Sunday slant: Two trade-up targets to watch

If the Vikings do move up in the first round, no matter how illogical that may seem, they are apparently eyeing two prospects at different positions with different makeups. Of course, that's assuming it's not all a smokescreen.

Logic and the NFL draft aren't always perfect partners.

NFL teams have a history of getting enamored with certain players and pushing them up their draft boards for various reasons. Need at a particular position is one of the driving forces. Some teams – we're looking squarely at the Al Davis legacy of the Oakland Raiders – draft the freakish athletes who can make the general manager look like the freak instead of the player when he is selected too high.

The Vikings have their own wall of shame in draft history, choosing first-round busts like Dimitrius Underwood (personality disorder), Erasmus James (lack of passion for the game) or Troy Williamson (lack of eye-hand coordination). The ability to be duped by fast 40s on the physical side or claims of turning their lives around on the mental and emotional side can lead general managers to looking for the "genius" pick instead of the obvious one, and in this Internet age fans don't let them forget the failures.

So with agents and players trying to convince general managers and coaches how great the athlete is, and general managers trying to convince the media and fans how thorough they are, the lying game is almost cyclical. There is often no telling which way a team will go on draft day until the move is made.

With that, however, comes a fan's desire to know what is being said and a reporter's desire to get to that information. NFL.com reported that the Vikings are looking to move up in the first round and that was followed by Viking Update being told there were two objects of their desire – West Virginia receiver Tavon Austin and Florida State cornerback Xavier Rhodes. Logic says it makes no sense to move up until the draft starts unfolding and the smokescreens of the first 15 picks start to clear, but logic doesn't always make it to the draft party.

It's likely, even probable, that the Vikings are just doing what they should (I'm growing tired of the term "due diligence" at this time of year) and finding out what it would cost if they want to move up from their No. 23 or No. 25 pick. Just as likely, however, is them finding out which teams are interested in moving up themselves to get one of Minnesota's first-round picks in exchange for a couple of picks, one that is maybe 10 or 12 spots lower and another one a round or two lower.

Logic says in a deep draft the Vikings would do well to trade down to gain additional picks in the second round and come away with a handful of eventual starters rather than rolling the magic dice on a player that may be rated only marginally higher than the next available at that position.


Or maybe the Vikings are looking at both routes – trading away one of their first-round picks to move up and grab one of the players they view as elite and then trading away their other first-round pick to gain additional selections in the second round.

One agent believes there will be even more trades than last year, and it shouldn't surprise Vikings fans in the least if Spielman was involved in a half dozen of them this year. Expect him to move down at times and come away with additional picks, likely in next year's draft since they enter this year with 11 picks already, including an advantageous six picks in the first 120 slots.

If the Vikings do move up for Austin or Rhodes, they are looking at very different players. Austin is the undersized, do-it-all spark plug. He has rightly been compared to a smaller version of Percy Harvin and would give the Vikings many of Harvin's advantages – speed and elusiveness as a slot receiver, part-time backfield carrier and return man.

At 5-foot-8½ and 174 pounds, he led the NFL Scouting Combine with a blazing 4.34-second 40-yard dash.

At West Virginia, he started 37 of 52 games and set the school record with 7,286 all-purpose yards (averaging 140.12 per game) and receptions with 288 for 3,413 yards. His 29 touchdown receptions were second in school history. He also had 2,407 yards on kickoff returns (averaging 24.8 yards), 433 on punt returns (averaging 12.7) and 1,033 rushing yards (averaging 9.4 per carry).

While Austin is the undersized speedster, Rhodes is one of the biggest cornerbacks available, measuring 6-foot-1½ and 210 pounds while still running a 4.41 in the 40 at the NFL Scouting Combine.

He started 38 of 43 games at cornerback for the Seminoles, recording 140 tackles, including seven for loss, recovered three fumbles, caused one and had a respectable eight interceptions in three years as a starter.

"In just three seasons, this former wide receiver recruit has transformed into one of the best cornerbacks, and certainly one of the most physical pass defenders in the college game," the NFL Draft Report says on Rhodes. "Has natural hands from previous experience as a pass catcher, along with great leaping ability and impeccable timing going up for the ball at its highest point has resulted in the fourth-year junior intercepting eight passes and deflecting 23 others through 43 games."

The Vikings could trade up … or down – our money is on both scenarios happening in the first two days of the draft. If they trade up in the first round, their collective eyes are on a small receiver … or a big cornerback.

It's a fascinating time of year. Just as general managers are hoping to come away looking like geniuses, fans are trying to get into the minds of general managers and act like scouts based off of highlight films on YouTube, even if they know those don't give a true representation of the whole player.

Then again, logic doesn't always dance with the draft.

QUICK SLANTS

  • Former Vikings safety Joey Browner will announce the team's second-round draft pick as part of the NFL's inclusion of former players in the draft process. Last year, however, the Vikings traded out of their second-round pick to move up into the first round.

  • If the NFL really wanted to make a great public relations move, it would have the first responders, fire fighters and medical personnel from the Boston Marathon bombing and the explosion in West, Texas alternate announcing the picks in the third round. Pick No. 91, the one that belongs to the New England Patriots, should go to the citizen that discovered Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, "Suspect No. 2," in the Boston bombing and called 911.

  • As long as everything holds true with the Vikings stadium bill and the state's funding is rectified, this will be the last season in the Metrodome. The Vikings are 158-85-0 (.650) at the Dome in the regular season and 6-4-0 in playoff games there.

  • If the Vikings do select a wide receiver or defensive back in the first round, it would be a bit rare. Of their 49 first-round choices, Minnesota has only selected two defensive backs and five receivers. Defensive linemen dominate the first-round selections – the Vikings have chosen 16 of them – followed by running backs (10).


    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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