Draft Week Begins With Tice News

With less than a week remaining until the draft, the Vikings are finalizing their list and one name has emerged among the DT crop.

Mike Tice has all but settled for the fact that the Vikings are going to take a linemen -- offensive or defensive -- with their first pick in the NFL draft Saturday.

While his decision will be predicated on whether one of the two massive offensive tackles -- Florida's Bryant McKinnie or Texas' Mike Williams -- is available, if both are gone, the Vikings may already know who they're going to take.

For readers of VU's mock draft, you know we changed our Vikings pick to DT Ryan Sims of North Carolina. It looks as though the Vikings brass has, too.

After first leaning toward Tennessee's John Henderson, lingering ankle and back problems have dropped him on many draft lists and apparently on the Vikings too. Friday, Mike Tice was talking in terms of Sims as the best fit for the Vikings.

Tice is saying that, of the Big Four defensive linemen -- Sims, Henderson, Albert Haynesworth and Wendell Bryant -- Tice sees Sims as the best pure nose tackle of the group and thinks he's the best fit with what the Vikings need at DT.

The Vikings' choice could be made more difficult if Joey Harrington goes off the board to Carolina, Detroit or Buffalo. If he does, that will likely result in a player the Vikes don't expect to still be on the board -- safety Roy Williams, CB Quentin Jammer, McKinnie or Mike Williams -- to still be available at No. 7.

That could influence who the Vikings' take, but, as it stands six days before the team has to make its announcement, it looks like Sims is their man for right now.

* Since when is Dallas such a hot landing spot? It looks like plum free agent LB Kevin Hardy is going to sign with the Cowboys this morning and two of the top draft picks -- Jammer and Roy Williams -- have both said they want Dallas to draft them. Jammer is likely to be gone by the time Dallas picks at No. 6, but said he would prefer to stay in Texas and play with the Cowboys, since their defense is very similar to the one he ran with the Longhorns. Meanwhile, Williams -- the top safety prospect in the draft -- said he expects Dallas to take him at No. 6.
* The comments from the players gives more indication that a team wanting to move into the top 10 will likely have to deal with the Vikings if they want to make a trade up, since the top five picks seem like locks to remain with their current teams, barring an incredible offer, and with Dallas having potential players talking up its franchise, the odds of them moving off No. 6 look more remote. That means that a team wanting to climb up the draft board will likely have to target the Vikings as the first team available to make a deal with.
* Contrary to rumors that circulated late last week, Tice said the Vikings haven't signed OL Roman Oben and have no plans to do so before the draft. According to Tice, the Vikings are done with pre-draft free agency with the exception of expecting to get TE Hunter Goodwin signed sometime this week.
* The Rams are expected to announce the signing of Mitch Berger Monday.
* Of the 35 draft picks the Vikings had under Dennis Green since he took over full draft control in 1998, only six are expected to be starters in 2002 -- the lowest total of any team in the NFL. Multiple misfirings on the defensive line are partly to blame, but, as the team continues to be overhauled on the fly, only DT Chris Hovan is expected to be a defensive starter this season that started last season.

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