Last year at this time, head coach Leslie Frazier and the Minnesota Vikings' coaching staff had a first-hand look at the Senior Bowl talent. Frazier had the task of leading the North roster through a week of practices, leading up to the game. Frazier led the North to a 23-13 over Mike Shanahan and his coaching staff from the Washington Redskins.
While it's only one part of the process, the Minnesota Vikings seem to take the Senior Bowl seriously. Since 2009, they have drafted eight Senior Bowl players, including two first-rounders—Christian Ponder (2011) and Harrison Smith (2012) and two second-rounders—Phil Loadholt (2009) and Chris Cook (2010).
A quick scan of this year's roster found approximately 12 players from both sides who have the potential of being selected in the first round—if you believe the rankings from sites like Walter Football and CBS Sports.
For many players, the Senior Bowl is their last chance to make a favorable impression and improve their stock in the upcoming NFL draft. For others, it might result in a shot as an undrafted free agent to make an NFL roster.
The Minnesota Vikings will be looking to the 2013 NFL draft to fill needs at wide receiver, linebacker, defensive tackle and the offensive line.
Here's a look at potential Senior Bowl players the Vikings might consider in this year's draft to address some of their needs.
According to an article by B/R Featured Columnist Jon Dove, the consensus from six experts is that the Minnesota Vikings will use their first-round pick to select a wide receiver.
Way to go out a limb.
The trick is to determine which wide receiver the Vikings will select. Don't be surprised if general manager Rick Spielman works some more of his draft-day magic and finds a way to move up in the draft in order to upgrade at wide receiver.
It's not a deep draft at wide receiver with only four or five players possibly going in the first round. For that reason, it might not pay to move up at all to address this need.
No doubt Spielman will use the same old rhetoric that the Vikings selected the best player on their board and got the player they wanted all along.
Terrance Williams led Baylor, and the nation, this past season with 1,832 receiving yards. He caught 97 passes for an average of 18.9 yards per reception. At 6'2", he has the size the Vikings are looking for in a downfield threat.
His last two seasons at Baylor, playing with two different quarterbacks, he had 156 catches for 2,790 yards and 23 touchdowns.
At 6'3" and 351 pounds, John Jenkins has the size to plug up the middle of the Vikings' defensive line.
The Vikings need to find someone to play alongside Kevin Williams on the defensive line. Letroy Guion and Fred Evans have not produced as the Vikings need. Actually, since the departure of Pat Williams, no one has been able to plug the middle of the line and help shut down the opposing running game.
A junior college transfer, John Jenkins played two seasons at Georgia. This past season, he had 50 tackles for the Bulldogs.
Guion, whom the Vikings signed to a three-year, $9 million contract in 2012, had his best season last year when he finished with 31 tackles for the Vikings.
Kevin Reddick is projected to be drafted anywhere from the second to fifth round.
The Vikings need to find some depth at linebacker, especially at middle linebacker where they have the least amount of experience. Jasper Brinkley took over for longtime middle linebacker E.J. Henderson in 2012.
Last year, the Vikings selected another Senior Bowl linebacker—Audie Cole from North Carolina State in the seventh round. Exclusively as a special teams player, Cole was active for only five games last season.
Look for the Vikings to address linebacker a little earlier in the draft. This past season, Kevin Reddick finished second for North Carolina with 85 tackles, including a team-leading 18.5 for a loss. He also had 6.5 sacks and defended six passes for the Tar Heels.
Just like last season, look for the Minnesota Vikings to select a couple of wide receivers in order to upgrade the position.
With the selection of Terrance Williams, the Vikings will have a potential starter. Here with the selection of Conner Vernon from Duke, they would have a solid backup for 2013.
Vernon led the Blue Devils with 85 receptions, 1,074 yards and eight touchdowns. In his four years at Duke, he finished with 283 catches for 3,749 yards and 21 touchdowns.
With Antoine Winfield entering his 15th NFL season, the Vikings need to find some depth at cornerback. Last year's third-round pick Josh Robinson should compete for a starting job in 2013. Still, the Vikings need to find some capable backups behind Robinson, Winfield and Chris Cook, who has not been able to play an entire season since being drafted in 2010.
With their second pick in the fourth round, look for the Vikings to add a cornerback. According to Walter Football, San Diego State cornerback Leon McFadden will be off the board by the time the fourth round rolls around.
If McFadden falls to the fourth round, it would be a great pickup for the Vikings. In four years at San Diego State, he had eight interceptions and 188 tackles.
After selecting Matt Kalil with the fourth pick in last year's draft, the Vikings solidified their left tackle situation. Kalil was selected to the Pro Bowl as an alternate following his rookie season. Now, the Vikings need to find an upgrade to play alongside him.
Waiting until the fifth round of the draft to draft Hugh Thornton may not provide an immediate starter, but it will add some depth.
This past season, Brandon Fusco, who played in the Senior Bowl in 2011, started all 16 games at right guard for the Vikings. Minnesota drafted him in the sixth round from Slipper Rock.
At 6'4" and 310 pounds, Thornton is slightly bigger than Charlie Johnson (6'3", 302 lbs). CBS Sports has Thornton ranked as the fifth-best guard in the draft, so it could be a long shot that the Vikings will even have a chance to select him in the fifth round.
The Vikings gave up their two sixth-round draft picks to Arizona when they acquired cornerback A.J. Jefferson. In return, they received the Cardinals' seventh-round pick.
This deep in the draft, the Vikings will be looking to add an athlete who has the potential to make the club as a special teams player. This could be either another cornerback, linebacker or wide receiver.
Although the Vikings seem very deep at defensive end with Jared Allen, Brian Robison and Everson Griffen, they will still look to find a diamond in the rough. Last season, they thought it might be defensive end Trevor Guyton from California. Guyton ended up being the only draft pick not to remain with the team in some capacity.
This year, they may consider Cornelius Washington from Georgia. Projected to be no better than a sixth-round pick, Washington finished with only 22 total tackles and a half sack for the Bulldogs. At 6'4" and 268 pounds, he fits right among Allen (6'6", 265 lbs), Robison (6'2", 258 lbs) and Griffen (6'3", 280 lbs).
The last seventh-round draft pick to get significant playing time for the Vikings most recently has been Jamarca Sanford taken in 2009.
After signing John Sullivan to a five-year, $25 million contract extension at the end of the 2011 season, the Vikings are set at center for the immediate future. Still, it wouldn't hurt to look at a potential solid backup for insurance.
According to NFL Draft Scout, West Virginia center, Joe Madsen is the 11th-best center in the draft, projecting him to go no higher than the seventh round. Madsen started all 12 games for the Mountaineers this past season. Over his four years in West Virginia, he started a total of 50 games.
At 6'4" and 305 pounds, he has the size to play in the NFL. In order to make it to the next level, however, he will need to demonstrate the ability to back up several positions along the offensive line.