If you've looked at any of my off-season stuff on the Beloved Purple thus far, you'll notice that I've said that the Vikings need to upgrade at defensive back. . .not specifically at safety, and not specifically at corner, but at defensive back in general. Let's take a look at what we have at both of those spots currently.
Cornerback: Antoine Winfield (starter), Cedric Griffin (starter), Charles Gordon (nickel), Marcus McCauley (dime), Ronyell Whitaker (left bench)
Safety: Darren Sharper (starter), Dwight Smith (dead to me), Eric Frampton (special teamer), Mike Doss (free agent), Tank Williams (free agent)
Now, it's easy to see that safety is, and should be, one of the Vikings' off-season priorities. Dwight Smith needs to be on the next bus out of town, and even though Darren Sharper is still playing at a Pro Bowl level, he's not getting any younger. The rest of our safeties are either special teams guys (Frampton) or free agents in waiting (Doss, Williams). Conversely, you'll see that 3 of the top 4 guys on the depth chart have 2 years or fewer of NFL experience (McCauley was a rookie in '07, while Gordon and Griffin were both playing their second year in the league).
Now, the defensive backfield needs to be addressed, and you could easily say that safety is a bigger need than cornerback and be correct. However, I'm of the belief that our team's answer at CB is already on the roster. . .and that his name is Cedric Griffin. Griffin has ideal size for the safety position (6', 205#), and is a very physical player on top of that. I think he could be an outstanding player at either safety position, and could easily make the transition back there if the Vikings have a CB that they've targeted available to them at #17. Having a player with the type of flexibility gives the Vikings options if they want to upgrade the defensive backfield via the draft.
There's plenty of talent to be had at the CB spot on the draft's first day, too. Here's some of the names that the Beloved Purple should be focusing on during Day 1 of the 2008 Draft:
Mike Jenkins, South Florida (first round)
-Vitals - 6', 200#, 4.5 40-yard dash
Leodis McKelvin, Troy State (first round)
-Vitals - 5'11", 190, 4.45
Antoine Cason, Arizona (first round)
-Vitals - 6', 185, 4.55
Reggie Smith, Oklahoma (first round)
-Vitals - 6', 195, 4.45 (also potential at safety)
Aqib Talib, Kansas (first/second round)
-Vitals - 6'2", 205, 4.55
Dominique Rogers-Cromartie, Tennessee State (first /second round)
-Vitals - 6'2", 170, 4.45
Terrell Thomas, Southern Cal (second round)
-Vitals - 6'1", 195, 4.45
Charles Godfrey, Iowa (second round)
-Vitals - 6'1", 210, 4.40
Jack Ikegwuonu, Wisconsin (second/third round)
-Vitals - 6'1", 195, 4.50
Tracy Porter, Indiana (third round)
-Vitals - 5'11", 185, 4.40
Brandon Flowers, Virginia Tech (third round)
-Vitals - 5'10", 200, 4.50
Patrick Lee, Auburn (third round)
-Vitals - 6', 200, 4.45
And even with a dozen names on the list, I'm sure that there are a few I missed. The guy that's been turning a lot of heads and rocketing up the charts over the past couple weeks has been Dominique Rogers-Cromartie, the cousin of 2007 NFL interception leader Antonio Cromartie of the San Diego Chargers. He might be the tallest corner in this year's class, and he has a load of athletic ability. . .but it also looks like he could stand to consume a cheeseburger or two.
It's pretty amazing, in my opinion, that the 3 players that might end up being the first 3 CBs off the board played this year for noted football powerhouses like South Florida, Tennessee State, and Troy State University. But regardless of where they played, there's a lot of potential out there at the CB position in this year's draft.
We'll continue the scouting of the defensive backfield tomorrow with a look at some of the available safeties. Until then, enjoy the rest of your Monday, ladies and gentlemen.