Why Williams? Tice Knows

The furor following the selection of Kevin Williams is reminiscent of the drafting of Daunte Culpepper instead of Jevon Kearse. Mike Tice and Scott Studwell have their reasons -- and they're valid. If you disagree, read this first before you bad-mouth the pick.

What tended to get lost in the organizational "homina, homina, homina" uttered by the Vikings as they fell from pick No. 7 to No. 9 without compensation was that DT Kevin Williams was the player they had targeted all along -- whether at No. 7 or, as they expected, swinging a trade with Baltimore to slide to No. 10.

While the national and local media continue to hammer at the Vikings front office for being something akin to the hillbillies who interrupt Ned Beatty's rafting trip in "Deliverance," Tice and Studwell's explanation as to why Williams was their man has seemingly fallen on deaf ears. Maybe now that the furor has subsided, people will be more willing to listen.

The first thing that should be noted was that DE Terrell Suggs was never viewed as an option at No. 7 or No. 10. As a DE, he was viewed as a one-trick pony -- a third-down pass rusher like the team has in Lance Johnstone. It was believed that Suggs would not be able to make the transition from college DE to the pros and was evident when the Ravens took him and immediately announced he would be playing outside linebacker -- on a team that needs defensive line help. It should be noted that much of the problem with the draft party crowd was that one of the hosts began leading a chant of "Suggs! Suggs! Suggs!" in the belief the Vikings were interested. It became apparent to the booing, drinking hat-throwing crowd there that wasn't a belief shared by the organization.

Next was Jimmy Kennedy. The only top draftee brought to Winter Park for a visit, after he arrived and met with coaches and medical personnel, the Vikings came away from the private visit not at all sold on his ability or commitment. Seen as too short, a player with health concerns and a guy would be good at run-stuffing but a liability in the passing game, he almost took himself off the charts -- the Vikings believe Fred Robbins already provides what Kennedy would have brought. After he left Winter Park, he fell to No. 4 on the Vikings DT depth chart -- behind Dewayne Robertson, Williams and Johnathan Sullivan.

Finally there was CB Marcus Trufant and OT Jordan Gross. The Vikings had high grades on both players but were convinced the upgrades made at both positions in free agency outweighed taking either of those players with the No. 7 pick.

That left Williams. The Vikings actually did their homework on the selection process. Convinced if they made a trade with the Ravens to drop to No. 10 that the Jaguars would take Trufant at No. 8 and the Panthers would take Gross at No. 9, it was going to be a best-case-scenario for all involved. The Vikings would drop back three spots, add two second-day draft picks and still get the player they would have taken at No. 7.

As we all know by now, that plan fell through. But for fans who blame Williams or think he's a substandard pick, they should reconsider. The Vikings drafted him to fill their most pressing need -- a pass-rushing DT who can be a disruptive force to keep teams from passing at will on the Vikings. That, combined with the ability to free up Chris Hovan from double teams, and it's a pick that not only makes sense, but is one that made too much sense to pass up.

* Former Viking Patrick Chukwurah, now with the Texans, was robbed at gunpoint along with his girlfriend Tuesday night in Houston. Neither of them were injured.
* The current plan according to Tice concerning the offensive line makeover is to have Lewis Kelly move to guard as the backup for Dave Dixon with the expectation of taking over as the starter in 2004.
* Red McCombs met with the revamped membership of the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission. The new chair of the MSFC is a proponent of separate stadiums for the Twins and Vikings, whereas the old leadership -- Gov. Ventura appointees -- were more interested in renovating the Metrodome instead of building a new stadium. VU has been told the talks were productive and a good new starting point for McCombs.

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