Matt Vensel is in his first year at the Star Tribune after covering the Ravens for the Baltimore Sun for six years. He is a Pittsburgh native and a Penn State grad. Follow him at @mattvensel.


Mark Craig has covered the NFL for 23 years, and the Vikings since 2003 for the Star Tribune. He is one of 44 Pro Football Hall of Fame selectors. Follow him at @markcraignfl.


Master Tesfatsion is the Star Tribune’s digital Vikings writer. He is a 2013 graduate of Arizona State and worked for mlb.com before arriving in Minneapolis. Follow him at @masterstrib.


Vikings position-by-position snapshot: Defensive backs

Posted by: Mark Craig under NFL draft Updated: May 2, 2014 - 8:16 AM

The Vikings have selected at least one defensive back every spring since Rick Spielman took over the team’s draft preparations prior to the 2007 draft. Spielman also would be among the first to admit that his batting average in those picks isn’t the best.

But it has come a long way since the team took cornerback Marcus McCauley in the third round (72nd overall) in 2000 and safety Tyrell Johnson in the second round (43rd) in 2008.

Considering the problems the Vikings have faced within their division with an undermanned secondary in recent years, the team’s inability to draft defensive backs ranks right up there with the frustrations of not being able to land a franchise quarterback. Theoretically, it should be easier to find multiple useful to elite corners and safeties throughout the draft. But only recently has that begun to happen for the Vikings.

Spielman could argue that it has only happened since he was given final say over personnel decisions as general manager in 2012. Since then, he has traded back into the first round to pick free safety Harrison Smith in 2012 and selected cornerback Xavier Rhodes 25th overall last year.

Smith and Rhodes should be cornerstones in the secondary for years. Pro Bowls and All-Pro honors are possibilities, particularly for Smith, if good health and their current career arcs are maintained.

But the Vikings need more help. They face Aaron Rodgers, Jay Cutler, Matthew Stafford and their dangerous arsenals of receivers a combined six times a year. So you can count on a defensive back or two being selected at some point next week. Don’t be surprised if it’s safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix or one of the top two corners, Justin Gilbert or Darqueze Dennard, in the first round.

In the seven drafts since 2007, the Vikings have selected 11 defensive backs. They took three in 2012 and two in 2009 and 2011.

Hits: Smith, Rhodes, Jamarca Sanford (seventh round, 2010).

Misses: McCauley, Johnson, Asher Allen (third round, 2009), Chris Cook (second round, 2010), Brandon Burton (fifth round, 2011), Mistral Raymond (sixth round, 2011).

Still to be determined: Josh Robinson (third round, 2012), Robert Blanton (fifth round, 2012).

PROJECTED STARTERS: CBs Rhodes and Captain Munnerlyn; FS Smith, SS Sanford.

DON’T FORGET ABOUT: Safety Kurt Coleman. The free-agent acquisition from Philadelphia has experience (29 starts) and youth (25), and had some decent production (seven picks from 2010-2012) before falling out of favor with new coach Chip Kelly a year ago. He could force his way alongside Smith as a starter.

LEVEL OF NEED: High. The team needs six starting-caliber defensive backs to be productive in the nickel and dime packages that are so vital in today’s NFL. Right now, they know they have two (Smith and Rhodes) that they can expect to play at a consistently high level if healthy.

FIVE PROSPECTS TO REMEMBER: Alabama free safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Michigan State cornerback Darqueze Dennard, Oklahoma State cornerback Justin Gilbert, Northern Illinois strong safety Jimmie Ward, Gophers strong safety Brock Vereen.

OUR BEST GUESS: The Vikings will take a safety and a corner. One of them will come in the first two days of the draft (Rounds 1-3).

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San Francisco - M. Bumgarner 7:07 PM
Kansas City - J. Shields
Houston 23 FINAL
Pittsburgh 30
San Diego 10/23/14 7:25 PM
Denver
Detroit 10/26/14 8:30 AM
Atlanta
Buffalo 10/26/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
St. Louis 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Kansas City
Houston 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Tennessee
Minnesota 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Seattle 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Carolina
Baltimore 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Cincinnati
Miami 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Jacksonville
Chicago 10/26/14 12:00 PM
New England
Philadelphia 10/26/14 3:05 PM
Arizona
Oakland 10/26/14 3:25 PM
Cleveland
Indianapolis 10/26/14 3:25 PM
Pittsburgh
Green Bay 10/26/14 7:30 PM
New Orleans
Houston 7:00 PM
Miami
Indiana 7:00 PM
Minnesota
Utah 7:00 PM
Oklahoma City
Portland 8:00 PM
Denver
Phoenix 9:00 PM
LA Lakers
LA Clippers 9:30 PM
Golden State
San Jose 6:00 PM
Boston
NY Rangers 6:00 PM
New Jersey
Toronto 6:00 PM
NY Islanders
Detroit 6:30 PM
Montreal
Arizona 7:00 PM
Nashville
Carolina 7:00 PM
Winnipeg
Philadelphia 7:30 PM
Chicago
Vancouver 7:30 PM
Dallas
Florida 8:00 PM
Colorado
Tampa Bay 8:00 PM
Calgary
Arkansas State 7:00 PM
Louisiana
Connecticut 10/23/14 6:00 PM
(18) East Carolina
Miami-Florida 10/23/14 7:00 PM
Virginia Tech
So Florida 10/24/14 6:00 PM
Cincinnati
Troy 10/24/14 6:30 PM
South Alabama
BYU 10/24/14 8:00 PM
Boise State
(6) Oregon 10/24/14 9:00 PM
California
North Texas 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Rice
UAB 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Arkansas
Rutgers 10/25/14 11:00 AM
(16) Nebraska
Maryland 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Wisconsin
Texas 10/25/14 11:00 AM
(11) Kansas State
Minnesota 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Illinois
Memphis 10/25/14 11:00 AM
SMU
North Carolina 10/25/14 11:30 AM
Virginia
San Jose St 10/25/14 12:00 PM
Navy
Northern Ill 10/25/14 12:00 PM
Eastern Mich
(25) UCLA 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Colorado
Akron 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Ball State
Massachusetts 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Toledo
Ohio U 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Western Mich
Ga Southern 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Georgia State
Kent State 10/25/14 1:30 PM
Miami-Ohio
Oregon State 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Stanford
Fla Atlantic 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(23) Marshall
Louisiana Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Southern Miss
(1) Miss State 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Kentucky
Georgia Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Pittsburgh
(22) West Virginia 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Oklahoma State
Texas Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(10) TCU
Michigan 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(8) Michigan State
Boston College 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Wake Forest
Central Mich 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Buffalo
Vanderbilt 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Missouri
Old Dominion 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Western Ky
UNLV 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Utah State
Temple 10/25/14 4:00 PM
UCF
(15) Arizona 10/25/14 5:00 PM
Washington St
Texas-El Paso 10/25/14 6:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
Wyoming 10/25/14 6:00 PM
Colorado State
Syracuse 10/25/14 6:00 PM
(21) Clemson
Texas State 10/25/14 6:00 PM
ULM
(3) Ole Miss 10/25/14 6:15 PM
(24) LSU
(4) Alabama 10/25/14 6:30 PM
Tennessee
So Carolina 10/25/14 6:30 PM
(5) Auburn
(13) Ohio State 10/25/14 7:00 PM
Penn State
(20) USC 10/25/14 9:00 PM
(19) Utah
(14) Arizona State 10/25/14 9:45 PM
Washington
Nevada 10/25/14 10:59 PM
Hawaii
Montreal 10/24/14 5:30 PM
Ottawa
Saskatchewan 10/24/14 8:30 PM
Calgary
Hamilton 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Toronto
Brt Columbia 10/25/14 6:00 PM
Winnipeg
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Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2014 preseason     
Aug 8 - vs. Oakland 7 pmX10-6
Aug 16 - vs. Arizona 7:30 pmX30-28
Aug 23 - at Kansas City 7 pmX30-12
Aug 28 - at Tennessee 7 pmX19-3
2014 regular season     
Sep 7 - at St. Louis NoonX34-6
Sep 14 - vs. New England NoonX30-7
Sep 21 - at New Orleans NoonX20-9
Sep 28 - vs. Atlanta 3:25 pmX41-28
Oct 2 - at Green Bay 7:25 pmX42-10
Oct 12 - vs. Detroit NoonX17-3
Oct 19 - at. Buffalo NoonX17-16
Oct 26 - at Tampa Bay Noon
Nov 2 - vs. Washington Noon
Nov 9 - Bye
Nov 16 - at Chicago Noon
Nov. 23 - vs. Green Bay Noon
Nov. 30 - vs. Carolina Noon
Dec 7 - vs. NY Jets Noon
Dec 14 - at Detroit Noon
Dec 21 - at Miami Noon
Dec 28 - vs. Chicago Noon

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