After succeeding in last year's NFL draft, Minnesota Vikings' general manager Rick Spielman is feeling the pressure to perform his magic again—especially with 11 draft picks at his disposal this year.
For fans of the Vikings, months of speculation are about to come to an end—at least in terms of whom the team will select in the draft. Like last season, when Spielman was able to deal his way into the first round for a second pick, the Vikings again have two first-round selections.
Here's my last look at how the Vikings will attack this draft, and whom they will draft based on their current needs. No doubt, in the Vikings' war room the walls are covered with analysis, statistics and likely scenarios that will guide their decision-making process.
For me, it's a lot of gut feelings based on the greatest weaknesses of the current roster.
The Minnesota Vikings' biggest need might be wide receiver, or possibly cornerback, but unless general manager Rick Spielman makes a deal to move up, the top wideouts will be gone by the time the Vikings select at 23.
With their second pick at No. 25, and a pretty deep—but perhaps not all that talented—pool of wide receivers, the Vikings will use their first pick to address the defense.
I really like the selection of North Carolina defensive tackle Sylvester Williams. At 6'3" and 313 pounds he brings the bulk needed to plug the middle of the line. Lining him up next to Kevin Williams will improve the Vikings' run defense. It will be the start of the "Williams Wall, Part II."
A junior college transfer, Williams did not start playing football until his senior year in high school. In his two seasons as a Tar Heel, he finished with 96 total tackles (20.5 for loss) and 8.5 sacks. Six of those sacks came this past season as North Carolina finished with an 8-4 record.
An ankle injury prevented California wide receiver Keenan Allen from working out at the NFL combine.
The Vikings will address that need at with the selection of Keenan Allen from California. Ranked as the third-best wide receiver in the draft by Walter Football, this pick makes plenty of sense. It's only appropriate that the Vikings should use the pick they received from the Harvin trade to draft a receiver.
Allen will not be able to replace all of what Harvin did for the Vikings, but at 6'2" and 206 pounds he brings a little more size. He also returned kickoffs punts at California. As a freshman he had 18 kickoff returns for an average of 22.6 yards. This past year, the junior had 15 punt returns for 212 yards and a touchdown.
In three seasons with the Golden Bears, he finished with 205 receptions for 2,570 yards and 17 touchdowns.
Previously I had the Minnesota Vikings drafting a middle linebacker in the second round. But with the departure of veteran cornerback Antoine Winfield, the need for a capable cornerback comes to the to forefront.
The Vikings will not be able to replace Winfield, but they should be able to find a talented player who will improve the position.
At 6'2" and 185 pounds, Johnthan Banks from Mississippi State brings some size to the position. Previously ranked as a potential first-round selection, Banks showed poorly at the NFL combine which has helped drop his stock into the second round. His time in the 40-yard dash was 4.61 seconds—only the 41st-fastest time among defensive backs.
In four seasons with the Bulldogs, Banks finished with 15 interceptions and 221 tackles. As a freshman he was named All-SEC.
Still, his size will help in having to cover the NFC North receivers like Calvin Johnson, Brandon Marshall and Jordy Nelson.
The problem is he might not stick around until the Vikings pick at No. 52.
A wrist injury prevented Oregon linebacker Kiko Alonso from working out at the NFL Scouting Combine
The Minnesota Vikings need to find some depth at middle linebacker. Currently their depth chart at the position is veteran backup Marvin Mitchell, who has three starts in six seasons, and last year's seventh-round pick, Audie Cole.
Oregon linebacker Kiko Alonso is ranked among the top-five linebackers by both Walter Football (fourth) and NFL Draft Scout (third) and could still be available when the Vikings select in the third round.
The senior finished second for the Ducks in tackles (81) and interceptions (4) last season. After not playing much as a freshman or sophomore, Alonso finished with 128 tackles, 20 for a loss, 3.5 sacks and six interceptions in four seasons.
Last year the Minnesota Vikings selected two wide receivers in the fourth round. Even after addressing the position in the first round, the Vikings need to find some depth. While the draft doesn't necessarily hold the next Calvin Johnson or Brandon Marshall, the position is deep enough that there should be some good receivers available in the middle rounds.
Oklahoma wide receiver, Kenny Stills led the Sooners with 82 catches, 959 reception yards and 11 touchdowns. The junior leaves Oklahoma as a three-year starter with 204 receptions for 2,594 yards and 24 touchdowns.
At the NFL combine, 6'1", 194-pound Stills ran a 4.32 in the 40-yard dash.
The Minnesota Vikings will need to address the defensive end position at some point. Their top three defensive ends will all become free agents following the 2013 season. It is unlikely that the Vikings will be able to re-sign each of their three top defensive ends, Jared Allen, Brian Robison and Everson Griffen.
At 6'6" and 281 pounds, William Gholston has the size to attract the attention of NFL teams. The junior led Michigan State last season with 13 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks.
At the combine he ran the 40 in 4.96 seconds and had 23 reps in the 225-pound bench press. He has the size, but will need some refining to contribute at the NFL level.
At this point in the draft it's all about the BPA—best player available. And, as is usually the case, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
In this mock draft, the Minnesota Vikings addressed their top needs with the first five picks. Now it's about adding some depth and finding future starters who will earn their roster spot playing special teams.
In my last mock draft I had the Minnesota Vikings selecting Clemson defensive end Malliciah Goodman in the fourth round. If he's still on the board in the fifth the Vikings should not hesitate selecting another defensive end.
Goodman measures 6'4" and 276 pounds. He has long arms (36 3/8") and big hands (11") and ran a 4.78 in the 40 at the NFL combine.
After losing Geoff Schwartz to the Chiefs, the Minnesota Vikings will be looking to add some depth on the offensive line. J.C. Tretter went to Cornell as a tight end, and after two seasons with only five catches as a backup, he made the switch to the offensive line, eventually ending up as the starting left tackle.
He added more than 25 pounds to his 6'4" frame, weighing in at 307 pounds at the NFL combine. He is expected to make the move inside to guard for the NFL. Even taking into account Tretter moving inside, NFL Draft Scout has him listed at the 10th-best guard in the draft.
He was invited to play at the Senior Bowl. Unfortunately, he suffered a broken nose during the practices leading up to the game and was unable to play.
The Minnesota Vikings will look to add another body to the defensive backfield. Although Micah Hyde played mostly at cornerback for the Iowa Hawkeyes, he also played safety. He may have to make a position change in order to play at the next level.
He finished with 240 tackles and seven interceptions. According to his profile page on Hawkeyesports.com, he is the 67th player in Iowa history to record at least 200 tackles.
His last two seasons at Iowa he also returned punts. He averaged 9.9 yards per return.
With 11 picks in the draft the Vikings might attack the wide receiver position by adding another body. A late-round diamond in the rough could be Chad Bumphis from Mississippi State.
The senior led the Bulldogs with 58 receptions for 922 yards and 12 touchdowns. As a freshman he also returned 16 kickoffs for 383 yards, a decent 23.9-yard average.
At the Mississippi pro day, the 5'10", 196-pound receiver, ran the 40-yard dash in 4.52 seconds.
It's not true—the "N" does not stand for Nowledge.
The Vikings need to add some depth at linebacker. With their last pick in the draft they will look to add another body to the position.
Eric Martin came to the Cornhuskers as a linebacker, but made most of this mark as a special teams player. He also played some at defensive end. As a senior he led Nebraska with 8.5 sacks and 16.5 tackles as a loss from the linebacker position.
At 6'1" and 237 pounds he could develop into a player who might play either outside linebacker or defensive end.
At the Nebraska pro day he ran a 4.53 in the 40-yard dash and executed 20 reps on the 225-pound bench press.