Draft Day Insights

While the first day of the NFL draft brought a number of starters to the Vikings, it also brought more insight into the team's thinking during the draft and how they expect the rookies and veterans to line up in the first minicamp next weekend.

Notes from the first day of the NFL draft:

* Even with all the problems surrounding the Dallas-Kansas City trade that affected the Vikings' drafting of Bryant McKinnie, they were still very happy to get one of their 4.5 blue-chip players. But they almost picked another offensive lineman in the second round. Head coach Mike Tice said the team was considering drafting Toniu Fonoti, a guard from Nebraska. But when it came down to it, Tice figured the line would take a step backward in 2002 with two rookies starting.

* That means the offensive line will look like this in the Vikings' first minicamp: From left to right in the starting spots will be LT Bryant McKinnie, a number of players competing at LG, center Matt Birk, LG Dave Dixon, RT Chris Liwienski. Among those competing at left guard with be Corbin Lacina, Everett Lindsay and maybe Lewis Kelly. Kelly will also back up at tackle and Cory Withrow at center.

* With McKinnie a huge left tackle and a two-tight end set, the Vikings are banking that Michael Bennett will have better running lanes.

* The two-tight end sets will minimize the role of a fullback.

* Tice said the team would have taken WR Josh Reed of LSU in the second round had he not gone off the board two picks before the Vikings selected. That would have eliminated the need for a free agent wide receiver acquisition in June. But, as it stands now, it is likely the Vikings will make a push for either Keenan McCardell or Derrick Alexander, both of whom are expected to be released in June.

* While it was pretty obvious that Kenny Mixon (LDE) and Chris Hovan (UT) would be starters, and the right defensive end position would consist of Lorenzo Bromell, Talance Sawyer and Lance Johnstone, the nose tackle position isn't so obvious. The Vikings are hoping Willie Howard will recover from a serious knee injury and ensuing surgery by September. He was the Vikings' best option at that position last season. Linebackers coach Brian Baker, who coached the defensive line last year, said he really likes Darius Holland's chances to start this year at nose tackle. Tice also said he believes Holland is mature enough to take football more seriously now.

* Another nugget revealed at the draft is that nose tackle Shawn Worthen had shoulder surgery and he may not be back until September either.

* After hearing from Baker and Tice earlier this year that Patrick Chukwurah is a more natural pass-rushing defensive end, the Vikings have moved him into the starting role at strongside linebacker. Admittedly, the move was made because of need in the linebacker corps. Chukwurah did show a lot of talent at the position in preseason last year, but indications were that he wasn't disciplined enough. Now the coaches are saying he has shown improved maturity in their recent off-season workouts.

* When the Vikings selected Willie Offord as a strong safety in the third round, they were also strongly considering free safety Chris Hope of Florida State, but they decided strong safety was a little higher in priority. Turns out, Hope was then drafted at the end of the third round.

* Tice said the team received a number of offers to move down in the third round, but it would have required them to move down 15 to 20 spots in the round and they didn't think they could get one of their targeted safeties at that position. Turns out, another safety wasn't taken until more than 15 picks later.

* Expect the Vikings to draft a free safety today.

* The Vikings continued with their mantra of getting bigger all around and stopping the run on defense. Second-round linebacker Raonall Smith and strong safety Offord fit the bill of getting bigger on defense. Smith will play the weakside linebacker position at more than 20 pounds heavier than Ed McDaniel did for years, and Smith was one of the fastest linebackers in the draft.

* The line of the day came from former defensive line coach Baker, who is now coaching linebackers. Baker said he was pleased that the Vikings have dedicated so many resources to the defensive line this off-season even though he won't have the chance to directly coach that position. That will fall to new defensive line coach George O'Leary. Baker said he has been teasing O'Leary that he has "the luck of the Irish" to be getting all the free agents at his position. "You never heard of the luck of the Africans," joked Baker, who is African-American. He put the media in stitches with that comment.

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