Vikings could be patient players again in draft

With two picks in the first round of the NFL draft, the

Minnesota Vikings are poised to benefit from the potential anxiety

of other teams if they’re willing to be patient again.

General manager Rick Spielman said the Vikings have been

inundated by trade talk for the 23rd and 25th overall selections

they’ll have on Thursday night.

Yes, the phones at Winter Park have been ringing, or vibrating,


”Whether you believe me or not, I’m telling you it’s been the

most active it’s been in a while because of where we’re picking,”

Spielman said Tuesday. ”I don’t know the reason why, but there are

a lot of teams potentially jockeying from the top of that second

round. There’s some teams jockeying potentially in the bottom of

the first round.”

Trading down, particularly given the extra first-round pick that

came from Seattle in the Percy Harvin deal, will be even more

desirous for the Vikings than usual. In 2012, they parlayed

Cleveland’s interest in moving from the fourth to the third slot in

the first round by fetching extra selections in the fourth, fifth

and seventh rounds by simply swapping one spot.

”Because of the depth at the positions of need that we have, we

can still get a very similar player and potentially pick up some

things either this year or next year,” Spielman said.

He was mostly referring to wide receiver, cornerback, linebacker

and defensive tackle, all groups considered to be strong in the

2013 pool of prospects. With four of the first 83 selections and

two of the first 25, the Vikings are confident they’ll find the

necessary upgrades at those positions to build off of last year’s

10-6 finish and surprising playoff appearance. They have 11 picks

in all.

The challenge, then, is to maximize that leverage to accumulate

more middle-round and late-round selections while still getting the

players they want and trust.

Spielman said he doesn’t see the Vikings spending the selections

necessary to jump up in the first round, a move that could be

required to snag a player like West Virginia wide receiver Tavon

Austin, North Carolina defensive tackle Sylvester Williams or

Washington cornerback Desmond Trufant. The belief, instead, is that

there are enough quality prospects at each of those positions to

wait and not miss much at all.

”The best thing we can do is bring in the best players possible

to create the best competition possible. If you bring that in, then

you have everybody pushing to make the 53,” Spielman said,

referring to the size of the active roster for the regular season.

”You want those 53 decisions to be very hard decisions.”

Gaps at cornerback, wide receiver and linebacker are obvious,

after cutting Antoine Winfield, trading Harvin and letting Jasper

Brinkley leave as a free agent. The defensive line is stacked, but

only for this year for sure. Jared Allen, Everson Griffen and Brian

Robison are all in the final season of their contracts, so bringing

all three defensive ends back for 2014 and beyond is unlikely.

Letroy Guion and Fred Evans ably manned the nose tackle spot last

year, but at the under tackle position Kevin Williams is also in

the last year of his deal.

Spielman acknowledged the strategy this weekend is as much for

2014 as it is for 2013.

”I don’t want to compare any of these players to Kevin Williams

because I think Kevin Williams is one of the greatest defensive

tackles to play that under position,” Spielman said, when asked if

players in this draft compare to Williams: ”I wish I could predict

that. I don’t know that, but I know we feel very strongly about a

lot of these defensive tackles.”

Then there’s wide receiver, where the Vikings have been in

perpetual improvement mode since Randy Moss was traded after the

2004 season.

They’ve drafted nine players at that position since then,

including Troy Williamson, Sidney Rice and Harvin in the first or

second round. They’ve signed all kinds of free agents, from Travis

Taylor to Bobby Wade to Bernard Berrian to Marcus Robinson to

Michael Jenkins. The addition of Greg Jennings last month might’ve

been the best post-Moss upgrade they’ve made, but with Jarius

Wright and Jerome Simpson the only other viable options on the

roster the Vikings are a sure bet to grab a wide receiver on either

of the first two days of the draft.

If Austin is gone, someone like Robert Woods of USC, Keenan

Allen of Cal or Quinton Patton of Louisiana Tech could fit their

need with one of those four top-83 picks.

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