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What do they need? Vikings draft priorities

  • April 25, 2012 - 11:35 AM

As the Vikings head into a 2012 draft that will be critical to shaping the team's future, the biggest needs have been identified and discussed for months.

Over three days this week, new General Manager Rick Spielman will make 10 selections, eyeing different positions and different qualities in each round.

The quick synopsis: In Rounds 1 and 2, the Vikings hope to land players who can be difference-making starters -- if not immediately, then soon.

In the middle rounds, Spielman says, the hope is to land prospects who won't realistically make an immediate impact but can grow into heightened roles over the next two or three years.

And then in Rounds 6 and 7, the goal is to find special teams help and added depth with a hope of getting lucky with a player that might one day emerge as far better than anticipated.

Now comes the matter of putting the Vikings' priorities in order, position by position.

SAFETY

Level of draft need: High

Why: The Vikings might have the worst safety unit in the NFL. The only safeties on the roster are Jamarca Sanford, Mistral Raymond and Eric Frampton. And last year, opposing quarterbacks compiled a 107.6 rating against the Vikings.

WIDE RECEIVER

Level of draft need: High

Why: Christian Ponder needs more weaponry to take the next step in his development. Percy Harvin had a stellar 2011, but the Vikings still need a true split end to stretch the field. Signing Jerome Simpson is a calculated risk. Michael Jenkins makes an OK No. 3 option but isn't a standout. And Devin Aromashodu is a notch below that.

CORNERBACK

Level of draft need: Moderate

Why: Yes, a depleted secondary allowed opposing quarterbacks to complete 68.2 percent of their passes for 4,019 yards and 34 TDs in 2011. But reinforcements are on the way. Antoine Winfield and Chris Cook should immediately return to the starting lineup. Free agent signees Chris Carr and Zack Bowman heighten the competition. And Asher Allen and Marcus Sherels can now return to roles more suited to their abilities. The Vikings might add another corner or two this week, but safety is a far bigger need.

OFFENSIVE LINE

Level of draft need: Moderate

Why: If the Vikings grab left tackle Matt Kalil (right) at No. 3, that should take care of their most pressing need. A starting quintet with Kalil and Phil Loadholt at tackle, Charlie Johnson and Geoff Schwartz at guard and John Sullivan at center wouldn't be too bad, especially with depth also coming from Brandon Fusco, Joe Berger, Chris DeGeare and DeMarcus Love.

LINEBACKER

Level of draft need: Moderate

Why: A starting trio of Chad Greenway, Erin Henderson and Jasper Brinkley seems likely, but adding quality depth would be nice. Right now, others on the roster are Marvin Mitchell, Solomon Elimimian, Larry Dean and Tyrone McKenzie.

RUNNING BACK

Level of draft need: Moderate

Why: Assuming Adrian Peterson returns to be a standout and Toby Gerhart remains reliable as a second option, the Vikings are in good shape in the backfield. But after letting Lorenzo Booker walk, another spare part would be nice.

DEFENSIVE TACKLE

Level of draft need: Moderate

Why: The Vikings believe Kevin Williams still has gas in the tank, but by opening day he'll be 32 and entering his 10th season. It's not too early to start planning ahead. Letroy Guion, Fred Evans and Christian Ballard will all be given opportunities to step forward in 2012. But depth is needed.

TIGHT END

Level of draft need: Low

Why: Fan favorites Visanthe Shiancoe and Jim Kleinsasser are gone. But the 1-2 punch of John Carlson and Kyle Rudolph has offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave excited.

DEFENSIVE END

Level of draft need: Low

Why: Jared Allen had a team-record 22 sacks in 2011, Brian Robison experienced an impressive breakthrough and the hope is to now get third-year end Everson Griffen more snaps.

QUARTERBACK

Level of draft need: None

Why: The Vikings have gone all in on Ponder, last year's top pick, and are comfortable with Joe Webb and Sage Rosenfels as backups.

DAN WIEDERER

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