TE A Position of Concern?

The Vikings might enter the 2007 season without both of their top tight ends from 2006. With Jermaine Wiggins and Jim Kleinsasser both slated to make a lot of money without a lot of production in the new Vikings offense, it's possible the team will look to the free agent market, the draft or both to improve their standing at the position.

The Vikings have already gone through the process of rating players for the pending free-agent period, but, as the team's contingent heads for Indianapolis this week for the annual NFL Scouting Combine of college players who are entering the 2007 draft, one position the team might have an added interest in is at tight end.

With both Jermaine Wiggins and Jim Kleinsasser subject to being released because of high contracts and limited production, the Vikings might be looking for a tight end that better fits the West Coast scheme. It is no secret that the tight end has become the new offensive weapon of choice for NFL coaches – players who can hold up both as blockers and give the team a vertical threat down the middle. Tight end used to be a position that teams merely filled in on their rosters. Many times, TEs were little more than glorified blockers, but that has changed.

In recent years, the tight end position has become one that consistently has produced first-round draft picks and this year should be no exception. Miami's Greg Olsen and Arizona State's Zach Miller are both viewed as first-round talents. For the Vikings, that isn't seen as good news, since either would be a reach with the seventh overall selection and both are likely to be gone by the time the Vikings draft in the second round.

A couple of players the team might take a long look at this week are Ben Patrick of Delaware and Matt Spaeth of Minnesota. Patrick, who came to Delaware after spending three years with Duke, caught 64 passes last year for the Blue Hens and hauled in six touchdowns. Spaeth, who averaged 12 yards a catch for his college career, caught 47 passes as a senior for the Gophers last year.

The best part for the Vikings as it concerns both of these tight ends is that each will likely still be on the board when the Vikings make their selection in the third round. But, because of the lack of depth beyond the first two tight ends in this year's draft, if the Vikings have one of the next two TEs targeted, they may have to play the waiting game in hopes of getting one.

With all the concern being expressed about the Vikings improving at wide receiver, getting a playmaking tight end might be just as important. The Chiefs and Chargers have been able to get away with having a tight end as their primary receiver the last couple of years with no seeming ill-effects. Look for the Vikings to target this position – even it means letting Wiggins, Kleinsasser or both go to get that accomplished.

* Ted Cottrell is emerging as a frontrunner for the vacant defensive coordinator position with the Chargers. Cottrell, a veteran coach of more than 20 seasons, was thought to have done his last coaching as the Vikings DC under Mike Tice. He was fired when the Vikings hired Brad Childress, who in turn hired Mike Tomlin to run his defense.
* One name that has been mentioned as a possibility for the Vikings with the seventh pick in this year's draft has been Ohio State wide receiver Ted Ginn. However, it appears as though Ginn will miss the Combine with a foot strain. It is believed to be the same injury the sidelined Ginn after a post-touchdown celebration in the national championship game.

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