This will be a huge debate over the next three plus months, but it is one most football fans get excited about. Who will your team draft?
I usually wait until after the NFL Combine before I begin putting my draft board together. Since the combine is still more than a month away, I will reserve any expertise or strong opinion about who the Vikings should target until more research is done. However, the positions the Vikings should target are fair game right now.
In the previous slide I addressed the wide receiver position to a degree, but here is where it gets tricky for the Vikings. The current crew is nothing more than a hodge-podge of No. 3 receivers, so to target a FA is certainly attractive, but a draft is also plausible, or as may happen, both a FA and a draft choice.
The three biggest names out there are Dwayne Bowe, Greg Jennings, and Mike Wallace. There are other notable names, but the likes of Wes Welker, Brian Hartline, Julian Edelman, and Domenik Hixon don't seem to fit the position we need. I am also concerned about the injury nature of Jennings and Bowe, and the attitude of Wallace. So, my hope is the draft where there are some exciting players to consider.
The Vikings select at No. 23, so one of the top tier receivers—as of this writing—should still be there. Cordarelle Patterson from Tennessee, Terrance Williams from Baylor or Keenan Allen from Cal could be considerations, but you never know who will pop up over the course of the next few months.
The middle rounds are full of average 4.5/40 guys so that does not help the cause. However, the only real interesting guy for a third round pick could be Denard Robinson/Michigan with a 4.39/40, but if he is the only option that is not good. Robinson should be the alternative/splash, not gamble. If the Vikings go later with perhaps sleeper types, then Marcus Davis/Virginia Tech is an option. He is a big target with excellent speed, 6-5/232, 4.4/40, but his blocking is suspect and sometimes he is inconsistent, but as a fourth or fifth round selection, should he last to that point, is well worth the gamble.
As for linebacker, Erin Henderson is a nice backup, but he is not starter material. All too often we saw games where Henderson was invisible. Yes, sometimes DC schemes are designed for certain guys to be in a certain position so others can make plays, etc, but Henderson missed tackles, looked a bit wayward in pass coverage, and despite three sacks, double his 2011 performance, Henderson just doesn't show up on game film. The Vikings need a Clay Matthews, Brooks Reed, Dannell Ellerbe type out there.
Given this is not priority one, it is safe to say this could be a possibility anywhere from rounds two on down to seven. As far as the draft goes there are a few names that pop out in rounds three and four for me: Zaviar Gooden from Missouri, Jamie Collins from Mississippi, a hybrid bandit type and Trevardo Williams from UConn.
I like our defensive line, especially the rotation aspect of it. The Giants have proven you can never have enough defensive linemen. Everyone is pretty much locked up, but the Vikings issues will be in 2014 where multiple players are FA. The Vikings would do well to try and extend players contracts with possible reductions in base in order to maintain a more cap friendly atmosphere. A run stuffer is certainly a possibility early on in rounds one or two.
This position could be addressed in rounds one or two. Drafting a player in the middle rounds would simply be for depth and the possible loss of one or two current Vikings to FA in 2014.
At No. 23 the names that could be available are: Johnathan Jenkins from Georgia is the big guy at 358 pounds, but stamina would be an issue in the 16 game season that is the NFL. Yes, several big guys have proven they can do it, but I still raise a tiny red flag here. Others include Jesse Williams from Alabama or sticking with yet another Williams, how about round two, Sylvester Williams from UNC?
The other positions noted earlier for depth were: OL, CB, and MLB
Offensive Line: Throughout the season, many fans complained about Charlie Johnson and Phil 'big'Loadholt, but that offensive line had a pretty good year. No line is perfect, unless you consider the Broncos O-Line of the late 1990's. Yes, there is room for improvement, but let's not be so quick to rush people off; there is something to be said for chemistry as well.
Offensive line is like the defensive line, you can never have enough, so it is possible the Vikings will look at the guard position in the draft, but don't forget that DeMarcus Love should return after a year on the IR. If the Vikings select a guard in round two it could be an indicator of a guy they really covet, or that they are not confident with who they have. I predict mid to late round here.
Cornerback: Injuries and some inconsistent play affected the Vikings back end, but for the most part, it was a pretty solid year. What is lacking are interceptions. The Vikings have youth and with Winfield's fountain of youth year, the collection of players is relatively young. Finding a safety opposite Smith is certainly a consideration, but most likely will not be addressed until round three or later.
Linebacker: I don't want to be so quick to judge Brinkley because I was quick to judge EJ Henderson and that came back to haunt me; however, if Audie Cole progresses and/or there is a MLB in the mid rounds that fits Williams' scheme, look for the Vikings to select a MLB in this year's draft.
Punter: Is this the year the Vikings try and pull another stunner, but instead of drafting a kicker—who didn't groan when they did that—the Vikings draft a punter. Not to say Kluwe is finished. He did have the MCL issue, but the Vikings could with one of their extra picks, draft a punter.