Vikings Primed for Anything in Draft

With five picks in the first 95 selections, the Vikings are in a great position – they could package picks and move up in the first round or in subsequent rounds, or they could stay where they are with every pick and continue to add talent to a team that was aggressive already in free agency.

The Vikings have given no indication they are prepared to make any draft-day moves, but the team certainly is in a good position to do just that if they so choose.

And no one should be surprised if that is the case.

Coach Brad Childress and vice presidents Fran Foley and Rob Brzezinski proved during the NFL's free-agency period that the new-look Vikings plan to be proactive in their approach.

The poison pill inserted into the rich contract of left guard Steve Hutchinson — not to mention the early signings of running back Chester Taylor, kicker Ryan Longwell and linebacker Ben Leber — was a clear indication that things are much different in Minnesota with the Triangle of Authority now in charge.

Holding five selections in the first three rounds of the draft, including the 17th overall pick, the Vikings will have leverage when other teams come calling. The Vikings' second-round choices will come at Nos. 48 and 51 and their third-round selections at Nos. 83 and 95.

There has been speculation the Vikings might have interest in a quarterback – Texas' Vince Young, Vanderbilt's Jay Cutler and Clemson's Charlie Whitehurst were brought in for visits, as Scout.com first reported — and could look at moving up. However, the reality is Minnesota can't afford to overlook its need to obtain help at linebacker.

As much as they would like to deny it — and probably would if given the opportunity — Minnesota likely will have no choice but to draft for need at this spot. Quickly.

Fortunately for the Vikings, there is plenty of talent at linebacker in this draft. The key will be making the right call and obtaining a player who can step in and compete for a starting role.

Among the names that have been tossed around are Florida State junior Ernie Sims, whose speed would be a welcome asset to the Vikings' Cover-2 scheme that new defensive coordinator Mike Tomlin brings from Tampa Bay.

There are mixed feelings on when Sims might go — it could be around 17th — but Minnesota might not want to take any chances and could try to advance a few spots. The Vikings were not believed to have brought in Sims for a pre-draft visit but that could be considered an attempt to convince other teams they aren't that interested.

Among the linebackers who did visit were Alabama's DeMeco Ryans, Iowa's Chad Greenway and Stanford's Jon Alston.

One of the most interesting dynamics will be to see how things work in the Vikings' draft room.

Owner Zygi Wilf is hoping Childress, Foley and Brzezinski will be able to make draft-day decisions in a collective manner but made it clear that given any disagreements Foley will have the final say on matters.

That final say could be needed as early as the first round.

The Vikings also are sure to rely on the expertise of Scott Studwell, the team's director of college scouting. Studwell likely has the most knowledge about this draft class of anyone at the Vikings' Winter Park facility.

NOTES

  • The Vikings coaching staff had last week off but the personnel staff remained hard at work. "This is too critical of a time for us to be taking the time off," said Fran Foley, the team's vice president of player personnel.

  • The Vikings will debut their new uniforms on April 27 at the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minn. That will give them an exclusive 72-hour period to sell the new designs heading into the NFL draft on April 29-30. Team officials have said the changes won't be drastic but it is expected the look will include purple pants for either home or away.

  • Foley said he has made no decisions about the future of employees in the Vikings' personnel department as well as the scouting staff. Many of their contracts are up May 31. "I've told everybody all along from the start that those decisions would be made post-draft," he said.

    QUOTE TO NOTE: "We are of the philosophy that all 11 spots are open. We know there are some strong candidates at some of those spots and the likelihood of them losing those spots is minimal. You've got to be open to competition. That's part of football. That's what makes us all better." — New defensive coordinator Mike Tomlin when asked if all three linebacker spots were open.


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