Since I didn't update the Mock Draft Database this week, I figured I could just as well put together a Vikings-only mock draft for everyone's viewing pleasure, particularly now that we have an extra first-round selection to play with (as well as an extra seventh). I'm going to take this one in a slightly different direction than folks might expect. Again, the picks from the fourth round on are going to be further down the board than they are now after compensatory picks are announced, but we're simply going with where the picks are for now.
Round 1, #23 overall - Jesse Williams, DT, Alabama
Like the old saying goes in baseball, you have to be strong up the middle on defense. The selection of Harrison Smith last season was a good start, but the Vikings still need to get stronger in that respect. That building starts with the selection of the big Aussie from the Crimson Tide. Williams is a load at 325 pounds, and had an outstanding 2012 season for the national champions. Our friends over at Cat Scratch Reader have some reports from his Pro Day, and he showed that he was strong, agile, and capable of demanding a double-team. Hey, if you're going to rebuild the Williams Wall, why not start with somebody named Williams?
Round 1, #25 overall - Kevin Minter, LB, Louisiana State
WHAT no wide receiver in the first round WHAT!? Don't worry. . .we'll get to the receiver position. It might be the deepest position on this year's draft board, and the signing of Greg Jennings gives the Vikings a bit more flexibility in that regard. But if the Vikings are going to continue to go with a 4-3 defense, they need a three-down linebacker manning the middle that can join Chad Greenway in nickel situations. Minter would be a very nice fit for the Vikings, as he's shown the speed to get deep enough into his zone drops and is a very good defender against the run. Once again, this would strengthen the middle of the Vikings' defense. He might be the best middle linebacker prospect in this year's draft, considering that he doesn't come with Alec Ogletree's red flags or Manti Te'o's imaginary harem.
Round 2, #52 overall - Justin Hunter, WR, Tennessee
The Vikings have their guy that can line up everywhere in Jennings, a guy that can potentially man the slot in Jarius Wright, and a guy to work the middle of the field in Kyle Rudolph. They still need a burner on the outside, and Hunter can be that player. I still maintain that the guy is as physically gifted as any wide receiver in this year's class, with 6'4" size and outstanding leaping ability to go with his speed. He might be inconsistent, but I think there's at least a decent chance that he could fill the role that everyone thought Jerome Simpson was going to fill last year by the end of the season.
Round 3, #83 overall - Darius Slay, CB, Mississippi State
Slay probably won't even be the first Bulldogs' cornerback off the board, as his teammate, Johnthan Banks, figures to go before he does at this point. However, Slay had a pretty good season for Mississippi State in his own right. He's got decent size for a cornerback at an even 6', and would have an opportunity to contribute in sub-packages fairly early on.
Round 4, #99 overall - Da'Rick Rogers, WR, Tennessee Tech
The fourth round is where you take chances on some players that might have an issue or two. Da'Rick Rogers certainly falls under that heading. He was an all-SEC wide receiver with the Tennessee Volunteers in 2011, and promptly got kicked off of the team for failing a drug test, necessitating his move to Tennessee Tech. If he's gotten his head straightened around, he has all the physical ability to make an impact in the NFL.
Round 4, #117 overall - E.J. Manuel, QB, Florida State
Unless the Vikings think that McLeod Bethel-Thompson is the real deal and could potentially develop, the Vikings could use a guy to hold the clipboard behind Christian Ponder and Matt Cassel this season. Manuel is a big guy at 6'4" and around 240 pounds, and has pretty good mobility as well. He completed 68% of his passes this past season and had 23 touchdowns to 10 interceptions. Manuel backed up Ponder at Florida State in 2009 and 2010. . .I wonder how that dynamic would play out in Minnesota.
Round 5, #148 overall - Alvin Bailey, G, Arkansas
The Razorbacks had a pretty rough year in 2012, but Bailey showed plenty of promise. He dropped off a bit from the previous season, but you could say that for a lot of the players with pro aspirations at Arkansas. At the very least, I think he would be able to push Brandon Fusco and Charlie Johnson on the interior for the Vikings pretty early on.
Round 6, #179 overall - Cooper Taylor, S, Richmond
Taylor, who went to Richmond after transferring from Georgia Tech, is a 6'5", 235-pound safety. There are no typos in the previous sentence. He's a big guy. Alfie Crow from over at Big Cat Country had an opportunity to see Taylor at the East-West Shrine game this year, and came away pretty impressed. With that size, he might be a candidate to shift to a linebacker spot down the road, but for now he's a safety, and would have a decent chance to stick with the Vikings.
Round 7, #197 overall - Theo Riddick, RB, Notre Dame
This allows Rick Spielman to check the "Notre Dame" box on his draft day scorecard, which is big. Also, Riddick would offer a nice change of pace from the more pounding style of Adrian Peterson and Toby Gerhart. He's a good receiver out of the backfield as well.
Round 7, #198 overall - Ace Sanders, WR, South Carolina
Sanders is not a big guy, weighing in at right around 175 pounds. However, he was a big-play threat for the Gamecocks this past season, finding the end zone nine times. He averaged 11.2 yards per punt return as well. If nothing else, he should be able to make some contributions in the return game, and could even see some time in the slot if he sticks with the Vikings.
Round 7, #213 overall - Wes Horton, DE, Southern California
Horton got better as the year went on for the Trojans after missing the season opener, but wasn't as good as it was hoped he would be in 2013. Still, with Minnesota's last pick, he'd be worth taking a flier on.
What say you, ladies and gentlemen?