Deep draft class helps Vikings

The Vikings have enjoyed plenty of success in recent drafts, but, given the constraints placed upon them in the coming free-agent period, the importance of the draft will be even more magnified than it has been in recent years.

Perhaps this year more than most, the Vikings are heading into the offseason knowing that April's draft is going to be the best – if not only – way the team is going to be able to stock more talent as it prepares to make a run for next year's Super Bowl.

Due to constraints on the Vikings as one of the final four teams in the playoffs, they could be all but shut out of the unrestricted free-agent market that opens March 5. However, Vice President of Player Personnel Rick Spielman said that the Vikings are fortunate that the draft class of 2010 is as deep as any he's seen in several years.

"I think it's going to be a really strong draft," Spielman said. "There are a lot of talented juniors that came out and it's going to add a lot of depth to this draft. I feel it's one of the stronger drafts there has been in a while."

With the Vikings not scheduled to make a selection until the 30th pick of the draft, that depth will be vital. Thanks to a huge class of junior prospects – 56 underclassmen declared for the draft and many of them are viewed as top prospects – having to wait while 29 other players go off the board isn't nearly as painful as it would be in a typical draft, where talent at key positions tends to dry up quickly.

"It bodes well for us," Spielman said. "To pick 30th – you wish you were picking at 32 – and to still be able to get quality players is a huge plus for us."

The Vikings have enjoyed considerable success in the draft in recent years. In 2007, Spielman's first year coordinating the draft, the Vikings came away with Adrian Peterson, Sidney Rice and Brian Robison. In 2008, the team gave up three picks to acquire Jared Allen, but still came away with starters Tyrell Johnson and John Sullivan. In 2009, all five of their draft picks made the team and each started at least one game, led by Percy Harvin and Phil Loadholt.

While not spending too much time self-congratulating, the organization knows that the limitations placed upon them in free agency will put more pressure on the team to hit another home run on draft weekend.

"Knowing that you're not going to be a participant or you're on the sideline a little bit in the UFA market, it emphasizes how important this draft is going to be," Spielman said. "There are some quality offensive linemen. I know it's going to be a strong defensive draft. There are some quality corners. There are a lot of quality defensive tackles. There is quality throughout this draft and I think we hopefully will be able to address some of the needs that we think we have going forward."

Spielman said the Combine will be an important tool in setting the 2010 draft board. When asked if players help or hurt their stock at the Combine, Spielman said that it can cut either way.

"I think it's both," he said. "If a wide receiver runs a 5.2 40, that's going to hurt him, because I don't think there are any 5.2 receivers (in the NFL). Players help themselves a lot more than they would hurt themselves (by not taking part). If a slow receiver decides not to run at the Combine and he's slow at the campus (Pro Day), it even ticks you off more that I could have found that out at the Combine."

The Vikings contingent of coaches, scouts, trainers and medical personnel will descend on Indianapolis next week to get their first look at the numerous underclassmen that have declared for the draft, as well as the players that they have already scouted at the college all-star games. With a deep, talented class of players available, Spielman said it will be vital to get as much information as possible to make informed decisions when the Vikings are on the clock.

"Everyone has a job to do there," Spielman said. "We all have specific jobs to do and everyone knows their role. Hopefully, we will do everything we can right so when April comes around, we know where we stand and who can most help our club move forward into 2010."


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