The Minnesota Vikings have a number of needs to address through the draft this year.
The most glaring needs on offense are at center, guard, and quarterback.
On defense, the Vikings need to address cornerback, linebacker, and defensive tackle.
In the last few years, the Vikings have shown that they will take the best player available, regardless of position, especially in the early rounds of the draft.
We should expect nothing less from the Vikings this year, though they will need to address the aforementioned needs throughout the draft.
As a pre-combine mock draft, these picks may change in the coming weeks due to the fact that after the combine, many of these players will have their stock shift.
However, at this point in the evaluation process, each of these players would be a solid addition to the Vikings.
With their first pick in the draft, the Vikings will take the best player on the board who likely fills one of their many needs.
Many mock drafts have the Vikings taking cornerback Patrick Robinson in the first round. However, he will not be the best player available at pick 30.
Instead, the Vikings should pick Maurkice Pouncey, a guard/center from Florida.
While many scouts and analysts have the Vikings taking a defensive tackle, cornerback, or linebacker in the first round, the offensive line is a more pressing need.
Defensive tackle and linebacker are positions that need to be addressed for depth, not immediate help.
Cornerback may be an immediate need in many people's minds, but after Joe Haden, there are no really great first-round prospects.
The Vikings offensive line, however, was terrible compared with years past. The problem starts with center John Sullivan and right guard Anthony Herrera.
While Sullivan was a first-year starter and may have room to grow, Herrera is inconsistent and is not an NFL-caliber starter.
Either way, to get an upgrade at the position, the Vikings cannot afford to wait until the third or fourth round as many mock-drafters suggest.
The Vikings' offensive line could not open a hole for Adrian Peterson all season and was often porous against good pass-rushing teams.
Because of these factors, the Vikings should take the best guard/center in this class in Maurkice Pouncey. He should make an immediate impact on the offensive line in 2010 at either guard or center.
The second round is more difficult to project at this point.
The Vikings still have a number of needs to address, but knowing which players will be available is difficult to ascertain.
With this pick, the Vikings will likely go quarterback, even if it means trading up.
The three quarterbacks most likely to be available in the middle to late second round are Tony Pike, Colt McCoy, and Dan LeFevour.
McCoy has slid down a lot of draft boards lately, with many scouts thinking he could go as late as the third round.
In a previous article, I mentioned that the Vikings should draft McCoy in the first round. However, with the sliding of McCoy's stock, there is very little chance the Vikings take him in the first.
McCoy's major knock is his arm strength. The other area of weakness often addressed is the shotgun-heavy offense he played in at Texas.
In a West Coast offense, the deep ball is not the focus. McCoy can make the throws that need to be made in a quick-pass system.
He may need to get used to playing more under-center, but he won't be expected to start right away.
However, they can groom McCoy for the future; he is a smart player and can learn a new offense.
Colt McCoy would be a steal late in the second round. If his stock keeps sliding, it just might happen.
If the Vikings feel the need to trade up to get him, they should not be opposed to that idea either.
With pick 29 in the third round, the Vikings should select Roddrick Muckelroy, an outside linebacker out of Texas.
Muckelroy is a solid prospect at linebacker and would provide the depth the Vikings are looking for at that position.
Though Muckelroy played inside linebacker at Texas during his senior season, he started at outside linebacker in 2007 and 2008.
With versatility and the ability to play all over the field, the Vikings will get exactly what they need in Muckelroy. He won't be a long-term solution at inside linebacker due to his size, but he will be solid on the outside.
Muckelroy's biggest strength and the reason he was moved to inside linebacker, is his play recognition. Muckelroy has incredible instincts that led to over 100 tackles during his junior season.
Muckelroy was an All-Big 12 Second Team selection in 2009 after recording 78 tackles, including nine for loss.
After addressing three important needs in the first three rounds, the Vikings will fill the gap at defensive tackle in the fourth.
With this pick, the Vikings should take Al Woods, defensive tackle out of LSU.
The Vikings need a run-stuffer to take over for Pat Williams, who will likely retire in the next couple of seasons. That run-stuffer is Woods.
At 6'3" and 312 pounds, Woods can take up a lot of space in the middle of the defense.
Woods did not get significant playing time until his senior season, so he will be a bit of a project.
However, he has been sliding up a number of draft boards in recent weeks, and there are a number of scouts who believe Woods has a high ceiling.
The Vikings don't need an immediate impact player, so Woods should be a good value in the fourth round. Playing behind two pro-bowlers in Kevin and Pat Williams should help develop Woods into a solid player.
Walter Thurmond was an absolute beast in 2007 and 2008 for the Oregon Ducks.
Thurmond had five interceptions in each of those seasons to go with 144 total tackles and two touchdowns.
Thurmond is a great tackler in the open field and would fit well into the Vikings' system.
The major red flag on Thurmond is that he missed most of the 2010 season with a knee injury.
However, Thurmond has talent far beyond a fifth-round pick.
The Vikings have taken chances on other players considered injury risks in Percy Harvin and Adrian Peterson; both paid off significantly.
Granted, the risk with Thurmond is more significant, and he is not necessarily a superstar-type player. However, Thurmond was incredibly productive at Oregon and would be at worst a second or third round talent if he had stayed healthy in 2010.
So far, Thurmond's knee rehab has gone well, and he is expected to appear at the NFL combine. If that is the case, he could be a great steal in this year's draft.
Nevada defensive end Kevin Basped took a risk in declaring for the NFL draft after a junior season in which he notched 9.5 sacks.
Most scouts grade him out as a mid-to-late round prospect in the 2010 draft. The Vikings are a team that could use Basped's services, though.
With the Vikings unlikely to re-sign Ray Edwards, who could get big money in free agency after a monster postseason, the Vikings may look to pick up some depth at defensive end.
Basped is a pure pass rusher who is great at getting after the quarterback. Playing alongside a great defensive line like the Vikings have, Basped's skillset would work quite well.
If nothing else, Basped will be a solid third-down pass rusher in the NFL.
(Photo courtesy AP/Marco Garcia.)
USC running back Stafon Johnson suffered a terrible injury in September when he dropped a barbell carrying 275 pounds on his throat.
The injury was severe and could have killed Johnson, but that wasn't going to stop Johnson from getting back his game, though.
Johnson appeared at the Senior Bowl, ready to get back into action.
Though he is raw as far as route-running and pass-catching go, Johnson is excellent in pass protection.
If the Vikings can develop Johnson into a solid pass-catcher, he will be a great option on third down.
With this pick, the Vikings will be adding running back depth regardless of whether Taylor sticks around. After Peterson and Taylor, the Vikings lack a legitimate backup runner.