Defense should be early focus of the draft

With a lackluster quarterback class, falling value on early running backs and questions about whether any of the incoming receivers are truly elite, the draft is expected to have a defensive theme on the first day despite a league built on offense these days.

It's still a little early to be slotting all of the NFL's draft needs with the available talent, but one thing that is becoming clearer as the NFL Scouting Combine ends today is that the 2013 draft is going to be defense-heavy – not due to the need for NFL defenses to adjust to the unprecedented scoring that has taken place in recent years, but because the Class of 2013 is lacking in blue-chip offensive talent.

Over the past few years, quarterbacks have dominated the draft. This year, it can be argued that only two QBs – Geno Smith and Matt Barkley – are going to get selected in the first round and both are viewed as a reach if taken in the top 10 picks.

The running back position has seen its first-round numbers drop, the theory being that running back talent can be found in the early rounds, but isn't necessarily a need in the first round. There is the distinct possibility that there might not be a first-round back coming off the board simply due to a lack to top-end talent.

While the wide receiver crop is relatively deep, there isn't an A.J. Green or Julio Jones in this year's draft class. There are talented role players with a specific niche that make them valuable players, but not a requirement for first-round selection.

The offensive tackle position – a staple of the first round of the draft for teams in need – looks to be the one offensive exception. Luke Joeckel of Texas A&M is primed to be a top-three or -four pick, and Eric Fisher and Lane Johnson could both be gone in the first half of the first round.

On the defensive side of the ball, the draft is deep in defensive line talent. By the time the first round is done, almost half of the top picks could come from the defensive line, which will likely be the positions where runs take place for teams in need, and trades could take place as teams jockey for position to get involved with one of the deepest positions for themselves.

The name of the game in the NFL these days is centered almost exclusively on the offensive side of the ball. But, on draft weekend (or at least the opening night of the draft), it would appear at this point that defense is going to be the focus of attention.

John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.

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