Opinion: Flashback to 2007?

Will the Vikings play it safe, or will they take some chances on draft day? A couple scenarios appear to be playing out.

Take a chance or play it safe?

Take a chance on Florida wide receiver Percy Harvin, or play it safe with Arizona offensive tackle Eben Britton?

That’s the question that appears to be facing the Vikings heading into this weekend’s draft.  Judging by the blogs and most fans out there – none of whom depend on being right about these things to keep their job – support for taking a chance is clearly there among the team’s fan base.

The choice could be somewhat reminiscent of the 2007 NFL Draft when the Vikings hit the jackpot in grabbing running back Adrian Peterson with the seventh pick overall.  The best comparison from that draft might be the choice the Arizona Cardinals made at No. 5.  They took the safe, solid pick in immediate starter at right tackle, Penn State’s Levi Brown.  Then two picks later, the Vikings grabbed Peterson.

While it will take a lot more picks to go by before the Vikings might even be faced with such a scenario, it would not be at all surprising if the Vikings did indeed face a similar choice.

Britton is a very safe pick for Minnesota at No. 22.  He might not be a truly elite pass protector or can’t miss perennial Pro Bowl player.  But there is a very high likelihood that he steps in and starts from Day One at right tackle and becomes a quality starter for a decade or so.  You wouldn’t look back on that with much regret in the long run.

Unless the guy you passed on proved to be an explosive, dynamic, game-changing talent that Harvin could become.

The question, of course, involves Harvin’s character.  FoxSports.com confirmed that he tested positive for marijuana at the NFL Scouting Combine.  There are medical questions.  He also has baggage going back to high school and trouble seems to have followed him.

According to the National Football Post, Vikings coach Brad Childress reportedly met with Harvin down in Florida on Wednesday.  He’s had the chance to meet Harvin face to face.  Most of us have not, but NFL Network’s Mike Mayock talked to Harvin at his Pro Day in Florida - see for yourself (YouTube clip ).

Then watch some highlight clips of Harvin from his college career with the Gators (YouTube clip).

If the Vikings can keep him focused on the importance of how he conducts himself on and off the field, they could come away with a steal.  They have the right receivers coach in George Stewart, who has a track record of success with potentially challenging athletes.  They also have some veteran players and good role models in the locker room now.

The other concern some might have is the perceived glaring hole they would have at right tackle.  And while they might not get an immediate prospect if they passed on Britton, they would not still be without options.

In fact, Ryan Cook actually allowed fewer sacks last season (6.0) last season than Jason Peters (11.5), recently acquired for a first-round draft pick by the Eagles from Buffalo.  Cook might not be the solution you’re looking for, but he remains a viable alternative, and so does veteran Artis Hicks.  The team may also have a “sleeper” solution in their midst in second-year lineman Drew Radovich, who spent most of last season on injured reserve after making the squad as an undrafted rookie free agent.  The coaches believe that Radovich has enough ability to develop into a legitimate starter at some point.

They also have a couple of proven veteran options later in the process if they need a short-term solution – Mark Tauscher (Packers) and Jon Runyan (Eagles).  Both are coming off surgeries, but both are expected to return and play in 2009.  Both are still unsigned.

It may all be a moot point, depending on how things play out.  But if indeed things unfold with both Britton and Harvin still on the board at No. 22 this coming Saturday, it’s a risk worth taking in this writer and draftnik's opinion.  Take Harvin!

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