5 Biggest Draft Needs for the Minnesota Vikings

Mike Nelson@Mike_E_NelsonCorrespondent IJanuary 2, 2013

5 Biggest Draft Needs for the Minnesota Vikings

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    Somehow, some way the Minnesota Vikings willed their way into the postseason despite all the naysayers.

    They're one of the final 12 teams standing, and no one can take that away from them.

    But the Vikings have serious holes across their roster, which makes the playoff run all the more impressive.

    The purpose of this slideshow is to assess how those holes should fit into the Minnesota Vikings' draft plans.

    I'll assess Minnesota's five biggest positions of needs for the 2013 NFL draft.

5. Safety

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    Entering 2012 this was a position in dire straits.

    Minnesota traded up to select Harrison Smith with the 29th overall pick, and that play panned out beautifully. Smith finished his rookie campaign with 103 tackles, three interceptions and a sack.

    He's set to fill one safety spot for as long as he wants to don purple and gold.

    But the other safety position remains a big mystery. Mistral Raymond (10 games played, 15 tackles) was battered with injuries and never played up to the potential many thought could make him a legit starter.

    Jamarca Sanford (16 games played, 66 tackles, four forced fumbles) showed glimpses, per usual, but nothing that should earn him another year as the starter.

    This isn't a position Minnesota is likely to or really should address in the first three rounds (barring a very talented player slipping). But it's one the Vikings shouldn't ignore.

4. Left Guard

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    During the 2011 campaign it was evident that Charlie Johnson wasn't made to be a left tackle. He struggled throughout his first season with the Vikings and was part of an offensive line that allowed the fifth-most sacks (49).

    The Vikings liked Johnson enough to give him a shot at left guard in 2012. He showed glimpses of being a stable force early but faded quickly as the season progressed.

    Johnson is built to be a left guard but isn't one a team with Super Bowl aspirations would like to rely on.

    Minnesota may not find Johnson's replacement through the draft, but it should look for at least someone to compete with a veteran player. Should the right left guard fall to Minnesota in the first round (combined with other players going early), then this could be a position the Vikings address in the first.

    More likely, Minnesota should look to snag a guard in the third or fourth round.

3. Defensive Tackle

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    With the next two slides illuminating Minnesota's greatest needs entering the 2013 draft, the defensive tackle spot is one that often gets overshadowed.

    Kevin Williams has been a fixture at one defensive tackle spot since he entered the league in 2003. But at 32 years old (he'll turn 33 this August) he isn't the player he once was (30 tackles, two sacks and two fumble recoveries in 16 games).

    Letroy Guion's first year as a starter demonstrated that he's better suited to be a rotating defensive lineman rather than a starter (31 tackles and two sacks in 15 games).

    This would be a great position to attempt to fill in the second round if there isn't a player at a top-two position of need or a phenomenal playmaker available at that time.

2. Middle Linebacker

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    When observing Jasper Brinkley's 2012 stats one stands out from the rest: 97 tackles.

    On face value that's a great total. The 100-tackle mark is a plateau many throughout the league shoot for and never obtain. Brinkley nearly reached it after his first full season as a starter.

    He fell short, though, and left many Viking fans wondering if he's a long-term solution at the position.

    Brinkley's known as a run-stuffing linebacker, but that wasn't always the case in 2012. His underwhelming play against the run was part of the reason the defense finished outside the top 10 against the run relative to yards allowed per game (105.8 yards).

    His poor play helped the opposition rush for over 100 yards seven times in eight games from Week 6 to Week 14.

    Brinkley (27 years old and will turn 28 in July) isn't a spring chicken. If he doesn't get it now, then 2013 is likely his last shot to prove himself a difference maker.

    Minnesota may not want to take a chance on him in 2013 and beyond. 

    Drafting a player like Georgia's Alec Ogletree, who is projected to go roughly around where Minnesota picks in the first round should he choose to declare, could help solidify the defense if he can grasp the NFL game quickly.

1. Wide Receiver

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    This should be the No. 1 priority for Minnesota this offseason. The Vikings need to revamp their wide receiver corps, and selecting a wide receiver very early in the draft could be a smart play, depending on who is available.

    Over the years many teams have been burned by selecting wide receivers early (Charles Rodgers to Detroit, Mike Williams to Detroit, Troy Williamson to Minnesota) while others have been rewarded for taking a flyer on less appealing prospects (Marques Colston to New Orleans in the seventh round, Donald Driver to Green Bay in the seventh round, Brandon Marshall to Denver in the fourth).

    There are very well documented cases on both sides.

    Minnesota will have to be very careful in evaluating wide receiver prospects so it can find the next Demariyus Thomas rather than the next Troy Williamson, if it selects a wide receiver in the first round.

    With Jarius Wright as the only wide receiver likely assured of a spot on the team next season (who knows what Percy Harvin's offseason drama will be this time, but expect something), Minnesota should look to grab to wideouts in the draft and another two through free agency.

    Greg Childs is a big fat question mark as he recovers from surgery on his left and right patellar tendons.

    It's a position in need of a thorough house cleaning.