The NFL draft (if not spring) is upon us. Every NFL franchise has had some time to evaluate their needs and pinpoint players to fill them. The Vikings are coming off one of their best drafts in franchise history, netting starters at the positions of tackle, safety, and kicker in addition to adding depth around the rest of the roster. The Percy Harvin trade has given the Vikings an additional first round pick, which gives them a good chance to get two impact players within the first round. Positions of need that could be addressed in the first round are wide receiver, defensive tackle, and middle linebacker.
Some possibilities to fill our need of a wide receiver are Cordarrelle Patterson from the University of Tennessee, Robert Woods from USC and, Keenan Allen out of the University of California. Allen is the most likely of the three to be in purple next year. He projects as a true number one receiver prospect. He is tall, has great hands, and has the ability to win jump balls with cornerbacks downfield. His weakness lies in blocking downfield and lack of elite speed. If Allen is available look for the Vikings to select him with one of our two first round picks.
With only one year left on Kevin Williams’ contract it’s time to start looking for his heir apparent. Sylvester Williams is a prototypical run stopper. Known as a wide-bodied DT. They should be able to plug him in next to Kevin Williams and re-form the “Williams Wall” from seasons past. Used correctly our run defense should improve dramatically. Sylvester could become the next in line of a great history of Vikings DTs that includes John Randle, Keith Millard, and Alan Page.
Linebackers Manti Te’o, Alec Ogletree, and Kevin Minter should be selected in the mid-to late first round. Of this group I like Alec Ogletree the best. He is extremely athletic and has the ability to make game-changing plays with hard hits on ball carriers that enter his space. In college he has been able to create turnovers by going for the ball with full force. The knock on him is that his instincts can be suspect and he will sometimes overrun plays. I think both of these things can be fixed with some coaching and experience. If Ogletree gets by the Bears at pick 20 look for the Vikings to pull the trigger.
Beyond the first round the draft becomes even more interesting. The 2013 draft class might be light on star power, but it is deep on depth and talent. Second round picks are being graded just as highly as players that will be first-rounders in 2013. Look for the possibility of the Vikings trading down using one of our picks in the first round to accrue ammunition for rounds 2-4.
Players Tyran Matthieu CB from LSU, and Aaron Dobson WR from Marshall are players that could be selected by the Vikings in the middle rounds of the draft. Matthieu is an especially intriguing prospect after sitting out of college football last year. He was a Heisman finalist the year prior and has the ability to make game changing plays on defense in the form of interceptions and fumble recoveries. He can also return punts. Dobson could be a nice pickup in one of the later rounds and could be a diamond in the rough for our wide receiving corps. Look for the Vikings also to target a guard or two and a punter later on in the draft.
All around, I expect another solid performance from General Manager Rick Spielman in this draft. I trust his judgment and what our scouts have done over the last few years with isolating players that can come in and play immediately. As long as Spielman sticks to his guns and is able to add a couple of starters the Vikings should have the firepower to regain the rights to the NFC north crown.