Saturday, April 28, 2007

Longevity and Prosperity

With but a mere few hours to go before the Minnesota Vikings make their first selection in the 2007 NFL draft, it's time to whittle down the list of players that the Vikings should take to one. The assumption is that Calvin Johnson, Joe Thomas, JaMarcus Russell, and Gaines Adams all will be gone when the Vikings make their selection. That still leaves the Vikings several good options, however.

Rank Order

The following is a rank order of who the Vikings should take with their first pick in today's draft, assuming that they do not trade up or down and that the aforementioned players are not available when the Vikings make their selection:

1. LaRon Landry
2. Amobi Okoye
3. Adrian Peterson

While the Vikings need good offensive players, they already have a running back capable of doing the little that is asked of running backs in Brad Childress' mess of a system. If a more inventive coach had the reigns on this team--and we knew for certain that Peterson were going to be healthy in 2007--a player of Peterson's ability would be a good selection. Alas, Childress is intent on running his offense, an offense that makes Peterson an expensive luxury.

Okoye would be number one on the Vikings should-pick list, but for his relative inexperience. Landry's additional experience gives him a slight edge over Okoye. Landry also happens to play a position that could be of need as soon as 2007, however, while Okoye probably would serve primarily as a sub to both Patrick and Kevin Williams for most of 2007 and 2008.

Boost to Pass Defense

The Vikings' pass defense ranked near the bottom of the league in yards allowed last season. Apologists argue that the stout run defense forced teams to pass against the Vikings, which led to more passing yards against the team. Realists note that truly good defenses--such as New England and Pittsburgh--held teams in check in the passing game, despite having very good run defenses.

The bottom line for the Vikings' pass defense in 2006 was that it was porous between the twenties. And in tight games, the likes of which the Vikings apparently covet under Childress, field position and field goal opportunities are critical. That puts a premium on stopping the pass as much as on stopping the run. As backstops to last year's defense, Darren Sharper and Dwight Smith mostly failed in stepping up to the play, preferring, instead, to sit back and wait for the play to develop in front of them. That led to big chunks of yardage and opportunities for opposing teams.

Landry not only has a quick step to the ball that neither Smith nor the aging Sharper can match, he also has shown the ability to convert blitzes to sacks--something that Sharper once did but now appears too slow to manage. New defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier has promised more blitzing and more creative blitz packages in 2007. If Frazier wants to deliver on that promise, selecting Landry would be a good first step.

Although the Vikings currently have several safeties on their roster, each has his own personal baggage. Tank Williams and Mike Doss are recovering from serious injuries, Sharper has lost a step, Smith disappears during stretches of games--and during nights out on the town, and Greg Blue is inexperienced. Thus, while the Vikings have numbers at safety, there remain serious concerns about the players currently on roster--serious enough to warrant adding a safety that should be prepared to start in 2007.

The added bonus to selecting Landry is that he plays a position at which players generally have shown durability and longevity in the NFL. That can't be said for many running backs, particularly ones that are as big a target as is Peterson.

Final Call: Landry edges Okoye.

Up Next: Who the Vikings Took. Plus, day two.

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