Good news: the first round of the NFL Draft is now less than four weeks away. Which means we only have four more weeks to speculate and pontificate as to what the Vikings should do to give their rebuidling efforts a big-time boost.
General Manager Rick Spielman will get his first major assignment April 26 when he decides how to use the No. 3 pick. But the Vikings will also have two selections the following day and seven more on the Saturday of draft weekend. That's ample opportunity to infuse talent into what is now a mediocre roster.
So what combination might Spielman land with his top two choices, at Nos. 3 and 35?
ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay currently has a two-round mock draft that pegs the Vikings to take Southern Cal offensive tackle Matt Kalil in the first round and South Carolina receiver Alshon Jeffery at the top of Round 2.
On a draft analysis call with reporters today, McShay said taking Kalil at No. 3 is the surest bet for Spielman. Kalil's a difference-making left tackle with impressive athleticism and a nasty edge. The Vikings could draft him at No. 3, plug him into the starting lineup from Day One and not have to worry about addressing that position again for a decade.
That would certainly make life easier on young quarterback Christian Ponder for the foreseeable future. So the only way McShay sees the Vikings passing on Kalil is if the rising stock of Texas A&M quarterback Ryan Tannehill creates a frenzy of competition for his services and suddenly that No. 3 pick has premium trade value for Spielman.
But what about Jeffery, an intriguing receiver coming off a disappointing 2011 season but still blessed with enough talent and size and instinct to potentially become a difference maker at the next level? For month's Jeffery's statisical decline from 2010 to 2011 has been scrutinized, his current scouting report subject to much debate. And yes, McShay acknowledges that selecting Jeffery will take a bit of a gambler's mentality. On the one hand, Jeffery is a playmaker. On the flip side, he struggled to seperate consistently from defensive backs in college. So how the heck is he going to get open in the pros?
But Jeffery's overall skill set is so intriguing that a patiently rebuilding team like the Vikings will want to consider rolling the dice and hoping they can add polish to his game.
"The fact that he can get down the field and go up and make plays is what I like," McShay said this afternoon. "I've watched tape after tape after tape of him. And I don't like his route running, I don't think he's sudden. Every catch he makes is contested. He is not polished. He has a lot of work to do. And you can go on and on and on with the negatives. But the bottom line is that he can do a few things that most guys can't.
"And when you have a player like that with his size, with his straight-line speed, with this ability to go up and get the ball and his rare ball skills, [it's impressive]. And when I say rare I think he's in the top two or three of all the receivers in this class. When the ball is in the air, it is his and I love that about him. I just think those guys are going to go. They don't last very long in a league right now where teams are looking for mismatches and edges somehow, someway in the passing game."