Minnesota Vikings' general manager Rick Spielman had a very successful 2012 NFL Draft.
Now that the 2012 NFL season is finally over—sooner than most teams would like—it's time to focus on next year. In 2012 the Minnesota Vikings were seven games better than their dismal 2011 season, and much of that turnaround can be credited to the rookie class that joined the team.
With four rookies making at least six starts last season—not including the record-setting season of rookie place-kicker Blair Walsh—the expectations will be high for another great draft in 2013. If the Vikings are to make a return trip to the playoffs, they will need another draft that produces a couple of starters and provides depth at some key positions.
The Vikings will have eight picks in the 2013 NFL draft for general manager Rick Spielman to work his magic.
No doubt that the Vikings' biggest need is at wide receiver. However, with only two or three wide receivers in the draft worth selecting in the first round, the Vikings may go in a different direction. After all, the last Vikings receiver to amass 1,000 receiving yards was second-round draft pick Sidney Rice.
At 6'3" and 360 pounds, John Jenkins is a big body that fills a huge need on the Vikings defensive line. According to Rob Rang from NFLDraftScout.com, Jenkins was not only the biggest and strongest lineman for the South team of the Senior Bowl, but he was also the quickest.
Putting his wide body next to Kevin Williams could give the Vikings defense a huge boost in defending the run. This past season he had 50 tackles for the Bulldogs.
Projected as the sixth-best defensive tackle in the draft, there's an outside chance he could still be on the board when the Vikings select at 23.
Previously, I had the Vikings selecting Baylor wide receiver in the first round. According to CBSSports.com, Williams has dropped to the sixth-best wide receiver in the draft, and is projected as a second-round pick.
The Vikings' second pick in the draft is the 53rd overall pick. It might be a bit of a stretch to expect Williams will still be available. However, after catching only one pass for nine yards in the Senior Bowl, he may drop just enough for the Vikings to take him.
This past season he led the nation with 1,832 receiving yards. The last two seasons with the Bears he caught 156 passes for 2,789 yards and 23 touchdowns.
A lot could happen between now and the 2013 NFL draft. The Vikings need to decide what to do with free agents Jasper Brinkley and Erin Henderson. Both were starting linebackers last season, the first season as a starter for Brinkley and Henderson's second.
Even if the Vikings re-sign both, they need to add some depth to the position.
University of Florida linebacker Jon Bostic led the Gators with 94 tackles his junior season in 2011. He backed that up his senior season with 68 tackles, good for third on the team. He also had two interceptions, one returned for a touchdown.
Ranked as the third-best inside linebacker in the draft, there's a chance he could be available to the Vikings in the third round.
The Minnesota Vikings have two fourth-round picks this year, receiving one from Detroit in a draft-day trade in 2012. Look for the Vikings to use the first on a cornerback to add some depth and potentially a future starter.
The Vikings' top two cornerbacks are Antoine Winfield and Chris Cook. Winfield enters his 15th season in the NFL and will be 36 when the training camp opens. Cook, the Vikings' second-round draft pick from 2010, has yet to play an entire season for the Vikings.
Tharold Simon led LSU this past season with four interceptions. In three seasons with the Tigers he had six interceptions and 95 tackles. At 6'2" and 193 pounds, Simon brings some size to the position and would provide better depth than Marcus Sherels.
Last year the Vikings used two fourth-round picks on wide receivers in hopes of adding some depth. They were one for two with those picks when Jarius Wright filled in after the Vikings lost Percy Harvin for the season in Week 9. Wright had the Vikings' longest reception on the season with a 65-yard catch in his first game of the season against the Lions in Week 10.
Texas A&M wide receiver Ryan Swope is ranked anywhere from the 11th- to 17th-best receiver in the draft and is projected to be drafted from the second to fourth round. The last three years he has averaged 77 catches for 981 yards and seven touchdowns. As a senior, he led the Aggies with eight touchdowns catches and finished second on the team with 72 catches for 913 yards.
The problem is Swope's best position might be that in the slot where the Vikings already have Harvin and Wright.
Last year when the Minnesota Vikings drafted Matt Kalil with the fourth pick in the draft, there was no doubt he was going to be the opening-day starter.
Now the Vikings will be looking to find an upgrade at guard. While they most likely won't find a starter this late in the draft, they could add some depth.
Blaize Foltz was a two-year starter for the TCU Horned Frogs at right guard. Foltz, 6'4" and 310 pounds, is ranked 14th among guards by Walter Football, and projected as a fourth- to sixth-round draft pick.
The Vikings swapped their sixth-round pick for Arizona's seventh-round pick as part of the A.J. Jefferson trade.
A possible selection might be Nathan Williams from Ohio State. At 6'3" and 260 pounds, he is projected to be either an outside linebacker or a defensive end. The Vikings have plenty of depth at defensive end, but could use some help at linebacker.
Like Audie Cole, whom the Vikings drafted in the seventh round last year, Williams' best chance to make the team is as a special teams player. Last year he finished with 40 tackles, 3.5 for a loss and two sacks for the undefeated Buckeyes.
The Minnesota Vikings desperately need to upgrade their quarterback position. Head coach Leslie Frazier has said that Christian Ponder will be the Vikings' starting quarterback in 2013. Even though the team has no plans to bring in any competition for Ponder, it is intent on upgrading the backup quarterback.
The Vikings will most likely look for a washed up veteran that will be content to wear a baseball cap and hold a clipboard. That doesn't mean they won't take a chance trying to find another potential backup with a seventh-round pick. McLeod Bethel-Thompson, who went undrafted and spent time in the UFL, wound up as the Vikings' emergency quarterback.
A long shot at best to make the NFL, Collin Klein completed 64.8 percent of his passes for the Wildcats, leading them to an 11-2 record this season. This past season he passed for 2,641 yards, throwing 16 touchdowns and nine interceptions. He also ran for 920 yards and scored 23 touchdowns.
It may not make sense to replace Joe Webb with another running quarterback. With the success of quarterbacks Colin Kaepernick and Robert Griffin III, who can both run and pass effectively, it may be worth a seventh-round pick to select Klein.