Vikings could surprise with early value pick

The Vikings don't always draft for immediate need – look at Kyle Rudolph's selection in 2011 – and there is one candidate this year that fits a similar situation as a potential star falling into the second round that the Vikings have monitored closely.

He's coming off major knee surgery. He might not be ready for game action at the start of the 2013 season. And he doesn't fit an immediate need for the Minnesota Vikings.

Still, the Vikings seem to be all over the predraft, post-injury progress of former Florida State defensive end Cornellius Carradine, who guys by the nickname "Tank."

Carradine almost surely would have been a shoo-in first-round pick this year if not for a torn right ACL Nov. 24 against Florida in the third-to-last game of his career at Florida State. He has spent the last five months pushing his rehabilitation in an effort to show scouts and coaches that he could be ready by the beginning of the season. The parallel to Adrian Peterson's rehab from ACL doen't end there. Carradine has one of the same physical therapists in Houston that Peterson used last year in his remarkable comeback from surgery on a similar timeline, an offseason that helped propel him to become the NFL's Most Valuable Player in 2012.

At the NFL Scouting Combine in February, where the Vikings met with him less than three months into his rehab, Carradine said he expected to be 100 percent this month so he could do a full workout for NFL personnel at his pro day. That happened Saturday, when Carradine ran a 4.75-second 40-yard dash 135 days after surgery, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer, a mark that would have placed him ninth among the 50-plus defensive linemen to run the 40 at the combine.

The Vikings were one of 11 teams in attendance, according to Enquirer, and reportedly continued their fascination with Carradine.

"If he was healthy, we'd be talking top 20. As it is right now, he might be sitting there when Minnesota comes up on board. To me, he's the strongest man in this draft. If he slides to two, it's because they're not convinced that he's ready to come back," NFL scout Dave-Te' Thomas said. "My God, this guy is better than anyone from Florida State — sorry, Bjoern Werner. If he was in Minnesota and they used him as an under-tackle, they'd have the second coming of John Randle. He's going to be that good."

The Vikings are likely considering him as a rush defensive end and have their top three defensive ends – Jared Allen, Brian Robison and Everson Griffen – entering the final year of their contracts.

Carradine said he doesn't pay attention to the predraft speculation, but he doesn't mind putting himself in some elite company. When asked at the NFL Scouting Combine which player he compares to, he mentioned two – Julius Peppers and DeMarcus Ware. Wherever he ends up, he is confident that team will be getting a solid player.

"They're going to get a great person, a guy that's passionate about the game of football, a guy that's a team player, cares about his team, loves to win, just a great guy overall," he said. "A guy that's got a motor, a guy that is physical against the run, disruptive against the pass, and a guy that can shoot through gaps, and a guy that's just all over the field, and a guy that you'll want on your team that will come in and make impact plays on your defense."

NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock believes Carradine has first-round talent but sees him slipping into the second or third round because of the injury.

"Somebody's going to get a steal with this kid because of his natural upside," Mayock said.

In some ways, it reminds of the Vikings' drafting of tight end Kyle Rudolph two years ago. He was coming of a brutal hamstring injury in his final year at Notre Dame that wasn't completely healed – and might not have been throughout his rookie season. He may have been a first-round pick if not for that injury. Instead, Rudolph fell to the Vikings in the second round and they selected him as an eventual replacement in an aging tight end corps that included Jim Kleinsasser and Visanthe Shiancoe. Less than two years later, Rudolph was selected as the Pro Bowl MVP.

As a junior college player, Carradine was ranked's top defensive end coming out of Butler Community College in Kansas after recording 26 sacks and 199 tackles, including 50 for losses. He started 11 of 25 games at Florida State, recording 118 tackles, including 21 for losses, and 16½ sacks, 10 QB pressures, a forced fumble and a recovered fumble.

Despite his college success, Carradine realizes he isn't a finished product.

"Just refining my technique and everything, just working on getting a little quicker off the ball, that's something that I have plenty of time to work on," he said.

Considering his injury and the Vikings' situation at defensive end for 2013, he would have time to refine his technique and get his right knee healed, but if the Vikings are looking toward the future, he could be a surprise pick at a position where there isn't immediate need.

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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