In every NFL draft, the teams assigned the draft choices often swap their picks. Vikings fans don't need to look back too far to remember such a move – as the Chiefs made a controversial "off-the-clock" trade with Dallas to move in front of the Vikings to take Ryan Sims. While the Vikings were happy with getting Bryant McKinnie, what made the debate of Sims or McKinnie possible was the selection of two quarterbacks before the Vikings' pick at No. 7.
Coming into this year's draft, the QB position has taken on even more importance, and not only will the Vikings get calls, the teams picking in front of them could go a long way in determining who the Vikings end up with when Commissioner Paul Tagliabue utters the phrase, "Minnesota is on the clock."
Here's what we already know in the early stages of preparation for the 2003 draft. Two quarterbacks will be taken by the time the Vikings pick. Whether it's Cincinnati or someone who trades into the spot, Carson Palmer is all but assured to be the No. 1 pick – solidifying his spot much like David Carr did in the weeks leading up to last year's draft. Marshall quarterback Byron Leftwich, who some believe is a better pro prospect than Palmer, is likely to last no later than the fourth pick to the QB-starved Bears.
However, draft rumblings have several teams looking to slide into the Houston Texans' pick at No. 3. The Texans haven't been shy about saying they're willing to trade out to stockpile picks this year or over the next couple of seasons, which could create an interesting dilemma in front of the Vikings.
While it's still too early to be projecting trades, at least six teams are looking at the option of drafting quarterbacks in the first round – Cincinnati, Chicago, Carolina, Baltimore, Denver and Green Bay. Considering that Arizona could well lose starter Jake Plummer to free agency, the Cards could also be in that mix, but not likely in the first round.
Laying out the landscape of the draft, it looks very interesting for the Vikings. The Bengals are likely to take Palmer. Early indications are that the Lions have their eye on wide receiver Charles Rogers of Michigan State. The Texans are next and they could well trade out of this spot, opening a chance for a team to move in and take Leftwich. If that happens, some scouts think the Bears will still go QB – most likely Kyle Boller, who is moving up the draft board quicker than anyone.
Still following along? Next is Dallas, who could really use a QB with the dregs currently under contract. However, VU has heard from Cowboys insiders that if offensive tackle Jordan Gross is available, he's going to Big D. Next is Arizona, and VU has been told by Cards sources that the player they covet is DE Terrell Suggs of Arizona State – a player the coaches and fans are very familiar with.
What does all this mean? The Vikings could have their choice of two players we're hearing the team would be elated to have a shot at – Penn State DT Jimmy Kennedy and Kansas State CB Terence Newman – said to be the only true "shutdown" corner in the draft. While it's possible one or both players could be gone by the seventh pick, if one of them is there, they likely won't be after the Vikes hit the clock. If they are gone, CB Marcus Trufant, who had a great week at the Senior Bowl, could move into that slot.
While it's obviously too early to speculate how the chips will fall, as it stands now the Vikes are in line to get one of the best defensive players in the draft and someone who could make an immediate impact on improving the Vikings defense in 2003.
* Michael Bennett made his Pro Bowl debut Sunday, but, by the time he actually got to play, the NFC was down by 28 points en route to a 45-20 loss. How pathetic was the NFC? Bennett had just two carries for 17 yards, but was second in rushing for the team. Donovan McNabb was the leading rusher with 24 yards and, as a team, the NFC ran just 13 times because it was behind early and by a lot.
* VU got wind of an interesting rumor coming out of Tennessee. Former Vikings G.M. Jeff Diamond's contract expired with the Titans on Saturday and, despite talks late in the week, a new deal wasn't struck. Whether it's a tactic to get off square one or a legitimate story, word out of Tennessee has it that Diamond could return to the Vikings if things break down in Tennessee.
* Offensive coordinator Scott Linehan is interested in bringing in a veteran QB for 2003. That may not happen if Todd Bouman stays, but, if the Vikings balk at his $1 million April 15 roster bonus, expect to see a vet come in.
QBs Will Control '03 Draft
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