NFL Draft Picks Who Would Be Instant Starters for the Minnesota Vikings
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The Minnesota Vikings have plenty of needs to be addressed in the 2013 draft. So many needs, in fact, that general manager Rick Spielman should be able to find another player who will contribute significantly with the 23rd pick in the draft. Spielman's draft class from last season was extremely successful. Matt Kalil and Harrison Smith, both selected in the first round, became instant starters at left tackle and safety. Both players started all 16 games for the Vikings in 2012.
The next three players, Josh Robinson, Jarius Wright and Rhett Ellison, selected in Rounds 3 and 4, combined to start 11 games last year. And, although not considered a starter, Blair Walsh, a sixth-round draft pick, made some pretty significant contributions for Minnesota. Walsh converted all 10 of his field goals from greater than 50 yards. His 141 points are the second-highest single-season scoring total in franchise history.
Expect Spielman to work his magic once again in this draft. Whether he deals his way up the first round or moves down to acquire an additional pick, the expectation will be to find another starter to continue the success the Vikings had this past season.
Here's a look at several players who could become instant contributors for the Vikings in 2013.
Wide Receiver Cordarrelle Patterson
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The Minnesota Vikings offense was 20th in yards gained in 2012. That ranking was buoyed by the second-best rushing offense behind Adrian Peterson's 2,097 yards.
The passing offense ranked 31st.
A lot of that falls on the shoulders of Christian Ponder, but almost as much has to do with an inept set of receivers. Not since 2009 have the Vikings had a receiver gain 1,000 yards in a season.
A junior college transfer, Cordarrelle Patterson only played one season at Tennessee, but he was very versatile. He scored touchdowns on a punt return, kickoff return, rushing and receiving.
He started the season as the Volunteers' third receiver. He finished the season second on the team with 46 receptions for 778 yards and five touchdowns. He also rushed for 308 yards and three touchdowns.
He is projected to go anywhere from the first to the third round in the draft, but his stock seems to be rising, and he should be available when the Vikings are on the clock.
Wide Receiver DeAndre Hopkins
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If Cordarrelle Patterson is not available, another option is DeAndre Hopkins from Clemson. Another underclassman, Hopkins' performance improved every year with the Tigers. He led the team as a freshman with 52 receptions for 637 yards.
As a sophomore, he caught 72 passes, the second most for Clemson. Last season, he once again led the team with 82 catches for 1,405 yards and 18 touchdowns.
At 6'1" and 200 pounds, Hopkins has the size to be an effective split end for the Vikings.
Middle Linbacker Kevin Minter
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The Minnesota Vikings need to make some decisions at linebacker. First-year starter Jasper Brinkley had a mediocre season and is a free agent. With a less than stellar free-agent market for middle linebackers, the best route to improve at the position may be through the draft.
According to NFLDraftScout.com, Kevin Minter from LSU is the top-ranked inside linebacker—ahead of Manti Te'o from Notre Dame. The site also has him going somewhere between Rounds 1 and 2 of the draft.
This past season, Minter led the Tigers with 130 tackles, with 15 for a loss. He also added four sacks and an interception.
Inside Linebacker Alec Ogletree
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Another option at the middle linebacker position is Alec Ogletree from Georgia. He is ranked as the second-best inside linebacker behind Manti Te'o by Walterfootball.com.
Like Kevin Minter, Walterfootball.com projects Ogletree as a first- to second-round draft pick. Even though he was suspended for the first four games of the season, he led the Bulldogs in tackles with 111. He had 11.5 tackles for a loss, defended six passes this season and intercepted a pass.
Cornerback Xavier Rhodes
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The Minnesota Vikings' starting cornerbacks are Antoine Winfield, who will be 36, and Chris Cook, who has not been able to play an entire season in any of his three seasons with the team.
Third-round draft pick Josh Robinson, who started six games last year, is in line to become one of the starters. The Vikings might want to find another reliable starter opposite him.
Xavier Rhodes from Florida State University is the second-ranked cornerback by CBSSports.com and the third-ranked by Walterfootball.com. It's possible that he could be available when the Vikings select 23rd.
At 6'1", he provides some size to go up against some of the best receivers in the division.
Cornerback Desmond Trufant
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Another possible option at cornerback is Desmond Trufant from Washington. Trufant played four seasons with the Huskies and finishes with six interceptions. This past season, he was second on the team with nine passes defended.
According to Dane Brugler from NFLDraftScout.com, Trufant stood out during the week of practice at the Senior Bowl as a member of the North roster.
Again, like Xavier Rhodes, he is projected to be a late first-round or early second-round pick and could be available for the Vikings.
Offensive Guard Chance Warmack
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After the successful selection of Matt Kalil in the first round last season, the Vikings might consider adding another building block next to their cornerstone left tackle.
In 2012, Charlie Johnson had a better season at left guard than he did in 2011 at left tackle, but they could use an upgrade.
Chance Warmack from Alabama is the top-ranked guard in the draft and projected as a late first-round pick. At 6'2" and 322 pounds, he's slightly bigger than Johnson. As a member of the back-to-back national champions, he has played in some big games in the SEC.
Offensive Guard Jonathan Cooper
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Projected as the second-best guard in the draft behind Chance Warmack, Jonathan Cooper may have a better chance of being available when it's the Vikings' turn to draft.
An NCAA consensus All-American, Cooper has been a great run-blocker for North Carolina. He started all four seasons at guard for the Tar Heels. Projected to be a late first-rounder, he would give the Vikings one of the best offensive lines in the NFL.
The problem might be at 6'3" and 310 pounds, he is considered slightly undersized. Walterfootball.com indicates that he might have to make the move to center.