8 Players the Minnesota Vikings Could Take in the 1st Round of 2013 NFL Draft
Brace Hemmelgarn-US PRESSWIRE
It's probably too early for some of you to begin NFL draft discussions, but the regular season is winding down and at least now we're getting a general idea of where most teams will draft in the first round.
The Minnesota Vikings are likely to finish somewhere around .500, give or take a game or two. That means they'll likely pick anywhere between 12th and 24th.
Given that the Vikings are likely to pick in the mid-to-late part of the first round, here are eight players I think they would be wise to consider with their first round selection.
Justin Hunter, Tennessee Wide Receiver
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If you've ever watched a Vikings game this season one thing is certain: Minnesota's receivers are inadequate.
Outside of Percy Harvin and Kyle Rudolph, few, if any, receivers on Minnesota's roster would touch the field for many teams.
In an ideal world Michael Jenkins, Devin Aromashodu and Jerome Simpson, will all be former Vikings come next season, which means Minnesota will have to fill those spots somehow.
Tennessee's Justin Hunter would be a great addition to Minnesota's roster. Harvin is the go-to guy but he's the Yin to what could be Hunter's Yang.
Hunter is a big (6'4" and 205 lbs), down-field threat. He has had some big drops, something that will scare off plenty of Minnesota fans who haven't forgotten Troy Williamson.
But Packers receiver James Jones had serious problems with drops prior to this season, and he's nearly playing at a Pro Bowl level (42 catches for 495 yards and eight TDs).
Hunter has caught 73 passes for 1,083 yards and nine TDs this season and is quick for a 6'4" receiver.
Alec Ogletree, Georgia Linebacker
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It's safe to say that Jasper Brinkley has been, at best, adequate as Minnesota's middle linebacker this season.
He has shown glimpses of being an overly productive linebacker, but has had plenty of situations where he has been far from adequate.
On the year, Brinkley has 70 tackles in 11 games with zero sacks, zero interceptions and a forced fumble. He has had two games with 10 or more tackles.
All that being said, with his impending trip into free agency, Minnesota may be that much more inclined to make a change.
Alex Ogletree is rated throughout the scouting world as the second-best middle linebacker in this draft class, behind Notre Dame's Manti Te'o.
Ogletree is a long, quick linebacker at 6'3" and shows great potential as a pass-rusher.
He appears very skinny given his large frame, and it appears to be a frame that could use some more muscle on it.
Scouts say his instincts are raw but he does have 87 tackles, a sack and an interception in seven starts (eight games total).
Sounds like he may be a bit of a project, but the upside is very high.
Kenny Vaccaro, Texas Safety
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The Vikings traded back into the first round to select Harrison Smith, and that pick has paid great dividends in his rookie season. According to some, Smith will be selected for the Pro Bowl at year's end.
That's been a great surprise for the Vikings, who have lacked a playmaker at the position since Robert Griffith left.
Minnesota was excited about the prospects of Mistral Raymond prior to this season. It thought Raymond could be the guy starting alongside Smith. Depending how you feel about Raymond this pick may seem idiotic to you.
Raymond has battled injuries this season and has only played in five games. Jamarca Sanford has superseded him on the depth chart, as of now. And Sanford is proving he's not much more than an above average backup.
If Minnesota drafted Texas' Kenny Vaccaro, who is the clear-cut No. 1 safety in this draft, it may put the Vikings on the path to having the league's best secondary down the road: Chris Cook and Josh Robinson at cornerback, and Smith and Vaccaro at safety.
Vaccaro is a strong safety, and Smith has the flexibility to play either, although in the Cover 2 scheme the distinction is muddied.
Vaccaro has shown himself to be another play-making safety, much like Smith. He's strong in coverage, by safety standards, and has solid speed.
Depending on who's available when Minnesota picks, this could be a real steal.
Jonathan Cooper, North Carolina Guard
Left guard is the weakest link in Minnesota's offenisve line, and Jonathan Cooper could start from day one.
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Have you seen Charlie Johnson play lately? Minnesota's left guard is the weakest link on this offensive line and has proven he's on the way to becoming a steady backup somewhere.
Jonathan Cooper is the consensus No. 1 guard in this draft, which means he may not be on the board come Minnesota's pick. But most draft boards rank him somewhere between 10 and 25, so it's possible.
Making this an even smarter pick for Minnesota, Cooper is a left guard, which means he'll be comfortable sliding in for Johnson. It's not as if he has to worry about moving to the right, although moving from left to right guard, or vice versa, isn't a big deal at guard, compared to tackle.
Cooper is described as quick and explosive by most accounts, and has good size (6'3" and 320 lbs). He could team with Matt Kalil to form one of the best left sides in the league for years to come. And with John Sullivan regarded as a top-10 center by most accounts, it'd be very easy for Adrian Peterson to continuously run for 100-plus yards per game behind those three.
Terrance Williams, Baylor Wide Receiver
Terrance Williams has good size (6'2 and 205 lbs) and reliable hands.
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Baylor's Terrance Williams fits a similar bill to Justin Hunter: He's a tall athlete who's able to go up and get the ball.
Williams has good straight-line speed but isn't necessarily the fastest while running a route, other than a streak.
As previously mentioned Minnesota needs to get playmakers onto its roster by any means necessary. Depending on which draft board you rely on this may be too early for Williams, but Minnesota is desperate.
Williams has caught 89 passes for 1,693 yards and 12 TDs in 11 games this season. He has been as productive of a wide receiver as there is in college football this season.
Eric Fisher, Central Michigan Offensive Tackle
Minnesota's desire to make this selection will ride on Phil Loadholt. If the Vikings re-sign their 2009 second-round pick, then this selection makes zero sense.
But if the Vikings and Loadholt don't come to terms, and they don't wish to re-sign Geoff Schwartz, who has tackle experience, then this would be a great opportunity to replace Loadholt.
Fisher (6'7" and 297 lbs) is similar in size to Matt Kalil (6'6" and 308 lbs) and could prove to be a very athletic right tackle. He's not big and bulky like Loadholt, and could prove to be more consistent than the former Oklahoma Sooner.
The concern with Fisher is also similar to Kalil: Scouts worry that his size will limit his ability to push defenders off the line. Now Kalil is a better prospect than Fisher is, but Kalil has proven that he can push with the league's best.
If Loadholt is gone, this pick makes a lot of sense.
Johnathan Jenkins, Georgia Defensive Tackle
Johnathan Jenkins is one very large man (6'4" and 363 lbs) who could replicate what Pat Williams used to do for the Minnesota defense.
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Kevin Williams isn't getting any younger. And although the 10-year pro is having a resurgent season of sorts, he still isn't near the player he was eight years ago when he recorded 11.5 sacks and 70 tackles.
Now, Johnathan Jenkins won't replace this Williams. That's not his style.
But with his freakishly large physique (6'4" and 363 lbs) he could replicate the productivity of another Williams, Pat.
Pat weighed in at 324 pounds for his final season in 2010, after reportedly shedding 18 pounds. Jenkins weighs nearly 40 pounds more than Pat did. That's scary to imagine.
Jenkins could clog up the middle of Minnesota defense just as well as Pat one day, which is something Minnesota has lacked in recent games.
Sheldon Richardson, Missouri Defensive Tackle
Sheldon Richardson (No. 34) is a pass-rushing defensive tackle the Vikings haven't had in some time.
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Now Sheldon Richardson isn't the same type of defensive tackle as Johnathan Jenkins.
Jenkins is a run stuffer who struggles to provide a pass rush.
Richardson is very strong in pass-rushing situations, while his run stuffing abilities aren't on the level of Jenkins.
The redshirt junior has 75 tackles, four sacks and 10.5 tackles for loss in 11 games. At 6'4" and 295 pounds he's much more mobile than Jenkins.
Richardson is more like Kevin Williams, while Jenkins is like Pat Williams.
Both have the potential to be very good players. It just depends which Williams Minnesota wants to try to replace.