Coming off a surprising 10-6 season last year, the Vikings have a chance to build on that success with a strong showing in this weekend’s NFL Draft.
Last year’s draft yielded left tackle Matt Kalil, safety Harrison Smith and kicker Blair Walsh. Both Kalil and Walsh made the Pro Bowl as rookies, and Smith brought playmaking ability to the Vikings’ safety spot for the first time in many years.
Armed with 11 picks in this year’s draft (including two first rounders and six picks total in the first four rounds) GM Rick Spielman and company will have plenty of ammo to try to replicate the success they saw in the 2012 draft.
Despite the arrival of Greg Jennings, the Vikings could still use more talent at the wide receiver position. Linebacker, defensive tackle and cornerback are also areas of need. More depth along the offensive line and a speedy, change-of-pace running back would be welcome additions as well.
The 2013 Draft is said to be low on elite high-end prospects, especially at quarterback, but relatively deep with that next tier of solid talent. In theory, it is a good year for the Vikings to have so many picks.
While I sure there will be a multitude of trades tomorrow (maybe even involving the Vikes), I’m not going to try to predict those. Keeping that in mind, here is how I see the entire first round possibly shaking out:
1. Kansas City Chiefs – OT Eric Fisher [Central Michigan]
Other Options: OT Luke Joeckel
Looks like current LT Brandan Albert will be traded, perhaps during the draft, opening up the prestigious opportunity to protect the blind side of the great Alex Smith.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars – OT Luke Joeckel [Texas A&M]
Other Options: DE/OLB Dion Jordan, OT Fisher (if Joeckel goes No. 1)
Oregon pass rusher Dion Jordan is a popular pick for the Jags, but the new regime in Jacksonville undoubtedly wants to avoid whiffing on this pick after the team
sucked worked so hard last season to get this high of a pick. Joeckel is a safe pick while Jordan is more of a raw talent.
3. Oakland Raiders – DT Sharrif Floyd [Florida]
Other Options: DT Star Lotulelei, OT Lane Johnson, trade down
The Raiders very well could try to trade down since the player they have been most tied to during the pre-draft process is Floyd, who could probably be had at a much lower pick. Cleveland (pass rusher), Detroit, San Diego or Arizona (Lane Johnson) could be potential partners.
4. Philadelphia Eagles – OT Lane Johnson [Oklahoma]
Other Options: Trade down, DT Star Lotulelei, WR Tavon Austin
I would not be surprised to see a trade happen at this spot either. I believe left tackle Lane Johnson will be the pick here either way (if he is available) because of the importance of the position and his skyrocketing draft stock. If a tackle-needy team wants to move up, I think Philly would listen, but the Eagles also have a need there.
5. Detroit Lions – OG Jonathan Cooper [North Carolina]
Other Options: Trade up for OT? Trade down, CB Dee Milliner, DE Ziggy Ansah
Whoa, a guard in the top five? Not out of the question anymore with the new rookie wage scale in place. Plus, look at some of the big money contracts guards have been getting in recent years in free agency.
6. Cleveland Browns – OLB/DE Barkevious Mingo [LSU]
Other Options: CB Dee Milliner, TE Tyler Eifert, DT Star Lotulelei
They picked up Paul Kruger in free agency, but can you really have too many good pass rushers?
7. Arizona Cardinals – OLB/DE Dion Jordan [Oregon]
Other Options: OG Chance Warmack, OT DJ Fluker
Arizona’s offensive line woes have been talked about endlessly, but the Cardinals reportedly are hopeful that improvement can come from continuity and development of their current players. A talent like Jordan falling here is probably a surprise to some, but the Cardinals could use a true pass rushing stud to add to their already solid defense.
8. Buffalo Bills – QB Ryan Nassib [Syracuse]
Other Options: Trade down, WR Tavon Austin, QB Matt Barkley or Geno Smith
I’m glad I’m not a Bills fan.
9. New York Jets – WR Tavon Austin [West Virginia]
Other Options: OG Warmack/Cooper, QB Geno Smith/EJ Manuel
The Jets have needs at just about every position including QB. They would love a pass rusher, but their defense was decent last season even without Derrelle Revis. Their offense, on the other hand, was dreadful, and Austin is the most electric player in this draft.
10. Tennessee Titans – DT Star Lotulelei [Utah]
Other Options: OG Warmack, CB Milliner
The Titans would love to get O-line help to assist their two biggest investments on offense in QB Jake Locker and RB Chris Johnson, but a talent like Star may be too good to pass up.
11. San Diego Chargers – OT D.J. Fluker [Alabama]
Other Options: CB Dee Milliner, OLB Mingo
This is where we are likely going to see teams start to trade up. With Warmack, Milliner, etc. still on the board, I think you are going to see some movement. If the Chargers pick here however, I see them trying to address the offensive line with the versatile Fluker.
12. Miami Dolphins – CB Dee Milliner [Alabama]
Other Options: Trade, OG Warmack
The Dolphins have been one of the teams rumored to want to trade up in the draft, but if they can swing a deal for KC LT Branden Albert, that might not be necessary if Milliner falls.
13. New York Jets (from Tampa Bay) – OG Chance Warmack [Alabama]
Other Options: QB Geno Smith, CB Xavier Rhodes
Again, the Jets were awful on offense last year, and I don’t know if any of the remaining quarterbacks warrants this spot. Getting Warmack to help the offensive line would be a solid pick here.
14. Carolina Panthers – CB Xavier Rhodes [Florida State]
Other Options: DT Sheldon Richardson, S Kenny Vaccaro, CB DJ Hayden
The Panthers have needs all along the secondary, especially in a division with Matt Ryan, Drew Brees and company.
15. New Orleans Saints – OLB/DE Jarvis Jones [Georgia]
Other Options: DT/DE Sheldon Richardson, CB
With New Orleans switching to a 3-4 defense, they need a pass rusher to fit their system. Cameron Jordan is a candidate, but he might be better suited to play end. Jones, who only will drop out of the top five picks due to his medical questions (spine) and less than stellar combine, could offer a huge return to the Saints if they are open to taking on the risk because his game tape is ridiculous.
16. St. Louis Rams – S Kenny Vaccaro [Texas]
Other Options: WR DeAndre Hopkins, LB Alec Ogletree
Seems like a great match. St. Louis needs help at safety badly and chooses to go with Vaccaro here rather than risk someone else snatching him up before their other selection in the first round.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers – WR Cordarrelle Patterson [Tennessee]
Other Options: LB Alec Ogletree, TE Tyler Eifert
The Steelers lost speedster Mike Wallace and might want to replace him with the electric Patterson. WR Emmanuel Sanders is a free agent after the season and Pittsburgh might want to be proactive in replacing him.
18. Dallas Cowboys – DT/DE Sheldon Richardson [Missouri]
Other Options: Trade up for OG Warmack or Cooper, S Eric Reid or Matt Elam
Dallas could use more talent along the line as they switch to Defensive Coordinator Monte Kiffin’s system. Richardson is an athletic, disruptive tackle and would make DeMarcus Ware’s job much easier.
19. New York Giants – DE Cornellius “Tank” Carradine [Florida State]
Other Options: LB Manti Te’o, CB DJ Hayden
The Giants are known for having imposing edge rushers, and Carradine would have a chance to pick up where Michael Strahan and Osi Umenyiora left off.
20. Chicago Bears – LB Alec Ogletree [Georgia]
Other Options: LB Manti Te’o, CB Hayden or Trufant, OT Menelik Watson
The Bears need help at linebacker and opt for the ultra-athletic Ogletree, who has fallen due to character concerns. He is raw and might need to play on the outside, but his ability is unquestioned.
21. Cincinnati Bengals – S Jonathan Cyprien [FIU]
Other Options: OT Watson, S Eric Reid
The Bengals have a stout defense and a stable of nice cornerbacks but are lacking at safety. Cyprien is said to be a solid player in coverage and in run support.
22. St. Louis Rams – WR DeAndre Hopkins [Clemson]
Other Options: LB Arthur Brown, WR Justin Hunter
The Rams have a raw, athletic freak of a WR in Brian Quick. Time to grab a reliable, polished wideout with superior hands. Hopkins will help cushion the blow of losing Danny Amendola nicely.
23. Minnesota Vikings – CB Desmond Trufant [Washington]
Other Options: DT Sylvester Williams, WR Hunter, LB Manti Te’o
When Antoine Winfield signed in Seattle, cornerback became another area of need for the Vikings in addition to MLB, DT and WR.
Enter the 6-foot, 184 pound Trufant, who is the third Trufant brother to play in the NFL. Like Winfield, Trufant is an able tackler and supporter in the run game.
He is also said to have great cover skills and is excellent at running with receivers and rarely allows much separation. And when you play in a division against gunslingers Aaron Rodgers, Matt Stafford and Jay Cutler, those are good skills to have.
I give Trufant the edge over Manti Te’o, whom everyone seems to be mocking to the Vikings. Te’o has the instincts and smarts to play in the NFL, but I’m worried that he is simply a two-down linebacker, in which case I believe Trufant would make a greater impact on the team.
24. Indianapolis Colts – DT/DE Datone Jones [UCLA]
Other Options: WR Hunter, CB DJ Hayden
Jones would be a nice fit in the Colts defense, which is looking for a pass rushing presence with the departure of Dwight Freeney.
25. Minnesota Vikings (from Seattle) – DT Sylvester Williams [North Carolina]
Other Options: Trade down, LB Te’o, WR Hunter or Robert Woods
Another pick on defense at No. 25. One of my favorite WR prospects in the draft is Tennessee Tech’s Da’Rick Rogers, and I believe he could still be available in the second round.
Other than Kevin Williams and LeTroy Guion, the Vikings are paper thin at the position.
Sly Williams is a big man at 6-3, 315. He is said to be lightning quick off the ball and solid against the run as well. He would team with Kevin in a redux of “The Williams Wall.”
This pick could also be traded to a team with an early second round pick who wants to jump up to ensure that they get the QB they want here (Philadelphia, Cleveland, Arizona?).
26. Green Bay Packers – TE Tyler Eifert [Notre Dame]
Other Options: S Matt Elam, OT Menelik Watson
Who cares who they select? May Eifert or whomever they choose fail miserably whenever they play the Vikings.
27. Houston Texans – WR Robert Woods [USC]
Other Options: WR Justin Hunter
I think most people have Houston taking a WR here, but the question is, which one? I go with Woods here because he has more reliable hands and is a better route runner.
28. Denver Broncos – DE Bjoern Werner [Florida State]
Other Options: CB Hayden
Elvis Dumervil has left the building and Werner is the next best pass rushing end on the board.
29. New England Patriots – CB DJ Hayden [Houston]
Other Options: Trade down, DE Margus Hunt, CB Jamar Taylor
Patriots also seem to need help in the secondary, and in this mock, Hayden has fallen a bit. He is said to be stud athletically. The only question mark on him seems to be his medical history.
30. Atlanta – CB Jamar Taylor [Boise State]
Other Options: Trade up, Pass rusher
Atlanta is rumored to want to trade up, presumably for one of the better CB or DE prospects. If they can’t secure a trade similar to the Julio Jones trade a few years ago, a CB like Taylor would fit in nicely.
31. San Fransisco – DE Margus Hunt [SMU]
Other Options: Trade up, DT Jesse Williams, depth in the secondary
San Fran also has a boatload of picks and could look to package some of them to move up in the draft. Hunt is an athletic beast of a man who is very raw but could become a force on the already stacked 49er defense.
32. Baltimore – LB Kevin Minter [LSU]
Other Options: Trade down, WR Justin Hunter, LB Manti Te’o
With the selection of Minter here, it ensures that Te’o, QB Geno Smith, QB EJ Manuel and others won’t be selected in the first round. Obviously, during the real draft tonight, things could go differently.