Fans and pundits are throwing around three basic needs met by three players at pick three. Let's review those players & positions before I get to my mock draft & free agency.
Matt Kalil is an option at the third pick. I do not agree with anyone who claims left tackle is a position worthy of the third pick, however. Reviewing super bowl winners for the past 30 years, I see two left tackles taken in the top 5. Jonathan Ogden, of the Baltimore Ravens & Orlando Pace of the St. Louis Cardinals. Of the two, St. Louis was more of a dynasty, but how did they get there? St Louis won 5 games Pace's first year, 4 games his second & his third year, Trent Green got obliterated in the preseason & the Cardinals tried out a grocery store stockboy at quarterback who won the NFL MVP & the super bowl MVP. It doesn't seem to apply for the Vikings as Ponder does not remind one of Kurt Warner. Ogden was a great tackle, but do we think the Vikings have Baltimore's defense? Did Dilfer look great because Ogden was there? I think not. A third LT went at 6 in 1983 to Chicago. They won the 1986 super bowl, but, again, doesn't seem to apply at all to what made Chicago great that year.
Mo Claiborne is the corner back getting bandied about. When I watch him play, I think about how tough Cromartie looks making tackles. Claiborne just seems a bit over rated, to me. He seems a bit suspect in open field tackles, although he does stick his nose in there. If we were not playing a Tampa-2, I may even value corner & I do agree he is the best corner back available. The 3-cone drill time of 7.01 for him is worrisome, but I think his impact on the win/loss column would be far greater than Kalil, so I could be talked into the selection.
The third player at a Viking need is Blackmon. I think Blackmon can be an excellent player & he may even be a game changer. Is a 6'1" slow-ish receiver worth the #3 selection, though? I guess Jerry Rice would be, but who seen that coming? Wide receiver more than about any position can be found throughout the draft and with the holes this team has, I do not think this is the way to go.
So what does that leave? To me, dynasties are built with exceptional quarterbacks and we do not have one. I would move up for Robert Griffin the third, but most Viking fans would have me tarred & feathered for such blasphemy. One in three world champions since 1940 have had the #1 pass defense. I think a successful pass defense is the one that gives up the least on a per-pass basis. So we're talking efficiency. Efficiency is achieved with a brutal pass rush and an opportunistic back end. At pick 3, we are out of Luck (& RG3), so the next most valuable commodity would be pass rush. What are the options?
I think there is one elite option available that perfectly fits what the Vikings or any 4-3 team covets and that is Fletcher Cox. He measured in on height & strength & weight on par with a pair of the gold standards. Keven Williams & Justin Tuck. Where he really separates himself from those two is in his small area speed. He ran a 7.07 three cone drill. KWill ran a 7.66 & Justin tuck ran a 7.34. Remember what Claiborne ran? What's also to like about Fletcher Cox is that he's one of those never-quit, always motoring John Randle types. Whoever gets him, wherever he's selected, I think that team is getting a steal. I don't think he has to be taken at 3, though. Remember, the last time we were slotted at 3 & went for a pass rusher? We moved down in a 3-way trade, leting Atlanta take the highly coveted Bill Fralic LT, Houston take the run-stuffing DE Ray Childress, while we took Chris Doleman, recently elected to the HoF. (may you burn, Darren "butter fingers" Nelson)
So, with that as a thought, let's think about free agency. If no Blackmon, Kalil, or Claiborne, there are a few free agents we may need to make a big run at.
Jared Gaither or Demetrius Bell have sufficient talent to start at left tackle for us. Signing one of them would allow Charlie Johnson to move into guard or over to right tackle in camp. I would imagine they will command 5 million per year, maybe more. Gaither is the bigger talent, but as some off the field baggage. Anthony Collins would be the cap-poor option who appears to be rather talented and is only 26 years old & Levi Brown is likely to be a late entrant to the discussion.
Second priority to protecting Ponder may be to get him a weapon capable of reading a defense & running the hot route. I'd go young, so there are two I'd make a run at. Laurent Robinson & Pierre Garcon. Probably 6 million per year for either.
The third free agent may have to come from a cheaper list. Tim Jennings or Terrell Thomas might not be cap-busting considering Terrell Thomas is coming off an ACL & Jennings is a Tampa-Two corner. 3-4 Million per year should do it, I would think. As we're 10 million under the cap, I'd say thank you for the memories to Herrera & Hutchinson. Both are past their prime and, in Hutch's case, it's probably what's best for his future quality of life with the multiple concussions he's had.
So, on to the draft on the theory some of the Vikings most pressing holes are addressed.
1. Andrew Luck, QBIrsay soon after this selection, goes to twitter & calls Luck a politician.
2. Robert Griffin, QB Cleveland gives up both 1sts, as expected.
3. Morris Claiborne, CB *Trade* Minnesota receives Tampa's 1.5 pick and 2.36 selection As Tampa has few holes, but corner is a gapping one, as it is in St. Louis, if the Vikings select Kalil.
4. Matt Kalil, LT
5. Justin Blackmon, WR *trade* Vikings receive 1.7 & 3.71, Khan selects a reason to buy a Jaguars ticket. Michael Floyd has too much baggage for Jacksonville, they only take character guys & hope Blackmon can save that character Gabbert. Because Manning is in Washington, this move is a requirement.
6. Riley Reiff, RT, Iowa It's possible to me, and even likely, Washington may go the weapon route here. Blackmon would be the obvious choice, but he's gone, so Washington opts to protect free agent Quarterback Peyton Manning.
7. Fletcher Cox, DTI'm a bit worried St Louis may take Fletcher Cox since they have extra picks later. Vikings are immediately berated as idiots by Mel Kiper who rants for the next 4 hours on it, but says Cox is a good player. This is about as far back as I'd be willing to go to get my guy because Carolina has a defensive tackle need.
2.35 Harrison Smith, SS I'm assuming Mark Barron is selected already. Harrison Smith is the only other safety in this draft that can help the Vikings right away.
2.36 Jerel Worthy, DT This pick allows the Vikings to not just move Kevin Williams over, but to move him completely and get young on the defensive line. KWill is traded for a future pick. New England, maybe?
3.67Bobby Massie, OT He can play either side. Allows us to develop talent on the offensive line as most super bowl championship teams do.
3.71 Trumaine Johnson, CB/FS We need defensive backs & this guy's got some talent. He's 6'2" and can play corner for us from day one, or be moved to safety & start day one -maybe not a testament to our talented secondary.
3.C Chase Minnifield, CB/KR The Tampa-Two teams filled on corners earlier. We can still find talent here in a very deep corner draft. This pick allows Chris Cook to be traded during the preseason as he'll need a fresh start and Viking fans can then expect someone more capable of being dependable, hopefully.
4.98 Brian Quick, WR Tall, fast. Needs polish
4.CNigel Bradham, LB Finally get some linebacker help. The group was horrible last year, but I expect a rebound.
5.130 Lucas Nix, G A hard nosed, mean guard for the future.
6.162 Travis Benjamin, WR A burner who under-performed & had some character issues. Practice squad.
7.194 Rhett Ellison, TE/FB We Finally get a Trojan
7.200 Johnnie Troutman, G A big-bodied guard to replenish some depth. Practice squad