As the Vikings hunker down in the command bunker at Winter Park to finalize their draft list, knowing Rick Spielman, they’re checking it twice. For a team that is coming off a playoff season, the Vikings have plenty of immediate needs heading into the draft.
Those needs took on a little more urgency over the last five days with the decision of Antoine Winfield to leave for Seattle and the restructuring of Kevin Williams’ contract that makes it apparent that 2013 will likely be his last as a Viking.
So what direction do the Vikings go on draft weekend? While the team currently has seven picks on the final day of the draft, much of the focus heading into the draft will be on the four picks the team currently has in the first two days.
As things currently stand, the Vikings have two first-round picks and one pick each in the second and third rounds. It will help out considerably, but, not only are the Vikings looking at the elite talent that will be available in the first round, but their final decisions may hinge almost as much on their confidence of the positional depth at their positions of need.
While the Vikings aren’t talking, here’s what we’re looking at for the possibilities as it pertains to need vs. talent available as the clock continues to count down in the final week before the draft.
Linebacker – This may end up being a top priority both in terms of need and availability. The Vikings lost starting middle linebacker Jasper Brinkley, which assures that the team will have a third different opening-day starter at MLB in three seasons. Depth at both middle linebacker and outside linebacker is razor thin. However, the depth of the talent pool at linebacker is extremely thin. Barring an 11th-hour free agent signing, it would appear this position has to be addressed early and, given the lack of quality depth in the 2013 draft class, if the Vikings are looking to upgrade the position, it may require one of their two first-rounders to get the job done.
Wide Receiver – The loss of Percy Harvin came with a price – the 25th overall pick in the draft. The signing of Greg Jennings took away some of the need at the position but far from eliminated it. Given the team’s other needs, wide receiver might be the position that has to be pushed back. There is quite a bit of depth and, at this point, it’s looking more like, barring an elite wide receiver in the Class of 2013 falling to them (Tavon Austin or Cordarrelle Patterson), the Vikings may wait until the second or even third round to address the position.
Cornerback – The exodus of Winfield to Seattle wasn’t completely unexpected, but it does stretch the depth of the position to a critical juncture, especially considering the Vikings are in a division with Aaron Rodgers, Jay Cutler and Matthew Stafford. With Winfield gone, the current depth chart has oft-injured Chris Cook and second-year pro Josh Robinson or 2012 trade acquisition A.J. Jefferson currently sitting atop the depth chart. Cook is entering the final season of his rookie contract, so his long-term availability to the team beyond this year is in question – as is the willingness of the Vikings to give a long-term deal to a player who has never played a full 16-game season and has had some much-publicized off-field issues. The talent pool at cornerback in the draft is good but not great, and there is only a handful of the Class of ’13 that have the chops to be an immediate starter on the outside. In order to keep the position strong, one of the two first-rounders may have to be used here.
Defensive Tackle – The Vikings interior D-line hasn’t been the same since Pat Williams went away and with the news that Kevin Williams re-worked his deal to make 2013 the final year of his contract, this position has taken on increased importance. Fortunately, the defensive tackle draft class is extremely deep and talent can be had deeper here than at other positions, much like receiver.
Four picks in the first three rounds will help put salve on some of these pressing needs, but won’t cure all of them – much less if a player Spielman covets at guard, defensive end or safety happens to fall into the Vikings’ lap. The Vikings are stacking their board to address talent and need and, as things sit now, it would be safe to assume their four picks (barring a trade) in the first three rounds will be used to address LB, CB, WR and DT. The bigger question now is this: In what order will those need positions be addressed?
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.