By consummating the Jared Allen trade earlier this week, the Minnesota Vikings shored up one of their glaring needs. The price of a first-round pick and two third-round picks, however, means that the Vikings will have to keep their fingers and toes properly crossed in the hope of landing either a safety or an offensive tackle, the team's most prominent needs outside of reliability at quarterback, in this year's NFL entry draft.
The good news for the Vikings is two-fold: safeties tend to go lower in the draft and this year's draft is strong for offensive tackles. The bad news is also two-fold, however: this year's draft is light on high-end safeties and offensive tackles, though relatively plentiful, are likely to be in high demand.
Projecting picks in round one is a risky enough proposition when one reaches the mid- to late-round selections. Projecting slotting after the first round is merely a guessing game. If fortune favors the Vikings on Saturday, however, there is at least a chance that they will have three high-end players from which to select to fill either their offensive tackle or safety need.
The three players most likely to slip to the Vikings at forty-seven are offensive tackle Sam Baker, safety Kenny Phillips, and offensive tackle Duane Brown. There is also an outside possibility that offensive tackle Gosder Cherilus will still be on the board at forty-seven, but that possibility appears increasingly remote as Matt Ryan's stock continues to rise and scouts consider the linemen responsible for Ryan's performance.
Given that most scouts have Baker, Phillips, and Brown in their top 35 players, the Vikings would be fortunate to have any of the three fall to them. Likewise with Cherilus, who is ranked in the top 20 on most boards.
As with any NFL draft, however, few players will go where they are ranked, with most falling somewhere below where they are ranked as a consequence of being by-passed by teams opting for players whom they need over players ranked higher at a position that is not of need. That makes Phillips, Baker, and Brown, all projected in the thirty to forty-five range, reasonable possibilities of still being on the board when the Vikings select in the second round, though Cherilus remains unlikely to fall out of the first round.
The question for the Vikings is whom they will take should Phillips, Baker, Brown, and Cherilus all be off the board at 47. Barring a trade up, or the unpredictable fall of some other high-end talent, the Vikings would be left deciding whether to draft an offensive lineman or safety that otherwise would have gone in the third round (a round in which the Vikings no longer have a pick in this year's draft) or selecting a player at a position less certain to produce an NFL-ready player, such as wide receiver?
If fortune shines on the Vikings on Saturday, the team could emerge from this off-season having filled most of the team's primary, acknowledged needs. Or, the team could be left still searching for offensive line help, a conundrum that seems to have become the team's new linebacker concern.
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