NFL draft: The big question

  • Article by: JUDD ZULGAD , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 21, 2010 - 8:50 AM

The Vikings will watch 29 teams draft ahead of them to see who falls into their lap in the first round of this week's NFL draft.

Vikings officials traveled to Florida last weekend to watch former Gators quarterback Tim Tebow in a private workout.

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The Vikings will have plenty of time to cool their heels Thursday when the NFL holds the opening round of its draft in prime time for the first time.

They won't select until the 30th pick, long after the excitement has died down.

That is fine with Brad Childress -- even if some family members seem less than thrilled. "It's like I tell my brother all the time. He goes, 'You're not picking very good. You're picking 30th,'" the Vikings coach said. "I said, 'Yeah, two from the back.' The goal is not to be up toward the front."

Since the NFL expanded to 32 teams in 2002, the Vikings' latest opening-round pick till now was 22nd last April. They selected wide receiver Percy Harvin, who was considered to have top-10 talent but fell because of questions about his character. He earned NFL offensive rookie of the year honors.

This time the Vikings don't figure to get a player who can have that type of immediate impact. But if quarterback Brett Favre returns for a 20th NFL season, this draft will be more about adding depth for the present and potential starters for the future.

"There's a lot of good depth in this draft, especially on the defensive side," said Rick Spielman, the Vikings vice president of player personnel. "There are some really good defensive tackles, some corners, some safeties. It's pretty thick, especially through those first three rounds, when it comes to defensive guys. It's a little bit lighter on the offensive side, but you'll still be able to find players on that side of the ball."

There is one offensive player who, if picked, would provide a jolt to all those Vikings fans who might be dozing off on the couch as their team prepares to pick: Florida quarterback and draft lightning-rod Tim Tebow.

On the radar?

When it comes to NFL teams, misinformation is king this time of year. Lead your opponent to believe you are going to do one thing, so it is caught off guard when you do another.

That's why it's dangerous to put stock into Childress and Spielman watching Tebow in a private workout last weekend in Gainesville, Fla. Several other draft-eligible players from the Gators worked out for Vikings officials -- first-round center and possible Vikings target Maurkice Pouncey among them -- and Childress made the trip in part to speak at a clinic.

Still, Childress spoke highly of Tebow at the NFL owners meetings last month in Orlando and said he has gotten positive scouting reports from Gators coach Urban Meyer and Harvin, a college teammate.

"I just think he's the ultimate competitor," Childress said. "From that aspect, he's an A-plus."

The Vikings do not appear to be very high on many of the quarterbacks who could be available to them. Oklahoma's Sam Bradford is expected to go No. 1 overall to St. Louis, and Notre Dame's Jimmy Clausen likely will be gone by the 30th pick. Texas' Colt McCoy is a good fit for the Vikings' West Coast offense, but the feeling is he's not first-round material.

The same could have been said about Tebow last fall, but that thinking seems to be changing. He has shortened up his throwing mechanics and is viewed as a winner.

There, of course, is a good chance the Vikings are creating the perception that they would grab Tebow in order to trade down for more picks with a club that really wants him.

Mike Mayock, the draft analyst for the NFL Network and the commentator for Vikings preseason telecasts in recent years, isn't sold on Vikings backups Tarvaris Jackson and Sage Rosenfels.

"We all know what a great year Brett Favre had," Mayock said. "But that doesn't answer their ultimate question at the quarterback position. Whether he's back for one year, two years, no years, they still have a quarterback hole and they have a Super Bowl roster. At No. 30, the question I think they have to ask is: Is Tim Tebow a starting quarterback in the NFL in one to two years? If you answer that question yes, I think you have to pull the trigger if he's there at 30. If the answer to that question is no, I think they probably look for a cornerback."

Plenty of options

The Vikings seem likely to take a cornerback in the first round or shortly thereafter.

Starters Antoine Winfield and Cedric Griffin are coming off injuries, and depth could become an issue. Winfield also will be entering his 12th season.

"They need a physical, tough corner who will tackle," Mayock said.

Mayock mentioned Alabama's Kareem Jackson as a possibility, but the Vikings also have been tied to Rutgers' Devin McCourty, Florida State's Patrick Robinson and Virginia's Chris Cook. All will be expected to be gone after Day 2.

The Vikings have eight selections -- they ended up with five each of the past two years -- and there are numerous ways the picks could be utilized.

Nose tackle Pat Williams (37) isn't getting any younger; linebackers Chad Greenway and Ben Leber could both hit the free-agent market in 2011; the offensive line lost a valuable member when versatile backup Artis Hicks signed with Washington as a free agent; and running back Chester Taylor's move to division rival Chicago cost the Vikings a valuable third-down back.

"You're hoping as you stack your draft board and go through that process there will be a player that you have rated higher than 30 on your board that comes down to you," Spielman said. "We were pretty fortunate that Adrian [Peterson] fell down to us [in 2007] and Percy fell down to us [in 2009]. So you don't know what will be there because everybody's draft board is stacked differently.

"Teams are going to try to get the best players, but they're also going to try to fill a need if they can. I think it's how you stack your draft board, and hopefully there is a guy that you value that some other team doesn't value as well. I feel very confident we'll be able to get some good players where we're picking. I think there will still be a lot of quality down there, even though we're picking so low. I'd rather pick low every year."

Staff writer Mark Craig contributed to this story.

FIVE POSSIBLE ANSWERS

A few players the Vikings could be in line to pick at No. 30:

PATRICK ROBINSON [1]

Florida State cornerback's two suspensions make him a risky pick.

CHRIS COOK [2]

Lanky Virginia cornerback might be a first-round reach.

MAURKICE POUNCEY [3]

Giant Florida center would be a steal if he drops to No. 30.

DEVIN McCOURTY [4]

Rutgers cornerback has high grades all around but is a bit undersized.

KAREEM JACKSON [5]

Alabama corner would fit in Cover 2 defense. Will he be there at 30?

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