Breaking Down the Class of '08

Running back Darren McFadden has been one of the hottest pre-draft discussions with impact players among the Class of 2008. But VU has identified five positions that are going to have a major impact on the top of the draft as well as the subsequent rounds. See where the talent is running the deepest as draft day approaches.

Every year, there are certain positions that garner more attention than others on draft day. When quarterback is a hot position, they can fly off the board early and often like they did during the 1999 draft. In some years, wide receivers are the hot property. Every year, offensive tackles and defensive ends get picked over heavily because no team can have too many quality players at any of those positions.

VU has identified the five positions that in our view are the strongest in the 2008 draft just a little over a month from now. See if you agree with our rankings.

1. Defensive end - A position that is a priority need for the Vikings that has plenty of top-end talent. Chris Long and Vernon Gholston will likely be gone in the first six or seven picks and Calais Campbell, Derrick Harvey and Phillip Merling could all find themselves going off the board in the first round. But it doesn't stop there. There could be as many as 30 defensive ends coming off the board on draft weekend, from the top stars to the project players in the later rounds.

2. Offensive tackle - Another need position of the Vikings – whether as depth, to upgrade right tackle or potentially to take someone at left tackle in the event Bryant McKinnie gets suspended by the league or through team discipline. As many as six OTs – Jake Long, Ryan Clady, Chris Williams, Jeff Otah, Gosder Cherilus and Sam Baker – could come off the board in the first round, and it is likely that we will see three or four OTs go off in each of the subsequent rounds. By the time all is said and done, three-quarters of the teams in the league may invest in a tackle in the first five or six rounds.

3. Wide receiver - While it has become unlikely the Vikings will use their top pick to take a wideout after signing Bernard Berrian to a free-agent contract, several teams are going to use their top pick to grab one of the playmakers in the Class of 2008. Because of the depth of the position, some teams may opt to lay back on the assumption that a player they like will fall to them in the second or third round. As it stands, players like Malcolm Kelly, Andre Caldwell, Mario Manningham, Early Doucet, DeSean Jackson, Limas Sweed, James Hardy and Devin Thomas could all go off the board somewhere in the first or early second round. With this not being a position the Vikings are likely to attack in the first round, seeing that many players go off the board at a position the Vikings likely aren't targeting can only serve as a benefit, much in the same way seeing running backs go won't hurt their feelings. Forty or more wide receivers will likely get drafted because the position is always one that needs upgrading and is the only position on the field in which teams routinely have three players on the field from the same spot, making a priority for just about everyone – just some earlier than others.

4. Running back - The talent at running back isn't the deepest among the positions, but the skill at the top end is what makes this a solid class. Darren McFadden is going to be one of the wild cards of the draft, going anywhere from the top spot (a trade is needed for that to happen) to anywhere over the next five draft slots. McFadden aside, four others – Rashard Mendenhall, Jonathan Stewart, Felix Jones and Kevin Smith – also grade out as first-round talents. With the Vikings set at running back, the more the merrier is it pertains to them coming off the draft board.

5. Cornerback - At first glance, this may not seem like an automatic need for the Vikings with Antoine Winfield, Cedric Griffin and Marcus McCauley atop the depth chart, but with the pass-happy nature of the NFL in recent years, it wouldn't be surprising to see a slew of corners going early. The first-round candidates include Mike Jenkins, Leodis McKelvin, Aqib Talib, Dominque Rodgers-Cromartie, Brandon Flowers and Reggie Smith – again making this a position of strength.

A recap of the math shows that these five positions alone have 31 players that can be viewed as first-round prospects – the same number of picks that will be made in the first round. While clearly that won't be the case, a couple of quarterbacks are certain to go, not to mention defensive tackles, linebackers and safeties, that the Class of 2008 looks to be deep at the top and potentially dropping some very good talents into the second round.

A lot of teams are going to help themselves in this year's draft, and these rookies could go a long way to keep some of the top teams at the top and help some of those teams on the rise in taking the next step upward. The talent is out there. The biggest question now is this: How will it play itself out?


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