Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Vikings Facing Draft Quandary?

Sources close to the Minnesota Vikings are suggesting that the team is prepared to select Florida quarterback Tim Tebow should the record-setting collegian be available when the Vikings select near the end of the first round on Thursday evening. While predictions regarding Tebow's likelihood of success in the NFL run the gamut, the Vikings, thus, appear to be one of the few teams--if not the only team--to so highly regard Tebow.

The Vikings' reported infatuation with Tebow's upside is not exactly akin to the team's increasingly piqued interest in Troy Williamson in 2005, but it does suggest similar shaky ground. With glaring holes along the offensive line, at cornerback, and, to a lesser though substantial degree, at both safety positions, the Vikings would be well advised to fill immediate needs rather than filling a future need. That note of caution ought to be particularly salient in the Vikings' draft room this year, given that the team expects Brett Favre to return, has a capable back-up in Sage Rosenfels, and, for what it is worth, recently re-signed Tarvaris Jackson. Those options, at a minimum, buy the Vikings some time at the quarterback position--a luxury the team does not have at cornerback and may not have along the offensive line.

These concerns notwithstanding, there might yet be reason for the Vikings to select a quarterback in the first round. In the wake of the Jackson experiment, however, that reason should not be that the Vikings see upside in a quarterback who essentially filled the role of a Sid Luckman-esque running back for four years of college football. Rather, the determination to select a quarterback in round one should obtain for Minnesota if, and only if, Jimmy Clausen is still available when the Vikings pick. That's because Clausen is the one quarterback who could fall to Minnesota in round one who appears ready to play in the NFL with only one or two seasons of nurturing and who also almost certainly would be off the board when the Vikings select in round two.

Barring Clausen's availability in round one, the Vikings must address their cornerback and offensive line issues in the first round, though not necessarily in that order. The general consensus among draft wonks is that there will be a considerable run on offensive linemen in the first round. That suggests one of two things--either the Vikings can wait until the second round to take a lineman in the belief that the teams needing an offensive lineman already have so selected or that the Vikings need to take an offensive lineman early, to avoid having no viable NFL-ready offensive linemen from which to select when drafting later in the draft. Likely, the latter proposition is more accurate.

Drafting an offensive lineman in the first round probably would mean that the Vikings would miss out on drafting a bona fide starter at cornerback--someone like Devin McCourty or Kareem Jackson--but it probably would allow the team to draft Maurkice Pouncey or Rodger Saffold, shoring up the offensive line and, thereby, protecting Favre and making Favre's return for year three with the team that much more appealing.

As Cedric Griffin somewhat demonstrated, taking a cornerback in round two can provide fairly strong, immediate returns. If the Vikings move on an offensive lineman in round one, the subsequent improvement in the offensive line should also reduce the premium otherwise placed on cornerback play and buy some time for Griffin to return to health and playing condition.

Up Next: The Picks.

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