The Scouting Combine is a chance for the NFL to go shopping. With the team medicos able to get their hands on players and coaching staffs able to get what is likely their first up-close look at several players their scouting staff has pointed out, the Combine has many benefits.
From the Vikings' perspective, there are several need areas that the team is likely to try to address in the draft, making this year's Combine critical. Here are some of the top areas for fans to keep an eye open and an ear to the ground about when the team descends on Indianapolis.
WIDE RECEIVER -- Something of a double indemnity position, the Vikings have a screaming need and free agency isn't likely to provide much relief. While the Vikings may very well sign at least one wideout in free agency, there is still going to be a need to address the position on draft day with at least one pick -- most likely a first-day selection. Look for the Vikings to target someone with a standout quality, whether it be a great 40 time or outstanding size. Both of those should be in decent supply this season.
OFFENSIVE LINE -- This applies to the right side of the line because the Vikes have invested heavily in left side of the line with contracts for Steve Hutchinson, Bryant McKinnie and Matt Birk. The right side remains a question mark, with tackle Mike Rosenthal a potential salary cap casualty and the right guard spot having not be adequately filled by Artis Hicks. Both positions are subject to change with new starters.
DEFENSIVE END -- The Vikings have invested a slew of high draft picks on the defensive line in recent years with very mixed results. The primary goal will be to seek out players that can be designated pass rushers. The NFL has become much more specialized and pass rush specialists are becoming more common now than they've been in recent years. Look for the Vikings to target a 'tweener-type DE-OLB for that purpose.
CORNERBACK -- The Vikings got huge dividends from Cedric Griffin as a rookie last year. Some believe Fred Smoot might be on the hook to get released after not living up to his huge contract numbers in either of the two years he's been here. Speed and the ability to hit will be the criteria at the top of the Vikings' wish list.
TIGHT END -- Jermaine Wiggins is another name that comes up as a potential salary cap loss. The Vikings will look for a L.J. Smith type that can be a solid blocker, but also stretch the middle of the field in the passing game.
QUARTERBACK -- Although Brad Childress says he isn't looking, you can bet the Vikings will be eyeing this position from the first round on down. With Tarvaris Jackson currently tabbed as the future of the franchise, the Vikings will likely have an eye out for a pure pocket passer that is different.
The Vikings will have a laundry list of things they like and don't like about players at the Combine, but it will go far beyond vertical jumps and 40 times. With a team that needs to start winning now to assure that Childress and his staff remain, the Combine could be the first step on righting the offcourse Vikings ship.
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