Do Vikings need to trade up for a top MLB?

Manti Te'o (Jonathan Daniel/Getty)

The draft could have a handful of potential starting middle linebackers available in the first two rounds, but if the Vikings want one of the top two, they may have to move up, says Mel Kiper Jr.

With two first-round picks in a draft considered deep but not top-heavy with stars, it would appear the Vikings are in a great position with the No. 23 and No. 25 picks in the first round.

Sometimes, appearances can be deceiving.

If ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. is correct, the Vikings might need to trade up to get one of the top two middle linebackers, if their rankings at that position match with Kiper's top two – Alec Ogletree and Manti Te'o. Both of them were part of the Vikings' "top 30" visit earlier this month, and general manager Rick Spielman had dinner with Te'o before his pro day, according the Sports Illustrated.

"Ogletree I could see going a little earlier, maybe to Cincinnati (at No. 21) or the Giants (at No. 19). I think they're borderline for both. I think they're just off where they need to be at 23. I think if they were sitting at 19, they would be okay for Te'o and Ogletree, but at 23 that may be pushing it a bit," Kiper said last week.

"But to get either one they may have to move up a bit, get lucky. I don't think Te'o will be there, but you never know. We'll see. There's a slight chance or scenario where they both could be there, but both could be gone. It's really whether they want to roll the dice or not."

According to the draft value chart, the Vikings would have to surrender a third-round pick and their No. 23 overall pick (or equivalent value) to move up to No. 18 in front of the Giants.

But if both Ogletree and Te'o are gone before the Vikings pick, there are other options. They likely could wait until their 25th pick and have their choice of Arthur Brown (Kansas State) or Kevin Minter (LSU), both of them considered intelligent and talented enough to handle a starting role at middle linebacker early in their careers.

If the Vikings really wanted to take a risk, they might even be able to wait until their second-round pick – or trade up in the second round – and find a viable candidate.

"Maybe Arthur Brown is there from Kansas State, Jonathan Bostic from Florida is there at that point. If they want to go up and get Manti Te'o, they may have to get a 15, ahead of 15 where New Orleans picks," Kiper said. "They may have to get ahead of 17 with Pittsburgh, obviously the Giants at 19, Chicago at 20. Those are the viable teams for Manti Te'o. If you want Te'o, you have to probably move up a little bit."

Although Spielman generally likes to hold onto his draft picks and even accumulate picks for future drafts, the Vikings are well-armed this year. In addition to their two first-round picks, they have 11 picks overall and six in the first 120 selections.

"Some teams are patient, they wait it out, get some good fortune come draft day. The Vikings would need some very good fortune to have Te'o or Ogletree still be there (at No. 23)," Kiper said. "If they're gone, then you have to look at Minter. If you think it's too high, you could trade back and get him maybe early second."

If they still don't have a middle linebacker by the time their second-round pick, No. 52 overall comes up, and Olgetree, Te'o, Minter and Brown are all gone, Bostic is another prospect Kiper likes.

"Jonathan Bostic I think is a guy you're going to like the way he plays the game. I have him slotted to go either in the second- or third-round area," he said. "So he's a nice football player. He really put together a heck of a year. He made some really good plays. When you watched him in coverage, sideline to sideline against the run, just did a heck of a job."

In other words, Te'o isn't the only option. Plenty of other possibilities for starting linebackers could be available in the first two rounds. But if the Vikings are intent on one of the top two, according to most analysts' standards, they may have to move up.


Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.

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