Where Should Vikes Set Draft Board?

NFL Draft 2003

As the Vikings finalize their war room draft board, one has to wonder how the positional needs of the team factor into the rankings.

It's become something of an inside joke among the media that attends the draft at Winter Park every year. Invariably, regardless of who the players are that are taken in the first round, Vikings official exclaim shock and dismay that the player was still on the board.

At times, like with Randy Moss, Dwayne Rudd or Bryant McKinnie, it made sense. Most draft watchers had those player long gone before Minnesota was on the clock. Other times, like picks like Raonall Smith and Willie Offord, heads were scratched throughout the media war room.

As the Vikings finalize their own draft board today, you have to wonder how team need plays into the final ranking of more than 270 players. One factor has to be team need. While the Vikings brass might think Byron Leftwich is the seventh-most valuable player, they're not going to take him with the seventh pick.

You have to factor in needs. So, as VU finalizes its own draft board, we look at the Vikings needs and prioritize them by position. If, on Saturday or Sunday, Mike Tice and his draft entorage claim dismay that a player they took could have possibly slipped that far, the need may outweigh the value.

Here is how we rank the team needs for the Vikings in the coming draft:

HIGH NEED
1. Defensive tackle -- If Jimmy Kennedy or Dewayne Robertson are available at No. 7, this should be a no-brainer.
2. Cornerback -- Adding veterans Denard Walker and Ken Irvin has helped a lot, but some young blood is needed. If Terence Newman falls to No. 7, he would be hard to pass up. Otherwise, a second-rounder or a rumored trade to Washington for Fred Smoot could cure that problem.
3. Defensive end -- The Vikings have run stoppers, not pass rushers. They need one, but may not be willing to use a premium first or second rounder to get one.

MEDIUM NEED
1. Wide receiver -- A gamebreaker to go alongside Randy Moss could give the Vikings an offense reminiscent of 1998. It isn't out of the realm of possibility that the Vikings will use a second-round pick on a WR they like. They were ready to do it with Josh Reed last year, but Buffalo took him two picks in front of them.
2. Safety -- Corey Chavous is slated to stay at safety and there is young talent that could be ready to step up. But someone like Mike Doss or Troy Polamalu could make the team change its mind about adding another mid-round prospect with the infamous "upside potential."
3. Guard -- Corbin Lacina likely won't be back and Dave Dixon doesn't have much longer to go as an NFL starter. As a line coach, Tice is convinced he can groom interior linemen, so getting one who isn't named Ed Ta'amu will be a priority in the middle rounds.
4. Kicker/punter -- Ideally, the Vikings would like to find a punter who can kickoff so they can keep Gary Anderson another year. It didn't happen last year and may not happen this year, but it's something they're looking at in a weak kicker/punter crop.

LOW NEED
1. Quarterback -- If the team is keeping Daunte Culpepper, which they have said publicly they will, veterans on their last leg can back him up forever -- the names will change to protect the transition.
2. Outside linebacker -- Chris Claiborne seemed to change everything with this team in the off-season. He and Raonall Smith are expected to be a jump forward from last year's LB crop, but a youngster with promise could be tempting in the middle rounds in a bad draft crop.
3. Middle linebacker -- With Greg Biekert here now and Claiborne willing to move inside when he's gone, the Vikings may be set, unless they find a late-round nugget like Scott Studwell was out of Illinois.

VERY LOW NEED
1. Offensive tackle -- Mike Rosenthal and Bryant McKinnie are the starters and Lewis Kelly and Chris Liwienski have both shown they can handle the position.
2. Fullback -- There is a need here, but there may not be a fullback taken at all on the first day of the draft and many are available in the later rounds -- as in one of the two sixth-round picks.
3. Running back -- The re-signing of Moe Williams made this a moot point.
4. Center -- Matt Birk is a Pro Bowler and, as long as the team doesn't trade Cory Withrow, they have one of the best backups in the NFL.
5. Tight end -- Jim Kleinsasser, Byron Chamberlain, Hunter Goodwin and, when he isn't getting pushed out of the huddle by Daunte Culpepper, long snapper Brody Liddiard are almost guaranteed to lock up those four positions -- making drafting a TE almost moot.

So, if Tice exclaims he almost passed out when some player was still available, factor in the need positions before you hit the floor too.

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