Who will the Vikings take in the first rounds of the NFL draft? That is a question being asked by football writers around the country, as mock drafts become the norm in magazines, newspapers and websites everywhere that cover pro football.
The answers, however, will be played out live on ESPN and, when the picks come, the one man the Disney-owned network will turn to is Mel Kiper. A self-styled draft guru, Kiper is outspoken about his picks, including one incident of draft fame when he and Colts president Bill Polian went nose to nose on live TV for Kiper saying the Colts would always be losers because they didn't draft Trent Dilfer (make up your mind on the salience of that comment).
Gaffaws aside, Kiper spends his life evaluating college players and has some serious ideas on how the draft will fall. And he has spoken.
Less than two weeks before the draft, Kiper has released his annual draft guide. In it, he projects a mock draft without projecting trades -- every pick goes to the team that owns it. It is the rash of trades made at the 11th hour in most drafts that make mock drafts often an effort in futility, but, if Kiper's scenario comes to fruition -- at least through the first six picks -- the Vikings will face a very interesting (and happy) dilemma.
The first three projected picks follow the conventional wisdom -- QB David Carr to Houston, DE Julius Peppers to Carolina and CB Quentin Jammer to Detroit. After that, it deviates from what we and many other draft observers think will happen.
While we believe Buffalo will take either QB Joey Harrington or OT Mike Williams or Bryant McKinnie, Rockin' Mel has Buffalo taking DT Albert Haynesworth. San Diego is expected to take an offensive tackle and Kiper has McKinnie going there. He again deviates from the norm by projecting Dallas, which hasn't had a first-round pick the last two years because of a trade for WR Joey Galloway, taking another wide receiver -- Donte Stallworth of Tennessee.
While that seems like a longshot at best, if Mel is right, the Vikings would be sitting at No. 7 with their choice of OT Mike Williams, safety Roy Williams, CB Phillip Buchanon and DTs John Henderson, Ryan Sims and Wendell Bryant.
The question at that point becomes, will Dallas actually keep its No. 6 pick and take one of the few positions it has talent at or trade down for more picks? If the Cowboys stay where they are, would the Vikings be willing to trade down to get more picks? If those players are all available, you can bet teams will be burning up the phone lines to get in at No. 7.
For the record, Kiper has the Vikings passing on the three DT's and Mike Williams to take Roy Williams. We respectfully disagree, but it would be interesting.
* Two of the aforementioned defensive tackles -- Haynesworth and Sims -- visited Winter Park Monday. The team has visits scheduled this week with Buchanon, Jammer, Mike Williams and DE/OLB Kalimba Edwards. Word is that the Vikings are also interested in setting up a visit with Stallworth.
* Is Dallas looking to trade down? It appears so, since the Cowboys have scheduled visits with almost its full allotment of 20 players -- quite a few players when only five will be gone when they're scheduled to make their pick.
* Former Viking Mitch Berger is set to make his decision on a new team -- either the Rams, Bucs or Colts -- by the weekend.
* The Vikings had been confident they could sign cornerback Fred Vinson. That went by the boards Monday when he signed a one-year deal with Carolina that, if he stays healthy, could net him $1 million.
Mel Kiper Chimes On Draft Scenario
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