The addition of Jennings instantly upgrades Vikings offense
The free-agency frenzy is basically over. We're nearly two weeks in and most of the big names are off the board. Still, there are a number of potential free agents out there. Two notable possibilities for the Minnesota Vikings, at least, are Karlos Dansby and Brian Urlacher, but I will address those players below. For the Vikings, the big catch—no pun intended—was Greg Jennings. Jennings brings a veteran presence—as well as game—to the Vikings offense.
Another addition or two via the draft may have pundits considering Minnesota as a possible front-runner in the NFC North. With two picks in the first round, the Vikings really have a lot of maneuverability. This article lays out a few options to consider.
The Vikings, via the Percy Harvin trade, now own the 23rd and 25th picks in this year’s draft. Last year, Minnesota struck immediate gold with Matt Kalil and Harrison Smith, both taken in the first round. Granted, the Vikings moved back into the first round to grab Smith, but this year no movement is necessary.
What will the Vikings do this year?
Would Urlacher be a good fit?
With the acquisition of Greg Jennings, the Vikings have at least taken care of an immediate need for a No. 1 receiver, but I am sure they are not done yet at that position.
Jarius Wright emerged late last year, so perhaps he is ready to take the spot left vacant by Harvin, but if he is more suited to the outside, then he and Simpson will fight it out for the SE or X receiver position. Stephen Burton could come into play as well, but only the Vikings coaches and management know if Burton is good enough to step in. Also, with Chris Childs conducting rehab and his progress seemingly remaining a secret, only the Vikings know the availability of his services.
So who should the Vikings pursue? All indications point to a new priority—middle linebacker. The exit of Jasper Brinkley leaves unproven Audie Cole and Tyrone McKenzie.
Do the Vikings want to march into the season with yet another unproven player at such a vital position?
The other position of priority seems to be DT. With Kevin Williams turning 33 and Christian Ballard as his backup, the Vikings either need depth or another impact player. Letroy Guion and Fred Evans are nice situational players, but the Vikings need someone to complement Williams—or a guy to eventually replace him.
This year’s draft for the DT position seems to be deep, so based on their priorities, the Vikings could elect to go big in Round 1 or wait until Round 2 or 3 to look for defensive line help.
As for picks 23 and 25: If the Vikings do not acquire Urlacher, Dansby or someone else they deem can step in, they could look at two possible linebackers who may wind up being available at No. 23: Manti Te'o (Notre Dame) or Kevin Minter (LSU). Arthur Brown (Kansas State) may also be a possibility, but I always worry about guys who suddenly climb the ladder this close to the draft.
Unless the Vikings know something, they have to be looking at MLB high in the draft. It all depends on who they feel can be that guy.
Other notable guys in the middle are Kiko Alonso of Oregon and Jon Bostic of Florida, but the consensus is that both of these guys are Round 2 projects—not that that is a bad thing. The kid I like is A.J. Klein out of Iowa State. He reminds me a lot of Zach Thomas, and he could be a steal in Round 3.
Could Te'o be the Vikings' man in the middle?
There is no doubt that Te'o has suddenly become a lightning rod, both on and off the field. Despite all the ballyhoo surrounding him, he can still play the position—and play it well. Despite Notre Dame’s embarrassing national championship loss to Alabama and his less-than-stellar combine, Te'o is a proven player and could really benefit the Vikings.
Bottom line: The Vikings have a lot of options here. If they decide to stay put, they have plenty of players to choose from. The following players could be available at both 23 and 25:
WR Tavon Austin (WVU), DT Sylvester Williams (UNC), WR Keenan Allen (Cal), WR Cordarelle Patterson (Tennessee), CB DJ Hayden (Houston) or CB Desmond Trufant (Washington) and NT Johnathan Hankins (Ohio State).
Most standards suggest the Vikings stay put and draft two “possible” impact players, but many things are not conventional in the NFL, and my money is on the Vikings making a move.
Here are the Vikings' 2013 selections by round:
–Round 1 – No. 23 (No. 23 overall)
–Round 1 – No. 25 (No. 25 overall)
–Round 2 – No. 22 (No. 52 overall)
–Round 3 – No. 21 (No. 83 overall)
–Round 4 – No. 5 (No. 102 overall)
–Round 4 - No. 23 (No. 120 overall)
–Round 5 – No. 22 (No. 155 overall)
–Round 6 – No. 21 (No. 189 overall)
–Round 7 – No. 7 (No. 213 overall)
–Round 7 – No. 8 (No. 214 overall)
–Round 7 – No. 23 (No. 229 overall)
With this number of picks, there are plenty options available as well.
If Tavon is available at 23, will the Vikings turn in the card?
It makes perfect sense for the Vikings to stay put and draft two high-profile players. And in today’s new rookie contract era, the Vikings could afford to sign both; however, let’s throw a couple of monkeys in the wrench.
The Vikings keep pick No. 23, but trade back pick No. 25.
Chances are there will be some teams that will be desperate to grab players they have high on their boards.
Good value could come to the Vikings anywhere from picks 28-32 of Round 1, or picks 33-35 of Round 2. If the Vikings decide to trade back, they could parlay that into additional picks this year or next.
By dropping back, they could still grab an impact player they covet, especially along the defensive line or at corner or wide receiver.
Most pundits and draft boards have the Vikings looking at wide receiver and defensive line for picks 23 and 25. Some have them going corner, but that is in reaction to the release of Winfield, whom I believe will return.
Let’s say that, at 23, the Vikings get a player they had ranked No. 1 on their particular position board. Hypothetically, let's say at 23, it's Tavon Austin or Cordarelle Patterson. Let's also say that, at 25, one of the top defensive linemen they wanted is gone. Instead of picking another player that would seem like a reach, moving back would make great sense.
Also, don’t be surprised if the Vikings trade back from 23 rather than 25 because a team may want to jump ahead of the Colts. That does not seem likely, though, because the Colts could then trade back and screw the Vikings at 25. If I am the Vikings, 25 is available but 23 is not.
Imagine Fitzgerald in purple.
This option has the Vikings drafting a player they covet as a No. 1 at his position with pick 23—perhaps one of the top DT's or LB's, both of which are high-priority needs for the Vikings. But then with their No. 25 pick and a player, they could possibly trade for WR Larry Fitzgerald of the Cardinals.
Chances are the player would have to be someone like Toby Gerhart or Everson Griffen. I doubt the Vikings would separate with Griffen because he is most likely seen as Jared Allen’s replacement when he retires, so Gerhart makes the most sense. Then the Vikings could use one of their fourth-round picks to draft AD's relief.
If they pulled off a trade like this, Fitzgerald, Jennings, Kyle Rudolph and AD would make for a very intriguing offense.
Ultimately, I do not see this happening, but you never know in the NFL. If the price is right, so is the deal.
Could the Vikings trade up for a game changer like Austin?
Hang on, hang on, don’t go hitting that comment button yet. On an earlier slide, you saw the Vikings' draft picks and round-by-round selection positions. The Vikings could afford to trade up by giving up pick 25 and a few of the extra picks they have, especially in Rounds 4 and 7. By doing so, they could move up and draft another impact player.
This scenario is one in which the Vikings absolutely believe in a guy they know will not make it to pick 23. In fact, the Vikings could package both picks 23 and 25 to move up to No. 12 with Miami and draft Tavon Austin, if they feel he is worth a similar deal to the one the Falcons pulled with Julio Jones.
This move is predicated on how much the Vikings covet a player or feel that a player is worth giving up extra picks for. It does not seem like Rick Spielman's MO, but if the chance presents itself, all options are on the table.
Are AD and the Vikings ready to make that run?
This year's draft could really be the bellwether draft the Vikings need to set them up for the next four to five years. By smartly selecting players who can step in, step up or provide needed depth, the Vikings have an opportunity to build on the momentum they created at the end of last year.
Ultimately, I would like to see the Vikings fill their immediate needs while taking players who will be able to contribute in a year or two.
The Vikings need players at two middle positions—DT and MLB—and DT Sylvester Williams and LB Manti Te'o could certainly fill that void for Round 1, as could similar players the Vikings feel can step in rather quickly.
For the subsequent rounds, I would like to see picks at WR, S, CB, G and OLB, not necessarily in that particular order.
In a few weeks, I will put together a full Vikings seven-round mock, but I am still waiting on all the free-agency talk to slow to a crawl before finalizing my picks.
Well, it’s your turn. Your thoughts are always welcome.