For the Vikings, last year was pretty simple—take Matt Kalil and run.
This year, after a successful season, their pick is later and so their choices get more complex.
There will be a lot of value to choose from with the No. 23 pick overall. The Vikings, despite a playoff appearance last season, still have plenty of holes to fill.
So of course, they can go in multiple directions.
Today we'll take a look at what the analysts are saying in their mock drafts.
We'll do this a few times during the spring up until the draft—no more than every other week, as people don't crank out mock drafts all that often.
I tried to select more recent Mocks which, unfortunately, knocks out a few mocks I would normally include, like B/R's own Matt Miller (who is hip-deep in some small project called the B/R 1000) and Mel Kiper (who last updated his mock February 7th).
Inevitably I will miss some of your favorite writers, so be sure to include them in the comments and we can have a nice discussion. Plus I'll try to add them to the rotation.
Let's take a look at what folks are predicting for the Vikings this April.
When I did this for the Lions, I found that about half of the writers didn't really explain their picks. I'm always disappointed to see that, as to me the purpose of a mock draft is not so much to get the pick right, but to show what you think the team needs, why they might make this choice as well as your analysis of the player.
So there are a few of these entries that don't give us much to go on—in which case you'll get my thoughts on the player and pick rather than whether I agree with their logic or reasoning.
Tony Pauline—USA Today.com
Allen offers a bigger-bodied wide receiver with sure hands to pair with speedy Percy Harvin.
Previous Picks of Note: Pauline has the Rams taking Tavon Austin right before the Vikings pick, and while I love Austin, I wonder if Allen would have been the better pick for them. That said, it's not like the Rams can ever go wrong with a receiver.
Since, you know, they have none.
Datone Jones, the defensive end from UCLA, goes at No. 18 to Dallas and I think he'd be an interesting option for the Vikings if he were to drop.
Also while there are several safeties who go in the first, Pauline doesn't have another cornerback after Dee Milliner is selected (and none until Desmond Trufant goes at No. 28 to the Broncos).
Which actually leads me into my reaction.
Reaction: I actually can't hate this pick at all—we all know how much the team needs weapons for Christian Ponder.
There are several players they can grab instead—Trufant for one—but given how high a need this position is for them, Allen is a good pick. I also wonder if they would take a chance on Alec Ogletree despite his off-field issues.
His talent is certainly worthy of the pick.
My only question is, in a fairly deep wide receiver draft class, are there players who are more vital because they are at a shallower position?
Luckily for this mock, defensive line and outside linebacker are deep enough to find quality players if they want them.
Daniel Jeremiah—NFL.com/NFL Network
Remember the "Williams Wall?" Those days are gone over in Minnesota. Pat Williams is no longer playing and Kevin Williams isn't the player he once was. It's time to add a new Williams to the mix.
With those three off the board, the Vikings might as well wait on wide receiver.
He's also got Trufant going to the Broncos like Pauline.
Aside from the wide receiver run, I don't see any picks that stand out too much as odd or unlikely—Xavier Rhodes strikes me as a tad high, but overall even if I wouldn't always plug the player to the team, I can see this combination going before the Vikings pick.
Reaction: The Vikings' rush defense was ranked 11th in the NFL last year—sure a far cry from the "Williams Wall" days, and completely inconsistent.
Is it a high enough priority to work on this early?
At this point in Jeremiah's mock, there are no wide receivers of note (as it stands right now), but there are a few edge rushers they could use. And as I said in the last analysis, Trufant is still there and the Vikings are in desperate need of cornerback help.
Also, we're once again looking at a position of need, but in an area where there is depth in the draft class.
I don't think it's an awful pick—I do feel as though there is better value at this spot.
The MVP-caliber play of running back Adrian Peterson helped hide the fact that other than Percy Harvin (who led the team in catches despite playing in just nine games), the Vikings have few receivers who scare opposing defenses. Allen is a classic split-end with the size, physicality and mindset to perform well here immediately.
Previous Picks of Note: Rang is the first of our list that doesn't have the Rams with Tavon Austin. Barkevious Mingo almost drops to the Vikes, but ends up with the Bengals at No. 21, while Damontre Moore settles with the Steelers at No. 21.
Reaction: As with Pauline's pick, I don't think you can go wrong with Allen and Rang is dead right—if it wasn't for Peterson, once Harvin went down the Vikings would have been in trouble.
Rang is also correct in terms of how Allen's skill set fits in—with his size and ability to use it, Allen would be a problem for secondaries, especially if Harvin stays with the team.
As with before, Trufant is still available, as are Alex Ogletree and Alex Okafor this time out.
My question still stands—it's a deep wide receiver class, is it worth getting one early?
Allen is a great prospect and the Vikings have a need for him. We may have more clarity on this in a few weeks, especially if the issues around Harvin are cleared up one way or another.
No one will mistake Christian Ponder for Peyton Manning, but the Vikings are currently connected to the former Florida State quarterback and need to add weapons to help him succeed. Although he won't "wow" athletically, Hopkins is a polished route runner and knows how to separate and create.
Previous Picks of Note: We have another "Austin to the Rams" pick here. The Giants snag Bjoern Werner at No. 19 and Jarvis Jones becomes a Saint at No. 15.
Interesting that Allen ends up slipping past the Vikings here, as does outside linebacker Arthur Brown, who we haven't seen much of in these mocks. Brown is a fringe first rounder, so that isn't too big a surprise.
Reaction: I like Allen more than Hopkins, but it's certainly a decent pick. Hopkins is a "solid, not spectacular" receiver who can make a little noise after the catch.
He doesn't always catch the ball cleanly and has some issues with drops.
What I do like about Hopkins (and we'll do some deep analysis of him in the coming weeks) is that by all accounts he's an incredibly hard worker who made some pretty big strides maturing as a player the last year or so.
He's not the biggest or fastest, but he could be a nice pairing across from Harvin.
Selection: Sylvester Williams, North Carolina, DT (partial subscriber link beyond top 10)
Defensive tackle isn't a top need, and the Vikings have bigger needs at wide receiver, outside linebacker and offensive tackle. But Williams is a good fit in defensive coordinator Alan Williams' Tampa 2 defense. Williams is quick and active and has very good football character, too.
Previous Picks of Note: The usual three receivers go early—Patterson, Austin and Allen—which would leave the team facing whether (as Brugler had) Hopkins is worth a pick or if they should attack another position of need.
Reaction: As McShay says, tackle isn't a big need for the Vikings. We talked earlier about beefing up the run game but also how it's not top of the "to do" list.
Werner and Margus Hunt are both defensive ends available and worth a look, and unlike most of the other mocks, Xavier Rhodes is still around as well.
McShay just isn't all that high on Rhodes (he says as much when he mocks him to Denver) but even so, Rhodes would be a much better pick than Williams.
Corner is a much bigger position of need and Rhodes is good in man coverage and is a very good prospect.
I said before, Williams isn't a terrible pick but in this case, I would absolutely go another direction—and probably go with Rhodes.
Selection: Kawann Short, Purdue, DT
They need another power player inside.
Previous Picks of Note: Two receivers are gone, which leaves Tavon Austin available (we'll talk about that in the next section).
Four defensive ends go off the board in the first 23 picks, while only one outside linebacker is taken, meaning there are still plenty of linebackers for them to choose.
But they don't.
Reaction: As I said in the Lions' mock Round Up, Prisco has a ton of football knowledge, but it's unfortunate we get just one sentence. Especially given it's a sentence about selecting a player at a position that (as we have established) isn't as critical.
Short is a very good run stopper who bats down passes, so it's not that he isn't a good player. It's just that when you have players like Dion Jordan, Alec Ogletree and Arthur Brown on the board, it's not the direction I would go.
The availability of Austin is interesting though. The only real issue anyone had with Austin was speed—which I personally felt he had enough of on film—but post-Combine that's not an issue anymore.
Ultimately though, Austin is a similar player to someone the Vikings have—Percy Harvin.
Assuming of course they still have him and want to keep him.
If they decided to part with Harvin, Austin would be a no-brainer replacement.
Of course, that could all depend on what happens with Harvin so, barring that, passing on him isn't a big shock.
And with that, we come to the end of this Mock Roundup for the Vikings' first-round pick.
The analysts are a bit all over on them so far—plenty have them getting a wide receiver, but the defensive tackle picks are a little head-scratch inducing.
That said, there are a bunch of ways for them to go.
We've touched on a few today, and will continue to do so both in the Roundups as well as in individual player profiles.
Who should be the pick? Chime in down in the comments.
**note - right after I hit 'post' NFL.com's Gil Brandt posted the following:
Gil Brandt @Gil_Brandt
Cal's pro day is week from today, but WR Keenan Allen won't participate. Still recovering from knee injury. Will have ind. WO 4/9 at Cal.3/7/2013, 5:09:40 PM
So keep this in mind when it comes to the mocks sending Allen to the Vikings. Not that he is off their board, but they might look for someone without injury questions because they cannot afford to miss. In any event, I would imagine he drops off a bunch of mocks in the next few weeks.