Four middle linebackers to watch in Day 3

The Vikings are still without a starting middle linebacker, but that could change in the final day of the draft. Here are some names to watch.

On Thursday, the Vikings had three picks in the first round of the draft. It was the first time since 2001(when the Rams had three picks) and only the second time in franchise history the Vikings did (in 1968 when the team drafted Clinton Jones, Gene Washington and some guy named Alan Page).

On Friday, the Vikings may have won the draft for a second day in a row without making a pick. The idea that the Vikings are targeting a middle linebacker today seems obvious – even though the prospect of Matt Barkley being available when they pick would be interesting. You can bet that Rick Spielman has a higher grade on Barkley or Ryan Nassib than he does on any remaining middle linebacker in the draft.

But, as we begin the final day of the draft, there are three middle linebackers Vikings fans may want to acquaint themselves with. Barring a player one scout has staked his reputation on, there are three prime candidates to be the Vikings' best option available at middle linebacker. Each of them makes sense in his own way. These are the prime candidates to earn the Vikings' nomination.

A.J. Klein, Iowa State He is considered a tackling machine, a versatile player and a leader. Those are three desirable qualities in a middle linebacker. He started the last 38 games for the Cyclones, was an all-academic player and All-Big 12 three times as he posted three straight seasons with at least 110 tackles. Despite being one of the heavier linebackers (250 pounds), he is also one of the fastest, running a 4.66 at the combine.

Kevin Reddick, North CarolinaHe would be a pretty solid addition. The only knock on him among scouts is that he is that half-second slow from being really good. Considering he comes from a program that the University of Minnesota athletic director wanted to avoid at a high price, drafting Reddick would be sweet revenge. Spielman doesn't want to trade away any more picks, but if Reddick is rated high enough on other boards, the general manager may have to part with a seventh-rounder or two. It would only be fitting that he gets to play at TCF Bank Stadium, where the landlord wants nothing to do with his alma mater.

Steve Beauharnais, RutgersAs one who doesn't follow Rutgers football as closely as I should, he's the biggest wild card of the group. Pronounced "bo-HARR-ness," what intrigues me about correctly pronouncing his name is that he had the best times in the short shuttle and the 3-cone drill at the combine. At this point, that's enough to be on the top line of the Vikings MLB depth chart.

Nico Johnson, AlabamaIf I'm making the pick, anyone who played 52 games for the Crimson Tide is worthy of giving a long, long look. His downsides are pronounced, but his downsides are coachable and able to be minimized. Given the number of his teammates who are heading to the NFL, if nothing else, he knows what it means to win a championship. That brings a swagger along with it for a middle linebacker.

Rick Spielman and Leslie Frazier have both been questioned about the future of the Vikings and the middle linebacker dilemma. For those who questioned the Vikings trading away their second- and third-round picks to get Cordarrelle Patterson at the expense of a middle linebacker, had the Vikings stayed at No. 52, four inside linebackers got selected before the Vikings would have made their second-round pick. From that point until now, only one (Arthur Brown) has been selected.

The Vikings were hailed as the big winner of Day One of the draft. Considering that 24 players were selected at the three positions the Vikings made their picks at and only one middle linebacker was picked from the point the Vikings could have used their second-round pick, they may have won Day 2 of the draft without making a selection.

As for Day 3, if they land one of those four players, they can consider that a victory as well.

John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.

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