Barring Zygi Wilf offering the Eagles a second-round pick and some change for Donovan McNabb, today is going to be a quiet day for the Vikings in terms of the business portion of the NFL draft.
Minnesotans aside, football fans everywhere will be tuned in. They'll hear the "up close and personal" stories of draft prospects. They'll hear Mel Kiper – finally freed of his clearly-uncomfortable Todd McShay albatross – spout pontifications about late-second round picks as if they were drafted six hours earlier. They'll hear coaches and general managers sing the virtues of their picks as if they were manna from heaven.
What they won't hear is a lot of chatter regarding the Vikings. Good, bad or otherwise, the Vikings will be simmering on the back-burner of the April spotlight. Considering that any national report regarding the Vikings would likely include a reporter holding a snowball from a late-April dropping, perhaps it's better that the Vikes are flying under the draft radar.
That is not to say that the rest of the league isn't taking notice of the Vikings. In a draft year that veteran draft analysts have deemed as weak, the Vikings being a relative observer is anything but bad. Miami locked down the first overall pick by making Jake Long the highest-paid offensive lineman in NFL history. Even without 20/20 hindsight as a guide, would Long have been selected ahead of 2007 No.1 pick JaMarcus Russell? How about Calvin Johnson? Better yet, how about Joe Thomas? At least he plays the same position.
The truth is that being at the top of this year's draft isn't nearly as impressive as it was to be at the top of last year's draft. Russell would have graded out ahead of Matt Ryan – the consensus first QB to come off the board. Thomas graded out better than Long – and he's the No. 1 pick this year. Any comparisons of Darren McFadden to Adrian Peterson are made by people that feel obligated to find such equivalents – keep in mind that Brian Brohm has been likened by some to Peyton Manning. Calvin Johnson would have been the No. 1 pick this year. In 2007, he was yet another gaffe by Matt Millen. LaRon Landry was a safety who went with the sixth pick. This year, a safety is about a 50/50 bet to even go in the first round.
If the Vikings were to pay a king's ransom to get out of the meaty end of any draft, this is this year. A case can be made that there are 50 second-round picks available this year, but only about 15 true first-rounders. But, for the rest of the teams and their fans that are going to be glued to the draft coverage today, there is plenty of intrigue to keep them near the televisions, iPhones and whatever electronic devices that will keep them plugged in to the draft. As the Vikings brass kicks back and, as Scott Studwell joked, "watch NASCAR," these are the five storylines that will provide the draft-day dramatics.
St. Louis, We Have a Problem – With Jake Long off the board, the NFL made a wise decision by refusing to let the Rams negotiate with players for a contract at No. 2. Posed with a conundrum it had never faced – the first overall pick being signed on the Tuesday before the draft – the league brass opted not to allow the potential for three or four picks to be signed before flexing its muscle to draw better ratings than playoff basketball or hockey. The Rams would have to wait. As a result, St. Louis is posed with a problem that is going have a significant impact on the draft. Do the Rams take DT Glenn Dorsey or DE Chris Long? If the Rams take Dorsey, the Falcons will likely take QB Matt Ryan at No. 3. If the Rams take Long, Atlanta will almost assuredly take Dorsey. The difference there is significant. The Chiefs are sitting at No. 5 with the belief that either Long or DE Vernon Gholston will be available. If not, the draft gets an interesting shuffle that blows up many mock draft boards. Those in the Long camp have gone "all in" with a pair of kings. Those in the Dorsey camp believe their two aces will win out. Somebody is going to lose. It won't be the Rams or the Falcons. But the teams behind them will be in scramble mode if the scenario they don't want or expect plays itself out.
How ‘bout Them Cowboys? – Dallas has every reason to believe that it is the favorite to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl next February. Aside from having the best record in the conference in 2007, it acquired Pacman Jones and has two picks at the end of the first round. Where this becomes a point of intrigue is that, if RB Darren McFadden makes it past the fifth pick, the Cowboys' picks at Nos. 22 and 28 look a lot more intriguing to a team like the Jets, or, God forbid, the Patriots at No. 7. If the Cowboys can resist the temptation, they can add a running back and wide receiver with those picks that would add to their arsenal of weapons – players like RB Felix Jones and WR Limas Sweed. But, if Dallas wants to steal the thunder the Vikings have garnered in the last couple of days by bringing in Jared Allen, the Cowboys could do so by trading up to grab McFadden. His mom is pushing for it. If it happens, she's locked into the next Chunky Soup campaign.
QB Or Not QB – Ryan is a given as the first quarterback to be taken on draft day. But after him, there are three QBs that have pushed themselves ahead of the rest of the pack – Brian Brohm, Joe Flacco and Chad Henne. Where they get selected has yet to be determined. There is a prevailing feeling that they will slide into the second round. Entering the draft, there are several teams at the top (of the second round) that have QB issues – Miami, Atlanta, Kansas City, Carolina and Chicago. One of those teams will land Ryan in the first round – most likely the Falcons or Ravens. That leaves four teams and three other potential starting QBs. Will all of them wait to see who falls to them? Very unlikely. Look for someone to trade with San Diego at No. 27 – a team with just one pick in the first 159 selections – to climb back into the first round and throw a curve to conventional wisdom.
Veteran's Day – Teams annually send out feelers that star players are available in trade on draft day. Depending on who you believe, DE Jason Taylor, WR Chad Johnson, TE Jeremy Shockey and CB Lito Sheppard are among the veteran stars that can be had for the right price. The Bengals may made an admirable ceremonial gesture by playing hard-ball with Ocho Cinco, but if Washington is willing to offer a first-round pick this year and a first-rounder next year if he catches 95 passes, why not do it? Lines have not only been drawn in the sand, but they've been drawn with non-erasable Sharpies. If someone is willing to step up and make the offer that can't be refused, the blue-chip veteran player movement could have a major impact on the draft's first or second rounds.
Catch Me If You Can – One thing that will happen today is that nine wide receivers will be drafted. Where they go is a big topic of discussion. It's almost a given that a WR won't go in the first 10 picks. If Buffalo doesn't take one, there is just as good a chance that the first wideout won't go until No. 20. Wide receiver is the one position that could cost its own brethren millions of dollars. Because of the diversity of talent and specialties that the Class of 2008 brings to the table – tall (James Hardy), fast (DeSean Jackson), big-play (Limas Sweed), clutch (Mario Manningham), hungry (Malcolm Kelly), upside (Devin Thomas), fearless (Early Doucet), explosive (Andre Caldwell) and unsung (Jordy Nelson) – this is a talented crop that, for the most part, doesn't deserve consideration early. As a result, teams with wide receiver needs can legitimately say that they can wait until the second round to grab a wide receiver. What does that mean? There could five wide receivers taken in the first round and four in the second – or two in the first and seven in the second. Either way, the momentum of the draft on Day One will be distinguished by when and where the WR crop lands.
For most Vikings fans, the first day of the 2008 draft will be spent watching other teams trying to stock their shelves. While the Vikings will have minimal involvement, the drama will be impressive.
Five Intriguing Draft Storylines
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