The Minnesota Vikings benefit from this year’s draft class being deep at most of their particular positions of (current) need; which will allow them to find a lot of value in the middle-to-late rounds. You know the drill, these picks are based on current players being released and/or resigned and needs/picks can and will change as we get closer to the draft. That said, let’s get right to it.
1. (23rd overall pick) Tavon Austin, Wide Receiver, West Virginia
With Percy Harvin constantly injured and looking for his way out of Minnesota, the Vikings need to replace his speed, athleticism and playmaking ability. The tiny and speedy Austin can do just that for them. While a little smaller than Harvin; he can return kicks and punts, line up in the slot and take handoffs just as effectively as Harvin. If Minnesota can retain a healthy Harvin next season, this could blossom into a big playmaking due on offense for the Vikings.
2. (52nd) Kevin Reddick, Linebacker, North Carolina
While this may seem like a reach, the Vikings need help at inside linebacker and Reddick is a solid performer who can help bolster Minnesota’s linebacker corps. Reddick does a good job dropping back in coverage across the middle (he had six broken up passes in 2012) but he really excels against the run and rushing up the gut. Last year Reddick was able to rack up 85 tackles, 18.5 tackles for a loss, 6.5 sacks and two forced fumbles.
3. (83rd) Darius Slay, Cornerback, Mississippi State
Antoine Winfield is entering his 15th season and probably only has a season or two left. The Vikings need to build up depth and develop young players behind Winfield to make an easy transition when he finally retires. While most of the attention at Mississippi State was payed to fellow cornerback Johnathan Banks, Slay had a great senior season with five interceptions, six passes broken up and 40 tackles. Slay does a well-enough job in man coverage but excels in zone. He could play nickel and special teams this year for the Vikings and develop into a bigger role down the road.
4. (104th) Bennie Logan, Defensive Tackle, LSU
The Vikings are in need of a tackle to complement (and eventually replace) Kevin Williams along the defensive line. Logan is a big, disruptive force in the middle and is good against the rush and the pass. Last season he racked up 45 tackles, two sacks, 5.5 tackles for a loss and three passes broken up. While the numbers don’t blow you away, Logan did an amazing job of disrupting passing lanes and taking up double teams, allowing teammates like Barkevious Mingo and Sam Montgomery to rush freely; something that Jared Allen could really benefit from at his advanced age.
4. (121st) Duke Williams, Safety, Nevada
Harrison Smith had a great rookie year with the Vikings and has a very promising future at free safety; but Minnesota needs to find a talented strong safety to compliment him. Williams is a bit undersized to play safety in the NFL at 5’10”, but he makes up for his small stature with top-tier awareness for where the ball is going to be, superb tackling skills and an affinity for knocking the ball out of runners’ hands. A tandem of Smith and Williams roaming the secondary is a dangerous combination for the VIkings.
5. (157th) Hugh Thornton, Guard, Illinois
The Vikings need to add depth along the offensive line, with the hopes that any player selected can develop into a starting left guard in 2-3 years. Thornton is big and muscular at 6’4” and 310 pounds and athletic for an interior lineman. He will likely never play tackle at the NFL level, but could provide depth at all three inside positions immediately, and hopefully could solidify the left side of the offensive line along with Matt Kalil for years to come.
7. (213th) Jordan Rodgers, Quarterback, Vanderbilt
With Christian Ponder currently entrenched as the starter in Minnesota, the Vikings need a reliable backup and Joe Webb certainly isn’t the answer. Rodgers has talent and potential, and could come in and do a serviceable job of managing the game in the event of Ponder getting injured; something Joe Webb clearly isn’t capable of. The Vikings could give Rodgers a couple of years to develop while they make up their minds once-and-for-all on Ponder. Best case scenario: Rodgers quickly surpasses Ponder and they’re set at quarterback, or they stick with Ponder and Rodgers develops into a dependable quarterback. Now they have a solid backup or can trade him for a decent pick or two. Worst case scenario: The Vikings spend a seventh round pick on a quarterback that never pans outs - which isn’t a big deal at all; it literally happens all the time.
7. (229th) Quinton Dial, Defensive End, Alabama
At 6’5” and 304 pounds, Dial can play any position along the defensive line. He’s strong and athletic and at his best when bull-rushing. He can completely collapse the pocket, occupy double teams and contain the run around the edge. He needs some polish and time to develop, but can provide great depth on the defensive front while he learns from stars like Jared Allen and Kevin Williams.