Going into the offseason, the Vikings have a plethora of questions that need answering. What do we do with the huge crop of veterans with expiring contracts? Who will be the starting quarterback next season between Christian Ponder and Joe Webb? What coaching staff and front office changes need to made? And
probably the most pressing of them all, where will the Vikings be playing in the 2012-2013 season and beyond?
Despite all of these questions (which I'm very glad I don't have to answer, though I may try) one of the seldom bright spots of every offseason for the Vikings is the NFL Draft. With this horrendous, up-and-down season coming to a close, the Vikings have clinched the third overall pick, as well as tied the worst record in the history of the franchise at 3-13. The upcoming draft is probably one of the most important drafts in the history of the franchise. If they reel in an excellent crop of young players, the turnaround could yield immediate results. If they blow it, the Vikings could be set back for another 3-5 years. Exploring the Vikings options in the draft is going to be a very hot topic of conversation here on the DN for the next few months, so I thought I'd kick it off with a breakdown of why I think the Vikings are in a great position to succeed in the upcoming draft, what they could do with their first few picks and who they should take.
(Side note: Word on the street, according to Sid Hartman of the Star Tribune and Kevin Seifert of ESPN, is that Rick Spielman could very well be promoted by the Wilf family to the General manager/Head of football operations within the coming days. I would like the move, as Spielman has made more good moves than not, and we haven't really gotten to see him make some of the moves that he would like because of the coaches' power in the authority structure in the organization. Could the Triangle of Authority be re-designed? What do you think about this potential move?)
It's basically a unanimous prospect that the Vikings top 3 positional needs, in no particular order, are: Offensive Tackle, Cornerback, and Wide Receiver. However, there are a lot more roster holes than in just those three areas, as we all know. In addition to those three, more than one Offensive Guard (Hutchinson could be retiring/released, Herrera is seriously declining) could potentially be a need, as well as a pair of linebackers with the possibility that one or both Henderson brothers could be departing. Another young defensive lineman for the interior/exterior rotation wouldn't be a bad idea, either, although Christian Ballard and Everson Griffen have both looked promising. If Visanthe Shiancoe isn't re-signed, another tight end or two wouldn't hurt, although I don't see that as all that big of a need with Allen Reisner and Mickey Shuler in the wings. A lot of other young prospects could potentially step up and fill needs as well, with DeMarcus Love and Brandon Fusco still on the roster, both of whom have a lot of upside. Stephen Burton and Mistral Raymond both looked good in limited action, as well.
To those of you who think that Quarterback is still a need for this team, I would like to clarify here that I think that the team is set at the quarterback position with Christian Ponder and Joe Webb. To be honest, both have looked pretty good in what time we've seen them, with a more extended profile having been given to Ponder. As of right now, I don't think any assumptions can be made on either quarterback given the supporting cast that they have been provided with, so building around the quarterbacks, not grabbing a new one, should really be the priority in the draft, as well as upgrading the defensive back seven. I would be extremely happy with either quarterback being the future quarterback of our team, and would much rather be in a situation of a quarterback competition between two good young quarterbacks than not having one at all.
In further exploring the point that the Vikings won't be taking another quarterback in the first round this coming April, I went over to www.drafthistory.com to see how many teams have taken quarterbacks in the first round the year following taking one in the first round a year before. The answer? Zero. That's right, no team in the history of the NFL has ever taken a quarterback in the first round two years in a row. If that doesn't indicate that the Vikings will not be taking Robert Griffin III or any other quarterback in the first round of the draft, then I don't know what will.
Speaking of RGIII, who so kindly demolished my Washington Huskies in the Alamo Bowl last week, I believe that he is the reason that the Vikings are in a very, VERY good draft position sitting at the third overall pick. A lot of people have come to the conclusion that Matt Kalil will be going to the Rams with the second overall pick. However, a few very important events have played out that lead me to believe that the Vikings will either get Matt Kalil, or get a load of picks for a team that wants Robert Griffin III. To break it down for you:
-Matt Barkley is returning to school for his senior season. This is going to make Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III all the more valuable sitting at the top of the draft. Last night, while I was listening to Tony Dungy on Football Night in America, he said that the Colts would be wise in taking RG3 at the top of the draft instead of Andrew Luck. While I still believe that Andrew Luck is going to be the first pick of the draft, the fact that Matt Barkley has returned to school has obviously made RG3 a Top-3 commodity.
-The St. Louis Rams, who hold the #2 Overall Pick, could opt to take Matt Kalil from USC, or they could trade down to the highest bidder, given their massive list of needs and the fact that they have taken offensive tackles high (Jason Smith #2 overall in 2009, Rodger Saffold this past year) in the last two drafts. Trading down would be an even more plausible option if RG3 went first overall, because there will still be a mass demand for Andrew Luck, especially at the #2 selection. If the Rams do opt to take Matt Kalil, that would leave the Vikings with a huge trading window for either Andrew Luck or RG3, which I think they should capitalize on if the USC Offensive Tackle isn't there. The next best option for the Vikings would be to move down a few spots and try and pick up an extra first or second-rounder.
-You might say, "Wait a minute, why is anybody going to trade up and take Robert Griffin III or Andrew Luck when they can just wait for him to fall into their laps? Everybody knows the Rams Vikings aren't going to take a quarterback!" The answer, my friends, is that the Cleveland Browns are sitting right behind the Vikings and Rams with the #4 overall pick. Everyone knows at this point that Colt McCoy is not a starting NFL quarterback, and the Browns are reportedly in love with RG3. I'm sure they wouldn't mind having Andrew Luck, either. This makes the Rams and the Vikings prime trade-up partners for teams like Washington, Seattle and Miami to grab their QB of the future if they choose.
Thus, in my opinion, the possibility for the Vikings to grab Matt Kalil or get a boatload of draft picks is still a very real, and very promising situation.
For your mock draft cravings, here's a quick 7-round mock for the Vikings (no trades or conditional picks for the time being, I'm no MarkSP18 when it comes to that stuff!):
1st Round (#3 Overall): Matt Kalil, OT, USC
2nd Round (#35 Overall): Chase Minnifield, CB, Virginia
3rd Round (#67 Overall): Jordan White, WR, Western Michigan
4th Round (#98 Overall): Derek Wolfe, DT, Cincinatti
5th Round (#130 Overall): Mychal Hendricks, OLB, California
7th Round (#192 Overall): Antoine McClain, G, Clemson
And there you have it, folks! Between Matt Kalil and trading down, and another prospect (specify in comments) which situation would you like the most for the Vikings?