Well fans, the last mound of dirty snow has barely retreated into the earth, and here we are at draft day, the beginning of the ‘08 football campaign. The Purple got aggressive again during this year's off-season, unlike in ‘07, and took care of some of their needs, most notably at safety and receiver. Many mock drafts show them picking a wideout in round #1, but I think they ignore the acquisition of Bernard Berrian from the Bears, a proven deep threat who will give the Vikes plenty of material at the position to sort through next fall. They definitely don't want to give up a first on a wideout in a draft that is not real strong at that position.
Minnesota's greatest need is at defensive end where Keneche Udeze is sick and Erasmus James seems one season away from the chronically-injured discard pile. Complicating the situation is Kansas City's Jared Allen, who just completed a visit to Winter Park as this is being written. By Wednesday, the Purple may well be able to suit up a defensive end who piled up 15 1/2 sacks in only fourteen games last year. He will come at a cost of a first and at least third round draft choice, plus the usual armored car full of big bills that great pass rushers command. Unfortunately, he missed the first two games in ‘07 because of a couple of DUI's, and would probably merit a full year's suspension if he takes another midnight ride. He says he has quit drinking; so did Koren Robinson. This man is a great player, but nevertheless a gamble.
The Vikes also badly need help on the offensive line, where Big McKinnie, who has never quite lived up to advance billings, has also been piling up demerits, and may be looking at a long suspension. And it is not certain that either Cedric Griffin or Marcus McCauley will develop into an adequate starter at cornerback, only that Antoine Winfield is not a youngster anymore.
So... Sure to go in the first ten picks are defensive ends Chris Long, and Vernon Gholston, offensive tackles Jake Long and Ryan Clady, plus RB Darren McFadden, QB Matt Ryan, and DT's Glenn Dorsey and Sedrick Ellis. There are two elite LB's, Keith Rivers and Dan Connor, and a bunch of good CB's about whom there is little consensus as to their ranking. I have seen Leodis McKelvin, Mike Jenkins, and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie ranked at the top of the class.
Who, then, will slide to #17 where the Vikes pick? Assuming they don't have Allen signed, Derrick Harvey, a defensive end from Florida might just be there for the Purple. He is thought to be the third best in the draft, as well as a great pass rushing prospect, and would probably be the best pick if still available.
Another scenario would likely involve an offensive tackle. (This position and DE are generally regarded as the strongest in this year's draft.) Either Pittsburgh's Jeff Otah or Chris Williams of Vanderbilt could be available and would be solid values at this spot.
Or, with no general agreement as to the relative merits of the available CB's, the Vikes could find their top choice at that position available, and that would a good, solid possibility as well as Kenny Phillips, a safety out of Florida, should he still be around.
This year's draft fits the Vikes' needs quite well, and whichever of the three need positions they fill with their first pick, the other two are deep, and good players will be available in the second and third rounds.