TE a Vikings need, although not on day one

Jim Kleinsasser (Rich Gabrielson/Viking Update)

The Vikings have more immediate needs, but they are looking for an influx of youth at tight end to prepare for the potential departure of a couple of their veteran tight ends after the 2011 season.

Rick Spielman recently said the Vikings have five potential positions that they could fill in the first round of this month's draft, although the team's vice president of player personnel wasn't willing to provide any further details.

It's no secret that quarterback is at the top of that list with defensive end, cornerback and offensive line also areas of need.

Although the position hasn't been included very much in the discussion, tight end is another area the Vikings are likely to address at some point in the three-day draft. Coach Leslie Frazier even mentioned the spot at the NFL league meetings last month in New Orleans.

This would be the second year in a row the Vikings would select a tight end.

Last year, they took Penn State's Mickey Shuler with the first of two seventh-round picks. The team liked Shuler's potential and was very disappointed when he was lost on waivers to the Miami Dolphins after the Vikings decided to keep veteran Jeff Dugan on the 53-man roster.

One issue is the Vikings feel they are getting long in the tooth at tight end.

As far as the current group, Visanthe Shiancoe will turn 31 in June and is due to become a free agent after the 2011 season. Jim Kleinsasser is 34, and Dugan will turn 30 this month and it's not entirely certain he will again be part of the final roster coming out of training camp (assuming there is a training camp).

Notre Dame's Kyle Rudolph is the top-rated tight end in the draft and is projected to be a first-round pick. The Vikings likely wouldn't go the tight end route until the third day of the draft on April 30 when rounds four through seven will be conducted.

The Vikings did bring in Tulsa fullback/H-back Charles Clay for their top-30 dinner earlier this month at Winter Park and it's possible the franchise could choose to go in that direction to help build some young depth with a player who could do some work at tight end and in the backfield.

Shiancoe is clearly the Vikings' top tight end and it's expected his numbers in new offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave's offense will improve from last season, when he caught 47 passes for 530 yards and two touchdowns. Shiancoe's receptions placed him second on the team to Percy Harvin's 71. The main dropoff for Shiancoe was in touchdown catches. He had a team-leading 11 scoring catches in 2009.

The Vikings clearly would like to get Shiancoe signed to an extension after a new collective bargaining agreement is completed, but they also must prepare for his potential departure.

Kleinsasser and Dugan are known more for their blocking, with Kleinsasser being among the NFL's best at that job. His contract expires after the 2011 season as well and this will be his 13th season.

In addition to Clay, potential targets could include Tennessee's Luke Stocker, Nevada's Virgil Green, Arkansas' D.J. Williams and Florida Atlantic's Julius Thomas.

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