Counting down the ‘locks’ ahead of Minnesota Vikings

While the Vikings hold the 23rd draft pick, the reality is that more than half of the 22 picks in front of them can safely be given to certain players. Still, the last time they drafted 23rd, a “lock” in front of them fell.

With free agency on the doorstep and drafting on their minds, NFL teams are gearing up for the next two months trying to be the smartest guys in the room when organizations play human chess with their franchise futures at stake.

Do well in the draft, especially when blue-chippers are in play, and the primary job is done for you. Cleveland is picking second and Tennessee isn’t taking a quarterback. If the Browns want one, he’ll be there. If another team wants a quarterback and the Artist Formerly Known as the St. Louis Rams has their hearts set on one quarterback, they may not get him.

While everyone else is looking at who their team of interest will select in the first round, when the Minnesota Vikings are picking at No. 23 and don’t intend to sacrifice the second or third day of the draft to move up, there’s a whole lot of waitin’ goin’ on.

Who will still be available? Will one player be obvious? The last time the Vikings were picking 23rd, there wasn’t a draft analyst who was the smartest guy in the room that didn’t have Sharrif Floyd gone by the time the Vikings picked.

Including Rick Spielman, a local smartest guy in the room.

Spielman confessed he had done hundreds of mock draft scenarios and in none of them would Floyd be available.

Will that happen again? Most would think that would require 22 choices to decide.

Not so fast, my friend.

Where the Vikings officially pick is No. 23. Where they realistically pick is markedly less than that. The process of elimination comes into play and the actual number of picks the Vikings may rue is far below 22.

The Vikings aren’t in the market for a quarterback. There is seemingly little chance for Carson Wentz and Jared Goff to be on the board when the Vikings are on the clock. 22 drops to 20. That doesn’t factor in a team with an infatuation for Paxton Lynch, which could may drop that number to 19.

Running back will take one spot. It may come close (Houston), but it may happen earlier, when Ohio State’s Ezekiel Elliott comes off the board, he won’t be a temptation for the Vikings. Officially drop the number to 19.

Given the constant need for offensive tackles, at a minimum, Laremy Tunsil and Ronnie Stanley will be gone. The official number drops to 17. Jack Conklin and Taylor Decker may have something to do with reducing that number.

Defensive linemen are always in vogue on draft day and this is one of the best crops in years, which could have differing impacts. There will be some teams that believe the depth of the Class of 2016 will afford them the chance to address another position in the first round and hit defensive line hard after that. But it’s hard to argue that Joey Bosa, DeForest Buckner and A'Shawn Robinson won’t be gone by the time the Vikings pick, officially dropping the number to 14. It doesn’t take into account players like Shaq Thompson, Sheldon Rankins, Emmanuel Ogbah, Robert Nkemdiche and Jarran Reed, who will likely drop that number by a minimum of two or three.

At linebacker, Myles Jack may be the only player unanimously determined to be gone, but a case can be made that Reggie Ragland – due to lack of depth at inside linebacker – will come off the board before No. 23. On the outside, cases can be made for Darron Lee, Leonard Floyd and Noah Spence – dropping the official number to 11 and the realistic number much farther down.

Cornerbacks Jalen Ramsey and Vernon Hargreaves won’t last until No. 23, dropping the official number to nine. Toss in Eli Apple, William Jackson and Kendall Fuller and you have more players on the unofficial list that will come off before the time starts ticking down on the Vikings draft room.

As fans look at the best marriage of pick and pecking order, the Vikings will have to wait for 22 players to be selected before the clock starts ticking down on them. But the reality is that there are likely less than 10 players they need to seriously consider, unless they get the Floyd Anomaly playing itself out again.

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