Vikings’ Draft Plans Are Anybody’s Guess


The draft is less than a week away, and it’s still almost impossible to get a read on who the Vikings might want to take when they select 30th overall.

Most of the buzz has been about quarterbacks Jimmy Clausen and Tim Tebow. However, for the Vikes to get either of those guys would be more than a little shocking.

Clausen is expected to be off the board long before the Vikings pick, and even if he does somehow manage to drop to their spot, a lot of people think his attitude would chase the Vikings away.

And then there’s Tebow, who is thought of as a long-term project, and therefore not someone the Vikes could count on to step in as the starting QB whenever Brett Favre decides to hang them up.

Colt McCoy‘s name has also been bandied about, but the first round might be a little high for him, and most expect him to have been drafted by the time the Vikings’ second round pick rolls around.

There is of course one possibility that could put a guy like McCoy more firmly in the Vikings’ cross-hairs: A trade down. No less an expert than the Star-Trib’s Judd Zulgad speculated on KFAN Friday that the Vikings could be looking to move their first-round pick in hopes of accumulating more picks. This would move their first selection into the second round, where McCoy becomes a more realistic possibility.

Zulgad also mentioned that, with Favre in the fold and no obvious quarterback successor being available as low as the Vikings are picking, the team might be inclined to go defense-heavy in this particular draft.

The position that needs the most upgrading would seem to be cornerback. Antoine Winfield is aging, Cedric Griffin is coming off a major injury, Benny Sapp is a nickel man at best and Asher Allen is still young.

This year’s draft happens to be heavy in good cornerbacks. Florida’s Joe Haden and Boise State’s Kyle Wilson are considered the top 2 prospects, but both are likely to be gone by the time the Vikes select.

After Haden and Wilson, you have Devin McCourty of Rutgers, Kareem Jackson of Alabama, Patrick Robinson of Florida State and Chris Cook of Virginia.

Several recent mock drafts have given McCourty to the Vikings at number 30. He is smallish at 5-11 and 185 pounds, but his speed and proficiency in zone coverage could make him attractive to a Cover-2 squad like the Vikes. He is considered solid in run support, another big plus from the Vikings’ perspective.

Jackson has a bigger body than McCourty, but is not considered as physical or sure-tackling. The same could be said for Robinson, whose scouting reports compare him to Antonio Cromartie, a talented player who wants nothing to do with hitting.

Chris Cook is an intriguing possibility mainly for his size. He’s 6-2, 210-pounds, which makes a lot of people project him as a safety instead of a corner. The Vikes could take him strictly on his physical ability, then figure out where to play him down the road.

For my money, McCourty looks like the best pick among those four, with Cook running second. Cook isn’t someone you would probably take in the first round though, meaning if the Vikes do hold onto their first rounder, McCourty would likely be the guy.

Another position the Vikes could look to upgrade is defensive end. Ray Edwards is embroiled in a money dispute and is unlikely to receive the long-term offer he apparently expects. The primary back-up, Brian Robison, is sometimes dynamic, but has yet to develop consistency.

The top 3 DE prospects, Derrick Morgan, Jason Pierre-Paul and Brandon Graham, all figure to be gone before the 30th pick. The Vikes could realistically trade up to get Graham, but his lack of a quick first step would seem to make him less-than-attractive for a team that favors fast edge rushers who get a huge explosion on the turf.

If the Vikes are looking for a quick pass rusher, they might take a peek at USC’s Everson Griffen, who has great physical skills but is very raw. The only other guy who projects as a late-first/early-second pick is Carlos Dunlap, but again, he lacks the kind of explosion that would make him appealing as a replacement for a disgruntled Edwards.

If you scan down a little you do find a guy who seems to fit the Vikings’ defensive end profile: Florida’s Jermaine Cunningham. He’s explosive, he’s considered a terrific pure pass rusher…and he has had character issues in the past, including a little problem with an arrest.

Cunningham is not a guy you would consider taking in the first round at any rate, but he looks like he would be a solid second round selection, especially if he has put his issues behind him.

Another position where depth and long-term prospects have become issues is defensive tackle. Kevin Williams is in the prime of his career, and Jimmy Kennedy and Fred Evans are solid back-ups, but Pat Williams figures to retire after this season, leaving a very large hole.

I don’t even need to mention that the draft’s top defensive tackle prospect, Ndamukong Suh, will be off the board long before #30. Ditto the second guy, Gerald McCoy. And Dan Williams and probably Jared Odrick.

It’s a strong year for interior defensive linemen though, and if the Vikes want one, they should be able to get a good one. UCLA’s Brian Price figures to be there at the end of the first round, as do Terrence Cody of Alabama and Linval Joseph of East Carolina.

Of those three, Cody comes closest to the Pat Williams type, at least physically. Unfortunately, Cody does not share Big Pat’s freakish-for-his-size agility and athleticism, and there are questions about his motor.

Price is more athletic than Cody, but is much smaller, and may not make it against the massive offensive linemen he would face in the NFL. Joseph is an intriguing possibility because of his quickness and ability as a run-stopper, but again, there are questions about consistency.

Of course, it’s possible the Vikings won’t go defense at all with their first rounder. As we know, there have been question marks about the offensive line, particularly center and right guard, and the team could choose to address these instead.

Among centers, only Florida’s Maurkice Pouncey figures to come off the board in that late-first/early-second area. Pouncey is strong and athletic, but a tad unpolished, and could be a liability in pass protection. One upside for him is that he could play center, guard or right tackle.

If it’s a guard you want with your 30th overall pick, Idaho’s Mike Iupati seems to be the only guy worth looking at. The attractive thing about him is that he is considered a potentially dominating run blocker – and God knows, Adrian Peterson would love to have more of those in front of him. Unfortunately, his pass protection skills are yet to develop.

One guy who’s popped up in some mocks, and was brought in for a visit when the Vikings hosted several prospects recently, is Vladimir Ducasse of UMass. He played both tackle and guard in college – again, versatility is good – and is physically gifted. The downside is that he’s another project guy. Remember though, that’s the same thing they said about Phil Loadholt last year, and the Vikings happily snapped him up.

Like everyone else outside of the Vikings brain-trust, I can only guess what positions are considered true need positions, and what guys are thought of as attractive prospects. The only thing I know for sure is, there isn’t a single guy available who gets your blood pumping the way Percy Harvin did last year.

Then again, crazy things happen in the draft. If there’s someone the Vikings really like, maybe they would be willing to trade up. Could that guy be Clausen? Do they really love one of the defensive linemen who seem to be out of their reach?

Or, do the Vikes look at this as a draft poor in players who could really help them, meaning they would rather accumulate picks and draft for depth?

I’m sure Brad Childress and the boys have a plan. And going by their recent draft history, we have good reason to trust that plan.