Thursday, April 26, 2007

Peterson Injury Risk Puts Premium on Defense

With one day and change remaining until this year's NFL draft, nearly everyone on the planet has a mock draft posted on the web. And while those mocks range from conventional--with teams taking the best player that they most need--to fanciful--with teams landing players they have no hope of landing, nearly all blogs have one thing in common--they all tend to agree on who the top eight prospects are in this year's draft.

In no particular order, the consensus appears to be that the top eight players in this year's draft are JaMarcus Russell, Brady Quinn, Calvin Johnson, Joe Thomas, Adrian Peterson, LaRon Landry, Gaines Adams, and Amobi Okoye, with Okoye the only player of the eight borderline consensus. Of these eight, the consensus also appears to be that all eight will be impact players in the NFL. That means that, no matter what the other teams in the draft do, the Vikings will be in a position to draft a highly regarded player in this year's draft. What the options will be is all that remains to be seen.

Peterson Pickle

This week, word leaked that Oklahoma running back Adrian Peterson re-injured his collarbone during the Sooners' bowl game. Peterson long ago revealed the issue to pro scouts but, apparently, word never made it beyond those usually loose lips. The additional rumor is that Peterson will require therapy and possibly surgery on his collarbone, a situation that could lead him to miss training camp--or worse.

Whether Peterson's injury will keep him out of camp or off the field for an extended period is uncertain. What is clear, however, is that the Minnesota Vikings cannot afford to miss with this year's first-round pick. With an agitated fan base and a draft history that has its last four first round selections two players with injury histories who have missed significant playing time, another first-round pick who missed all of last season with an injury, and a fourth first-rounder with, as of yet, no proven ability, the Vikings need to get it right this year.

In my most previous column, I suggested that, given other teams' needs and what is likely to be on the board when the Vikings select at number seven in the draft, the Vikings best three options in this year's draft appear to be Peterson, LSU safety LaRon Landry, and Louisville defensive tackle Amobi Okoye. With concerns arising about Peterson's re-injured collarbone, however, that list should be pared to the two defensive players.

The Vikings would be well-served drafting Landry, a player who could help solidify a shaky pass defense, provide support for a revamped linebacking corps with an inexperienced middle linebacker, and give new defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier some options for running the blitz packages that he has promised to install in Minnesota's defensive system.

If the Vikings want Landry, they likely will need to use their seventh pick to take him as several teams selecting immediately after Minnesota would love to have Landry, making it difficult to trade down and still pick-up Landry. If the Vikings are interested in Okoye, however, they might be able to trade down as many as six slots, pick up a second-round pick, and still add the powerful defensive lineman.

Moving down to take Okoye could leave the Vikings without Okoye, Landry, or any of the other consensus starters in this year's draft. But even that might be a blessing in disguise for a team in desperate need of capable players along the offensive line, at wide receiver, at cornerback, and at defensive end. Trading down and missing out on Okoye and Landry would still give the Vikings the opportunity to select Tennessee wide receiver Robert Meachem or LSU wide receiver Dwayne Bowe--two highly regarded receivers--and give the team an additional pick in the middle of the second round, where they should be able to find a quality safety or corner.

Up Next: Final Pre-Draft. Plus, Post-Draft Review.

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