The Vikings' 2012 draft – at the least the early portion of it – depends on one player, and it's not the one they are drafting. Rather, it's quarterback Ryan Tannehill.
The Vikings' Dec. 24 win over the Washington Redskins took them out of the running for the No. 2 draft spot and netted the St. Louis Rams three first-round draft picks over the next three years and a second-rounder for the Redskins' right to draft Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III. As has been pointed out ad nauseum, it might have been the most expensive win in Vikings history, but as general manager Rick Spielman is wont to do, they are looking forward and finding that there might still be enough of a market for Tannehill at No. 3. It might be dwindling, but there appears to be a flicker of hope.
Momentum for the odds-on early favorites – Miami and Cleveland – to trade for Tannehill seems to be cooling, according to a league source. However, the Kansas City Chiefs, sitting with the 11th pick, are contemplating the move – a notion that was backed up Friday when Peter King of Sports Illustrated tweeted that Tannehill had a private workout with the Chiefs and then visited their facility. Tannehill will also be in Cleveland today and Monday, according to King, which could be either a smokescreen or the Browns trying to convince themselves that they are making the right move by staying put at No. 4 and allowing others the opportunity to trade up for Tannehill. The Texas A&M quarterback is also scheduled to visit Buffalo.
It's an interesting notion that three quarterbacks – Andrew Luck, Griffin and Tannehill – might go in the first three picks of the draft, something that hasn't happened since 1999, when Tim Couch, Donovan McNabb and Akili Smith went in that order. Quarterbacks have occupied the top spot nine of the last 11 drafts, but it's been 12 drafts since quarterback were selected consecutively with the first three picks.
Former Indianapolis Colts general manager Bill Polian wrote that if the Dolphins want Tannehill, they will likely have to trade up to the Vikings' spot to get him.
"In my mind, this is a trade you must make if you're the Dolphins. There is no reason to gamble and hope that he falls to No. 8," Polian wrote.
His premise when he wrote that last week was that the Browns might take Tannehill at No. 4. But Polian also acknowledged that the Chiefs could be in the running. The Buffalo Bills, sitting at No. 10, one spot ahead of the Chiefs, might also be an option.
But for the Vikings, it all presents risky business. For their money, Cleveland is the safe option, perhaps allowing Minnesota to gain a third-round pick and still draft USC offensive tackle Matt Kalil. A move further down the draft board, even if that is just five spots back to the Dolphins' pick at No. 8 presents the Vikings with the possibility of missing out on a "blue chip" prospect that really fits their needs.
The most desirable talents that fit their immediate needs are Kalil, LSU CB Morris Claiborne and Oklahoma receiver Justin Blackmon. Any pick other than those presents a relatively significant step down and should require an impressive strong draft bounty.
There seems to be little question in the analysis of the "draft experts" in the media that there is a real difference in talent and readiness at left tackle between Kalil and the next best option, Iowa's Riley Reiff. Worse still, after that there might not be a tackle ready to start on the left side and if the Vikings trade with Kansas City, there is a possibility they wouldn't even have the chance at Reiff at No. 11.
By then, Claiborne and likely Blackmon will be long gone, as well, leaving the Vikings likely looking in another direction. That could be why they also scheduled visits with defensive tackle Dontari Poe, cornerback Dre Kirkpatric and receiver Michael Floyd – all of whom could be mid-first-round options.
The reality is that the Vikings likely have more holes in their roster than what can be filled with even the six picks they have in the first four rounds. History says most of those won't be starters, especially in the first year. So, while drafting Kalil is the obvious choice at No. 3 – no matter how much they want to create uncertainty surrounding their pick while trying to increase the trade value – it should take a big offer to get them to trade down more than two or three spots. After that, the NFL-readiness factor drops off too steep, and it's doubtful that Tannehill's talent will conjure up an offer big enough to put the quarterbacks in that rare 1-2-3 combination of picks to start the draft on April 26.
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
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