It’s clear the Vikings have many glaring needs heading into the 2011 NFL Draft tonight; QB, DT, DE, and CB, to name a few. So where are they going to go with the 12th pick, and how does it effect our entire off-season?
Well, let’s start by looking at our most obvious need, Quarterback. It’s no secret that the Vikings have been searching for a franchise guy since the Culpepper/Moss hay-day. And this year looks as good as any to snag a future signal-caller. But is 12 too early for a guy like Locker, or Mallett? It’s hard to say without looking at what else is available.
So, onto Defensive Tackle we go. Pat Williams is nearing retirement, and as a free agent, there’s no guarantee he’ll sign back with the Vikings this year. Not to mention, he and Kevin Williams are both facing four-game suspensions for taking an illegal weight loss supplement in 2008. That leaves Jimmy Kennedy, Letroy Guion, and Fred Evans to takeover run-stopping duties for at least the start of 2011.
Ideally, Marcell Dareus, or Nick Fairley would fall to us at 12, but let’s not get our hopes up. Realistically, our best option would be Corey Liuget out of Illinois. According to NFL.com, he belongs in the discussion with the top DT’s in this class; and I couldn’t agree more. A guy like Liuget could return us to one of the stingiest run-defenses in the league, and also give us a quality pass-rusher at DT.
There’s also been questions regarding our Defensive Ends, as well. Ray Edwards is currently a free agent, and although the Vikings have offered him a contract tender, there’s no certainty he’ll come back. And at 12, the Vikings may have a plethora of quality pass-rushers to choose from; Da’Quan Bowers being the most notable. Bowers entered the off-season as arguably the best player available, and a near lock to go number 1 to Carolina. But injury concerns have pushed him as far as 20th on mock-draft boards; and if you ask me, that’s a huge mistake. He’s got all the tools to be a Trent Cole-like player, and there’s no telling what havoc he and Jared Allen could cause opposing offensive linemen.
Another possibility is filling the void at Cornerback. Antoine Winfield isn’t getting any younger, Lito Sheppard is a free agent, Chris Cook has been injured, and Frank Walker and Asher Allen haven’t exactly developed their own “Revis-Islands.” Obviously the Vikings would love for Patrick Peterson to fall to them at 12; but so would the other 10 teams between them and Carolina. Peterson is worthy of going number 1 overall, and has “shut-down corner” written all over. So there’s virtually no chance he falls past the Cardinals at 5. The next best option is Prince Amukamara out of Nebraska. According to NFL.com, Amukamara has the ability to start from day one, and develop into one of the finer defensive backs in the league. Unfortunately, after Arizona, the 49ers, Redskins, and Texans all pick before the Vikings, and are also looking to fill holes in their secondaries.
With all this talent potentially available to the Vikings at 12, it’s no wonder Dave Pearson, Andrew Scherber, and myself have had a hard time deciding what they should do. But we’ve come to the conclusion that the Vikes have one-of-two options; either, “We’re trying to win right now” or, “We’re going to use 2011 as a rebuilding year.”
If they’re goal is rebuild for the future, then they need to go with their gut and take whichever Quarterback their highest on. Whether that be Jake Locker, Ryan Mallett, Christian Ponder, or Andy Dalton, it doesn’t matter, just get one before they’re all gone. This Quarterback class has been well-documented, and there are plenty of teams in dire need of a QB. So, it’s very possible that we see six of them fly off the board in the first round tonight (Cam Newton, Blaine Gabbert, Jake Locker, Ryan Mallett, Christian Ponder, and Andy Dalton).
However, if they’re goal is to win right now, then they’ve got to get the best player available; preferable one of the aforementioned (Liuget, Bowers, Amukamara). More importantly, they’ve got to swing a deal for a veteran QB; most likely, Donovan McNabb. As Andrew Scherber concluded in More McNabb Talk?, “Get him in here for a reasonable price and see what he can do with the weapons that are in place in Minnesota. Use your first round pick to address the DE, OT or WR position and hope one of the next-tier QBs falls to you in the second or fourth rounds.” The best-case scenario here is that the Vikings could get a guy like Christian Ponder or Andy Dalton in the 2nd round, to groom for the future.
With that being said, anything is possible on NFL draft night, so tune in, and let’s hope our beloved Vikings can find a way back to the top of the NFC North, in 2011.