Vikings face competition at positions of need

The Vikings won't be alone in their draft pursuits at a few positions of need. Other team needs is something Rick Spielman factors into his predraft strategy.

As the Vikings undertake the final stages of their draft preparation, one can bet that general manager Rick Spielman is looking at all the angles. Not so much for the first pick the Vikings are scheduled to make, but rather the rest of the picks the Vikings are slated to make.

The belief is that, barring a king's ransom like the Rams received to let Washington move up into the No. 2 spot, the Vikings will take offensive tackle Matt Kalil with the third pick of this month's draft. That will settle the Vikings' need for a bookend left tackle for the next decade, but it leaves other spots still in need of filling. Several factors help determine which way the Vikings ultimately lean when deciding between prospects. Talent usually trumps need – the Vikings technically didn't need a running back when they drafted Adrian Peterson five years ago. The depth of talent is another significant factor. If there are only a handful of prospects that excite a team's decision-makers, the urgency to get one of them vaults that position higher.

But one that is often overlooked (not by Spielman, but more mortal draft analysts) is the competition among other teams for players at a specific position. It's one factor that may be just as important in determining whether the Vikings get creative and make trades or stand pat and make their picks as they naturally arrive.

Going on the assumption the Vikings take Kalil with the third pick, if one ranks the team's primary needs, they would likely be wide receiver, cornerback, safety, guard and middle linebacker.

The Vikings may have known what they were doing when they made recent cornerback signings. As things stand at the moment, three teams – Tampa Bay, Cincinnati and Detroit – have cornerback as a front-burner need in the draft. Four others – Tennessee Denver, Dallas and Carolina – aren't far behind in that respect. If the Vikings want one of the top cornerbacks in the draft with their second-round pick, they may be facing a minefield of seven other teams looking for the same position.

Wide receiver may be just as dicey. Three teams have identified wideout as a priority position in the draft – St. Louis, Jacksonville and Houston. A half-dozen others – Indianapolis, Cleveland, Carolina, Buffalo, Arizona and the Jets – are in much the same boat but have other equally or more pressing draft needs. Not all of them will take wide receivers before the Vikings make their second pick, but enough might to deplete the talent pool more than the Vikings are willing to accept with a second-round pick.

Guard isn't a position that gets a lot of attention heading into the draft – you hear draft talking heads spend 15 minutes breaking down David DeCastro's work – but at least seven teams are targeting the position early in the draft – Kansas City, Dallas, Cincinnati, Detroit, Pittsburgh, Baltimore and San Francisco are in the running to pick through the elite guard talent in the draft, again creating a situation where availability and competition meet head on.

Things get a little easier when it comes to safety. While athletic safeties are always in vogue on draft weekend, only two teams – Tennessee and Green Bay – have safety as a pressing draft need. As such, the Vikings (and the rest of the league) can wait and take their chances on getting a safety talent, although it's not as deep a position as receiver and cornerback in this year's draft.
Middle linebacker remains a vacant position with the Vikings, who have yet to re-sign or replace E.J. Henderson. The market isn't overly deep, but only three teams are in the front-burner market for an inside linebacker – Washington, Seattle and Houston.

How the draft plays out will involve myriad factors. Vikings fans are looking forward to the young players the team will bring in as it continues its youth-movement process and have their eyes on several intriguing prospects. So do those who make the final decision on who becomes a Viking and who doesn't. What may end up making their decision for them isn't who they want or even who they like best. It will depend on who is available and, for at least two of their most pressing needs, there will be plenty of competition for that talent.


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.


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