Yesterday Fearless Leader did a nice breakdown of the top positions of need now that free agency has died down. I don't disagree with the rankings, but I thought it might be interesting to see who might be the best player available at that position when the Vikings go on the clock with pick 23.
Middle Linebacker Options: Kevin Minter, LSU, Alec Ogletree, Georgia, or Manti Te'o, Notre Dame. Of the three, Ogletree is projected to be the one player selected over the other two before the Vikings pick. If he's still around, I think he's a solid pick, but I actually lean towards Kevin Minter here. Both are great tacklers, but I like Minter in coverage just a little bit more than Ogletree. It's not much of a difference, but enough that I lean towards the LSU player.
Now, Manti Te'o. I probably made more fun of that guy than anyone over the fake dead girlfriend thing, but he handled himself better than anyone expected at the Combine. Is he over rated? It's easy to say that based on the terrible game he had against Alabama in the National Championship, but consider that Notre Dame had one of the toughest schedules in 2012, and you can talk yourself into saying that was just a bad game. A really, really bad game, but it was the exception, not the rule.
There's also a lot of smoke surrounding Te'o and the Vikings. GM Rick Spielman has mentioned his name more than once, the Vikings like taking Notre Dame players (and it's paid dividends), and MLB is a real position of need. If the Vikings were satisfied with the answers Te'o gave in the NFL Combine interview, I'm putting him as my clubhouse favorite at #23.
Cornerback Options: Desmond Trufant, Washington, or Jamar Taylor, Boise State. Trufant is actually a guy a fair amount of mocks like for the Vikings, and he would be a good pick here. Taylor seems like he would be a bit of a reach. Dee Milliner and Xavier Rhodes, the top two consensus corners in the draft, will probably be long gone by then. A guy that's really shooting up draft boards is Jonathan Banks of Mississippi State, but enough to get into the first round? I don't know. Trufant seems the logical choice here, and I wouldn't be disappointed at all if he were to be selected.
Wide Receiver Options: Cordarrelle Patterson, Tennessee, Tavon Austin, West (By Gawd) Virginia, or Keenan Allen, Cal. Like Chris said, signing Greg Jennings was a big deal, but there's more work to be done at this position. Patterson will be gone by the time the Vikings pick, so the most likely candidate here is Tavon Austin. What he lacks in height (5'9") he makes up for in speed, so if you want a deep threat, he's your deep threat. Keenan Allen's injury seems to be worse than expected, or is slow to heal. He was unable to participate in the Combine, or phis pro day, and with Spielman's philosophy of not taking big chances with injured guys, I wouldn't be surprised if he came off the Vikings draft board. And that might open the door for a guy like DeAndre Hopkins. He's not as fast as Austin, but has the more traditional WR build.
Defensive Tackle Options: Jonathan Hankins, Ohio State, or Kawaan Short, Purdue. The top three defensive tackles in the draft will be gone by the time pick #23 rolls around, but if for some strange quirk any one of Shariff Floyd, Star Lotulelei, or Sheldon Richardson were still on the board, they would be the obvious choice. I'm admittedly partial to Hankins, and I've seen almost all of his games. He can be a disruptive force in the middle, reminds me a lot of Kevin Williams, but his only issue is consistency. If he's there and DT is what the Vikings want, then take him. I actually picked Short for the Vikings in my second mock, but I just don't see him as a first round talent anymore; he would be a reach there.
Guard Options: I don't have any real options for guard here for a couple reasons. I have the top two guys at that position, Chance Warmack and Jonathan Cooper, gone by the time the Vikings get to their pick. Secondly, also like Chris, I think guard is the lowest priority compared to all these other positions, and using a first round pick on a guy like Justin Pugh, probably the best guard remaining after the top two, would be a mistake.
So there you go. The top guys at each position that have a good chance of still being around in the back part of the draft. Thoughts?