With a number of athletes to choose from, many fans have picked favorites among the players most likely to go in the first round.
The Vikings have well documented needs at wide receiver, defensive tackle and middle linebacker. Along with that, they could potentially lose Antoine Winfield to free agency and, therefore, might need to target a cornerback as well.
Unless the Vikings choose to double up, fans will likely come away with two of those positions in the first round and could see their franchise make or break themselves with this draft.
So, who have fans picked as their favorite players? It's easiest to simply take one from each position and take a look at whether or not they fit as NFL prospects. Specifically, fans seem to have fallen in love with DeAndre Hopkins, Sylvester Williams, Arthur Brown and Desmond Trufant.
DeAndre Hopkins, WR Clemson
Emerging from the shadow of Sammy Watkins, DeAndre Hopkins was able to establish himself as the dominant receiver on a deep receiver corps.
Hopkins had been bubbling around on people's radars for quite some time but solidified himself as a top-tier prospect for fans during the Chick-fil-A Bowl, which was perhaps the most exciting bowl game of the season.
With 13 catches, 190 yards and two touchdowns, Hopkins' performance was unforgettable and was crucial in the 25-24 win against one of the top teams in the country.
His objective statistics are impressive: 82 receptions for 1,405 yards this last season with 18 touchdowns. He did this against some impressive secondaries, including North Carolina State, Florida State and LSU.
But his on-field skills and subjective ability are also impressive. Hopkins is a smart route-runner that can read defenses, adjust and create space for himself and the quarterback. His tight route-running allows him to deceive defensive backs and burst out of cuts to generate separation.
Given that the Vikings need their split ends to break free of jams and enter routes with solid timing in order to advance their possession-oriented offense, Hopkins is also a fit within the system.
He has functional speed, even if his 40-yard dash time wasn't the fastest at the combine, and you can see him get deep (according to Second Round Stats, 20 percent of his targets this year were deep) while making a big impact.
With sharp route-running, excellent in-air adjustment and natural positioning, Hopkins is one of the few rookie prospects who could make an instant impact. With a talent for creating additional yards after the catch as well, he looks like he could fit perfectly within the Vikings' schemes.
Hopkins is not without flaws—he needs to extend his arms for catching and also play with a larger catch radius, but it seems like the general zeitgeist of the fandom regarding Hopkins is well-placed.
The defensive tackle crop in this year's class is deep, but not incredibly alike. Each defensive tackle has their own calling card and would be placed in different situations in order to maximize their ability.
The Vikings have a particular need at nose tackle but also need to look to the future and replace Kevin Williams at under tackle to prepare for his retirement.
Sylvester Williams is not only appealing because of his last name, he's extremely productive and consistently shows up on tape. He's not technically sound, but he does have a few qualities that separate him from the rest of the pack, even highly regarded prospects like Shariff Floyd and Sheldon Richardson.
There may not be a better first step in the draft class than Williams, and he persistently bursts off the line to make a play in the backfield before the offensive line can fully set itself.
That surprising quickness has been the bread-and-butter of his game, along with upper body strength to shed blocks.
Unfortunately, Williams does have a long way to go before he can be considered a complete, or even NFL-ready prospect. He doesn't have a wide variety of pass-rushing moves, and often relies on a swim move that will become easy to predict. He'll also give up on the pass rush if the initial burst doesn't get things done, which hurts the scheme.
He doesn't have the stamina or "motor" issues that other high profile defensive linemen, like Johnathan Hankins, Jonathan Jenkins and Kawann Short reportedly have, but he still does have stamina issues that need to be resolved.
As a run defender, he is adequate. Again, he relies on his excellent strength to get where he needs to go and can work into his gap against double teams, making him an important hole-plugger when needed.
Unfortunately, he has poor pursuit capability, reads the play too late and is too enamored with pass-rushing to maintain gap discipline. Without using his lower body strength, he will get pushed around and have to watch the play develop from behind rather than being able to react to it and stop it.
Unfortunately, Williams is not a fit at the nose tackle position. He doesn't maintain his position against double teams and is far more concerned with pass-rushing than redirecting a running play. Despite his size, he'll fit best at replacing Minnesota legend Kevin Williams instead of the mediocre Letroy Guion.
Williams is best described as having extraordinary potential. He has excellent natural pass-rushing instincts, but he needs to hone his ability to diagnose the play and react appropriately. He hasn't had a ton of experience playing football, so there's more to go. Once he figures out how to use his lower legs and add to his pass-rushing repertoire, he could easily be a top defensive tackle in the league.
Brown seems to be the consensus favorite middle linebacker for Vikings fans, although it is by no means unanimous.
The Kansas State Wildcat has been explosive in his time in Manhattan, Kan. As a player who can operate with the highly specific skill-set that the Tampa-2 requires, Brown could be the perfect fit for the Vikings, who now do not have a clear answer at middle linebacker.
With other linebackers, suspensions and arrests or over-hyped national attention have soured opinions among the Vikings faithful, and Brown remains one of the few pristine players standing as a result.
Brown has excellent sideline-to-sideline speed and excellent instincts in coverage.
Along with his ability to break to the ball, he knows how to get depth on his drops in order to patrol his zone and plays with length. It was Arthur Brown, not a defensive back, that broke Geno Smith's interception-less streak (he had gone 31 touchdowns and 283 passes without throwing a single interception) and Robert Griffin III's streak (14 touchdowns and 140 passes).
Often asked to play as a "spy" against mobile quarterbacks, Arthur Brown has been asked to do it all. He has been surprisingly good at taking on lead blockers and has great instincts in the run game.
Brown's biggest knock has been his size, but even that's overblown:
@christrapasso The thought that Arthur Brown is/was undersized stems from Kansas State listing him at like 225— Ian Kenyon (@IanKenyonNFL) April 10, 2013
He doesn't play like he's undersized and recently weighed in at 241 pounds, which is just outside the ideal weight for a linebacker (and not very worrisome).
Hitting hard and wrapping up well, Brown is a great linebacker who can really provide the answer in coverage that the Vikings are looking for.
No cornerback has garnered more support among Vikings fans, it seems, than Desmond Trufant.
Trufant is extremely scheme versatile and has been rising on boards since his time at the Senior Bowl. Unlike other cornerbacks rated near him, Trufant has a particular talent for zone coverage, making him a system fit in many ways that Rhodes and Milliner are not.
In zone coverage, he does a very good job reading the quarterback and breaking to the ball, and has deceptive speed before attacking the ball in the air.
He's an expert at positioning and leverage in the open field and has a good understanding of passing windows. His movement around the field is aggressive but disciplined enough that he doesn't give anything up.
Bursting out of backpedal or a landmark is an underrated skill that few cornerbacks can perfect, but Trufant has it locked down.
Who would you rather have on the Vikings?
Cornerbacks in the scheme are required to be physical run defenders who are critical in making sure alleys don't open up for running backs. Trufant has good run recognition and can shed blocks against receivers very well, although he doesn't hit as hard or wrap up as well as the rest of the class here—which might be the biggest reason why he's not a perfect fit.
Nevertheless, Trufant is a smart choice, because he's the only cornerback near the top of the boards who can play outside as well as inside. He's agile enough to cover the slot and has the range to take people out on the sidelines.
When asked to help the Vikings out in varying schemes, Trufant is perfect as well.
He's accomplished in man coverage, too—fluid hips, fast and functional speed, the ability to bait quarterbacks and quick change-of-direction skills all augment his ability to read the play and play against the receiver.
Given that he also has good technique jamming players at the line and disrupting timing, he can be critical in defending against the quick, rhythm-oriented offenses that the Vikings will need to take out, especially their rival across the border, Green Bay.
Given his versatility and natural instinct, Trufant is another smart choice for a fan base craving a playmaker at cornerback to complement Harrison Smith's heroics.
- If you liked this story, be sure to follow Arif on Twitter, @ArifHasanDN