Vikings Hunker Down To Plan Draft

Like 31 other teams, the Vikings are closing the doors at Winter Park and preparing to hit the draft class of 2004 running. What direction and what players might they look at?

Viking Update, like many local and national publications, tries its hand at doing mock drafts -- our fifth version goes up on line today -- in hopes of giving fans a take on who might end up going where when draft day comes around.

Often times, these are futile. Remember last year when a St. Paul columnist wouldn't let go of his belief that the Vikings were going to take DE Rien Long with the seventh overall pick? The problem? Long is built like a straw and lasted until the 87th pick, not the seventh. It's the nature of the mock draft business to have all of your work and effort obliterated by one draft day trade that changes everything.

Such is the feeling as the Vikings lock up shop and start doing their own mock draft -- or at least filling out their draft board. Having to wait until the 19th pick means a lot of scenarios could play themselves out before the Vikings get on the clock -- and use LESS than 15 minutes to make their pick.

Invariably, a player most envision as being a top 10 or 12 player mysteriously slides down the board. Randy Moss did it. Warren Sapp did it. Trying to figure out who it will be this year is just as difficult.

With other teams in similar situations and evaluating players on their own set of criteria, a few names have surfaced as players that could land with the Vikings. Unfortunately for Vikings fans, top DE prospects Kenechi Udeze and Will Smith don't seem to be among them -- already gone to other teams with needs for a pass-rushing DE.

So where do the Vikings go? At wide receiver, names like Michael Clayton and Lee Evans have emerged as long-term answers to play opposite Randy Moss. On the offensive line, versatile Vernon Carey looks like he could be an ideal replacement for David Dixon. Even with the signing of Antoine Winfield, it might be hard to pass on a CB like Chris Gamble or Dunta Robinson if either of them is still available. With the changing of the guard underway at linebacker, an outside 'backer like D.J. Williams or Karlos Dansby would be a nice fit, or an inside LB like Jonathon Vilma would be a possibility.

The Vikings' needs for the 2004 draft aren't as glaring as they were a year ago at this time, and there will be several good players available at multiple positions for the Vikings to entertain the thought of drafting. What we'll find out in three weeks is what the next two weeks of preparation yielded.

Don't expect to see or hear Mike Tice or Scott Studwell doing a lot of talking about who they believe the Vikes will end up with -- they've learned from that mistake. But, the picture that is coming clearer is that, for what the Vikings need to be a playoff contender, there will be plenty of players available who can be an immediate help -- something the Vikings need to get the extra push for a drive to the playoffs.

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