Today is NCAA basketball's Selection Sunday, and as a result I think I've heard the word "bubble" used on various sports radio and television programs at the rate of about 206 times per minute for the last few days. Lots of talk about who will make it into the field of 65 and be a part of what might be the best two weeks in sports anywhere. This got me to thinking. . .with the Vikings looking to upgrade and add parts and all that good stuff, how many roster spots are there actually available on the Minnesota roster, and who is in danger of potentially losing their job.
See, when you have a team that's as largely veteran as the Vikings are, there simply isn't enough room for a bunch of free agents and draft picks and things of that nature. In fact, the Vikings could potentially return all 22 of their starters from last season, dependent upon a couple of factors:
-Will Brett Favre be back for 2010? (I just throw that out there to humor the naysayers. . .we've already established he's totally coming back.)
-Are the Saints or Eagles potentially going to sign Ray Edwards away and give the Vikings their first-round pick?
-How will E.J. Henderson rebound from the awful leg injury he suffered in Arizona in 2009?
-Will Cedric Griffin recover from his torn ACL by the time the season starts?
The most potentially devastating loss would be Ray Edwards, particularly if he's going to play in 2009 like the Ray Edwards we saw against the Cowboys in the divisional playoffs. Everything finally clicked for Ray at the end of last year, and he finally started to play like a guy who was constantly getting single-blocked on a line with three other All-Pro caliber defensive linemen. There don't appear to be that many guys in this year's draft that could potentially step into Ray Ray's spot and produce if he should find himself in New Orleans or Philadelphia next season.
The Griffin and Henderson injuries don't worry me quite as much as they probably should, largely because of the experience that their potential replacements gained as a result last year. Benny Sapp and Asher Allen got extensive time when Antoine Winfield was out with an injury last year, and that should prove invaluable for them both should either of them have to step in for Griffin if Cedric isn't ready for the start of the season. On top of that, the secondary was probably going to be a focus early in the draft for the Vikings anyway, so if Griffin isn't available to start the season, we'll see a lot of Sapp, Allen, and another youngster on the field for the Vikings.
Concerning Henderson, I thought that Jasper Brinkley did a pretty decent job last year for the Vikings, given the situation he was thrown into. He wound up starting the final four games of the season for Minnesota, and while he had his struggles last season at times, the defense didn't experience that much drop-off when he was in the middle. Should E.J. need extra time to get himself ready, or if he's going to miss all of 2010, the Vikings should be fine at middle linebacker.
What might get a little interesting is the potential game of quarterback roulette that the Vikings might end up playing after Favre announces his return. I personally think there's a pretty good chance that the Vikings are going to use a pick in the first three rounds of this year's draft on a quarterback. . .not their first pick or anything, barring Sam Bradford, to use an old political phrase, getting caught with either a dead girl or a live boy in his bed between now and draft day. . .but likely their second or third-round selection. Since there's no way the Vikings are going to carry four quarterbacks, the decision would likely have to come down to whether it was thyme to move Sage (see what I did there), or if the Vikings want to potentially continue the Tarvaris Jackson Experience for another year.
And I haven't even touched on whether or not LaDainian Tomlinson is going to be a Viking next year as the third-down back or anything like that, because he's apparently still deciding between us and the New York Jets. But if he does, that's just one less roster spot for another free agent or a potential draftee to get their hands on.
So, if I were running the Minnesota Vikings, where would I be focusing our draft at? Well, the first three picks would probably go something like this. . .
Round 1, #30 - This would have to be a secondary player of some sort. This is the dilemma I faced in the live mock draft last weekend, where I could have taken either Boise State CB Kyle Wilson or Texas S Earl Thomas (or UCLA DT Brian Price, I suppose, but like I said, I was focusing on the secondary). I opted for the CB, even though our safety play last year was atrocious. I think Tyrell Johnson stepped it up a bit towards the end of last year, and I do like what we have in Jamarca Sanford as well. . .and, hey, can Madieu Williams actually get worse than what he was last year? It would be hard for me to believe that he could. But a pick spent on either of the secondary positions at the end of Round One would be a good pick, in my opinion.
Round 2, #62 - This is where I think I'd pull the trigger on a potential quarterback of the future, and there are going to be some pretty good guys to be had here. I really like Tony Pike out of Cincinnati, but there will be some other guys with great potential here as well, such as West Virginia's Jarrett Brown, Central Michigan's Dan LeFevour. . .oh, and some kid that played at Florida. T-Bone or something like that. Seriously, if the Vikings took Tim Tebow at the bottom of the second round, I wouldn't be even a little bit disappointed. . .and I'll explain why in an article later this week.
Round 3, #93 - This pick could potentially go to a couple of different places. . .if we don't end up with LaDainian Tomlinson, it could go to a potential third down-type of running back (USC's Joe McKnight, Montario Hardesty out of Tennessee), another defensive back, or potentially to a center like Boston College's Matt Tennant if the coaches decide that John Sullivan needs to be upgraded. I think Sullivan will get better, though, after getting a year of starting experience under his belt, so assuming we don't get LT2, I would probably focus on one of the aforementioned running backs in this situation.
What do you guys think? Discuss it here, and enjoy the rest of your Selection Sunday!