Vikings draft countdown: What will be left?

The Vikings have the 22nd pick in the NFL draft, but they can be pretty sure they won't have a chance at a dozen players. We go through the process of elimination for at least 12 players in the first round.

There are a lot of casual sports fans that like to mock analysts like Mel Kiper and his ilk when they do mock drafts. They may be surprised to know that many NFL teams, including the Vikings, are doing mock drafts themselves.

As teams enter the cocoon of their war rooms in the days leading up to the draft, mock drafts are valuable tools they use to play out different scenarios. If Player A that we covet is gone, who will be left? Would it make more sense if a draft falls a certain way with the first 15 picks or so to move up? Could you move down and potentially still get the player you want? It may sound crazy, but a lot of teams do it.

Rick Spielman, the Vikings vice president of player personnel, said last week during an interview on KFAN radio that he has conducted numerous mock drafts and feels he has a good handle on how the top 10 picks will go. After that, who knows?

With the Vikings picking at No. 22, it would seem almost impossible to accurately predict who will be gone and who will still be available when they get on the clock. But it isn't really that difficult. In fact, the Vikings can already eliminate several players who are all but assured to be gone by the time they draft.

Starting with the base number of 22, the Vikings can eliminate two quarterbacks. There likely isn't a mock draft out there that has either Matthew Stafford or Mark Sanchez available at No. 22. Take them off the list and you're down to 20.

The same is being said about wide receiver. Michael Crabtree and Jeremy Maclin are both being touted as top-10 picks and, even if there is a repeat of 2007, when wide receivers were devalued due to the depth at the position, there are almost no scenarios under which Crabtree or Maclin slides all the way into the 20s. Take them down, pass them around, 18 picks are left on the wall.

Offensive tackle is going to be a popular choice in the first round this year. The Vikings may join in the party, but one thing is certain – Jason Smith, Eugene Monroe and Andre Smith have almost no chance of still being available at No. 22. Personally, I don't think Michael Oher will be either, but his chances of hanging around are much higher than any of the other three. Eliminate the Big Three (and they are big) and you're down to 15.

Last year, defensive end was a hot property and this year should be no different. Three DEs – Brian Orapko, Everette Brown and Aaron Maybin – are all projected to go well before the Vikings make their selection. If there is a run on the position like there was last year, you could see a couple more go, but those three seem like locks. Considering the Vikings don't have an interest or a glaring need at the position, the more that go, the merrier for the purple. But for mocking purposes, take away those three and you're down to 12.

A couple of other positions have a single player that is all but guaranteed to go in the top 20 as well. Linebacker Aaron Curry won't make it past the fifth pick and, despite, bad press in recent weeks, DT B.J. Raji is a top-10 pick who, under a worst-case scenario, would be taken by Denver at No. 12. Take those two away and you're down to 10.

There is no reason to believe that any of the Dirty Dozen we have eliminated won't go in the first 21 picks. In reality, the Vikings aren't conducting mock drafts in which they have to look at scenarios in which those players are available. A player like Sanchez or Maclin may slip, but not that far. What the mock draft process does for the Vikings is try to determine whether players like Beanie Wells or Malcolm Jenkins or Ray Maualuga will be gone and who will still be there.

The Vikings don't have to determine all 21 picks when they do their various mock drafts. In reality, the Vikings have the 10th pick, because they already know the 12 players who won't make it to them.

For the record, Spielman said there were two or three players he would be happy to draft at No. 22.

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