Minnesota Vikings: 5 Scenarios for the 2012 NFL Draft
The Minnesota Vikings are winding down a dismal season and while the team is still focused on trying to win games, a current 2-11 record has fans looking forward to a high draft pick.
There are currently only two teams with equal or worse records than the Vikings: the Indianapolis Colts and the St. Louis Rams. With upcoming matchups against the Saints, Redskins and Bears, the Vikings don't seem to have much room to improve their record (and likewise worsen their draft pick), which should be encouraging, in a sort of morbid way, to fans.
The Vikings have plenty of needs on both sides of the ball. Glaring holes exist on the offensive line, in the receiver corps, at linebacker and in the secondary. Luckily for them, many of the top prospects in this draft could satiate at least one of their needs.
With a draft as deep as this one, it will be very difficult for the Vikings to miss on a prospect and end up with someone that can't help this team improve for the 2012 season.
That being said, here are five different scenarios for how the Vikings may approach the 2012 NFL Draft.
Best Case Scenario: OT Matt Kalil, USC
With top prize Andrew Luck more than likely being selected by the Colts with the No. 1 pick, OT Matt Kalil from Southern California, who recently declared that he would enter the draft, will ultimately become the secondary prize of this draft class.
In the 2011 Draft the Vikings bought the house in Christian Ponder, now they will have to pay for the insurance and that should become Matt Kalil. The franchise QB has become the most important asset to any given team and thus needs to be protected.
He was even so good in college that, as a sophomore, he forced Tyron Smith, who was selected ninth overall in 2011 by the Dallas Cowboys, to be moved over to the right side of the line.
Kalil isn't so much a prospect for the Vikings as much as he is a Godsend. He's far and away the top LT in his draft class. He's got the strength, speed and intelligence to be a cornerstone player for whatever franchise selects him.
The only potential roadblock for the Vikings in getting Kalil is the possibility of the St. Louis Rams, who will select before the Vikings unless they win another game, snatching him first.
While the potential for that certainly exists, it wouldn't be the end of the world.
Splash Pick: WR Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State
And that is because of Justin Blackmon.
As far as the passing game goes, the only consistent offense weapon the Vikes have is Percy Harvin. Though Devin Aromashodu and Kyle Rudolph are both proving to be viable options, Harvin is the only playmaker that Ponder can continually rely on—and that needs to change.
Harvin is one of the most important players on the team, but it's no secret that he is not a No. 1 receiver and would tremendously benefit from the luxury of having another player to assist him in stretching the field.
Blackmon is the top WR prospect in the draft and is considered a "can't-miss" player.
Though he is often compared to fellow OSU product Dez Bryant, I like to think of Blackmon as a taller Greg Jennings. Though Blackmon is a much larger target than Jennings, the two are similar in that they possess exceptional ball skills and body control.
I consider Blackmon a "splash" pick because, while he would address a major need for the Vikings, he is a much flashier pick than an offensive lineman or a defensive back. In giving Ponder a high-profile target, the Vikings would essentially be putting together an explosive young offense ready to follow the new NFL norm of making a passing game their primary option.
Blackmon, like Kalil, will be at the mercy of the Rams as to where he will end up, but regardless of which player the Vikings get, they will end up with a game-changing rookie.
These past two slides have been my Tier I and Tier I-a scenarios. Now I'll move on to the Tier II options.
Tier II Pick: CB Morris Claiborne, LSU
If somehow the stars align so that Kalil and Blackmon have been selected by the time the Vikings make their selection, the next most viable candidate may be LSU corner Morris Claiborne.
With Antoine Winfield slowly declining with age, Chris Cook facing legal issues and Cedric Griffin's knees not allowing him to play at an acceptable level, the Vikings may be forced to address the most gaping hole in their defensive unit.
The NFC North has two very potent passing attacks in the Green Bay Packers and this guy named Megatron in Detroit. If the Vikings select the consensus "lock-down" corner of this draft class, it wouldn't just be a step towards contending in their division, it could be a step towards a defensive renaissance for the organization.
Despite living in the shadow of his teammate the "Honey Badger" Tyrann Mathieu, Claiborne is the best fundamental cornerback at LSU and has even been considered a better prospect than former teammate Patrick Peterson.
Don't get me wrong, just because I considered this a "Tier II" pick doesn't mean Claiborne wouldn't be a giant contributor to this team, I just think that with such a deep DB class, it might be wiser to address another area of need with such a high selection.
With so many other needs in mind, it might be wise to pass on Claiborne and go in one of two directions.
High-Risk, High-Reward Pick: WR Alshon Jeffery, South Carolina
Like the Justin Blackmon pick, a selection of WR Alshon Jeffery could be a huge splash pick for the Vikings. The thing about Jeffery that sets him apart from Blackmon is that there is much more risk to go with his reward.
Jeffery is your stereotypical 6'4", 230 pounder that could end up being the next elite WR in the NFL. The problem associated with Jeffery is that he is not in the best athletic shape that he could be and that he doesn't run the crispest routes.
If coached properly, Jeffery could be a great playmaker in the NFL—one to rival that of Calvin or Andre Johnson. He has been considered kind of a diva and could pose a problem for some coaching staffs, but the Vikings have been known to take chances on guys with character issues.
In the cases of both Percy Harvin and Randy Moss, that seemed to work out for them.
Jeffery is in the top three of his position group in his class, but the exact ranking is unclear as Michael Floyd from Notre Dame also possesses some character concerns. It is clear that Blackmon takes the top spot, but if he's gone, the Vikings may take a chance on Jeffery.
Though I recognize that this is a viable possibility, I don't think the Vikings' staff is in the position to take a chance on a player.
They will need to ensure that they are taking a player that will make an immediate impact on the team, or that they provide themselves with a wide range of picks to address multiple needs with this one draft class.
Trade Down to Accumulate Multiple Picks
This honestly may be the wisest of the options that the Vikings may be faced with.
They likely will be sitting with the second or third overall pick in the draft, but if Kalil and Blackmon are both taken, the value of their pick decreases to them while it rises for some other teams.
Both New England and Cincinnati enter the draft with two first-round picks (New England's from New Orleans, and Cincinnati's from Oakland). One of those two teams might be willing to part with their two first-rounders for the third-overall selection.
New England, though pretty well off offensively, needs some serious help in their secondary.
]With Morris Claiborne potentially available at that point, Bill Belichick might be willing to pull the trigger and offer the Vikings two selections in the first round to get the lock-down corner that his team needs.
After all, why would Belichick stockpile his team's picks if he wasn't willing to trade up with them as well? I certainly wouldn't put it past the Pats to go after a specific guy, especially when a team like Minnesota needs so much help.
Cincinnati is in a similar boat. They too have two first-round picks, but while New England is fighting to stay afloat, the Bengals are on the rise.
They received their second first-rounder by trading away previously retired QB Carson Palmer. In a sense, if they traded their two picks for the Vikings' one, they would essentially be moving up to a top three spot at no cost to them.
While the Bengals would receive another marquee player to add to their roster of rising stars, the Vikings would be allowed to address two areas of need, both with high-profile players—a win/win.
The Vikings may seem like they're a long way off from contending again, but with a solid draft and activity on the free-agent market this offseason, they could be back in the hunt by next season.
Thanks for reading.