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2015 Vikings Draft: What To Watch For Day 1

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Daily Norseman covers the broad strokes of what could happen for the Minnesota Vikings in the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft.

Who will be this year's Teddy Bridgewater? We'll find out Thursday night.
Who will be this year's Teddy Bridgewater? We'll find out Thursday night.
Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

FINALLY. IT'S HERE.

It has been an agonizing 89 days since the Super Bowl. Since real football. In the three months following the New England Patriots' Super Bowl XLIX victory, we have been forced to wade through an endless abyss of minutiae, misinformation, Mel, McShay, and mock drafts. For over 2100 hours we've had to endure big boards instead of big plays; 40-yard dashes instead of 40-yard bombs; draft stocks instead of deft blocks.

But that ends tonight! This evening we celebrate the three-day pageantry and spectacle that is the NFL Draft. Lifelong dreams will be realized. Crying moms will be hugged. Franchises will place the hopes of the future on the broad shoulders of dozens of young men. Roger Goodell will be booed. And since the draft is in Chicago this year, Chris Berman will make about 83 references to the band Chicago. (Lord help us if a team trades up from twenty-five or six to four. Berman may explode.)

It's going to be great. And the best part of it is that I'll be covering it live at Winter Park! The Vikings staff was kind enough to have me back at team headquarters along with the likes of our old pals Arif, Lindsey Young of Vikings Territory, and Luke Inman of eDraft. (If you aren't following them yet on Twitter, I strongly suggest you do.)

You may have noticed that I haven't been incredibly active in these parts in the days and weeks leading up to the draft. I haven't cobbled together a big board, mock draft, or even a scouting report. Why? Because there are literally hundreds of people throughout every imaginable form of media that have provided those tools much better than I could ever hope to. (Plus I still think creating mock drafts is kinda pointless since one unanticipated move throws the whole thing out of whack--just don't tell Mark I said that.)

I'll be the first to admit that I'm not a Certified Draft Expert™. I don't know the strengths and weaknesses of every edge rusher projected to go in the 4th round. I haven't sorted the cone drill times of the top ten Split Ends. I probably missed a few scouting reports touting players that should be ranked higher than others at their position. However, don't get it confused--I have still been paying attention. I read Mark's mocks. I scour Twitter for opinions. I watch clips. I read the headlines. I can still give you the broad strokes of what might happen as the draft unfolds over the next three days.

So that's exactly what I'm going to do today: give you a high-level overview of what I'll be looking for at Winter Park.

Players and positions of interest

The Vikings are in a rather curious position at #11. There will obviously be a wealth of excellent players available after the top 10 is complete, but many of the "sure things" and best fits for the team will likely be off the board. If the Vikings actually do draft a player at 11--we'll talk more about that in a bit--what direction will they go with their all-important first rounder? Well, I don't have a freaking clue, but here are my thoughts on some players and positions they might look at Thursday night.

Cornerback

Chances are that if you looked at ten random mock drafts in the past couple months, at least five of them would have the Vikings taking Trae Waynes. It's a big need position and Waynes is a big corner that could bookend nicely with Xavier Rhodes. I like what Waynes does well; defending the deep ball and matching up with bigger receivers is very useful in the NFC North. But he'll be asked to do a lot more in this defense, even if you think Captain Munnerlyn can cover the slot stuff that Waynes might struggle against. If Minnesota drafts Waynes I won't be thrilled but I won't be bummed out either. Same goes for Marcus Peters, who probably has more potential to excel on the field but more potential to cause trouble off of it. If the Vikings do pick at 11, perhaps they would be better off looking elsewhere and drafting someone like Byron Jones, Kevin Johnson, or Jalen Collins later on.

Wide receiver

With the addition of Mike Wallace, wide receiver probably isn't as big of a need position as it was when the offseason started. But there are still a lot of great wide receivers out there in this draft and a lot of Minnesota's current receiving corps could be gone in 2016. There has been a sort of "big three" of wide receivers that have been projected to go in the top half of the first round: Amari Cooper, Kevin White, and DeVante Parker.

I think Cooper is the most complete wide receiver--apparently many of our readers do as well because he was the winner of our Draft Survivor experiment. I'd love him at 11 but he probably won't fall that far. Parker would be a great story--DID YOU KNOW HE PLAYED WITH TEDDY BRIDGEWATER IN COLLEGE?!--and I think he'd actually be a pretty good fit in Minnesota regardless of his alma mater. If he's there, then go for it. At the very least it would guarantee a huge contingent of Vikings fans in Kentucky, right? I'm much more wary of White because I think the Vikings already have enough in the "super athletic but could be a big project" department. (See Patterson, Cordarrelle.)

Offensive line

One of the biggest outstanding questions the Vikings have heading into the 2015 season is who will start at left guard. Unless David Yankey makes some pretty serious strides between now and September the team will need help in the draft. There are a few college tackles with first round grades that would look pretty good in purple next year. Brandon Scherff is one of my personal favorites here--he could be a Day 1 starter, provide stability at a position that was a mess last season, and potentially replace Matt Kalil if he doesn't bounce back to form. However, it's hard to find a mock draft that has Scherff slipping past the Giants at 9. La'el Collins was an intriguing option up until the cops started asking about him this week. I like Andrus Peat quite a bit and Ereck Flowers a little, but not this early at all. Since there are plenty of viable options to be had in day two (Ali Marpet anyone?) I have my doubts that any lineman not named Scherff would be chosen at 11.

Edge rusher

You can never have too many of these, especially when players like Brian Robison are getting a little long in the tooth. There's no shortage of first round talent available here even after guys like Dante Fowler and Vic Beasley are likely taken in the top ten. Bud Dupree has tons of potential but was frighteningly inconsistent at times in college. Randy Gregory might not be the greatest fit in Minnesota's defense. Shane Ray's injury seems to be scaring off a lot of teams. Unless one of the top two studs falls in the Vikings' laps, I think they should look elsewhere if they stick at 11.

Linebacker

Another glaring need for the Vikings, but it probably shouldn't be addressed this early because of the talent available in the draft. Outside of Anthony Barr it's anyone's guess as to who the Vikings starting linebackers will be in 2015. (We all know that Chad Greenway should be starring in a FOX buddy cop TV series with Arif rather than anchoring a defense at this point in his career.) I really like the athleticism of Shaq Thompson and would love to see him in purple. Of course there's that whole thing about not knowing what position he would play in the NFL, but I'm rooting for him if only for the fact I could buy a "Thompson" jersey immediately after the Vikings draft him. Eric Kendricks is pretty intriguing as well, but neither guy should go until the late first or early second.

Safety

This isn't exactly an ideal season to be looking for a counterpart to Harrison Smith in the draft. Landon Collins is a nice player that fits into the "only if we trade back" bucket. After that? It's pretty much a barren wasteland. So it's either Collins late in the first or rolling the dice with someone else in the mid-to-late rounds here for the Vikings.

Wheelin', dealin' Spielman

At this point I'd be pretty shocked if the Vikings stayed put at 11. In his press conference Tuesday, Rick Spielman basically put a giant neon "For Sale" sign on the 11th pick. Trading back and/or back into the first round is what Rick does best. And remember, Spielman likes those late first rounders because there's a fifth year team option, like the one he's about to exercise on Harrison Smith. That fifth year will be much more affordable than what Smith would command on the open market. Pro Bowl voters haven't figured out that Smith is elite yet, but just about everyone else around the league has.

(And yes, I think Spielman will lock up Kalil for the fifth year as well. If he gets back to his rookie year form, the contract could still look like a steal. The potential reward outweighs the risk.)

AP's last day in purple?

Spielman said the Vikings are "not interested" in trading Adrian Peterson. Of course, he basically said the same thing about Percy Harvin right before Harvin was dealt. So could today be AP's final day as the member of the Minnesota Vikings?

I doubt it. I think Spielman is telling the truth here--even if it might not be the whole truth. The whole truth is probably "we're not interested in trading Adrian Peterson...unless a team bowls us over with a first rounder and some other stuff we want". According to everything we've heard over the past few weeks, it doesn't sound like anyone is willing to pony up the ransom it would take for the Vikings to deal Peterson. So unless a team has been very good at keeping their interest shrouded I think AP will still be a Viking tomorrow.

It's probably going to feel weird for a while to see our fallen hero back on the field...right up until he breaks his first 30-yard touchdown and makes us realize he was simply the best running back in the world once upon a time.

But if he does get traded? Get ready for Vikings Nation to go absolutely bonkers shilling for Todd Gurley and Melvin Gordon.

Overall thoughts

As I said, I'd be surprised if the Vikings actually picked at 11 tonight. If they do, most of the guys available will probably elicit a "meh" or a "he could work" response from many Vikings fans. If Spielman pulls his usual first round magic of collecting picks without mortgaging the farm, I think we'll all be more satisfied. Wherever they end up picking on Thursday, I hope that the Vikings will lean toward "best player available" over "biggest need position". The Vikings won't be able to cure all of their ills with one or two picks tonight so they should simply focus on who they think gives them the best chance to help cure one.

Hopefully all this exciting information has helped you forget that we're still 134 days away from the next football game that actually counts. At the very least you'll be able to look back on this article next year and realize how completely off I was with my opinions! Stay tuned for much, much more as the weekend unfolds right here at Daily Norseman.