2013 Vikings draft needs: Defensive woes abound, but Minnesota needs WR threat most

John Harris

LAST SEASON Rush Offense - 164.6 ypg (2nd)
Pass Offense - 171.9 ypg (31st)
Total Offense - 336.6 ypg (20th)
Scoring Offense - 23.7 ppg (14th)
Rush Defense - 105.8 ypg (11th)
Pass Defense - 244.2 ypg (24th)
Total Defense - 350.0 ypg (16th)
Scoring Defense - 21.8 ppg (15th)
MOST PRESSING NEEDS Offense: Wide receiver (regardless of Percy Harvin situation) and guard
Defense: Middle help - defensive tackle, middle linebacker and safety


4th round Matt Scott, Arizona (6-2, 213)
Landry Jones, Oklahoma (6-4, 225) 5th round Zac Dysert, Miami (OH) (6-3, 231) 7th round Sean Renfree, Duke (6-3, 219)

The Vikings have cast their lot with Christian Ponder; perhaps that belief was strengthened in his absence. When the Vikings took the field without Ponder on Wild Card weekend and lost to the Green Bay Packers, it confirmed his standing and showed how much the Vikings need him. Sure, he's not a top five NFL quarterback, but he's grown into a team leader. The Vikings wouldn't have made the playoffs without his performance on week 17 against the Packers. That said, the Vikings may still draft a quarterback to develop behind Ponder.

The closer we get to the draft, the more respect Matt Scott gets. He sat for much of his career behind Nick Foles at Arizona, but in his one season with Rich Rodriguez, he shone. He's calm, cool and poised in the pocket, but if he needs to escape, he can. He'll start on Sundays eventually. 

RUNNING BACK The Draft Board

5th round Kenjon Barner, Oregon (5-9, 196) 6th round Ray Graham, Pitt (5-9. 199)
Zac Stacy, Vanderbilt (5-8, 216) 7th round Onterrio McCalebb, Auburn (5-11, 168)
D.J. Monroe, Texas (5-8, 175)

What more is there to say about Adrian Peterson? Not much, other than the man needs a break. He's not about to take one now, but the team may want to find fresh legs with some juice. The one thing this team doesn't have when Percy Harvin is off the field is speed and perhaps, with two fourth-round and two sixth-round selections, the Vikings will look to add some.

Kenjon Barner is quicker than he is fast, but he can make defenders miss in small space. He's an excellent receiver in the screen game and could actually line up with Peterson in the gun to give defenses some concern. Ray Graham is similar to Barner, but lost a bit of his quickness after tearing his ACL in 2011. Also keep an eye on D.J. Monroe – he was rarely used at Texas, but has sprinter's speed and could be utilized somewhere.


1st round Cordarrelle Patterson, Tennessee (6-2, 216)
Tavon Austin, West Virginia (5-9, 174)
Quinton Patton, La. Tech (6-0, 204) 2nd round Justin Hunter, Tennessee (6-4, 196)
Markus Wheaton, Oregon St. (5-11, 189) 3rd round Stedman Bailey, West Virginia (5-10, 193)
Aaron Dobson, Marshall (6-3, 210) 4th round Chris Harper, Kansas St. (6-1, 229)
Josh Boyce, TCU (5-11, 206) 5th round Lanear Sampson, Baylor (5-11, 204) 6th round Rodney Smith, Florida St. (6-4, 225)

Current Viking Percy Harvin seemingly wants to become former Viking Percy Harvin and that's complicating an already murky receiving situation. Even without the Harvin drama, the Vikings need help at the receiver position, especially so after releasing Michael Jenkins as a cap casualty. The receiver roster includes two former Arkansas Razorbacks and an angry Harvin. Ugh. The Vikings need to add a minimum of three receivers to the roster, whether it's through free agency, the draft or both.  If Harvin continues to play his "trade me or else" card, then it may be four or more.

Cordarrelle Patterson has the highest ceiling of any receiver, but he may also have the lowest floor. It's clear that he's explosive with the ball in his hands, but can he get open and catch it? In other words, running routes, understanding schemes and hands are concerns for the team that selects him. Regardless, he's probably off the board by the time Minnesota selects at No. 23. If he is gone and the team loses Harvin, Tavon Austin will step right into Harvin's role and could be more productive in due time. Austin's teammate Stedman Bailey would be a steal in the third round.


As long as John Carlson returns in full health, the tight end crew is solid. Kyle Rudolph, Carlson and Rhett Ellison comprise that trio and this group gives GM Rick Spielman the opportunity to avoid having to sign or draft a tight end this offseason.


1st round G Jonathan Cooper, UNC (6-2, 311) 2nd round G Larry Warford, Kentucky (6-3, 332) 3rd round G Hugh Thornton, Illinois (6-3, 320)
G Dallas Thomas, Tennessee (6-5, 306) 4th round G Garrett Gilkey, Chadron St. (6-6, 318) 5th round G Eric Herman, Ohio (6-4, 320)

Drafting LT Matt Kalil with the fourth pick of last year's draft seemed to be a no-brainer at the time, but it paid off even more than expected. The former USC star will hold down that position for the next dozen years. The guard spots? Well, that's a completely different story. Charlie Johnson and Brandon Fusco were adequate last year, but the spot can still use an upgrade. At a minimum, looking for cheap labor in the draft to give that position some competition and depth makes sense. More than likely, Jonathan Cooper is off the board before their pick, but if he's there, the team would have to consider him. Larry Warford would be a coup in the second round, filling in nicely next to Phil Loadholt or Kalil. Hugh Thornton is a nasty road grater who may need a year to fully develop.


3rd round DT Sylvester Williams, UNC (6-3, 313)
DT Akeem Spence, Illinois (6-1, 307) 4th round DT Jordan Hill, Penn St. (6-1, 303)
DT Bennie Logan, LSU (6-2, 309) 5th round DT Everett Dawkins, Florida St. (6-2, 292) 7th round DT Caraun Reid, Princeton (6-2, 292)

If DT Kevin Williams is too rich for the Vikings' blood, then defensive tackle becomes the second priority in the draft behind receiver. Williams is due nearly $8 million this year and there's almost no way he can provide $8 million in value. Still, the Vikings don't have salary cap issues, so they may pay Williams. Regardless, the team should examine cheap depth options in later rounds. The good news is that it won't need to investigate any options at all to bolster a strong defensive end group.

Sylvester Williams plays with good leverage for a taller defensive tackle and has the ability to play either defensive tackle spot in Minnesota. Akeem Spence has the ability, but it comes and goes in spurts, as evidenced by his play against Penn State (bad) and Wisconsin (better). Jordan Hill is active and relentless, while Bennie Logan has a great work ethic and plays hard. 

LINEBACKER The Draft Board

2nd round ILB/OLB Khaseem Greene, Rutgers (6-1, 241)
ILB/OLB Arthur Brown, Kansas St. (6-0, 241) 3rd round ILB Jon Bostic, Florida (6-1, 245) 4th round OLB Kevin Reddick, UNC (6-1, 243)
OLB Gerald Hodges, Penn St. (6-1, 243) 5th round ILB/OLB AJ Klein, Iowa St. (6-1, 250) 7th round ILB Tom Wort, Oklahoma (6-0, 235)
ILB/FB Zach Boren, Ohio St. (6-0, 246)

E.J. Henderson and Jasper Brinkley are both unrestricted free agents, and it would be a major upset to get both back after the free agent period commences. Henderson wasn't pleased that he didn't get a long-term deal last year and will likely depart. Brinkley is younger and more athletic than Henderson, but even in bringing only one of the two back, the team will still need help at this position.

Some scouts think Khaseem Greene is more a product of his Rutgers defense than he is true playmaker. However, Greene has more innate football skills and intelligence than many in this linebacker class. Arthur Brown is an undersized enigma, but on the field, he can fly sideline to sideline playing ILB or OLB. Jon Bostic has a ton of athletic ability but he's a bit slow to read and decipher what offenses are doing.

SECONDARY The Draft Board

3rd round S Shamarko Thomas, Syracuse (5-9, 213) 4th round S Tony Jefferson, Oklahoma (5-11, 213
S Keelan Johnson, Arizona St. (6-0, 209)
CB B.W Webb, William & Mary (5-10, 184)
CB Blidi Wreh-Wilson, UConn (6-1, 195) 5th round S J.J Wilcox, Georgia Southern (6-0, 213)
CB D.J. Hayden, Houston (5-11, 191) 6th round S Duke Williams, Nevada (6-0, 190) 7th round S Cody Davis, Texas Tech (6-2, 204)

CB Antoine Winfield can't play forever and CB Chris Cook can't stay healthy for a full 16 games. It's not as if the team hasn't acknowledged the fact that there are issues at cornerback. It drafted speedy, former UCF product Josh Robinson, who played well at times, but struggled down the stretch of his rookie season. At safety, the team could have an even bigger issue if unrestricted free agent Jamarca Sanford doesn't re-sign. It's not that Sanford is the next Ed Reed, but he started all season next to Harrison Smith and his possible departure would reduce an already thin safety roster. Given the holes in the other parts of the roster, both CB and S need to be middle- to late-round priorities.

Shamarko Thomas would be an intriguing addition next to Smith at safety. He wore No. 21 at Syracuse and at his size, there's no denying a comparison to former Indianapolis Colt Bob Sanders. He's much faster than Sanders, but he doesn't have quite the football IQ Sanders did. That said, Thomas runs well, tackles adequately and can even cover slot receivers. Tony Jefferson can't do that, but he was productive, especially when he lined up close to the line of scrimmage. Also keep an eye on D.J. Hayden, who has second-round talent, but after nearly dying on the practice field in 2012, there are legitimate concerns as to what his medicals may reveal.

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