Pre-Draft Needs: WR, CB, OLT, G, FS, SS, MLB, DT, DE
Round 1-Matt Kalil/OT
Round 1-Harrison Smith/S
Round 3-Josh Robinson/CB
Round 4-Jarius Wright/WR
Round 4-Rhett Ellison/TE
Round 4-Greg Childs/WR
Round 5-Robert Blanton/CB-S
Round 6-Blair Walsh/K
Round 7-Audie Cole/LB
Round 7-Trevor Guyton/DT
WR, G, SS, MLB, DT, DE
This was a very important draft for the Vikings based on their needs at various positions. And it’s apparent that general manager Rick Spielman is going to build his roster through the draft—and not through free agency. He’s taking a page out of the Packers and Steelers book on how to build an NFL roster, and both teams have proven that strategy works—as long as you draft well.
First-round pick Matt Kalil will fill one of their top-three needs. Kalil’s addition will allow Charlie Johnson to move to guard, who is best off playing inside. One of the keys for this draft was to add a blind side protector for QB Christian Ponder.
Another big need for the Vikings coming into this draft was at safety. And they could use upgrades at either spot. The trade up for S Harrison Smith makes sense when you consider the Vikings have to go up against quarterbacks such as Aaron Rodgers, Matthew Stafford and Jay Cutler twice a season. And they’ll also face some good tight ends along the way. It’s no longer a league where the safeties have to just tackle—they have to cover quite a bit. And Smith should start right away. While he’s probably a better fit playing straight ahead or in the box, Smith is expected to line up at free safety. It remains to be seen how he’ll handle playing deeper in the secondary. But the point is they had to add more talent on the back-end, and that’s exactly what Spielman did.
With the Vikings having one of the worst secondaries last season, Spielman added CB Josh Robinson in the third round. Robinson, who has tremendous speed, is a bit on the raw size, so it remains to be seen how much he’ll contribute as a rookie. However, the team really needed to get at least one developmental prospect out of this draft at the position out of this draft.
Fourth-round picks WRs Jarius Wright and Greg Childs actually have a chance to get some playing time early since the team is very light on depth at the position. Wright, who is a bit on the small side, has very good short area quickness and an underrated facet of his game is when the ball is in his hands. He could make an impact early on as a slot receiver. Childs, a teammate of Wright’s at Arkansas, has really good size. However, he’s not coming off of a productive season, as he was still coming back from a torn right patella tendon, which he suffered in November of 2010. Wright, if he shows no ill effects from the injury, could be a factor on the outside. He did perform well during his Pro Day workout. The second of the Vikings fourth-round picks, Rhett Ellison, could line up at tight end or fullback. Should they line him up at fullback or even as an H-back, Ellison would give them some athleticism at those positions.
Fifth-round pick Robert Blanton is expected to transition from cornerback to safety this season. Blanton, like a growing number of less than speedy cornerbacks, are making the move to another position at the NFL level. But Blanton’s intelligence and willingness to be physical may make his transition smoother. It’s interesting that Blanton may line up this season next to his former college teammate in Harrison Smith.
The selection of K Blair Walsh in the sixth round was surprising considering he’s coming off a season in which he missed 14 FGs. And his addition necessitated the recent release of veteran K Ryan Longwell.
Seventh-round picks LB Audie Cole and DE Trevor Guyton, might be long-shots to make the team, but they will compete for jobs where there’s not very much depth.
Overall, Spielman did a nice job of addressing various needs from both sides of the ball, but he still needs to add more depth and competition at some positions.