Will draft's strengths meet Vikings' needs?

The Vikings may be able to find a couple positions of need that match the strengths of the draft.

As teams are preparing for the 2009 draft, there are certain factors that each team has to put into play when stacking their board. Not only does need play a factor, but so does the depth at a given position. For example, last year the defensive end crop was thin on depth, so that position was hit hard early in the draft because teams knew if they wanted an impact player, they would have to move in the first round – even if it meant reaching somewhat for a player. On the flip side, the wide receiver position was deep with talent, which allowed every team to pass on the position in the first round only to see a record-setting 10 players taken on the second round.

Fortunately for the Vikings, the areas they view as needs – either as starters or for quality depth – appear to be the deepest draft positions. Here are our rankings by position of the 2009 draft class, which may go a long way in explaining why the Vikings haven't been overly active in free agency this season.

1. WIDE RECEIVER — For the second straight year, this is a deep class with the potential to see a handful of first-rounders. Michael Crabtree leads the way, but the first round could also see Jeremy Maclin, Percy Harvin, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Hakeem Nicks and Kenny Britt all come off the board, making it the deepest position in the draft. It may also result in players here sliding because teams know they can still find talent in the middle rounds.

2. OFFENSIVE TACKLE — Arguably the most important position other than quarterback on a roster, three players – Eugene Monroe, Jason Smith and Andre Smith – could go in the top seven or eight picks and the Vikings may consider taking someone like Michael Oher or Eben Britton at pick No. 22 as the fourth or fifth OT off the board. Almost all rock solid OTs have been taken on the first round and spend most if not all of their careers with the same team. For those in need, the Class of 2009 looks very solid.

3. CORNERBACK — While devoid of a true superstar lockdown player, the class is deep and could see a dozen players come off the board in the first two rounds. The Vikings may be in consideration here for a first-round pick, but this will be the most consistent position early in the draft for teams filling needs.

4. TIGHT END — Brandon Pettigrew is likely to be the only first-rounder to come out of this group, but there are plenty of tight ends to be had – both pass-catching offensive threats and shutdown-type blocking TEs. By the time the third round is over, there could be as many as seven TEs off the board, which is a pretty extensive number for a non-glamour position.

5. DEFENSIVE TACKLE — Coming off a weak crop in 2008, there are a pair of top-end players in B.J. Raji and Peria Jerry and four or five players that could go in the late first round and second-round range. While technically not a huge crop, coming off a dismal class last year, this is a big step up.

6. CENTER — Considering that only four centers were taken in the entire draft last year, to have a first-round prospect (Alex Mack) as well as a couple potentially going in both the second and third rounds, this position is about as stacked as it's going to be.

7. DEFENSIVE END — Depending on your point of view as to whether some of the ‘tweener types classify as DEs or outside linebackers, this is a relatively strong group, headed up by Everette Brown and Brian Orapko. By the time all is said and done, there could be a half-dozen or more DEs off the board in the first round.

8. QUARTERBACK — There isn't a lot of depth here, but any time you have three QBs that could go in the first round – Matthew Stafford, Mark Sanchez and Josh Freeman – you have to consider this to be a decent draft class. But beyond the Big Three, the dropoff is significant.

9. OUTSIDE LINEBACKER — This position may end up being bolstered by 3-4 defensive schemes drafting smallish defensive ends to be outside LBs in their defense, but there are only two locks at being first-round picks here – Aaron Curry in the top five and Brian Cushing in the middle part of the round. Depth is a concern.

10. RUNNING BACK — Chris Wells is the only big back at the top of this class, which weakens it considerably because he may be the only player taken in the first couple of rounds that can be expected to be a 20-carry-a-game type back in the NFL. While there is talent here, it is undersized and will likely see a drop in draft stock for the group as a whole.

11. GUARD — One of the weaker crops in a long time, there likely won't be a single guard taken in the first round and perhaps only a couple taken in the first two rounds. While not typically a highly drafted position, this year's crop is weaker than most.

12. SAFETY — There isn't a game-changer in this group. Small-college prospect Louis Delmas is likely the only safety coming off the board in the first round and he is no guarantee. There may be just a handful of safeties taken in the first three rounds.

13. INSIDE LINEBACKER — With more and more teams using the 3-4, the need for inside LBs is even greater but, for the second straight year, the ILB crop is thin at best. Rey Maualuga is the only lock to go in the first round and the jury isn't in consensus on James Laurinaitis as being a first-round talent as the No. 2 ILB spot. After that, the position could be dormant for awhile, making this one of the biggest gamble positions in the draft for a second consecutive draft.

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