Minnesota Vikings' Mock Draft: Instant Contributors to Be Had in Each Round
The big question for the Minnesota Vikings heading toward the 2014 NFL draft is whether or not one of the Big Three quarterbacks will still be on the board when they choose with the eighth overall pick in the first round.
Unfortunately for Minnesota, the best guess is that Johnny Manziel, Blake Bortles and Teddy Bridgewater will all be gone when No. 8 rolls around.
And while more and more mock drafts have the Vikings landing Manziel, there is no way that seven teams will pass up the chance to draft him, especially considering that arguably six of them could use a quarterback.
That thought may or may not have been the author putting a reverse jinx on Manziel's availability come the eighth pick. It's worth mentioning that over the last 20 years the two players that Minnesota most coveted in the draft were Randy Moss and Adrian Peterson, and no one ever thought they'd fall to the Vikings.
Having said all of that, if your hope is that one of those three falls to Minnesota, you can come up with scenarios where that may happen.
The Vikings have given themselves plenty of options leading up to the draft. Signing free agents Linval Joseph and Captain Munnerlyn filled two gaping holes on the depth chart and affords Minnesota a lot of flexibility with its draft picks.
It's a very deep draft. Jarrett Bell of USA Today quotes several NFL general managers who call it the deepest draft they've seen.
That bodes well for the Vikings, who still have plenty of roster spots to fill. Here is a look at some possibilities for every Minnesota pick. These players could make instant contributions.
First Round, No. 8: C.J. Mosley, LB, Alabama
Until Minnesota signed free-agent cornerback Captain Munnerlyn, the thought was that the Vikings would draft Justin Gilbert out of Oklahoma State to play across from last year's first-round pick Xavier Rhodes, which would give them a pair of young studs at cornerback.
While that would still be an astute move, the feeling now is that Minnesota will fill another hole and draft middle linebacker C.J. Mosley out of Alabama.
In an era when many linebackers are being marginalized with nickel packages being more prevalent than standard sets, Mosley is a three-down linebacker who provides a little bit of everything.
With Jared Allen gone and Kevin Williams more than likely gone, the Vikings defense is in dire need of leaders to join Harrison Smith and Chad Greenway. Mosley was the heart and soul of Alabama's defense for the last three seasons and was arguably the most respected player on the Crimson Tide.
NFL.com's scouting analysis touts his "respected leadership presence, lines up his teammates and directs traffic."
Mosley's football IQ is off the charts, he's a high-character guy, and he'll be a tackling machine in the NFL. He would add an immediate presence to the middle of Minnesota's defense and shore up a position where the Vikings have been weak for several years.
Second Round, No. 40: Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State
If the three big-name quarterbacks will be taken off the board early, the next group of passers might not be taken until the second round.
If Fresno State's Derek Carr is available with pick No. 40, expect the Vikings to pounce.
Some think that the Arizona Cardinals might have their eyes on Carr with pick No. 20, but the prevailing thought is that they'll fill an immediate hole before looking for a quarterback.
Carr would look good to any of the quarterback-needy teams ahead of the Vikings in Round 2, but if the Big Three indeed go early, Minnesota's chances of landing Carr in the second round will increase.
In Carr, the Vikings might be getting the most NFL-ready arm of any quarterback in the draft. The knock on him is that he played in Fresno State's pass-happy, spread offense and piled up huge numbers against weak competition.
While those criticisms might be true, there's no denying that he has a big, accurate arm. He would be a perfect project for Norv Turner to get his hands on and mold into a legitimate NFL starter.
Third Round, No. 72: Billy Turner OG/OT, North Dakota State
Wait, three picks in and the Vikings haven't taken a defensive back yet?
The signing of cornerback Captain Munnerlyn is huge for Minnesota in that it addresses several immediate needs. It adds a starter and a guy who can slide into the slot in nickel packages. It adds leadership to the defense and allows third-year corner Josh Robinson to move back to the outside where he belongs.
Another thing to remember here is the outstanding depth of the 2014 draft. It's thick with excellent cornerback and safety prospects. A team can get one or more later in the draft who might be every bit as good as one in the early rounds.
What you probably can't get later is someone who has the potential to be an All-Pro guard in a couple of years.
One of the most astute picks in the 2013 draft was when the Detroit Lions grabbed guard Larry Warford in the third round. They found a Pro Bowl-caliber player for years to come.
The Vikings can do the same with Turner, who was a four-year starter at three-time FCS national champion North Dakota State. He played tackle in college but projects as an athletic guard with a very high ceiling at the next level.
His adjustments are obvious: He'd be switching positions and adjusting to a much higher level of competition, but his positives are too great to ignore. He plays with a mean streak and has a dominant initial hit. He would help solidify the middle of the Minnesota offensive line.
Third Round, No. 96: Keith McGill, CB, Utah
Look for the Vikings to dip into the very deep pool of secondary prospects with their second third-round pick.
They'll have plenty to choose from, as options might include corners Stanley Jean-Baptiste, Bashaud Breeland and safety Deone Bucannon, who are all enticing prospects.
Instead, Minnesota will tab Keith McGill, a rising prospect out of Utah. He was a JUCO All-American at safety and started out playing there at Utah before switching to corner.
At 6'3", 211 pounds, he has the size and speed that NFL general managers crave at the cornerback position. He performed brilliantly at the NFL combine, and his speed, fluidity and leaping ability match up well with the talented receivers in the NFC North.
McGill was an excellent punt gunner for the Utes, and his versatility would serve him well in Minnesota. The only negative attached to him is his injury history, most of which was a lingering shoulder injury that appears to be fully healed.
He could be an immediate impact player on special teams for the Vikings and could threaten for a starting role at corner early on in his rookie season.
Fourth Round, No. 108: Christian Kirksey, LB, Iowa
The Vikings need to get more athletic at the linebacker position, and they'd do so by selecting Christian Kirksey out of Iowa.
At 6'2", 233 pounds, he did a little bit of everything playing outside linebacker at Iowa. He's a strong tackler against the run, with a lanky frame that will beef up over the next couple of years.
He was so versatile at Iowa that he slid into slot coverage in nickel packages and had two interception returns for touchdowns in 2012.
Kirksey would immediately be the Vikings' best linebacker in pass coverage and give them speed on the outside that they've lacked at linebacker over the last few seasons.
Fifth Round, No. 148: Craig Loston, S, LSU
Craig Loston started for two years in LSU's dominant defense, and at 6'2", 210 pounds, he could immediately challenge for a starting spot at strong safety for the Minnesota Vikings.
As a junior, he started next to 2013 first-round draft pick Eric Reid, and they formed a tenacious safety duo for the Tigers. Loston is a big hitter who is an excellent tackler in open spaces.
He finished his career at LSU with seven interceptions, including three in both 2012 and 2013. The Vikings are in need of playmakers on the back end of their defense, and Loston would give them that.
A two-time second-team AP All-SEC player, he is the type of athlete the Vikings would love to add to their secondary.
Sixth Round, No. 184: De'Anthony Thomas, RB, Oregon
Make no mistake: The NFL is a pass-happy league that continues to marginalize the position of running back.
For the second straight year, no backs are expected to be taken in the first round. Nobody would have believed that stat a decade ago.
Only five backs went in the first 100 picks last year, and the 2014 draft will probably see a similar number.
The Vikings lost Toby Gerhart, Adrian Peterson's steady backup, to free agency and are in the market for a change-of-pace back. Oregon's De'Anthony Thomas would more than fill the bill.
He seems like an ideal toy for new offensive coordinator Norv Turner to have in his arsenal. There is no denying Thomas is small for the NFL at just 5'9", 175 pounds, but smaller players have found their roles in the league over the last five seasons.
Thomas is a mercurial player, and adding him to an offense with Peterson and Cordarrelle Patterson is an enticing possibility.
He will need a creative coordinator in the NFL who can find ways to maximize his unique talents, and Turner seems up to the challenge. Thomas could become a Darren Sproles clone for the Vikings.
Seventh Round, No. 223: Aaron Lynch, DE, South Florida
At 6'5", 250 pounds, Aaron Lynch is a monster of an athlete who can be a dominant player when he wants to be.
He was a blue-chip recruit coming out of high school and started five games for Notre Dame as a true freshman in 2011. He sat out 2012 after transferring to South Florida, and although he had a good season in 2013, he didn't quite look like the prospect he did in 2011.
His desire and determination are under scrutiny as teams try to assess his value heading toward the draft.
Quite frankly, he needs an attitude adjustment and a fire lit underneath him.
Aaron Lynch, meet Mike Zimmer.
The Vikings' new head coach has a reputation as a "fixer" of players who have swayed off course. The last player whose stock seemed to fall similarly to Lynch's was Vontaze Burfict, whom the Bengals signed as an undrafted free agent in 2012.
Zimmer got to work on Burfict, and he was starting early on for the Bengals and led the NFL in tackles in 2013.
The Vikings could use a depth player at defensive end, and a prospect with a ceiling as high as Lynch's could be a steal in the seventh round.