Names At No. 7

The last first-round pick the Vikings used on a lineman was in 2000, when they selected Chris Hovan. Two years later, that first-round pick is likely to be spent on either an offensive or defensive lineman, as the old personnel department gets more input once again.

The Vikings are going to be under the gun in the weeks leading up to the April 20 draft, where the team will be on clock much earlier than usual. This time around, the Vikings will be drafting seventh and already people are speculating who the six teams in front of them -- expansion Houston, Carolina, Detroit, Buffalo, San Diego and Dallas -- will pick. There is already talk that Houston and Dallas may both select a quarterback, which would take two picks away from an area the Vikings aren't interested in drafting on the first round.

The early talk is that the Vikings are looking at offensive tackle, where talented Florida standouts Bryant McKinnie and Jaoquin Gonzalez, as well as Texas tackle Mike Williams are going to be tempting, or defensive line where North Carolina stud Julius Peppers, Tenneessee lineman John Henderson, Wisconsin defensive tackle Wendell Bryant and Washington linemen Larry Triplett are at the top of many draft lists.

The Vikings may also be tempted to slide back a few picks in the first round to try to stockpile more choices, since there are several needs to address and only so many picks available. As always, VU will update the draft situation as it draws closer.

* In all, 33 underclassmen have already declared for the NFL draft,
bolstering what was seen as a relatively weak overall draft crop.
* The Packers have made quite an impact on the NFC playoffs the last two years even though today will be their first appearance in the postseason in three years. The Packers have swept the NFC Central champion each of the last two years -- beating the Vikings twice in 2000 and the Bears twice this season. In both cases, just one win vs. the Packers would have given the Vikings and Packers home field throughout the playoffs -- something denied them by losing to the Pack twice.
* Speaking of the Bears, there are more and more indications out at Winter Park that the Vikings are now modeling their minor rebuilding project after the Bears. Head coach Mike Tice said as much at his introduction press conference, saying, like the Bears, he feels the Vikings are only one or two players away. The problem is, those players will likely have to come via the draft, because the Vikings don't appear interested in mortgaging the future by signing high-priced free agents this offseason.
* No official word yet early Sunday morning, but Tony Dungy is almost surely done in Tampa. His Bucs lost yesterday in the first round of the playoffs to Philadelphia, moving his playoff record to 2-4. His press conference to talk about his future with the team is expected around noon today. The Bucs have averaged just 9.8 points per playoff game in Dungy's tenure.
* Former Vikings linebacker Pete Bercich, a locker room favorite in his years with the Vikings, is the new defensive quality control coach.
* The Vikings have yet to announce the rest of their coaching staff, as they search for an offensive coordinator (Art Shell was interviewed), offensive quality control and a special-teams coach. Word out of Winter Park is that the main reason Gary Zauner was let go as special-teams coach was that he refused to take a pay cut, and Tice needed to slash some money from the coaching salaries.

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