Minnesota Vikings Mock Draft: First Full 7-Round Predictions of April
Currently in possession of 10 picks in this month's upcoming draft, the Minnesota Vikings are in position to add at least two new starters and several key backups. The team has at least one pick in each round, including three in the fourth round and two in the seventh round.
Often times when teams have such a high number of picks, they will package together mid-round picks to move up and take a player they really love. This could be exactly what the Vikings do, but for now we must project based on what we know.
The Vikings have quietly addressed several needs through free agency, including signing OL Geoff Schwartz, CB Zackary Bowman, TE John Carlson and re-signing players like DTs Letroy Guion and Fred Evans, LB Erin Henderson and WR Devin Aromashodu.
However, the team still has plenty of holes to fill, most prominently at LT, WR, CB and S. The Vikings' 2012 draft class will be the key to how quickly the team can rebound from two straight seasons of missing the playoffs.
Round 1, Pick 3 (No. 3 Overall)
LT Matt Kalil, USC (6'7", 306 lbs)
The Vikings are in the enviable position of having the new No. 1 pick in the draft. Indianapolis and Washington will, in some order, select QBs Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III with the first two picks.
That means the Vikings, and every other team in the NFL, can prepare their draft boards starting with the No. 3 pick. Vikings GM Rick Spielman will undoubtedly be looking for trade partners like the Miami Dolphins, who are desperate for a QB like Texas A&M's Ryan Tannehill.
If he is unable to find such a partner, picking Kalil, who is far and away the draft's best OL, is an easy choice. But Spielman, being the close-guarded man he is, has been publicly showing his intrigue in another player: LSU CB Morris Claiborne.
At this point, I cannot see this selection being anyone other than Matt Kalil. The mammoth LT will be a starter for the next 10 years, protecting the blindside of whoever is under center for the purple and gold.
Round 2, Pick 3 (No. 35 Overall)
WR Chris Givens, Wake Forest (5'11", 198 lbs)
Looking for the steal of the draft? Look no further than the speedster out of Wake Forest. Givens has largely been flying under the radar of most draft experts, even after turning in a 4.41 40-yard dash at the combine.
This may in part be because NFL GMs are keeping their opinions on him close to the vest, hoping he slips through the cracks. I am not going to be one to look past this prospect, and neither should the Vikings.
The team has arguably the NFL's best slot WR in a healthy Percy Harvin and a solid possession receiver in Michael Jenkins. What they are really lacking is not a big red-zone target, but someone who can stretch the field.
This is precisely the area in which Givens excels; but the lightning quick WR can also do much more than that. He has perhaps the best route-running skills of any receiver in the draft, showcasing the ability to both stretch the field and work underneath.
This pick will likely leave many readers scratching their heads, but Givens, who finished last season with 83 catches for 1,330 yards and nine TDs, is the real deal.
I have Givens rated as the draft's fourth-best WR, just a tick below Kendall Wright and ahead of Stephen Hill.
Round 3, Pick 3 (No. 66 Overall)
DB Trumaine Johnson, Montana (6'1", 204 lbs)
Johnson could very well be gone long before this pick, but if he is available, the Vikings should be running to the podium holding a card with his name on it.
Johnson is big and fast enough to play either S or CB in the NFL, although he has stated his desire to stay at CB. He needs to refine his technique, but the potential is there to become a premier CB in the league for years to come.
Many teams will pass on him in the second round due to the competition level he faced while at Montana, but when you turn on the film, you see a guy with great hips, superior ball skills and optimal size for any position in the secondary.
The Vikings need to add playmakers throughout their secondary, which should make Johnson even more valuable to them. He could step in from day one and provide competition at either SS or FS, as well as in the nickel package.
Round 4, Pick 3 (No. 98 Overall)
NT Josh Chapman, Alabama (6'1", 316 lbs)
Not a sexy pick, but one that could drastically improve the Vikings' run defense and help quicken the rebuilding process. Chapman knows his role is to stop the run, and he embraces it.
Chapman has a lot of strength in his upper body to control offensive lineman, even with his short arms. Having been a 2-gap player in Alabama's 3-4, he will have to transition into becoming a 1-gap player with the Vikings
Meaning he will not have the freedom to pick his gap, but that he also would face fewer double-teams.
Chapman does not provide anything to the pass rush, but the Vikings can easily replace him with Letroy Guion in passing situations. He is a safe pick at this juncture of the draft.
Round 4, Pick 33 (No. 128 Overall)
FS Janzen Jackson, McNeese State (5'11", 188 lbs)
Jackson is a special talent whose stock is lower than it should be largely due to legal troubles that led to his transfer last season from Tennessee to McNeese State.
Although the junior did not perform particularly well at the combine, his athleticism and speed can easily be seen on film. He spent his freshman season at Tennessee starting next to Chiefs star Eric Berry, leading me to believe he absorbed quite a wealth of knowledge about the position.
Jackson excels in coverage and would be a great fit in the Vikings' zone-based system due to his fluid hip turns and impressive range.
He needs to become a more reliable tackler to round out his game and become a reliable NFL starter. Jackson would provide the Vikings with depth at safety now and the potential to become a solid starter within a few seasons.
Round 4, Pick 39 (No. 134 Overall)
OLB Nigel Bradham, Florida State (6'2", 241 lbs)
With a body as physically impressive and intimidating as LaRon Landry, Bradham was able to turn in a great career over the last four years at FSU.
Bradham hits like a truck and has enough speed and agility to cover even the most athletic TEs and RBs. He also uses those attributes to take over games on special teams. Bradham has value based on his skill on special teams alone.
The most glaring weakness in his game are his instincts. He relied too heavily on his athleticism in college and must spend extra time in the film room to combat this problem.
Although OLB is no longer a need for the Vikings in 2012 after the re-signing of Erin Henderson, having a player like Bradham on special teams and backing up the starters is more than just a luxury.
Bradham could be cultivated to take over for Erin Henderson if he decides to sign elsewhere after the 2012 season.
Round 5, Pick 3 (No. 138 Overall)
DB Justin Bethel, Presbyterian (6'0", 200 lbs)
Yes, this makes it five straight defensive players drafted, three of whom play in the secondary. But the Vikings need to get younger on the defensive side of the ball and add depth at the same time.
Bethel reminds me a lot of the player I have the Vikings selecting in the third round, Trumaine Johnson. He is not as fluid of an athlete as Johnson is, but he does have a better work ethic and is a special teams standout.
Also like Johnson, Bethel could play either CB or S at the NFL level depending on where the Vikings need him. A team with as many holes as the Vikings have should always be looking for versatile guys to fill out their roster.
Bethel, along with Bradham, would immediately improve the Vikings' porous kick coverage units. Bethel also brings a unique tenacity for blocking kicks, something every team could use more of.
Round 6, Pick 5 (No. 175 Overall)
OG Joe Looney, Wake Forest (6'3", 309 lbs)
I am a big fan of Looney's and believe he will be a great player down the road. He was a four-year starter at Wake Forest and team leader.
Looney is an agile guard with excellent footwork. He struggles with keeping his balance in pass sets but overall, he's a solid pass-blocker. Looney is also a solid run-blocker, and he could really excel with proper coaching from offensive line coach Jeff Davidson.
Newly signed OG Geoff Schwartz and former LT Charlie Johnson appear to have both OG spots locked down right now, but Looney could take over for either of them after 2012.
Round 7, Pick 3 (No. 210 Overall)
WR Kashif Moore, Connecticut (5'9", 180 lbs)
Getting Moore would be a great pickup for the Vikings. His stock failed to soar after posting a 4.42 40-yard dash and a 43.5" vertical jump at the combine.
This is exactly the type of pick that can separate an ordinary GM from an extraordinary one. Moore is the classic boom-or-bust prospect. Inconsistent play has plagued his career and stopped him from showcasing his world-class athleticism.
If a team is patient and coaches Moore up, he could end up being a very similar player to Carolina's Steve Smith.
Round 7, Pick 16 (No. 223 Overall)
K Greg Zuerlein, Missouri Western (6'0", 187 lbs)
I remain in the small, yet growing camp of Vikings fans that believe it is time to move on from Ryan Longwell and the nearly $10 million that is owed to him over the next three seasons.
Longwell struggled last season, making less than 84 percent of his kicks for the first time in his career with the Vikings. Entering 2012 at the age of 38, I simply think Longwell is losing the distance needed to stick around in Minnesota.
Zuerlein missed just one kick last season and was an astonishing 9-for-9 from 50-plus yards. He also averaged over 66 yards per kickoff (one-yard deep in the end zone) and added in 30 touchbacks.
He has the power and accuracy to develop into a solid kicker in a short time. The Vikings should not be spending $3 million a year on a K when they are rebuilding.