Who's No. 1?

The Vikings are less than three weeks from using their first-round draft pick on one of the more talented players in the rookie class of 2008. There are many directions in which they could go. VU attempts to break down who they need and who will likely be available when Commissioner Roger Goodell says, "The Minnesota Vikings are on the clock."

The countdown is on.

With less than three weeks until the 2008 NFL Draft, the Vikings are in the process of finalizing their draft board and preparing for the scenarios that may play themselves out in the first half of the first round. Believe it or not, media types aren't the only ones that do mock drafts. The teams themselves do mocks in hopes of trying to determine just about every eventuality that could happen before their pick comes on the clock so they're prepared when and if it happens.

The questions they're asking aren't that dissimilar to those that fans are asking. Topping that list is who will be available and will the Vikings lock into a position? Most teams will go with time-honored buzz phrase that they will take the best athlete available, but who are those guys this year? Who are the difference-makers that warrant consideration at or near the top of the draft? We've compiled a positional short list of players that could fit the Vikings' needs and might still be available when the Vikes are on the clock at No. 17.

Quarterback - There's only one name that would seem to fit here – Brian Brohm of Louisville. It seems all but certain Matt Ryan will be off the board, but there isn't the same confidence that Brohm is a guarantee to go in the top half of the first round to a team with a screaming need like the Ravens, Panthers or Bears. While many would view the potential selection of Brohm as an indictment against Tarvaris Jackson, franchise quarterbacks only come along about once every 10 years. The Vikings last took a QB in the first round in 1999 when Daunte Culpepper was available. Prior to that, it was Tommy Kramer in 1977. It would seem hard to believe the Vikings would take a QB in the first round and expect to compete each year with Jackson, but stranger things have happened. If the Vikings have Brohm graded as a top-10 talent, it's definitely a possibility – granted, a long shot, but a possibility nonetheless.

Running Back - It seems impossible to imagine anyone falling to the Vikings that would prompt them to take a running back – even super-talented Darren McFadden.

Wide Receiver - This is a wild card position because there are plenty of talented wideouts available in this year's draft, which could be part of the answer to the question. Many teams with needs at wide receiver may consider holding off on a pick there in the first round by being convinced that there will still be talent on the board in the second round or beyond. There are seven wide receivers that have consistently received first-round draft grades and none of them should be off the board in the first 10 or so picks. A scenario could happen where the Vikings have their choice of wide receivers, but, due to the signing of Bernard Berrian, while the team likely won't ignore wide receiver in the draft, it may push it off of the priority list for Round One.

Tight End - There isn't a tight end in the Class of 2008 worthy of being taken with the 17th pick. The Vikings may well address the position at some point – perhaps even in the first two or three rounds – but with the 17th overall pick? Not too likely.

Offensive Line - The real question mark of the Vikings' draft preparation lies here. At this point, the only person that has long-term job security is Steve Hutchinson. Bryant McKinnie could face a suspension from the league or some kind of sanction from the team after his latest run-in with the law. Matt Birk and the team are at odds about giving him a long-term contract extension. Ryan Cook was pretty pedestrian at right tackle the second half of last year. Those add up to a need. Clearly, no center is worthy of selection with the Vikings' first-round pick, but a tackle is clearly a possibility. With Jake Long and Ryan Clady expected off the board early, possibilities here include tackles Chris Williams, Jeff Otah and Gosder Cherilus, as well as guard/tackle Branden Albert. Offensive linemen are not the "sexy" picks that get fans lathered up and excited about the prospect of the coming season, but they're often the foundation that builds a champion. Oddsmakers likely wouldn't make O-line the betting-line favorite, but it might be a bigger consideration than a lot of fans might think.

Defensive line - Defensive tackle doesn't look like an option on the first round for a couple of reasons – the presence of the Williams Wall and the fact that the only two first-round locks (Glenn Dorsey and Sedrick Ellis) are expected to be long since gone. The same holds true for DEs Chris Long and Vernon Gholston. Fortunately, the talent pool doesn't stop there. Depending on how the draft shakes itself out, Derrick Harvey, Phillip Merling or Calais Campbell could all be viewed as legitimate possibilities. With the sidelining of both Erasmus James (injury) and Kenechi Udeze (illness), the Vikings may be forced to give this position much more consideration than most (if not all) others. Fortunately, there should still be pick-worthy players available.

Linebackers – The Vikings are happy with their linebackers and the only LB viewed as worthy of going in the top half of the first round is Keith Rivers. But, the Vikings are rumored to have an interest in Quentin Groves – a linebacker-defensive end hybrid that could become a specialty pass rusher in the Vikings' Tampa-2 defensive scheme. No. 17 might be a little bit of a reach to take him, so if he is the man on the team's radar, the Vikings might consider trading back a few picks in the first round, stockpile a pick or two for later in the draft and still get the guy they like.

Defensive backs - Safety likely isn't a consideration because there's a good chance that even the top-rated safeties will make it to the end of the first round or into the second. Cornerback, however, is a different situation. The Vikings have used Day One picks the last two years to take Cedric Griffin and Marcus McCauley, but you can never have too many quality D-backs. It's unlikely a corner will go in the top 10 picks and, like wide receiver, there are a handful of CBs with first-round grades attached to them. If a player like Leodis McKelvin, Mike Jenkins, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie or Aqib Talib would still be available, the Vikings could easily go in that direction. Teams have found it too easy to pass on the Vikings the last couple of years as the run defense has been stifling. Another active corner that can make plays would certainly be an option.

If you were to weigh the needs by position against the draft talent, at this time it probably shakes out like this for the likelihood of where the first-round pick will go – 1. defensive end; 2. offensive tackle; 3. cornerback; 4. wide receiver. Any picks at those positions would provide an immediate upgrade to the position as a whole, giving the Vikings another piece of the puzzle to achieving their ultimate goal of returning to prominence in the NFC.

In three weeks, we'll know where the Vikings stand on that question. But for now, we can let the guessing (and second-guessing) begin.

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