Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Vikings Draft roadmap

With the NFL draft days away, now is the time for the ridiculous rumors to reach a fever pitch. While plenty of experts like to construct mock drafts from these rumors, the reality is few people know what will happen on Saturday. As an alternative to a mock draft here is a roadmap of what the Vikings need and hope to accomplish this weekend. After filling 5-6 starting positions through free agency, the Vikings can now use the draft for long term development. At the worst the team has two to three immediate needs in the lineup. The remaining picks will go towards developing depth and future starters. With five first day picks, the team is in good shape.

Linebacker(Round 1-3)Hole to fill: Immediate starter

The number one need on defense is a fast linebacker. This is where the Vikings should use their first round pick. Linebacker is one of the easiest needs to fill through the draft. The odds of a rookie linebacker starting decrease with each round of the draft. Recent first round LB’s Derrick Johnson, Demarcus Ware, Shawne Merriman, Jonathan Vilma and DJ Williams all started as rookies. Compared to less talented and mentally equal (lost) 2nd rounders like EJ Henderson and Dontarrious Thomas, the difference is noticeable. The team’s need for skilled linebackers is high enough to warrant two first day selections.

Quarterback(2-3)Hole to fill: Future starter
The team is comfortable with Brad Johnson for the immediate future, but a potential future starter is one of the prime needs of this draft. While some rumors say the Vikings will trade up in the first round, it wouldn’t make sense. The history of first round quarterbacks is dicey. A second or third round selection makes more sense. There is less pressure at that point in the draft, not to mention significantly cheaper. Trading a first round pick for Atlanta’s Matt Schaub would be a major mistake.

Guard/Tackle(4-7)Hole to fill: depth, potential starter
Considering all of the injuries the Vikings’ line endured the last two years, depth is always necessary. With Steve Hutchinson, Bryant McKinnie and Marcus Johnson, they have a relatively young core of lineman. A future starter at right tackle should be the focus, allowing Johnson to play right guard.

Defensive Back(2-4)Hole to fill: Nickel back, future starter
Depending on how Dustin Fox is used, the Vikings will need a nickel back or backup free safety. Three cover cornerbacks are necessary in the NFL. Considering Fred Smoot’s shaky 2005, and Brian William’s departure, more depth is welcomed. If Fox inherits the nickel job, an eventual replacement for Darren Sharper is a wise investment.

Tight End(3-5)-Hole to fill: Receiving TE, future starter

Following a league wide trend, Brad Childress’ offense will feature the tight end prominently. Jermaine Wiggins is a nice possession receiver, but not the playmaker like Antonio Gates, Tony Gonzalez or Jeremy Shockey. Jimmie Kleinsasser on the other hand is an excellent blocker, but not a large threat in the air. It is possible the team takes a tight end in the first three rounds, but more likely is finding a project on day two.

Running Back(4-7)Hole to fill: special teams

Chester Taylor is probably not a top tier running back. With the Vikings’ improved line it may not matter. If the team does draft another running back (they have four of the last five years) it won’t be until the second day. The one exception is if they find a running back that can return kicks, relieving Koren Robinson of this duty.

WR(4-5)Hole to fill: depth, special teams

The Vikings have decent depth and youth at receiver. A receiver that could help on returns and coverage is a possibility.

Other needs:
Center-A project that could eventually replace Matt Birk.
DT-A run stopper to back up Pat Williams is nice, but not a dire need.
DE-With a rotation of Udeze, James, Spencer Johnson, Darrion and Dequincy Scott, end is in good hands. Minnesota is unlikely to spend a pick here.

The specific players Minnesota takes is unknown and guessing is pointless. Instead of getting hung up on the specific player, judge the Vikings' draft on how wisely they spend their picks. Can anyone honestly say that Ernie Sims, Chad Greenway or Demeco Ryans won't all be busts? In a year or two we can start to compare certain players.