The Vikings will enter Thursday's NFL Draft with numerous holes on both sides of the ball, so with picks 23 and 25, the possibilities are truly endless. Of course, everybody wants immediate impact, but making a deep 2013 playoff run in the stacked NFC is a long shot at best.
The team would be wise to draft for 2014 and beyond, and the tiers below are how I organize potential 23/25 targets in terms of long term potential.
TIER 1: All-Pro Potential
- Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee. Unrefined game and questionable character, but a freakish physical specimen who's special with the ball in his hands. Risky.
- Tank Carradine, DE, FSU. A season-ending ACL injury could give the Vikings shot at the best overall 4-3 DE in the draft. Allen/Robison/Griffen are all in final years of their respective contracts.
- Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri. Lethal interior pass rusher who takes over for Kevin Williams at 3-tech in 2014.
- Arthur Brown, LB, Kansas State. Has system/scheme flexibility, and can do it all. Only reason he's in the conversation outside the top-10 is his less-than-prototypical size (6'0", 241).
- Xavier Rhodes, CB, FSU. Best fit is a man scheme, but has the size and run support potential to excel in Cover 2 as well.
TIER 2: Pro Bowl Potential
- Sylvester Williams, DT, UNC. Big, quick, explosive and versatile DT who's still learning. Would start alongside Kevin Williams in 2013, and take over the 3-tech in 2014.
- Jesse Williams, DT, Alabama. Run-stuffing, block-eating anchor who becomes the new Pat Williams.
- DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Clemson. Hands, polished route-running and body control make him a safe pick and instant contributor for any team. Lacks elite size/speed.
- Desmond Trufant, CB, Washington. His skills would be optimized in a man scheme, and his so-so tackling and run support make me question the fit for Minnesota.
- Bjoern Werner, DE, FSU. Knows how to get to the QB, but lack of elite athleticism/length/explosion caps his ceiling lower than teammate Carradine.
- Keenan Allen, WR, California. Big and strong, he attacks the ball and excels after the catch. Questions about knee and Combine drug test have his stock slipping.
- D.J. Hayden, CB, Houston. Fast and physical man corner who lacks elite size/strength and comes with medical (heart) red flag.
- Datone Jones, DE, UCLA. Versatile D-lineman with the size (6'4", 283), strength and motor to play multiple spots along the DL.
- Jamar Taylor, CB, Boise State. Well-rounded, fast and physical. Ability in run support would help ease the loss of Winfield.
TIER 3: Good Starter Potential
- Alec Ogletree, LB, Georgia. Not a Mike, and not good against the run, but makes up for it with athleticism and coverage ability. Boom or bust.
- Manti Te'o, LB, Notre Dame. Instinctive leader, but physical limitations cap his ceiling relatively low.
- Kevin Minter, LB, LSU. Like Te'o, he's a 2-down Mike who lacks special physical tools.
- Robert Woods, WR, USC. Smooth and polished, but fairly average across the board physically, and has injury baggage (ankle). Projects to slot.
- Justin Hunter, WR, Tennessee. Intriguing blend of size/speed (6'4", 196). Inconsistent and hasn't been the same since ACL injury; not sure his vertical game fits Ponder and the WCO.
- Quinton Patton, WR, Louisiana Tech. Well-rounded and pro-ready, he does everything well but nothing great. High floor, low ceiling.
- Johnthan Banks, CB, Mississippi St. On the slow side, but he's a ballhawk whose size (6'2", 185) and willingness in the run game make him a great fit for the Cover 2.
- Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia. He doesn't grade out nearly as high as top QBs from recent years, particularly due to inconsistent footwork and accuracy, but considering the positional value of QBs, the "Good Starter Potential" designation carries much more weight for him than anyone else in this tier.