As we tick down on the NFL Draft live in Radio City Music Hall, in New York, the drama will continue and unfold before our very eyes. The question then becomes, where will these hopeful athletes find a home in the National Football league? For the Minnesota Vikings, it will be a huge pick for the direction of the future of this franchise. After an absolute abysmal and disappointing season to say the least, the Minnesota Vikings find themselves selecting 12th overall in the first round this April. The Vikings, who were on year removed from reaching the NFC Title game and being knocked off in dramatic fashion, rebounded this season with a 6-10 record. A lot of question marks and fingers can be pointed in many directions throughout this Minnesota team for who is to blame, but at the end of the day, the team will move forward and make this selection to try and help this roster out to make the final push.
Key needs for the Minnesota Vikings in the 2011 Draft:
QB – OT – CB – DT
When beginning to analyze this team in depth, you develop and understanding this team has a lot of building blocks and bright spots to build off. However, it has to iron out certain things to want to compete and be among the elite teams. Let’s begin to direct our attention to the areas of need and possible improvement for this football team.
Vikings Quarterback Outlook:
It was essentially the comparison of a rollercoaster ride for any purple and yellow faithful these past few seasons. Brett Favre was the gunslinger who propelled this team in a positive direction to the NFC Title, only to have played the same antics about retirement the following year. The Super Bowl dreams and deep success took a complete nosedive after the play of Brett Favre spiraled down completely and his prolific comeback to the NFL fell apart. The Minnesota Vikings are left with the likes of Joe Webb, Patrick Ramsay and Rhett Bomar to carry this football team. Needless to say, in this new regime with Leslie Frazier, the quarterback is going to be necessary in future success of this franchise.
The Minnesota Vikings have been known to surprise, and not exactly go with the selection that everyone expects them to go with in previous drafts. Hell, they have even missed their pick on occasion! The quarterback position was not addressed last year, when it seemed as though Colt McCoy out of Texas could have been selected for the future. This year, it is pretty evident the coaching staff cannot be satisfied heading into the year without a prospect to groom in the picture.
Blaine Gabbert and Cam Newton:
This can easily be one group, as a sort of 1a and 1b scenario for the Vikings. However, in all realistic sense, they are grouped together for the fact there is no way either will be around on the board at number twelve. With the hype that Cam Newton has received all year, and after the exceptional pro day Blaine Gabbert had, it’s safe to say the Vikings won’t even sniff their talents unless they move themselves into position by trading up.
Jake Locker – QB – Washington
The rumblings out of Minnesota are that the Vikings are very interested in the product out of Washington by the name of Jake Locker. This could easily be one of the big clouds of smoke being passed around by the NFL teams at this point in time. Jake Locker brings to the table a load of athletic ability, a strong arm, and a ton of leadership. He had a very poor showing at the Senior Bowl, and in every single practice he really didn’t look up to par with some of the top talent around him. The thing that really points to the possible cloud of smoke around this selection is the accuracy issues that Locker has had over his collegiate career. He has bounced around the 50% completion percentage during his time at Washington, and that really isn’t going to cut it in neither the NFL, nor the west-coast system the Minnesota Vikings use on offense.
Ryan Mallett – QB – Arkansas
Ryan Mallet out of Arkansas has been used to his fair share of controversy during college, when he transferred from the likes of Texas and Michigan to finally finding a home in Arkansas. With that being said, the signal caller brings serious physical potential to the table that has some scouts absolutely drooling. At 6’7” and 250 pounds, Ryan has arguably the biggest cannon-arm in this Draft, but brings perhaps the darkest potential baggage with him. Rumors have been swirling around that Mallett has experimented with marijuana and cocaine, and this has really shone a bad sort of spotlight on him during the Combine process, and heading up to the Draft. On the field, this kid has all the potential in the world if he can touch up some mechanical issues, but it really is going to be the baggage that he must clear up. The Vikings will question also his accuracy for the offensive scheme, but the off field concerns may move them away from him even more with their first round pick.
Christian Ponder – QB – Florida State
Ponder can be classified as easily the most interesting gun-slinger moving forward to April. Being hampered with various injuries during his time with the Seminoles, Christian really showed excellent things during the Senior Bowl week, earning himself the MVP of the game itself, and during the Combine in Indianapolis. He may just fit the bill the best for the Minnesota team looking at this position. He has very good accuracy, comfortable mechanics, but the injury past and the potential “off-season” wonder may come into effect when going to select. The late storm by Christian Ponder and his stock have leap frogged him into the first round discussion, when in reality; certain draft analysts have said his tape displays a second round talent.
Vikings Offensive Tackle Outlook:
With the Minnesota Vikings last season, it was very clear they struggled up front and didn’t help the playmakers at all. Especially when you begin to look and dissect the problem, it’s safe to say the offensive tackle position can be addressed. Phil Loadholt and Bryant McKinnie are essentially at different ends of the spectrum, and neither of the sides of the spectrum are positive. Loadholt, has struggled so far with edge rushers, and may not be the long term solution the Vikings had hoped for. McKinnie on the other hand is definitely getting up there in years and his physically dominating game is starting to vanish.
Tyron Smith – OT – USC :
Smith may in fact be one of the most interesting offensive tackle prospects – and maybe even entire prospects in 2011. Hailing out of the prestigious Southern California program, Tyron absolutely excelled at right tackle. That is the key, right tackle, and has some people chirping to determine if he can eventually slide over the left side in the NFL. He is a very gifted player, who is very powerful and shows prowess in both the running game and the passing game. Smith is still very raw, and he needs to be groomed for one to two seasons to absolutely reach his maximum potential. The Vikings may have a home for him to replace Loadholt at the right tackle spot, and eventually bump Tyron Smith in place of McKinnie to be a pillar for the franchise.
Vikings Cornerback Outlook:
The defensive back position for the Minnesota Vikings is a need, that isn’t really being stressed enough by the media and isn’t being acknowledged as much as it should be. Antoine Winfield is definitely slowing down, and literally, with his speed being a problem he could easily push over to the safety position. Cedric Griffin has had amazing spurts, where he looked like he could eventually replace Winfield, but his knee being torn apart twice in two years is no guarantee he will be alright moving forward.
Prince Amukamara – CB – Nebraska
Prince is a kid who definitely will be welcomed with open arms if he slips out of the top ten range and into the Vikings lap at number twelve. Prince has been mentioned of possibly being too tight in the hips, and could flop to safety, but really he is too natural of a corner to make the switch. He’s athletic, he has great instincts and he’s a very feisty player on the perimeter breaking the ball away from the receiver. Amukamara severely jumped up his stock when he clocked in with a time of 4.33 in the 40-yard dash at the Combine. Scouts hadn’t seen that much speed from the ball-hawk out of Nebraska, but even still, in certain cases his long speed may be tested in the NFL. The Vikings will snap up Amukamara in a heartbeat and allow him to be groomed by Winfield, to eventually become the franchise on the edge for the Vikings if he is there.
This is a need that really most fans of the team won’t want to admit, but it’s quickly approaching. The “Williams Wall” is eventually going to break apart, as Pat and Kevin are deep in their thirties the time to find a replacement looms on the front office. The Vikings really don’t have much interior depth moving forward barring injury, or even retirement from one of the Williams.
Nick Fairley – DT – Auburn
Nick Fairley sliding this far?! There is a potential chance for it to happen, and while the odds are slim, this is the only defensive tackle on the board that the Vikings will consider or have a chance at. Dareus, out of Alabama has pretty much secured his spot as the top prospect in this position category after an impressive Combine, and most impressively a 10-yard split that was terrific. Fairley has the tools to be a disrupter in the middle of a defense, but his attitude is very lacking. Fairley has been known for his various cheap shot incidents, and his very “me” first attitude. The Vikings would definitely weigh the pros over the cons and snap up Fairley to their roster if by miracle he is sitting in the green room without a jersey on yet come April.
Written by Kristian Dignazio for Athlete’s Angle.