Minnesota Vikings: 10 Players Minnesota Should Circle on Its 2013 Draft Board
The Minnesota Vikings are 4-2 and how the rest of the season plays out is anybody's guess right now. They've shown us how good they can be, beating San Francisco handily in Week 3, and they've proved they are still a work in progress, losing two games to rookie quarterbacks.
A few issues with the Vikings are relatively clear; they still need help on both interior lines, at wide receiver and at linebacker.
2013's NFL draft is shaping up to be less than stellar, but obviously starters will be available in the first couple of rounds.
The Vikings still have 10 games of evaluations to do on their current roster before having to decide what their most pressing needs are in the draft. Among them will be defensive tackle and this draft is full of prospects.
Pictured above is Star Lotulelei of Utah, who, unfortunately, will be long gone by the time the Vikings pick. Let's take a look at some players the Vikings must start circling on its 2013 draft board.
Johnathan Hankins, DT, Ohio State
The Vikings won't be picking in the top five, so Star Lotulelei isn't an option. Johnathan Hankins of Ohio State might be.
Hankins is a massive defensive tackle at 6'3", 335 pounds who would be an ideal fit in the middle of Minnesota's defensive line. LeTroy Guion is playing decent football, but has room for improvement and Kevin Williams is 32 years old.
Hankins is worth keeping an eye on, and his draft stock will probably rise and fall during the course of the season. He's going to have to watch his weight and continue to show the athleticism that's had him dominating opponents so far.
He'd probably have to fall a bit for the Vikings to have a shot at him, but if he did, the Vikings wouldn't hesitate to snap him up.
Sylvester Williams, DT, North Carolina
A more likely option for the Vikings at defensive tackle is Sylvester Williams out of North Carolina. Williams hasn't dominated like Hankins, but he would also foot the bill in the middle at 6'2", 320 pounds.
Williams is the sort of load the Vikings are looking for at one defensive tackle position that would demand double-teams and free up the linebackers. He's athletic enough that he can be more than just a space-eater in the middle, he is a good run-stuffer and can get to the quarterback as well.
If the Vikings see enough out of Guion the rest of the way, they probably wouldn't take someone like Williams with their first pick. Guion obviously isn't a first-round type of talent, but if they were going to replace him with one, they'd want to take a slam-dunk talent, which Williams might not be. But from what he's shown so far, Williams is certainly worth watching for the rest of the 2012 season.
Kawann Short, DT, Purdue
The third massive defensive tackle the Vikings will be watching closely for the rest of 2012 is Kawann Short out of Purdue.
Short is also huge at 6'3", 325 pounds, and is having a monster year at Purdue. Like Williams and Hankins, he'd be a massive load in the middle of the Vikings' defensive front. Short has shown huge improvement so far in 2012 and has scouts paying more and more attention to him.
Obviously we don't know anything at all about where the Vikings will be picking in 2013, but we do know that Lotulelei and Hankins probably won't be available to them.
Both Williams and Short are intriguing options as the massive space-eater in the middle, but if the Vikings are looking for more production at DT, a replacement for Kevin Williams, they should be watching the guy in our next slide.
Bennie Logan, DT, LSU
We'll give you one more defensive tackle for the Vikings to keep an eye on.
Bennie Logan is playing his way up draft boards. The 6'3", 290-pound defensive tackle out of LSU is an amazing athlete for a man his size, and as he learns how to play the position, he's getting better and better.
Logan is another defensive gem that LSU seems to be churning out as if on a conveyor belt. He is very active in the middle of the line and is a nightmare for running backs. He's still learning when it comes to rushing the passer, but his upside is undeniable.
If the Vikings thought process was that a defensive tackle pick might be made to replace Kevin Williams, Logan might make more sense than the others, as his potential for productivity might be a bit higher.
Manti Te'o, MLB, Notre Dame
There's absolutely no doubt that Manti Te'o would be an ideal fit for the Minnesota Vikings at middle linebacker.
Jasper Brinkley's play so far in 2012, might have the Vikings looking at other positions with their first pick, but if they feel they need to make an upgrade, Te'o would be ideal.
As great as Harrison Smith has been for the Vikings, Te'o has been the heart and soul of the Irish defense for the last three seasons. The Vikings brass has been stressing the need for smart, accountable players and you don't get any smarter or more accountable than the 6'1", 248-pounder who plays the run like a demon and can cover running backs and tight ends.
Te'o's measurables have him as a solid first-round pick, but it's his intangibles that could make him a superstar at the next level.
Chance Warmack, OG, Alabama
Chance Warmack might be wishful thinking as the Vikings first round pick in 2013, and taking an offensive lineman first two years in a row isn't very sexy, but boy would Warmack fill a need for the Vikings at right guard.
Brandon Fusco has started every game for Minnesota, and while he hasn't been a bust, he hasn't exactly been brilliant either.
Warmack will start from day one at either guard spot for whoever takes the 6'2", 325-pound star out of Alabama. Warmack has everything you look for in an offensive lineman: strength, quickness, athletic ability and a mean streak.
The Vikings would have to be pretty disappointing the rest of the season to have a shot at Warmack, but pairing him with Matt Kalil would be an offensive line coach's dream.
Jonathan Cooper, OG, North Carolina
Perhaps a little more reasonable wish for the Vikings at offensive guard would be Jonathan Cooper, the 6'3", 320-pound road grader from North Carolina.
While not quite as athletic or savvy as Warmack, Cooper would certainly be a huge upgrade over Charlie Johnson or Brandon Fusco.
Cooper has ideal size and has shown plenty of athleticism and push for the Tar Heels. Cooper's availability to the Vikings will depend on how high Warmack goes in the draft, as the two are easily the top two guards in next spring's draft.
Justin Hunter, WR, Tennessee
We're saving wide receiver, the most intriguing position for the Vikings, for last.
So many questions still surround what the Vikings might have at wideout that it's nearly impossible to say what their needs will be come draft time.
Will Jerome Simpson establish himself as a No. 1 guy on the outside? Are the Vikings confident enough in the futures of Greg Childs and Jarius Wright that they'd go elsewhere with their No. 1 pick?
Wide receiver is becoming more and more the hardest position to predict NFL success at. It's easy to get open in college football; it's nearly impossible to do so in the NFL. Receivers have to be smart, disciplined and obviously athletic to have success at the highest level.
Justin Hunter, the 6'4", 205-pound speedster out of Tennessee is drawing plenty of comparisons to A.J. Green, which obviously says a lot.
Hunter has a great combination of size, speed and ball skills that make him a prototypical No. 1 receiver in the NFL. Pairing him across from Percy Harvin would be an electric combination.
Keenan Allen, WR, Cal
At 6'3", 205 pounds, Cal's Keenan Allen doesn't have the elite speed you look for out of a No. 1 receiver. Having said that, he's certainly fast enough.
The days of sending Randy Moss deep and chucking it up are long gone in the NFL anyway. Allen brings a skill set that is ideal for the NFL, he runs great routes, he has great hands and he's a smart and productive player.
Is Allen good enough to be a 10-15 first-round pick? Probably not. If the Vikings are picking beyond 15, though, Allen has to be an option they consider.
Robert Woods, WR, USC
It's been an interesting fall for Robert Woods, the 6'1", 190-pound wideout from Southern Cal.
He ended the 2011 season as a probable top 10 pick on most draft boards, and halfway through the season, he's only the second most coveted receiver on his own team.
Though sophomore Marqise Lee is the speedster who is heading towards the All-American lists for the Trojans, Woods is still a first-round NFL talent who projects as a solid starter at the next level. Woods doesn't have the elite size that Hunter has, but he catches balls all over the field and is a good runner after the catch.
Woods has a very high football IQ which is becoming more and more important in the NFL as schemes get more and more complicated.