Defenders on Vikings' Radar Get Praise

NFL Network's Mike Mayock is becoming a respected voice in the analysis of college football talent. He gave his opinion on a couple of defensive players in which the Vikings are thought to be interested.

NFL Draft speculation – it's fan-tastic.

Will the Vikings trade up for a quarterback – or another position – or will they stay with their first-round pick coming at No. 17 overall? It's all up for debate until Saturday, when the draft commences and the experts start reviewing instead of previewing.

But while they are still in preview mode, one of the most common matches between the Vikings and their 17th pick is with Florida State linebacker Ernie Sims.

He was one of the top linebackers mentioned by NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock last week in a conference call with the media.

"I really believe that Ernie Sims is the most explosive, through-the-hips athlete in this draft. As far as an outside linebacker is concerned, everybody has got A.J. Hawk penciled in. I think Sims has the most upside of any linebacker in the draft," said Mayock, the former New York Giants defensive back. " Do I think he's going to be exposed occasionally as a rookie? Yes, he'll over-pursue, get fooled on play-action, but when he gets there, he's an explosive hitter, he's going to make plays and I think he can have the kind of impact early in his career that a Derrick Brooks or a Jonathan Vilma did."

The Vikings can only hope Sims has that sort of impact if he makes it to them at No. 17. If he does fall that far in the draft, it could be because of medical concerns (he's had some concussion issues) or character concerns from an incident a few years ago.

"I'm a big Ernie Sims guy with the caveat that he passes his medical because he's got a history of concussions. The other for-sure first-day outside linebacker is Chad Greenway from Iowa. He can run, but didn't run as well as people expected at the Combine, but he's athletic, 6-2, 243, he's got tremendous upside," Mayock said. "I don't see him getting past Minnesota at 17. Then the outside linebackers that I have on the cusp of (rounds) one and two are Rocky McIntosh from Miami, DeMeco Ryans from Alabama."

The Vikings have visited with Greenway, Ryans and McIntosh, but they aren't believed to have brought in Sims, maybe because they feel they know all they can about him already or maybe because they'd rather set up a predraft smokescreen with the other visits.

Another defender that visited with the Vikings was cornerback Antonio Cromartie, who also has some medical concerns but is starting to get the attention of teams around the NFL.

"Antonio Cromartie from Florida State, he's starting to move up charts," Mayock said. "Here is a guy that started one game in three years, missed all of last season with an ACL, but he's almost 6-3, 208 pounds, ran a 2.44 and they are making him sound like he's the best DB to come out of there since Deion Sanders. He's a guy that's going to go somewhere between 20 and 25 and only has one start in his career."

The Vikings could use depth at cornerback, where they lost Brian Williams to free agency and may end up starting relatively inexperienced Dovonte Edwards or Dustin Fox at nickel back, both second-year players, if they don't obtain a solid cornerback in the draft. Whether that is Cromartie or not remains to be seen, but the Vikings are expected to use multiple picks on defensive players in their five selections in the first three rounds.

Then starts the speculation on how their draft went and which players will make the biggest and quickest impact as the NFL's speculation season moves into another mode.

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