Whether it is logic or knowledge of visits, workouts and interest, some draft speculation makes sense and other rumors have to be classified in the folder labeled "Smokescreen."
While Vikings general manager Rick Spielman said there "8,000 different scenarios" for the Vikings' first-round picks, a good portion of their decision-making will be done for them by the teams picking in front of them. That holds especially true if they don't trade up, and Spielman claims he doesn't see that as an option … before couching the statement by adding "that could change."
So what's realistic Thursday night in the first round of the draft? Numerous selections make sense, depending on how things unfold in front of them and whether or not they are part of the anticipated trading game.
WR Tavon Austin, West Virginia
The good news: Think mini-Percy Harvin with this pick. The "mini" part comes in his build, not his production. Austin's 4.34-second 40-yard dash set the standard at the NFL Scouting Combine, and his production – whether receiving, rushing or returning – at West Virginia was outstanding. Austin led all active Football Bowl Subdivision performers with 288 receptions, 7,286 all-purpose yards and an average of 13.77 yards per play. He also ranked second with 3,413 receiving yards and third with 29 touchdown catches. He also had 97 kickoff returns, placing seventh among active players, and his 2,407 kickoff return yards finished sixth. He also scored four times on returns, ranking fourth in the nation. Finally, he averaged 9.37 yards on 110 rushes in his four-year career.
The bad news: The Vikings will have to trade up to get him and his draft stock could rise even higher than the Rams at No. 16, making the price to get him awfully expensive for a Vikings team more likely to trade down and accumulate picks than trade up for a star. The Jets appeared primed to take him at either No. 9 or No. 13, so he should probably be scratched off the Vikings wish list.
WR Cordarrelle Patterson, Tennessee
The good news: Patterson brings all the physical ability to the receiver position a team could want. He is 6-foot-2, 216 pounds, runs a 4.42-second 40-yard dash, has a 37-inch vertical jump and 10-foot-8 broad jump. He would bring both the outside-the-numbers presence and the ability to stretch the field deep that the Vikings need. He also brings versatility to take the ball on reverses and returns punts and kickoffs, all helping him to 1,858 all-purpose yards in his only season with Tennessee after being a junior college transfer. Is he a bigger Percy Harvin or a faster Dwayne Bowe … or both?
The bad news: He is considered very raw with his route-running and reportedly didn't impress teams during interviews at the NFL Scouting Combine, leading to questions about his ability to digest NFL offenses. It all leads to a boom-bust assessment on Patterson, and a comparison to Troy Williamson should leave Vikings fans guarded about his prospects in the pros.
WR Keenan Allen, California
The good news: Allen is considered NFL-ready from a route-running perspective and was plenty productive at Cal, leading to comparisons to Anquan Boldin. At 6-foot-2 and 206 pounds, he could provide the outside-the-numbers and red zone presence that teams value. The Vikings could likely snag Allen with pick No. 25 or even trade down a few spots and still get him. He set the school record with 205 career receptions, including 17 touchdowns, and was third with 2,570 receiving yards. He was part of the Vikings' top-30 visits earlier this month.
The bad news: He isn't the field-stretching speedsters the Vikings could use, as shown by a lackluster time (reportedly timed around 4.75) during his pro day. There are also concerns about a knee injury from the 2012 season that is apparently still an issue.
WR Robert Woods, USC
The good news: Like Allen, Woods is one of the best route-runners in this year's draft class, but he also offers a little better speed and doesn't have quite the current injury concerns, although he had ankle surgery following the 2011 season. Despite injuries then, he caught a school-record 111 passes as a sophomore and had a career record 252 catches, ranking sixth on the USC charts with 2,930 receiving yards and had 32 touchdowns. He returned kickoffs and punts, too. He also offers decent size at 6-foot-0½ and 201 pounds. The Vikings are believed to be hot on his trail, talking to him at the NFL Scouting Combine and again extensively at his pro day, making him a leading candidate to be one of their first-round picks if they choose a receiver.
The bad news: Despite an incredibly productive sophomore season, Woods felt like he was avoided in the offense in 2012 and he isn't alone. Scouts and analysts saw the same thing, as the passing offense favored Marqise Lee, and wondered why.
LB Alec Ogletree, Georgia
The good news: The safety turned linebacker is one of the most athletic defensive prospects in this year's draft and probably has the best range of any of the top middle linebacker prospects. Also offers the versatility to play outside linebacker. He started 17 games at inside linebacker and five at safety during his time at Georgia. He was reportedly part of the team's top-30 visit. Recorded 197 tackles, including 20 for losses, and six sacks during his time at Georgia.
The bad news: He is considered a big risk since he reportedly failed a drug test last year, leading to a one-game suspension, and then was arrested for suspicion of DUI just days before the NFL Scouting Combine. The risk is clear: If he can't stay clear of trouble days before the biggest job interviews of his life, can he stay clean once he is drafted?
LB Manti Te'o, Notre Dame
The good news: One of the most decorated linebackers in Notre Dame history, Te'o was a finalist for the Heisman Trophy and received the Maxwell Award, Lombardi Trophy, Bednarik Award, Nagurski Award, Lott Trophy and the top honor for a college linebacker, the Butkus Award. He recorded 113 tackles and seven interceptions as a senior and has a world of experience, starting 49 of 51 games and registering 427 tackles, including 34 for a loss, and 8½ sacks. The Vikings have been all over him this offseason, interviewing him at the combine, attending his pro day and sending him to dinner with Rick Spielman before that pro day. Like Woods at receiver, Te'o is considered a favorite for the Vikings if they choose a linebacker in the first round and he is still available.
The bad news: In addition to the well-publicized Internet hoax that had Te'o talking about a girlfriend that never existed and was a Facebook fake, there are other concerns, like ones on the football field. Te'o had a terrible performance in the National Championship Game against Alabama when he knew the embarrassing story of his fake girlfriend was about to go public. But even beyond that, there are concerns about his speed and athleticism to handle coverage responsibilities in the NFL after running a 4.82-second 40-yard dash at the combine.
LB Kevin Minter, LSU
The good news: Like Te'o, Minter earned All-American status in 2012 and was a finalist for the Butkus Award that Te'o won. Minter had 130 tackles, 15 for losses, and four sacks last year as a junior while leading the eighth-ranked defense in the nation. As a sophomore starter, the Tigers ranked 12th in defense and made it to the National Championship Game before losing to Alabama, just like Notre Dame did the following year. When Minter arrived, the LSU defense was about in the middle of the pack defensively. At 5-11½ and 246 pounds, Minter is similar in size to Te'o, with height being a mild concern with both.
The bad news: Like Te'o, there are some concerns about Minter's ability to stay on the field for all three downs. His 40-yard dash time wasn't much better than Te'o's.
CB Xavier Rhodes, Florida State
The good news: In many ways, Rhodes seems like the ideal fit at cornerback for the Vikings. He was one of the tallest and biggest defensive backs of the nearly 60 at the combine at 6-foot-1½ and 208 pounds. He is also physical at the line of scrimmage, which the Vikings love in their Tampa-2 zone cornerbacks. He had 140 tackles, including seven for a loss, and eight interceptions in 38 starts.
The bad news: Rhodes may not be available when the Vikings pick at No. 23, as he is considered a mid-first-round value. But he may be a scheme fit in that his recovery speed isn't elite (4.43 in the 40) among the cornerbacks and he might not be as valuable to teams that run primarily man coverages. If he is available at No. 23 or 25, he would be awfully hard to pass up.
CB D.J. Hayden, Houston
The good news: Hayden is blessed with great playing speed, clocked at 4.33 on a hand-held timer at his pro day, and is considered the best cornerback in the draft by some analysts. After going to junior college, Hayden started 21 of 22 games at Houston, recording 127 tackles, including 9.5 for losses, three fumble recoveries and six forced fumbles. He also had 19 passes defensed. He returned three of his six interceptions for touchdowns, tying the school's career record in only two years.
The bad news: The reason he might be available is that he spent the last five months recovering from an incident in practice last year that nearly killed him when he collided with a safety and tore a vein that transports blood from the lower half of the body to the heart. Doctors say that is fatal in 95 percent of its victims, but he isn't believed to be at any more risk of that happening again than any other player would be having it happen once.
DE Cornellius Carradine (Tank), Florida State
The good news: He might be the best pure 4-3 defensive end in the draft and might still be available when the Vikings' pick at No. 25 is on the clock. He started only 11 of 25 games at Florida State, recording 118 tackles, 21 for losses, 16½ sacks and another 10 quarterback pressures, a fumble recovery and a forced fumble. He would be the biggest surprise pick for the Vikings, but in the long run he might turn out to their best pick.
The bad news: The reason he would still be available is because he is coming off ACL surgery, an injury suffered late last year. He has been training with one of the key people in Adrian Peterson's recovery down in Houston and ran a 4.75-second 40-yard dash at his pro day that the Vikings attended. He might not be ready for full action at the start of the season (same thing was said about Peterson last year), so why would the Vikings make this pick? Because their top three defensive ends – Jared Allen, Brian Robison and Everson Griffen – are all in the final year of their contracts and Rick Spielman might have been setting up this pick in press conference on Tuesday.
"The other thing I'm looking at very hard is where our depth is in '14 (2014) as well. If there's a significant player there that may not have as big a significant role in '13, but can have a tremendous impact for our team in '14, that will come into consideration, as well," Spielman said.
Where does that leave us before the draft? Much will depend on what teams in front of the Vikings do, but there are our 10 "most likely" for the Vikings' two picks in the first round.
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
Vikings' top targets for the first round
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