Note: The NFL draft will be held starting tonight at Radio City Music Hall in New York City. Here's an overview look at the Vikings' situation.
The issues: The Vikings are coming off a 6-10 season and last place finish in the NFC North and to date have been able to do little about it because of the NFL lockout. (Yes, the lockout is supposed to be over but clearly things aren't back to normal.) For the next three days, the Vikings will have nine picks in the seven-round draft, giving them the opportunity to improve their roster.
Draft format: The first round will begin at 7 p.m. Thursday and teams will have 10 minutes between picks. The second and third rounds will be held Friday starting at 5 p.m. Teams will have seven minutes between picks in the second round and five minutes in the third. The fourth through seventh rounds will be held Saturday, starting at 11 a.m., and teams will have five minutes between picks. (ESPN and NFL Network will cover the event.)
Vikings draft picks: First round (No. 12 overall); Second round (11th pick in the round, No. 43 overall); Third round (none, traded to New England in Randy Moss deal); Fourth round (9th pick in the round, No. 106); Fifth round (8th pick in the round, 139th overall); Fifth round (19th pick in the round, 150th overall, acquired from New York Giants in the Sage Rosenfels, Darius Reynaud trade); Sixth round (7th pick in the round, 172nd overall); Sixth round (35th pick, 200th overall, compensatory selection); Seventh round (13th pick in the round, 215th overall); Seventh round (35th pick in the round, 236th overall, compensatory selection).
Good to know: The compensatory picks were awarded to the Vikings because they lost Chester Taylor and Artis Hicks in free agency in March 2010. Compensatory picks can NOT be traded.
The Vikings draft room: Key players will include vice president of player personnel Rick Spielman, coach Leslie Frazier, director of college scouting Scott Studwell, director of player personnel George Paton and vice president of football operations Rob Brzezinski. Who has final say? That’s up for debate. Spielman will have the most power but Frazier’s voice certainly will be heard. Remember, owner Zygi Wilf wants everyone to play nice this time around.
Judd’s first-round thoughts: I’ve participated in a few mock drafts of late, meaning that there has been little choice but to make a pick for the Vikings at No. 12. Personally, I don’t think that using that selection is the team’s top preference. While there might be a few players whom the Vikings would grab with the pick, I think the goal is to move down in the first round (probably take a quarterback) and also get a third-round pick. The Vikings don’t have a third-round selection because they dealt it to New England in the Randy Moss trade. The Vikings have gotten calls about moving down and if I had to guess I would say there is a good chance that happens. Now, if the speculation that quarterback Blaine Gabbert is going to fall to Minnesota at 12 turns out to be true, there is no doubt in my mind the Vikings would grab him. However, I don't see that happening.
Chip’s first-round thoughts: Frazier has said that ideally the Vikings would take a quarterback in the first two rounds and let the rookie learn on the job. If the Vikings don’t take a quarterback in the first round, I don’t think that second-tier of guys (Jake Locker, Andy Dalton, Christian Ponder or Ryan Mallett) will still be available in the second round at No. 43. So do the Vikings take a quarterback at No. 12 or trade down, try and get a third-round pick and hope their target is still on the board? I think that depends on whether the Vikings have zeroed in on just one quarterback they like, or are they comfortable with a few of them. If they’re not comfortable taking any quarterback in the first round, they certainly have plenty of other needs too.
THE BIG PICTURE
Judd: It is no secret that the Vikings need a quarterback. Frazier again voiced confidence in Joe Webb this week but the reality is that it was Brad Childress who wanted to leave Webb at quarterback (not move him to wide receiver) and Childress is long gone. The Vikings could continue the trend of picking up a veteran quarterback (such as Donovan McNabb) and hoping it will get them by. But that provides zero chance for a long-term solution.
Frazier is a smart man and knows that in order to gain any real traction you must do it by getting a quarterback that you can build around and not someone who will be here for a couple of years before running out of steam. That doesn’t mean the Vikings couldn’t pursue a veteran like Marc Bulger in free agency – whenever that period starts -- with the hope he would serve as a bridge to a younger QB but there is a difference between a bridge quarterback and a veteran who feels he’s far from finished.
As far as this class, I have mixed feelings. There are plenty of analysts who don’t like any of the quarterbacks and don’t see them as “franchise” guys but I think that can be a cop out. How many real “franchise” quarterbacks are there in a draft? Joe Flacco certainly wasn’t one and he’s done just fine in Baltimore. Holding out until you get your ideal quarterback might sound good, but it also sounds like a potential excuse for why a team might never turn the corner.
The Vikings hired Bill Musgrave as offensive coordinator and Craig Johnson as quarterbacks coach because they have faith in their ability to develop a quarterback. So it seems logical that they would follow through on this plan by trying to develop one.
While quarterback is the most discussed position, Chip pointed out in a draft preview story he did Tuesday that the Vikings have many, many needs. This is a far cry from last year when it was expected all 22 starters would be back and any draft picks could be eased in gradually.
Think about it and you realize the only area that you would absolutely not draft a player is at running back. Quarterback, offensive line, wide receiver, tight end (aging group with expiring contracts), defensive line, linebacker and the secondary all could be addressed.
That’s a lot of needs for a team that made the NFC title game in the 2009 season, but that’s the reality for this franchise.
Chip: Spielman wants to turn over the roster this offseason, get younger and find some immediate help in this draft. We’ve focused a lot of our pre-draft coverage on the quarterback position because it’s obviously the most glaring need for this organization, and I’ll be surprised if the Vikings don’t take a quarterback in the first two rounds. Frazier once again expressed his desire to solve that lingering question during his pre-draft press conference this week.
Everyone knows there are no guarantees that any quarterback prospect is going to succeed, regardless of where he is selected. Each of the quarterback prospects in this class has certain weaknesses, but Frazier seems confident that Musgrave and Johnson can develop a young quarterback.
Mock drafts have been all over the place in predicting what the Vikings will do at No. 12 overall. That’s because they have a ton of needs besides quarterback. To me, cornerback is their second-most pressing area because of uncertainty with Cedric Griffin’s knees, Chris Cook’s durability and Antoine Winfield turning 34. Would the Vikings pass on Nebraska’s Prince Amukamara if he’s still available?
What if Alabama wide receiver Julio Jones is still on the board? The Vikings also need to improve their offensive and defensive lines. That’s why I think this draft is extremely intriguing for the Vikings. Lots of needs, including one very big one.