Vikes Have Combine List Ready

The Vikings' coaching staff and scouts find themselves in Indianapolis today as the bizarre testing atmosphere will begin in earnest tomorrow at the official opening of the 2004 NFL Combine.

The NFL Combine is a bizarre cattle auction, where players are timed in the 40-yard dash, a shuttle run, a standing high jump an even a psuedo I.Q. test called the Wunderlik Test.

This year, 331 invitations have been sent out -- many on players the Vikings will look at next year. Even for players like sixth-rounder Mike Nattiel, the Combine was a chance to meet the Vikings (and other) coaches for the first time -- even though they weren't the top priority player.

Like last year, the Vikings will continue to draft the best player they have rated -- regardless of position until all 32 of their projected first-rounders are gone. Last year, the top four Vikings draftees fell in the Vikings' first-round rankings.

VU has been told what positions are being viewed as priorities for the coaches and scouts at the Combine and who may be fitting into that mold for the Vikings.

DEFENSIVE END -- With the quick ascent of Kevin Williams, the Vikings are now looking for a big-time pass rusher. While the lure of a potential gamebreaker like Jevon Kearse will be tempting, there are only two DE's in the draft that figure to go in the top two-thirds of the first round. They are Kenechi Udeze of USC and Will Smith of Ohio State. But, if the Vikings are serious about getting either one, they may have to trade up.

CORNERBACK -- A shutdown guy is needed and the good news is that there likely won't be a corner taken in the first 12-15 picks. With a deep class, the Vikings might hold off on a first-round pick here, but guys who will be getting the big eyeball test this week will include DeAngelo Hall of Virginia Tech, Chris Gamble of Ohio State, Will Poole of USC and Dunta Robinson of South Carolina.

WIDE RECEIVER -- Nate Burleson is ideally a third-down guy who moves the chains, and recent attempts to replace Cris Carter (Derrick Alexander, D'Wayne Bates, etc.) have been a failure. Two WRs are sure to be gone by the Vikings' first pick -- Larry Fitzgerald of Pitt and Roy Williams of Texas. But others who could tempt the Vikings include Reggie Williams (Washington) and Michael Clayton (LSU).

LINEBACKER -- Yeah, the Vikes added E.J. Henderson last year at a bargain price, but more depth is needed with Greg Biekert likely gone and Henri Crockett perhaps not far behind. While not an extraordinary year at the top for linebackers this year, the Vikings may make a jump in that regard if Miami's D.J. Williams is still on the board. A great athlete and another guy with initials for a name, it could be a good fit.

TIGHT END -- Every year, some player rated in the top 10 drops like a stone for no forseen reason. Randy Moss and Dwayne Rudd come to mind as recent examples. If Miami's Kellen Winslow should slip, the Vikings might make the bold move of diving on him and transforming the tight end spot into a weapon.

By and large, the Vikings will be looking for players that will be grabbed on the second day, but this list should help you keep an early eye out for information on these players -- because the Vikes are following them closely too.

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