It's finally arrived. After a painfully inactive free-agent period, Wednesday's signing of Lito Sheppard has effectively taken cornerback out of play for the Vikings' first-round pick – barring the unlikely drop of Florida's Joe Haden to the 30th pick.
With a pick so late (perhaps no longer in prime time for the first prime-time draft), the Vikings will have to play the waiting game as their draft board gets gashed by 29 other picks. When the question "Who do you think the Vikings will take?" is asked, the only real answer that can be given is "Who's left?"
Every year, players that the draft experts all believe will be gone by the middle of the round remain on the board. Rare is the mock draft that falls very close to how they actually go off. If you hit 11 or 12 of the 32 picks with the team in the spot that made them, it's a successful mock draft. But, by the time you get to pick No. 30, you can safely assume that as many as 25 players that were projected to go are gone – it's just the order that has been juggled.
With that in mind, as the hours tick away until the Vikings are on the clock, these are the players that I believe they are most likely to draft when their number is called. It should be noted that, given the stoppage of the draft for 20 hours after the first round, the last three or four picks could be subject to other teams trying to package deals to get players off the board before the Rams, Lions and Bucs can get inundated with trade offers in the overnight hours and during the day Friday. If I was a betting man (I am, by the way), my guess would be the Vikings trade out of this spot to a team with a bromance for a specific player that they fear they won't get otherwise. But until that happens, the Vikes sit at No. 30 and these are my top guesstimates as to who they will take if they submit a card to be read by Roger Goodell.
NOTE: The following are players not mentioned below that I am convinced will be gone when the Vikings pick at No. 30 – OTs Russell Okung, Bryan Bulaga, Trent Williams and Anthony Davis; WR Dez Bryant; RB C.J. Spiller; DEs Derrick Morgan and Jason Pierre-Paul; MLB Rolando McClain; CBs Joe Haden and Kyle Wilson; OLB Sergio Kindle.
No. 1: Maurkice Pouncey, C/G, Florida – Would have a shot to replace either John Sullivan or Anthony Herrera as the starter on the O-line. It would also give more confidence to Brett Favre that he will be better protected if he returns.
No. 2: Mike Iupati, G/T, Idaho – Like Pouncey, I don't think he will still be available at No. 30, but if he is, he would be the ideal Artis Hicks sort of versatile lineman that could be a starting guard, but in a pinch could slide outside and give a solid effort.
No. 3: Tim Tebow, QB, Florida – I can't believe I'm drinking the Kool-Aid, but Sam Bradford and Jimmy Clausen have shot up draft boards despite doing nothing since they were viewed as mid-first rounders in November. Tebow's intangibles will have at least a couple of teams intrigued enough to draft him into the right situation. With no expectation to start immediately for the Vikings and the potential to learn under Brett Favre and his mastery of reading defenses, he could be a pick that mobilizes fans as the future of the franchise as the team looks to get a new stadium. Don't underestimate the power of satisfying fans (although this pick could also polarize them).
No. 4: Colt McCoy, QB, Texas – McCoy is the winningest quarterback in college football history, but has significant limitations. Given the system he ran in college, his ideal fit would be in a West Coast offense and, with Brad Childress given a long-term extension, he could spend a year learning at the feet of Favre in preparation to take the job over when Brett decides to finally hang up his spikes (in 2013).
No. 5: Jared Odrick, DT, Penn State – Defensive tackle will be the talk of the draft, with Ndamukong Suh and Gerald McCoy likely off the board in the first three picks and Dan Williams not lasting too much longer. However, after those three go, it could be a long time until the fourth DT goes. If the Vikings really want Odrick, they will face a minefield in the 10 picks before theirs, but, with the potential of Pat Williams and Kevin Williams being suspended for the first four games of the season, Odrick could be asked to step in immediately and be an impact player.
No. 6: Taylor Mays, S, USC – First off, there's no chance that Eric Berry or Earl Thomas will be on the board at No. 30, but Mays could be another story. The Vikings want a playmaker, which ironically, they had in Darren Sharper. The tandem of Madieu Williams and Tyrell Johnson are solid players, but they aren't dynamic difference-makers you look for in first-round picks. If Mays is still on the board, he could be the guy who pushes both of them – and likely one of them out of the starting lineup.
No. 7: Jerry Hughes, DE/OLB, TCU – Neither is a position of great need, but Hughes has the versatility to play either defensive end or outside linebacker if put in one position and kept there. Both Ben Leber and Chad Greenway are entering the final year of their contracts and Ray Edwards is salty about the lack of a CBA, which is preventing him from being an unrestricted free agent. While there are no current needs, that could change quickly. I would rather have Michigan's Brandon Graham, but I can't imagine the Packers taking a pass on him at No. 23, so I'm counting him out
No. 8: Kareem Jackson, CB, Alabama – If Rick Spielman is true to his board before the signing of Sheppard, Jackson would likely be on top of this list or, at a minimum, very close. If the Vikings maintain their belief of taking the best player on the board regardless of position, it could be Jackson.
No. 9: Terrence Cody, DT, Alabama – Years of having Pat Williams have shown the Vikings and their fans how influential a huge man in the middle can be for a run defense. Cody is a risk/reward pick, but he is massive and would be an ideal replacement when Big Pat hangs it up.
No. 10: Jahvid Best, RB, California – Best isn't a great blocker, but as a third-down back he would create yet another offensive mismatch capable of breaking off a huge play at any time that could help continue the growth of the Vikings as the most explosive offense in the NFL. This is more of a personal preference. His gashing of the Minnesota Gophers defense last year was about as impressive a performance as I've seen from a running back. He is Harvinesque and could be another offensive playmaker on a team loaded with them.
When all is said and done, odds are at least half of these guys will be gone. Of those left, the Vikings might pull a player out of their hat that they will upsell as the next big thing. But these are the guys most likely to be on their radar as their time on the clock draws near.
Vikings' top-10 draft options
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