AJ McCarron should be on Minnesota's radar for a quarterback in the 2014 draft.
By now, there are plenty of players you've thought about holding up a purple and gold Vikings jersey after being selected with the No. 8 pick in the 2014 draft.
They include Johnny Manziel, Blake Bortles and Derek Carr, to name a few.
All three of those quarterbacks could be available when Minnesota picks at No. 8, but there's more to the draft than the No. 8 pick, and there's more to this draft than just selecting a quarterback at No. 8.
For all we know, the Vikings don't like any of the "top-tier quarterbacks" available in this draft and will wait another year to drop a top pick on a quarterback.
The Vikings have serious holes in their secondary, linebacking corps, at defensive tackle and at offensive guard in addition to the quarterback position.
Last week, I presented a slideshow with players who the Vikings will likely have the opportunity to consider with the No. 8 pick.
This week, we'll look at players who would fit their needs and will likely be available between the second and fourth rounds.
It's tough to get too specific about how each player will fit Minnesota's scheme, as the coaching staff isn't in place yet for us to know exactly what the scheme will be, but we can still assess players' fits relative to their position and how Minnesota's roster stands.
These are 10 players who should be available between the second and fourth rounds and fit the Vikings' roster needs.
Cyril Richardson could solidify one of Minnesota's guard positions.
Charlie Johnson and Brandon Fusco were Minnesota's starting guards throughout the 2013 campaign.
Many Vikings fans are hoping at least one of those two isn't back in 2014 as a starter. By making this selection, the Vikings would put themselves in position to turning that hope into reality.
Cyril Richardson is considered one of, if not the top guard in the draft.
Scout's Inc. ranks him the No. 1 guard and No. 31 prospect overall while CBS Sports ranks Richardson as the No. 2 guard and No. 35 top prospect overall. Bleacher Report's Matt Miller ranks him as the No. 31 overall prospect and No. 2 guard.
Richardson played left guard and left tackle at various times in his Baylor career and projects as an early second-round selection.
He could supplant Johnson for the Vikings.
CBS Sports says of Richardson:
A large human being (6-5, 340 pounds), he has the brute strength to be a mauler in the run game and the light feet to hold up in space in pass protection. Richardson has room to improve his awareness and body angles, but he flashes a nasty demeanor and is a plug-and-play prospect who shouldn't last long on Day 2 of draft weekend.
Ahmad Dixon (6'0" and 205 pounds) is a big hitter with good speed (4.39-second 40-yard dash).
Another Baylor standout, Ahmad Dixon would pair well with current Vikings safety Harrison Smith.
NFL.com writes of Dixon:
Dixon (6-foot, 205 pounds) is a devastating hitter—just ask Texas Tech tight end Jace Amaro—and has solid coverage skills.
Assuming Dixon runs anywhere close to the 4.39 40-yard dash BU says he does, he could easily see his stock climb as quickly as any defensive back prospect in the 2014 NFL Draft.
With Smith already entrenched in Minnesota's defensive backfield as a safety capable of playing free safety or strong safety, Dixon could slide right in as the strong safety.
Dixon was second on Baylor's defense with 81 tackles while recording two tackles for loss, one interception and one forced fumble in 13 games this past season.
Chris Borland isn't the tallest linebacker but that didn't stop him from making plays at Wisconsin.
Will Erin Henderson slide back into the middle linebacker position in 2014 or will Audie Cole steal the job?
Another scenario is that Minnesota will slide to a 3-4 defense and need an additional inside linebacker. Whatever happens with Minnesota's defense, it would be wise to consider sliding Chris Borland into the fold.
Borland has experience as a 4-3 and 3-4 middle linebacker, having played both during his decorated career at Wisconsin. He was named the Big Ten's Defensive Player of the Year this season while also earning first-team All-American honors from the Football Writers Association of America.
Walter Football ranks Borland as the No. 11 inside linebacker in the draft and projects he'll be selected between the third and fifth rounds. CBS Sports ranks Borland as the No. 3 inside linebacker and projects him as a second- or third-round selection while Scout's Inc. ranks him as the No. 4 inside linebacker.
CBS Sports writes of the 5'11", 246-pound Borland:
The highly instinctive, physical (and productive) Borland certainly looks like a candidate for this year's Rang's Gang, which highlights a group of prospects who may not possess the ideal size or athleticism, but are terrific football players.
His lack of NFL size and arm length will be tough to overlook for scouts, but he is a heady player who doesn't make many mistakes and has the productive resume that should get him drafted sometime on the draft's third day.
Borland led Wisconsin with 112 tackles while recording 8.5 tackles for loss, four sacks, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries in 12 games this season.
Yawin Smallwood was one of the nation's leading tacklers this past season with 118.
Like Chris Borland, Yawin Smallwood was one of the nation's leading tacklers this season.
At 6'2" and 235 pounds, Smallwood was named UConn's Defensive Player of the Year with 118 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss, four sacks and one interception in 12 games.
Scout's Inc. ranks him as the No. 5 middle linebacker in the draft. CBS Sports ranks him as the No. 2 middle linebacker and No. 65 prospect overall, projecting him to be selected in the second or third round; WalterFootball.com ranks him the No. 4 middle linebacker and projects he'll be selected in the second or third round.
Scout's Inc. says of Smallwood:
Locates ball quickly and doesn't take many false steps defending run. Flashes good instincts and discipline when loses sight off ball but touch inconsistent in this area. Experience lining up inside and outside. Better instincts defending the run than in coverage. Can be quarter count late recognizing play action and back releasing out of the backfield. Route recognition is adequate but can take the cheese and drift out of position.
Smallwood was a three-year contributor at Connecticut and could provide good competition at the middle linebacker position.
Aaron Murray had a productive college career but size concerns will make him available later in the draft.
As mentioned earlier, quarterback is a huge need for the Vikings this offseason.
Teams aren't consistent winners in today's NFL without strong and consistent quarterback play.
There will be opportunities for Minnesota to address the position with its No. 8 overall pick, but it doesn't have to select a quarterback there. It could fix its defense at No. 8 and grab a quarterback later.
Cue Aaron Murray, who tore his ACL on Nov. 23 to end his college career. He had surgery on Nov. 26.
That injury will scare off many, teams but it shouldn't scare Minnesota, as the Vikings successfully rehabbed Adrian Peterson through his ACL tear after taking him as their top pick in the 2007 draft
Murray told the Associated Press, via CBS Sports, that he hopes to be ready for Georgia's pro day in April, which would mean he'd miss the NFL combine and Senior Bowl. So the Vikings will have to make sure to do their homework on Murray.
Scout's Inc. ranks Murray as the No. 8 quarterback; CBS Sports ranks him the No. 11 quarterback and No. 161 prospect overall, going as a fourth- or fifth-round pick. WalterFootball.com ranks Murray as the No. 15 quarterback and projects him to be selected between the fourth and sixth rounds.
Before his ACL tear, Murray had passed for 3,075 yards, 26 touchdowns and nine interceptions while completing 64.8 percent of his passes in 11 games.
CBS Sports says of Murray:
Murray exhibits good feet and impressive touch from the pocket, but has been an inconsistent decision-maker and will need to show improved awareness in order to be considered an elite prospect at the position.
AJ McCarron could develop into a starting NFL-caliber quarterback and wouldn't cost a first-round pick.
AJ McCarron could be another later-round option to Minnesota's quarterback woes, which would enable the Vikings to address their porous defense earlier in the draft.
McCarron has a proven track record as a winner during his four-year career at Alabama, going 36-4 as a starter, including two national championships. He set the school record for being the winningest quarterback in Alabama history.
But Alabama was known more as a running team with strong defenses, so some scouts are brushing aside McCarron's contributions. Regardless, McCarron will have his opportunity to be the next quarterback not selected in the first round that makes it as a starter in the NFL.
Scout's Inc. ranks McCarron as the No. 6 quarterback in the draft while CBS Sports ranks him as the No. 8 quarterback and No. 100 overall prospect, projecting him to be selected in the third round. WalterFootball.com ranks McCarron as the No. 8 quarterback and projects him to be selected between rounds two and three.
Walter Football says of McCarron in 2013:
McCarron hasn't illustrated a stronger arm than in 2012, and he has thrown some passes off his back foot when he didn't need to. The senior also has missed on throws down field to open receivers.
McCarron completed 67.3 percent of his passes for 3,063 yards, 28 touchdowns and seven interceptions this past season in 13 games.
Jimmy Garoppolo passed for 5,050 yards and 53 touchdowns in 14 games this season.
If a player can play, it doesn't matter where he suited up in college.
That's exactly what NFL teams must decide about Jimmy Garoppolo.
Playing Division I FCS opponents limited the competition that Garoppolo faced, but he did well against the likes of San Diego State and Northern Illinois, who he passed for a combined 711 yards, nine touchdowns and two interceptions against while completing 68.4 percent of his attempts.
On the season, Garoppolo passed for 5,050 yards, 53 touchdowns and had nine interceptions while completing 66 percent of his passes in 14 games, averaging 360.7 yards per game.
Scout's Inc. ranks him as the No. 7 quarterback prospect. CBS Sports ranks him as the No. 9 quarterback, No. 102 overall prospect and projects he'll be drafted in the third round. WalterFootball.com ranks him as the No. 11 quarterback and projects he'll be drafted between the second and third rounds.
WalterFootball,com writes that all 32 teams have scouted him this season and that two general managers visited Eastern Illinois' campus. It added that scouts "like Garoppolo's quick release, but have concerns about his hand size and level of competition."
CBS Sports says of Garoppolo:
Good-sized, rhythm quarterback with excellent accuracy, timing and a quick release that really helps him be efficient from the pocket. Sets up quickly and shows good lower body movement skills to evade pressure and deliver from different platforms.
Will get dinged by some teams for his 'ordinary' arm strength and probably won't be a fit for every team, although he sure looks like he can make all the necessary throws in the NFL.
Gabe Jackson is a massive guard (6'3" and 333 pounds).
Vikings offensive linemen John Sullivan and Phil Loadholt have already been inked to long-term deals.
Meanwhile, Matt Kalil was the No. 4 pick in the 2012 NFL draft. so tackle and center are solidified on Minnesota's offensive line.
Now, about that guard position.
Gabe Jackson, like Cyril Richardson, should be on Minnesota's radar for its second-round pick because Charlie Johnson and Brandon Fusco aren't the tandem that Super-Bowl teams dream about.
Jackson is a mammoth guard at 6'3" and 333 pounds. However, such size can work against him when it comes to explosiveness, but his frame can be tinkered with once he's in the NFL.
Scout's Inc. ranks Jackson as the No. 2 guard in the draft. CBS Sports ranks him as the No. 5 guard and the No. 76 overall prospect, projecting him as a second- or third-round pick. WalterFootball.com ranks him as the No. 1 guard and projects him to be selected in the first or second round.
CBS Sports says of Jackson:
Demonstrates not only the raw power expected of a man of his size but also surprisingly nimble feet and balance while in pass protection, to mirror quick rushers. Jackson plays with excellent knee bend and has long arms, which help him stay square and in control of his opponent in pass pro. He's a powerful drive blocker who uses his natural leverage advantage well, showing good leg drive to push defenders off the ball. Despite his girth, Jackson shows good lateral agility and balance to find fits at the second level.
Daniel McCullers is a massive body who could be another Pat Williams for Minnesota.
With the Sharrif Floyd era likely to begin in Minnesota with the expected departure of Kevin Williams, the 6'3", 305-pounds Floyd could use a massive body next to him in his second season to help with stuffing the run and to assume double teams.
That man could be Daniel McCullers.
The Tennessee defensive tackle is monstrous at 6'6" and 351 pounds, and is known for his run-stuffing abilities more so than anything he could provide in the form of a pass rush.
Scout's Inc. ranks him as the No. 9 defensive tackle, and CBS Sports ranks him as the No. 12 defensive tackle while the No. 120 overall and projects him to be selected between the third and fourth rounds. WalterFootball.com ranks him as the No. 12 defensive tackle and projects him to be selected between the second and fourth rounds.
CBS Sports says of McCullers:
McCullers has shown improved awareness and uses his eyes better to track and make plays against the run, although most times he just doesn't get there in time. He has tight hips and struggles to freely move laterally which inhibits his overall range. But that's not his game, McCullers is a short-area defender who clogs the middle and can handle multiple blockers while still making plays against the run whether lined up as a nose tackle or outside the guard's shoulder.
McCullers recorded 39 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, one sack and one forced fumble in 12 games this past season.
Lamarcus Joyner is a compact corner who could be Minnesota's new nickel back.
Chris Cook may not be back in purple next season, and Josh Robinson was tough to watch playing the slot for the first time in his football career.
If Cook doesn't return, why not slide Robinson back outside and draft Lamarcus Joyner? Or just slide Joyner to nickel period?
At 5'8" and 190 pounds, Joyner is a physical corner who moved between safety and corner during his Florida State career, but who thrived in his experiences as the nickelback covering the slot receiver.
CBS Sports says of on Joyner:
NFL scouts will be hard-pressed to find a better inch-for-inch defender in the country than the hard-hitting 5-foot-8 Joyner, who produces big plays with his physical tackling and ability to time blitzes and penetrate the backfield.
With his marginal size, Joyner won't be a fit for every NFL defense, but he plays bigger than he looks and has a future at the next level in some capacity, most likely as a nickel back. Defensive backs coaches in the NFL will appreciate Joyner's versatility, as he's logged action against legitimate competition while lining up outside, inside and deep.
WalterFootball.com ranks Joyner as the No. 9 cornerback and projects he'll be selected in the second or third rounds. CBS Sports ranks him as the No. 6 cornerback and No. 52 prospect overall who should be selected in the second round. Scout's Inc. has him as the No. 6 cornerback.
Joyner was second on the Seminoles defense with 64 tackles this season, recording 6.5 tackles for loss, five sacks, two interceptions and three forced fumbles in 13 games.