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‘04 could be another vintage year (04/28/2004)
By John Edstrom

Well fans, it would appear the Vikes once again have done an excellent job on draft day, getting consistently highly regarded prospects at each draft position, while at the same time filling their most pressing needs.

The acquisition of defensive end Kenechi Udeze is a major, wonderful surprise. Virtually everyone projected him to be the first DE chosen, almost certainly among the top ten. Udeze has a shoulder injury, (a torn labrum for those who like a lot of arcane detail), which apparently scared away the Jaguars at pick nine; the Vikes say it isn't an issue. Mike Tice claims he has one too, which he never bothered to have fixed, not being a sissy. If indeed Udeze's shoulder is no issue, he is a major steal at pick number 20.

Udeze should be able to start immediately and play every down, providing the Purple with the outside pass rush needed to make Williams and Hovan really effective on the inside, while anchoring against the run as well.

One of last season's painful memories was opponents regularly running wide on the Vikes defense, when they weren't running up the middle. Part of that problem was a lack at the DE position, as well as inferior outside linebacking, particularly after Chris Claiborne got hurt. The linebacking problem was addressed with the Vikes second pick, Dontarrious Thomas, who played in the middle at Auburn but is supposedly a more natural weak-sider. Running the forty in 4.56, he certainly has the speed necessary, although there are questions about whether he has the quickness and "fluidity" to cover receivers out of the backfield. He is expected to start before the season is very old.

The Vikes third pick, Darrion Scott, is another DE with the size and speed to be a projected second rounder. He should eventually be better than anyone on the Vikes current roster and can also defend both the pass and the run.

With their fourth pick, the Vikes addressed a growing need on the right side of the offensive line, where Dave Dixon is expected to last but one more year and Mike Rosenthal is deemed by many as merely "adequate." Nat Dorsey is an enormous, 6' 7", 322 pound OT out of Georgia Tech who was rated a second rounder on a lot of boards, but fell into the fourth round because of inconsistent play and a perceived problem keeping his weight under control. If he can be motivated to stay in shape and develop a leaner, meaner attitude, he has the talent to be a pro bowler for many years.

With their remaining four picks the Vikes chose a running back, linebacker, cornerback, and tight end, all of whom have a shot at making the team, much like last year's crop of draftees.

After Mike Tice's third draft, I like what I see, an ability to draft for need but consistently to get the best players still available, as well as find ones who have slid well beyond where they should have been picked. This means very few high picks wasted, plus regular help from the latter rounds of the draft, both of which a team needs if it is to improve faster than the competition 


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