbach/Getty Images
Although this may not be a popular pick with some, allow me to explain. Tommy Streeter did only have one good year with the Hurricanes, but that's only because he rarely saw the field during his first two years.
When on the field last year, Streeter was a force to be reckoned with. He went on to catch 46 passes for 811 yards and eight touchdowns. This is on a Hurricanes team that is always run-first. Besides, Jacory Harris isn't the most accurate quarterback out there.
The Vikings are in desperate need of playmakers on offense. Outside of Percy Harvin, Minnesota doesn't have a consistent weapon that they can throw the ball to.
While Tommy Streeter won't be the cure to those problems, it's not as though he's going to be starting right away.
I have no doubt that the Vikings will try and sign one of the top free-agent wide receivers available this offseason. Receivers like Dwayne Bowe, Pierre Garcon, Stevie Johnson, Marques Colston, DeSean Jackson, Vincent Jackson and Mike Wallace are all available, and I doubt they all sign with the team they played for in 2011.
Back to Streeter. He has excellent feet and great speed. If he can run the 40 in under 4.45 seconds, there's no chance that he'll fall past the first 80 picks.
With his size-speed combo, Streeter will be a very intriguing prospect for the Vikings.
Round 4 (98th Overall): Ryan Steed, Cornerback, Furman
Ryan Steed (1) of Furman, lining up on defense.
Before I begin, let me tell you that I am a huge fan of Ryan Steed. Obviously I didn't get to see much of him at Furman, but he impressed me during Senior Bowl week.
While I don't believe he'll ultimately fall past the third round, for right now, he's an early fourth-round prospect. However, that will all change when the combine rolls around.
Ryan Steed has excellent speed, and is believed to be able to run a 4.42 40 with relative ease. If so, this could even put Steed into the latter part of the second round.
There has been some talk that Steed could sneak into the first round, but that was way too bold of a suggestion for a guy that most hadn't heard of before the Senior Bowl.
Minnesota, as I mentioned before, desperately needs talent in the secondary. Cedric Griffin will likely be cut, Chris Cook might be in jail and neither Asher Allen or Brandon Burton are exactly a heap of talent.
Steed has excellent speed, agility and stamina, but his toughness and physicality will need plenty of work. Needless to say, it will take him a year or two before he can cover No. 1 wide receivers.
Round 5 (131st Overall): Lucas Nix, Offensive Guard, Pittsburgh
Lucas Nix (52), starting Right Guard for the Pittsburgh Panthers.
After solidifying the secondary, the Vikings must look to add depth to their putrid offensive line. Also, Steve Hutchinson and Anthony Herrera might not be around, so things are getting even thinner.
Chris DeGeare, who was expected to take over for Herrera at right guard this season, hasn't had the easiest time in the NFL, but still has plenty of potential.
After drafting Matt Kalil, the Vikings will have three solidified spots on their offensive line. Kalil will be Minnesota's starting left tackle, while John Sullivan will man the middle at center and Phil Loadholt will be at right tackle.
As for the guard spots, they are completely up in the air. Brandon Fusco has potential at right guard, but still has plenty to learn before that can happen.
Don't be surprised if the Vikings take a look at their horrid guard situation and just decide to go after free-agent guard Carl Nicks. Nicks and the Saints are far off in negotiations, and it wouldn't be the first time Minnesota spent big money on a guard.
Whether they do or not, the Vikings still need depth, which is where a guy like Lucas Nix will step in.
Nix has the perfect size for a guard, and he should be able to play on either the left or the right side. Hopefully he can become the next John Sullivan for the Vikings.
Round 6 (163rd Overall): Darius Fleming, Linebacker, Notre Dame
Darius Fleming making the tackle for Notre Dame
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Not the biggest need for the Vikings, but in the later rounds you don't really draft for skill, you draft more so for depth.
Both E.J. and Erin Henderson are set to be free agents this offseason and there's no guarantee that either one will be back with the team.
Although I believe Erin, and not E.J., will be re-signed, the Vikings still need to add depth behind Henderson and Pro Bowl linebacker Chad Greenway.
As for Darius Fleming, he's one of the most underrated prospects in the draft. With the ability to play at any linebacker spot, he will be quite intriguing for many teams in the late rounds.
Fleming needs to work on his ability to rush the passer, though. His main problem is the fact that he's unable to get a good first step once the ball is snapped.
On the other hand, Fleming has superior strength and doesn't often miss a tackle. He also has a great motor and attitude, which will go a long way for him in the NFL.
Round 7 (196th Overall): Levy Adcock, Offensive Lineman, Oklahoma State
Levy Adcock (73), swing tackle for the Oklahoma State Cowboys
Even more depth for the Vikings on the offensive line, but believe me, they need it. Also, Levy Adcock is one of the best players available at this point. Actually, he's one of the best seventh-rounders there may ever be.
Adcock, who played mainly at tackle for Oklahoma State, is a three-sport athlete with tremendous athleticism.
The reason why Adcock is not a higher-rated prospect is because he only saw the field a couple times before his junior season.
However, when he got on the field, Adcock made a tremendous impact. In his sophomore season, he lined up at tight end of numerous occasions.
Adcock was selected to the All-Big 12 Conference First-Team in 2011, mainly due to the fact that he was one of the many reasons why Brandon Weeden was so successful last season.
As for Levy (pronounced lev-ee), he is a natural when it comes to pass-protection, but struggles on running plays. He's very late off the snap, and opposing defensive linemen often easily get by him.
If Adcock wants to succeed in the NFL, he must work on his footwork and awareness. He will likely serve as a swing tackle, at best, for the Vikings in his rookie year. After that, who knows?
Round 7 (209th Overall, from New England): Eddie Pleasant, Safety, Oregon
Eddie Pleasant (11) attempting to knock away a pass from Stanford Tight End Coby Fleener
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
After finishing the offensive line depth, Minnesota will attempt to do the same for their secondary.
If you watched the Vikings last year, you know that their secondary was horrible, and a lot of it had to do with how poor their safeties played.
Husain Abdullah was virtually the only safety on the Vikings roster that held his own when it came to tackling and coverage.
Tyrell Johnson, who typically plays at strong safety, may not be back next season. Jamarca Sanford, who had a terrible year, may get released at some point.
Basically, there are only two safeties (Husain Abdullah and Mistral Raymond) that are going to be guaranteed roster spots.
Eddie Pleasant, who led the Ducks in interceptions in 2011, is undersized for a safety, but he's a solid tackler and has plenty of energy on the field.
Don't expect Pleasant to make the Vikings' 2012 roster.
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