Wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins from Clemson is a potential first-round selection of the Minnesota Vikings.
The annual NFL Combine will be held February 20-26 in Indianapolis. More than 300 draft prospects will be poked and prodded, measured, tested, quizzed and analyzed. When it's all said and done, reams of data will be generated for each player for teams to sift through in the hope of identifying which players are the best fit in the franchise's system.
Attempting to predict the Minnesota Vikings draft picks is much like picking numbers for the lottery in that you should consider yourself lucky if hit on one or two. Last year, predicting who the Vikings would take with their first pick in the draft was pretty simple. Based on their high draft slot and the needs and tendencies of teams drafting ahead of them, there was very little suspense leading up to the draft.
This year, however, based on an improved performance in 2012, the Vikings find themselves in the second-half of the selections—both a blessing and a curse.
Here's another early look at who the Vikings may consider in this year's draft.
Most mock drafts for the Minnesota Vikings have them taking two wide receivers (as they did last year) with their eight picks. Virtually all of them have the Vikings selecting one of those receivers in either the first or second round.
In my previous two drafts, I've flipped the Vikings' first two picks between wide receiver Terrance Williams from Baylor and defensive tackle John Jenkins from Georgia.
A lot will depend on who is left on the board when the Vikings select at 23. They will be looking for a downfield receiving threat that can line up outside. It was no secret, whether Christian Ponder or Joe Webb was behind center, the Vikings are in need of a wide receiver who can fill the void that Sidney Rice left behind when he signed with Seattle following the 2009 season, complementing Percy Harvin.
Four of the top five wide receivers in the draft are underclassmen and Cordarrelle Patterson is ranked second to only Keenan Allen of California—if you believe NFL Draft Scout.
Patterson has the size at 6'3" and 205 pounds. His range in the 40 is 4.34 to 4.57, which slightly faster than that for Allen and DeAndre Hopkins from Clemson.
At 6'4" and 359 pounds, defensive tackle John Jenkins has the size to plug some holes in the Vikings defensive line.
Just like last season, the Vikings will address concerns on both sides of the ball with their first two picks. I also suspect that general manager Rick Spielman will try to make a deal to move up in the second round, with the goal of finding another starter to play alongside Kevin Williams, Brian Robison and Jared Allen.
John Jenkins from Georgia is the heaviest defensive tackle among the top 10 ranked by NFL Draft Scout. His time in the 40-yard dash is 5.21 seconds, not bad for a man who stands 6'4" and weighs 359 pounds. He outweighs both Letroy Guion (295 pounds) and Fred Evans (307 pounds).
This could be the run stuffer the Vikings have sorely missed since the departure of Pat Williams. However, his stock is on the rise and he might be off the board by the time the Vikings pick in the second round.
The Vikings will look to continue to improve the defense in the third round. They will need to decide between cornerback and linebacker, two areas in need of added depth.
With a huge drop at middle linebacker after Kevin Minter and Manti Te'o, the only two inside linebackers projected to go in the first round, the Vikings may look to add a cornerback.
Last year, the Vikings were successful with the selection of Josh Robinson in the third round. He finished the season with six starts and had two interceptions.
Robert Alford from Southeast Louisiana, is one of the fastest cornerbacks in the draft with a 4.42 in the 40-yard dash. Projected to be drafted anywhere between the second and fourth round, the 5'10", 186-pund Alford fits the mold of Antoine Winfield.
In his five years at Southeast Louisiana, Alford twice led the Lions in interceptions, finishing with 10 in his career.
Kiko Alonso had four interceptions for the Ducks this season.
With two of the Vikings' three starting linebackers set to enter free agency at the end of the season, they need to at least find some depth in the draft. Kiko Alonso from Oregon has the potential to develop into a starting linebacker in the NFL. This past season he was named to the second-team All Pac-12.
He finished the season with 81 tackles, leading Oregon with 14 tackles for a loss and was second with four interceptions.
At 6'3" and 242 pounds, Alonso is 33 pounds lighter than Jasper Brinkley, but about the same size as Chad Greenway and Erin Henderson. It would be a stretch for him to start in 2013, but he could develop into a starter, providing some depth this season,
Wide receiver Kenny Stills led the Sooners with 11 touchdowns this season.
The Vikings will again look to add depth at wide receiver a couple of selections in the draft.
As a junior, Stills led Oklahoma with 82 catches for 959 yards and 11 touchdowns. Over three seasons, he accumulated 24 touchdowns. Compare that to 16 touchdowns that Devin Aromashodu, Stephen Burton and Michael Jenkins have combined for over the past three seasons.
Stills is 6'0" and 190 pounds and has a 40-yard dash of 4.49 seconds.
Garrett Gilkey has an NFL body at 6'6" and 314 pounds.
Last season the Vikings found their cornerstone left tackle in Matt Kalil. Now they need to find someone to play alongside him. It will be tough to find an immediate starter this late into the draft this late, but they could certainly add some depth here.
Garrett Gilkey from Chadron State is the ninth ranked guard in the draft according to NFL Draft Scout. Having played left tackle in college, his best bet in the NFL will be to move inside. At 6"6" and 314 pounds, Gilkey is as tall as Kalil and weighs at least as much as Charlie Johnson and Brandon Fusco.
During the week of practice leading up to the Senior Bowl, Gilkey worked out at guard. According to a report from Pat Kirwan of CBS Sports, Gilkey looked impressive against the competition at the Senior Bowl.
According to his profile from the Senior Bowl website, Gilkey started three-plus years at left tackle and twice earned All-Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference honors.
There were six players on the Vikings' roster last season that were that were drafted in the seventh round. Three of those six were selected by the Vikings in the last two drafts, including both picks in 2011, Stephen Burton and Devin Aromashodu.
The past three years, the Vikings have had six picks in the seventh round. Those picks were split evenly among defensive and offensive players. With another two picks in the seventh round in 2013, the Vikings will be looking for a diamond in the rough that will surprise and make the team and eventually become a starter.
The first seventh-round pick may see the Vikings still looking to add depth on the defensive line.
Joe Kruger, a defensive end from Utah, declared for the NFL draft, forgoing his senior season. His early departure may not have been a good idea since he is projected to be a seventh-round pick in April's draft.
Kruger has NFL bloodlines, as he is the younger brother of Paul Kruger who was a second-round draft pick of the Super Bowl Champion Ravens and started five games this past season, recording two sacks in their Super Bowl win.
Joe played with his older brother Dave on the defensive line for the Utes and led Utah with six sacks. At 6'6" and 280 pounds, he matches Jared Allen's height and Everson Griffen's weight. Now, if he can play at a level even close to either one, he could make the team as backup.
The Vikings are not looking for any competition for starting quarterback Christian Ponder next season. However, they do need to find some competition for the backup and third-string roles.
Joe Webb proved in the playoffs that he is not an effective NFL backup quarterback and McLeod Bethel-Thompson's experience amounts to a couple of starts in the UFL for the Sacramento Mountain Lions.
Southern Utah quarterback, Brad Sorensen had a record-setting year for the Thunderbirds. This season he completed 273 of 439 passes for 3,139 yards and 23 touchdowns.
This week, he was invited to the Combine. According to NFL Draft Scout, Sorensen is projected to be at best a seventh-round draft pick. Flying mostly under the radar there is chance for Sorensen to impress scouts and climb up the draft boards.
The last quarterback the Vikings selected in the seventh round of the draft was Tyler Thigpen in 2007. Last season, he was active for four games with the Buffalo Bills.
On the other end of the spectrum, perhaps Sorensen could develop into the next Brad Johnson. Johnson was the Vikings ninth-round pick in 1992 and eventually won a Super Bowl with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2002.