The Minnesota Vikings and general manager Rick Spielman are poised for another tremendous draft. With a total of 11 draft picks, including two first-round selections again this year, the expectations are for at least another two to four starters to emerge.
From the last two drafts the Vikings have 18 of 20 draft picks still with the team. From these drafts the Vikings have six starters in Christian Ponder, Kyle Rudolph and Brandon Fusco from the 2011 draft and Matt Kalil, Harrison Smith and Josh Robinson from last year's draft. Mistral Raymond and Jarius Wright are in the mix to get some significant playing time in 2013, if not starting.
And of course there is the NFL record-setting kicker in Blair Walsh. His 10 field goals from 50 yards or more broke the previous record of eight in a single season.
This season the Vikings need to address needs at wide receiver, the defensive line, linebacker and cornerback. With 11 picks they should be able to find some starters and add some depth at all of these positions.
Of course we will hear the phrase "best player available" often in the explanation for the selections the team makes. Here's the best-case scenario when the best player available fits nicely with the needs the Vikings have to address.
The Minnesota Vikings have the opportunity to build another "Williams Wall." From 2005 to 2010, Kevin and Pat Williams played next to each other on the interior of the Vikings defensive line. During that time the Vikings gave up an average of 86.2 yards per game.
It's no coincidence that their average has increased to 106.4 over the last two seasons without Pat Williams.
With the addition the roles would be reversed for Kevin Williams. This time the veteran and five-time All Pro can be the mentor to the rookie.
Sylvester Williams, a junior college transfer to North Carolina, only played one year of football in high school. He finished two seasons with the Tar Heels with 96 tackles, 20.5 of them for a loss and 8.5 sacks.
At 6'3" and 313 pounds he has the size to plug up the middle and the speed to put pressure on the quarterback.
This year's draft is deep in wide receivers with as many as 10 projected to be selected over the first two days.
The Vikings need to upgrade at wide receiver. The signing of Greg Jennings, without question the best receiver the Vikings now have, does not completely offset what was lost when Percy Harvin was traded to Seattle.
The best-case scenario would be for Cordarelle Patterson to still be on the board when the Vikings' turn arrives with either the 23rd or 25th pick. A junior college transfer, Patterson's only season with the Volunteers was 2012. He finished second on the team with 46 catches for 778 yards and five touchdowns. He also at 25 carries for 308 yards and another three touchdowns.
At 6'2" and 216 pounds, he is taller than either Harvin or Jennings.
At this point he has unlimited potential, but the downside is he raw and will need to work on his route running. Of course with a 4.33 in the 40, all he needs to do is cover some ground.
Depending on whom you believe, the top two inside linebackers in the draft are Alec Olgetree and Manti Te'o. According to both Walter Football and NFL Draft Scout both are projected to go somewhere in the first or second round.
That means inside linebacker Kevin Minter from LSU could be available when the Vikings select in the second round with the 52nd pick in the draft. The junior led the Tigers with 130 tackles and tackles for a loss with 15. He also added a force fumble and an interception.
The Vikings still need to find a replacement for Jasper Brinkley who was a first-year starter at middle linebacker last season. They have re-signed backup Marvin Mitchell and they have the seventh-round pick from 2012, Audie Cole—but neither is a considered a starter in the NFL.
According to Draft Tek, the 6'0", 246-pound Minter is the 24th-ranked player in the 2013 NFL draft just ahead of defensive tackle Sylvester Williams.
With these three selections, the Vikings would address some of their biggest needs and perhaps find three new starters in 2013.
Last year the Minnesota Vikings found a potential starting cornerback in Josh Robinson from Central Florida, who was taken in the third round with the 66th overall pick. The Vikings would do well to address that position again this year.
Mississippi State cornerback Darius Slay is projected to go anywhere between the second and fourth round. If he is available when the Vikings select in the third round they should not hesitate, even if they re-sign Antone Winfield.
Last season Slay led the Bulldogs with five interceptions and finished his senior season with 40 tackles. At 6'0" and 192 pounds he brings some size to the defensive backfield. His 4.31, 40-yard dash was the fastest among cornerbacks at the NFL combine.
If Slay is off the board, another very good option would be Blidi Wreh-Wilson from Connecticut. Wreh-Wilson is another big cornerback at 6'1" and 192 pounds. He had 46 tackles and an interception last season for the Huskies.
The Minnesota Vikings need to find some depth at defensive end. Their two starters, Jared Allen and Brian Robison, along with their main backup, Everson Griffen, will all be free agents following the 2013 season.
The chances of re-signing all three will be extremely low.
The future will start with whom the Vikings draft this year.
Malliciah Goodman only recorded 20 tackles last season for Clemson, but 9.5 of them were for a loss. He also had seven sacks for the Tigers—both good enough to finish second on the team. The 6'4", 276-pound senior also led Clemson with four forced fumbles.
Last year the Vikings selected two Arkansas wide receivers in the fourth round of the draft. It might be time to go to that well once again.
Last year Jarius Wright did not get a chance to prove himself until Percy Harvin went down with an ankle injury. In seven games he finished with 22 catches for 310 yards and two touchdowns. During his senior year he led the Razorbacks with 66 catches for 1,117 and 12 touchdowns.
That same season, junior Cobi Hamilton had 34 receptions for 542 yards and was second to Wright with four receiving touchdowns. As a senior he also led the Razorbacks in receiving. He finished the season with 90 receptions—more than three times as many as the next receiver—1,335 yards and five touchdowns.
Last year the Minnesota Vikings selected three sets of college teammates in the draft. All three sets were from the same side of the football. From USC they selected offensive tackle Matt Kalil and tight end Rhett Ellison, from Notre Dame it was safeties Harrison Smith and Robert Blanton and from Arkansas it was wide receivers Jarius Wright and Greg Childs.
Why not keep the tradition going?
With 11 picks this draft, the timing might be right for another cornerback. Especially since Chris Cook has been unable to play an entire 16-game schedule since being drafted in the second round of the 2010 draft.
Like Cook, Tharold Simon from LSU is another big cornerback at 6'2" and 202 pounds. Last season he led the Tigers with four interceptions and finished the season with 45 tackles.
The Minnesota Vikings found a starter on the offensive line from a former Division II school and Senior Bowl participant in Brandon Fusco. He went to Slippery Rock University and was a member of the North roster of the Senior Bowl when Leslie Frazier and the Vikings staff coached the game.
This past season Garrett Gilkey was invited to the Senior Bowl after finishing his collegiate career at Chadron State in Nebraska.
After failing to re-sign Geoff Schwartz, the Vikings will be looking for some depth at guard. A three-year starter at Chadron State, Gilkey has the body for the next level.
B/R featured columnist Jon Dove put together a very extensive profile for Gilkey. Dove projects that he will go in the fourth round. Walter Football has him being drafted anywhere from the fourth to sixth and NFL Draft Scout has him also going in the sixth.
If he falls to the sixth round, that would be a great pickup for the Vikings.
Over the last 20 years the Minnesota Vikings have used seventh-round picks to draft linemen more than any other position. They have selected five offensive and five defensive linemen since 1993.
Look for the Vikings to keep with that trend, if they keep all three of their seventh-round picks.
According to Gil Brandt of NFL.com, defensive end Mike Catapano from Princeton had a private workout with the Vikings. Last season he finished with 12 sacks and 41 tackles—15.5 of them for a loss for the Tigers.
Catapano is 6'3" and 270 pounds, fitting nicely between Brian Robison at 6'2" and 260 pounds and Jared Allen at 6'6" and 265 pounds, yet a bit lighter than Everson Griffen who is 6'3" and 280 pounds.
Following the trend of the Minnesota Vikings drafting linemen in the seventh round, look for them to add another big body.
At 6'7" and 334 pounds, offensive tackle Rogers Gaines from Tennessee State certainly brings a big body. In a story from the Tennessean (h/t HBCUBUZZ), Gaines knows he is a sleeper, but is ready to prove himself at the next level.
The Minnesota Vikings selected linebacker Audie Cole from North Carolina State in the seventh round last year. Look for them to add some depth and a potential special team player by drafting another linebacker this year.
If Jake Knott from Iowa State falls to the seventh round, it would be a great selection for the Vikings. Knott finished his senior season with 79 tackles and was second for the Cyclones with six tackles for a loss. He also had eight interceptions in his career.