Where Will Starters Come From?

Vikings coach Mike Tice has said the team needs to come up with three starters from his 2003 draft class. So where will they come from?

The Vikings haven't had the best track record when it comes to producing starters out of their recent drafts. Last year Bryant McKinnie became an "instant starter," just as Tice predicted after drafting him. Only the "instant" came after a holdout that spanned nearly 100 days. They also got occasional starting duties from cornerback Brian Williams and linebacker Nick Rogers.

While McKinnie appears to have every chance to live up to his blue-chip status, Williams and Rogers may have seen as much time as they did because the Vikings defense had become so depleted over the previous years.

Now that the Vikings have built up a sturdier defense over the past two years of free agency, becoming a rookie starter should be a tougher task. That's actually good news – it means a more talented team.

So to add at least three new starters to a better team will mean a much improved draft and maybe more of a focus on drafting for the few obvious needs left to fill.

The Vikings will put together their draft board this week. It still looks like they will have a defensive tackle after their seventh pick in the first round, and that is an area of need. One starter.

In the second round, they will likely look for a receiver or a defensive back. Receivers in that round don't appear to be as good of value this year, so the guess here is a cornerback. One that continues to be mentioned as a possibility if he's still on the board is Sammy Davis. TFY Draft Preview's Tony Pauline thinks Davis would be a great value with the Vikings' second-round pick. If Davis is the second-round selection, he'd compete with veteran Ken Irvin for a starting cornerback position opposite Denard Walker. That might move Brian Williams to safety. If Davis would win the starting job, that'd be two starters.

Another possibility would be to draft a safety if either Mike Doss or Troy Polamalu is available at No. 40. In that case, Williams might stay at cornerback and compete with Irvin, and the rookie safety would likely start opposite Corey Chavous, either at free or strong safety. Either way, that's two starters.

So who would be left to fill Tice's goal of three starters? That's where the draft war room guys earn their money. Maybe they could find a pass-rushing defensive end to push Lance Johnstone and Lorenzo Bromell. Maybe they'd find a diamond in the rough of mid-round receivers to supplant Derrick Alexander or D'Wayne Bates. Maybe late in the draft they would find a specialist, like a punter who could also kick off.

Or maybe they would just find a solid athlete to replace a starter that most people figured had secured his job. That would mean that for the first time in at least a few years the Vikings' draft brass had a solid all-around draft that could contribute immediately – even with a team that had been significantly fortified by two years of "patiently aggressive" free agency.

That's all been part of the Vikings' focus the last two weeks and into this week before the biggest weekend of the offseason.

* The Vikings continue to contact teams as they look for a team interested in giving Cory Withrow the opportunity to be a starter at center. They would likely receive a draft pick somewhere in the fifth- to seventh-round range, or they could look to move up in a round in an exchange of picks that involved Withrow. ·
* Despite a poor postseason workouts, Arizona State defensive end Terrell Suggs is still very likely to be off the board by the time the Vikings select.

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