Minnesota Vikings "Ponder" 2012 NFL Draft
Hannah Foslien/Getty Images
Although Free Agency is still hovering as the NFL marches on toward the 2012 draft, teams are addressing areas of need, wants and hopefully impact players who can make a difference in their team’s success.
Of course, the Minnesota Vikings have been relatively quiet in landing “big name” free agents, but they have addressed a few areas of need. With that said, the draft is beginning to take on a clearer picture.
As of this writing, the Vikings have signed Erin Henderson to a modest one-year contract, probably a good deal for both parties because the Vikings keep a player that understands the system and is a starter. For Henderson, he can prove his worth next year and then, if he is successful, put greater pressure on the Vikings next off season to sign a long-term deal.
But as these signings take place, and there are bound to be a few more for the Vikings, it’s time to start focusing on players the Vikings might consider during the draft. Let’s take a look at all seven rounds and ponder which players could be available and perhaps drafted by the Vikings.
My approach is not to specifically target one guy for each draft spot; it’s all about who is available at what time and whether that fits the Vikings' philosophy. I decided to produce a “likely," “secondary," “surprise drop” and “interesting” categories approach to each round other than Round One, which is hopefully very obvious.
There are a thousand variables, so bear with me as I try to meter out a rational approach to the draft. I think we all understand that the guy we want for every round will not always be there, so there have to be alternatives. That is what this focuses on.
As always, constructive/productive comments are always welcome.
Round One: Pick No. 3
Joe Robbins/Getty Images
Matt Kalil, OL, USC
Kalil is hands down the dominant tackle in this draft, and this pick is a no brainer, but the Vikings could still trade this spot. I do not believe it is likely, but let’s play this out for kicks and giggles.
Minnesota could play some games and talk to Tampa about trading up to draft Trent Richardson.
Yes, the Bucs have Legarrette Blount, but he seems to have injury and fumble issues; Trent Richardson, along with the acquisition of Vincent Jackson and Carl Nicks, will make the Bucs feel like they hit the lotto.
The Vikings know the Browns will not draft a LT because of Joe Thomas, so it is conceivable the Vikings could make a deal and still get Kalil at No. 5 and pick up at least two other picks, maybe one this year and one next year from the Bucs as part of the trade. Of course, there is always a chance of something like this backfiring.
If this happens, the Browns will feel like there is a conspiracy against them. The Browns are most likely looking at Justin Blackmon or Trent Richardson, most likely Richardson.
The Bucs feel pretty good about their free agent signings and could make a gamble on Richardson. And the Browns could make Minnesota’s sleight of hand backfire if they decide to trade down with another team that covets Kalil, but the Vikings will still have their choice of Blackmon or Morris Claiborne.
So, logically, if the Vikings covet three players, they risk losing on one of those three prospects. That is if they are willing and open to this taking place.
If Kalil is taken in the first round the offensive line may look like this, back ups are in parentheses:
Matt Kalil, Charlie Johnson (DeGeare), John Sullivan (Brandon Fusco), Geoff Schwartz (Berger), Phil Loadholt (Brown). However if a top lineman is still on the board the Vikings could go after him.
Of course this is all speculation. I am just playing GM in a make-believe world.
Let’s just take Kalil and move on, the Vikings will likely have 10 picks in this year’s draft.
Round Two: Pick No. 3
Scott Cunningham/Getty Images
Conventional wisdom has the Vikings looking at either defensive back or wide receiver in this spot. The last two years, the Vikings have pulled a surprise in Round Two with Toby Gerhart in 2010, and Kyle Rudolph in 2011, so there could be another surprise here.
The Vikings should have a lot of options here, and I would not be surprised to see them trade down this spot - albeit not that far - for a pick in next year's draft. Remember, Spielman said they are building for 2013-2014.
If he is there: Stephon Gilmore, DB, South Carolina. I have him and Hosley within steps of each other, but I prefer Gilmore’s height.
Secondary consideration: Jayron Hosley, DB, Virginia Tech
If he drops surprise: Kevin Zeitler, G, Wisconsin. This would be an absolute steal.
If Vikings do not sign a WR: Stephen Hill, WR, Georgia Tech
Interesting pick: Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis, but most likely Round One player.
Round Three: Pick No. 3 Plus Compensatory Pick (Sidney Rice)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
There could be an interesting development here because the NFL will begin issuing compensatory picks perhaps starting with Round Three, but most likely Round Four. So, for fun, let’s give the Vikings two picks in this round and two picks in Round Four.
Again, we are looking at best available players at this point. Although we cannot say for sure, it’s unlikely that any of the players mentioned in Round Two will be around in Round Three.
A likely pick: Harrison Smith, S, Notre Dame. 4 S’s: Smart, size, speed, solid
Justification: Right now the Vikings have Mistral Raymond and Andrew Sendejo as FS. If the Vikings are comfortable with those players then FS will not be a draft need this early. However, Smith would be hard to pass on.
Secondary consideration: Marvin McNutt, WR, Iowa
If Vikings go corner in Round Two, there is a high likelihood they will go WR in Round Three.
If he drops surprise: Tommy Streeter, WR, Miami
Interesting pick: Tank Carder, ILB, TCU
Great combine helped draft position. If E.J. is not re-signed, the Vikings have to consider MLB, unless they pull off FA surprise with Stephen Tulloch or Curtis Lofton.
Compensatory pick: Josh Norman, CB, Coastal Carolina
Norman is 6-0, 197, 4.56-40. Good combination of size, speed, athleticism and excellent Senior Bowl helped stock. Plus, he was on the team coached by the Vikings staff, so they got a lot of looks at him.
Round Four: Pick No. 3 and Compensatory Pick
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
Here is where things get interesting. Teams are looking for sleepers, depth or possible dynamic special teams players. At this point the Vikings should have filled at least two necessary positions of need, possibly three if they are granted a compensatory pick in Round Three.
Let’s keep digging. Here are some likely guys that will be available in Round Four.
A likely pick: Jamell Fleming, CB, Oklahoma
Fleming is a solid player with upside. In Round Four that is okay to see in a player because he could be a developmental player who could step in a year or two from now.
He is 5-11, 206, 4.43-40. Fleming also played in the Senior Bowl game, and on the side coached by Vikings coaches.
Secondary consideration: Audie Cole, ILB, NC State
Again, this is all about depth, possibly someone who could push a starter.
If he drops surprise: Nick Jean-Baptiste, DT, Baylor
At 6-1, 335, we are reminded of Pat Williams, and his East-West Shrine game where he dominated improved his stock a great deal.
Interesting pick: Shea McClellin, DE/OLB/ILB, Boise State
McClellin is an interesting guy and worth a gamble in Round Four. He is extremely athletic and has played multiple positions which gives him versatility. His size looks as a tweener at 6-3" 3/8, 260, 4.62-40.
Again, another guy who played for the Vikings coaching staff at the East-West Shrine Game, so they should have a pretty good idea of what the guy can do.
Compensatory Pick: Let’s go with McClellin here.
Round Five: Pick No. 3
Eric Francis/Getty Images
A likely pick: Shaun Prater, CB, Iowa.
Prater is known more as a zone guy, which the Vikings like to run and at 4.47-40, he could be a nice pick up here early in Round Five.
Secondary Pick: T.Y. Hilton, WR/KR, Florida International
Hilton is a scrappy guy who seems more suited as a KR than a WR, and Minnesota probably wants to get away from Harvin returning kicks and Sherels was average, at best.
If he drops surprise: James Brown, OT, Troy
He is suited for RT. He may be a bit short at 6-4, 306, but he performed well against elite opponents and could be a sleeper.
Interesting pick: Demario Davis, OLB, Arkansas State
Another Senior Bowl product, and trust me, this isn’t intentional, but it does play a part when the coaches get a week or more to look at guys.
Davis has great speed and would be a welcome addition to a special teams that played poorly last year….well, wait a minute, the whole damn team played poorly. Davis could be yet another sleeper.
Round Six: Pick No. 3
Steve Dykes/Getty Images
A likely pick: Josh Kaddu, OLB, Oregon
The more the merrier, I say. Kaddu is just flat out an athlete who can make plays behind the line of scrimmage and play on special teams. He did not run at the Combine, but his numbers go like this: 9.5 tackles for loss, 6.5 sacks his senior year, 6.5 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks as a junior.
Secondary Pick: Scott Wedige, C, Northern Illinois
A very solid center who is a Round 5 or 6 prospect. He blocked for Chandler Harnish and was a solid two-year starter. Remember now, the Vikings are looking for depth at this point.
If he drops surprise: Tauren Poole, RB, Tennessee
Poole is strictly a third down option, and would compete with Rex Hilliard and Caleb King, who were signed as free agents.
Interesting pick: Akiem Hicks, DT, Regina Univ (Canada)
I figured, what the heck, the Vikings like looking north of the border and Hicks actually surprised scouts with his athleticism and quickness. At 6-5, 318, he could stand to get a little stronger – 26 reps at 225 – but certainly would be an interesting prospect.
Round Seven: Pick: Pick No. 3, No. 16, Perhaps a Compensatory Pick
Sarah Glenn/Getty Images
Greg McCoy, DB/KR, TCU
If the Vikings don’t draft a versatile player that can return kicks, McCoy would be a good pick here.
Charles Deas, DT, Shaw
At 6-3, 336, he has size and girth to be a back up hole plugger.
Randy Bullock, K, Texas A&M
Ryan Longwell is getting up there, so a kicker in Round Seven would be an option.
One more slide to go
Adam Bettcher/Getty Images
Of course, this is all speculation, but here are my choices should they fall this way:
Round One: Matt Kalil, OT, USC
Round Two: Stephen Hill, WR, Georgia Tech
Round Three: Harrison Smith, S, Notre Dame, Compensatory Pick: Tank Carder, ILB, TCU
Round Four: Jamell Fleming, DB, Oklahoma, Compensatory Pick: Shea McClellin, OLB, Boise State
Round Five: Shaun Prater, DB, Iowa
Round Six: Scott Wedige, C, Northern Illinois
Round Seven: Greg McCoy, DB/KR, TCU, Second Pick: Charles Deas, DT, Shaw, and Compensatory Pick: Randy Bullock, K, Texas A&M
This is a bellwether draft for the Vikings because so much hinges on getting things right. The Vikings need a lot of players, and we, the fans, should be encouraged that of the last two drafts the Vikings have 16 of the 18 players they drafted. That is either a good sign for the future, or yet another in a long line of drafts that do not pan out.