The Minnesota Vikings are only a few days away from the 2013 NFL Draft. Like most teams, there are an abundance of positions that need filling, Included in these are wide receiver, defensive tackle, cornerback, and middle linebacker. One could argue every position could be upgraded, and choosing the best player available makes sense. But if there is a position that everyone agrees there is a need, it is middle linebacker.
The greatest middle linebacker in Minnesota Vikings' history was Scott Studwell. He is the all-time leader in tackles with 1,981. From his rookie year in 1977, to his final year in 1990, to the present where he still holds a front office job, Studwell was a find. The fact that he was chosen in the 9th round makes him one of the best value picks of all time. After Studwell, names like Jeff Siemon (a 4-time Pro Bowler), Ed McDaniel, and Henderson are what follows.
In the glory years of the Vikings defense, the strength of the linebackers were the outside paring of Wally Hilgenberg and Roy Winston. After that, Matt Blair and Fred McNiel did the job. Blair did it so well that he was named to six consecutive Pro Bowls (1977-82). He was a key part to why Minnesota attended Super Bowls IX and XI. Many consider Blair the best Vikings' linebacker ever. After that, one has to consider Greenway next in line among outside linebackers all-time.
With the parting of Jasper Brinkley, who was to replace E.J Henderson, and the inability of MInnesota to sign a free agent at middle linebacker, there is a glaring hole in the middle. No one doubts Chad Greenway. Drafted 17th overall from Iowa, he is a permanent fixture at SLB. On the other side, Erin Henderson is the starting WLB. According to media, Minnesota tried to persaude MLB Brian Urlacher to come join the Purple from the rival Chicago Bears, but nothing manifested.
Among the reserves who could step up in playing time are Audie Cole, the 6'4 MLB who piqued the interest of most fans who watch the preseason with interception returns for touchdown. Tyrone McKenzie could also step into a ILB role. On the outside, Larry Dean and Marvin Mitchell have looked good when called upon. Little is known by the casual fan (we without film) if one of these guys could step into a leadership role at MLB. Certainly we are hopeful.
More likely is that Minnesota spends one of their precious first-round selections on an inside linebacker. Combined with a pick at defensive tackle, or cornerback, that puts the Vikings in the best position to improve the defense. And, everyone say it with me, "Defense Wins Championships".
So who might we take?
Most experts have the DE/LB stars going early. Dion Jordan, Barkevious Mingo, Jarvis Jones, and possibly Alec Ogletree are expected to be gone. Only Ogletree is considered an ILB among them. But legal troubles haunt the Georgia graduate, which have him fluctuating the most on mock draft boards. If he somehow drops to Minnesota, we have to remember Warren Sapp, and draft him. But that is not likely.
The following are expected to be available at picks 23 and 25, who are possible selections by Minnesota:
Aurthur Brown, Kansas State, 6'0, 241 lbs. Ran a 4.67 at his own Pro Day. People like him. He had 100 tackles at K-State in 13 starts in 2012. He has appeared in the mid-first round to late second round in mock drafts.
Kevin Minter, LSU, 6'0, 246 lbs. Had a disappointing 40 time in combine at 4.81. But did have 130 tackles with 15 for loss. 1st team All-SEC, and anchor for a college powerhouse. First or second round possible.
Manti Te'o, Notre Dame, 6'1, 241 lbs. Probably the most known player in the draft, for all the wrong reasons. Yet still, he keeps climbing in expert opinion, and is now finding himself near the place where Minnesota drafts. He had a 4.82, but some consider it a low-estimate. He had very good field drills in the workout, impressing many. Picked to go to Baltimore with 32nd pick mostly.
After that there is a hefty drop off. There are still other names of MLB hopefuls, such as Kevin Reddick (UNC), Kiko Alonso (GA), Jonathan Bostic (FLA), Sio Moore (CONN), and others. If Minnesota decided not to take a MLB in the first round, there will still be decent players in the latter rounds. They just won't have the immediate impact potential that the above few are considered to possess. And while a present reserve may claim the job to start, surely developing a blue-chipper at MLB makes sense.
With only a few days until the glorious draft, we fans have little time left to imagine.
And imagining a shiny new MLB feels good.