The Minnesota Vikings, like nearly every team in the NFL, uttered the time-honored axiom of drafting the "best player available" or "highest guy on our board" at several points in last weekend's NFL draft.
Ironically, general manager Rick Spielman wouldn't say if first-round draft pick Matt Kalil was the highest-rated player left when he was drafted at No. 4 overall, but Spielman said before the draft that the Vikings had Kalil, CB Morris Claiborne and WR Justin Blackmon with equal grades.
But when it came to first-round safety Harrison Smith and several other players selected on the way to a 10-player bounty, the claims of "top player left" or similar assertions were made. Even if that was true, there was little question the Vikings understandably targeted areas of need throughout.
In fact, just days before the draft, their signing of veteran free agent Jerome Simpson took some pressure off of "reaching" for a receiver before his value meshed with an upcoming Vikings pick.
"That was a big sign for us to get Jerome in here and, again, we've talked about Jerome and how comfortable we felt with him," Spielman said. "He's working out already the last couple of days and we're excited about Jerome as well."
But that didn't stop the Vikings from adding to the receiver stable in the fourth round, when they selected Arkansas receiving teammates Jarius Wright and Greg Childs. While they are from the same college, they bring markedly different skill sets. Wright is the speedy slot receiver drawing comparisons to Percy Harvin and could end up returning punts (and maybe kickoffs) as often as he is on the field for the offense. Childs is the big-bodied (6-foot-3) receiver with a bigger wingspan (81-3/8, which is longer than the 6-foot-7 Kalil).
Like receiver, the Vikings made multiple picks to shore up their defensive backfield. In fact, they outdid receiver by picking three defensive backs – safety Harrison Smith in the first round, cornerback Josh Robinson in the third and safety/corner Robert Blanton in the fifth round.
"I feel very excited that we have improved our football team over the offseason and with this draft and can't wait to see these guys come in," Spielman said, referring to this weekend's rookie minicamp. "But I know the biggest part was trying to upgrade our roster from a personnel standpoint and I believe we accomplished that mission this weekend."
The Vikings will find out more about that assertion in the next three days, but there are positions they considered upgrading in the draft that remain thin.
Middle linebacker is one. Jasper Brinkley is the assumed starter and Spielman continued to promote free-agent acquisition Marvin Mitchell as an underrated option. The drafting of Audie Cole could be a nod to the future, but with the present roster, the "quarterback of the defense" is going to be an inexperienced player.
Spielman touted the versatility of the options he has available.
"I don't think we pigeon-hole guys that this guy is a Will, this guy is a Mike, this guy is a Sam," he said, referring to the different linebacker positions. "All our guys have the ability to play different positions."
Even so, depth at linebacker should be monitored as the waiver wire rolls on.
The same is true at defensive tackle, specifically nose tackle. Kevin Williams ably mans the under-tackle role, with second-year pro Christian Ballard an emerging option, but next to Williams is little depth.
The Vikings released Remi Ayodele – a non-factor free agent who never came close to replicating Pat Williams' effectiveness – and Letroy Guion has been pegged as the starter. Guion played nearly double the snaps as Ayodele last year anyway, but behind him is Fred Evans and little else.
If Spielman is looking for areas to still upgrade, the middle of the defensive line and linebacker corps have to be the top priorities.
"We're never done with personnel. So, we'll continue to monitor that, continue to monitor it through the summer, potential guys that get cut out there," Spielman said. "The other thing that we can really take advantage of, too, this year is at the cutdown time we're ranked third as far as pecking order when the waivers come, so we'll be very active monitoring that as well and you can improve your roster especially when you're in the position that we're in."
The Vikings' draft certainly targeted some positions of need – offensive tackle, wide receiver and defensive backfield – but the rebuilding mission is far from completed.
THE DEFENSE SETTING UP
The attorney for former Vikings running back Caleb King is setting up his defense.
King is accused of punching a 22-year-old man and throwing him headfirst to the ground early last Saturday, causing a fractured skull and lacerations that required more than 50 stitches. The alleged altercation began after the man allegedly teased the 24-year-old King about his resemblance to a celebrity, Anoka County Sheriff's officials said.
"The investigation will continue, but the defense is encouraged by the thoroughness of both the Anoka County Attorney's Office and the Anoka County Sheriff's Office. Both are taking care to ensure that all the facts are not only gathered, but seriously considered before reaching a charging decision in this matter," attorney Lee R. Wolfgram said in a statement. "Mr. King has no history of violent behavior and, in fact, showed great restraint in attempting to calm a situation after an offensive racial remark was directed at him. The defense is also confident that the Anoka County Sheriff's Department is mindful that making a false report against Mr. King, or anyone, is a crime."
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
Yotter: Holes left to fill after draft
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