The Minnesota Vikings can thank Brett Favre for them having such a high pick, but for a team that was only a year ago in the NFC Championship game, this may prove to be a saving grace for them. As they may be able to snag the caliber of playmaker with the twelfth overall pick that they wouldn’t normally get with a late first round pick. And I think that playmaker will be Illinois defensive tackle Corey LIuget.
Now picking twelfth in the draft means that the Vikings are likely to be the first team in this draft that cannot count on any of the “Big 11” players being available to them. If you don’t know what I’m referring to with that term, I’m talking about the eleven players in this draft that I see as being locks to go in the Top 15. They are essentially the eleven premier players in this draft that a consensus has formed and solidified that they are all excellent values at the top of this draft. Those eleven players are the two quarterbacks (Newton & Gabbert), wideouts (Green & Jones), defensive ends (Bowers & Quinn), defensive tackles (Dareus & Fairley), linebacker (Miller), and pair of corners (Amukamara & Peterson).
If any of those Big 11 have the potential to slip to Minnesota it will likely be Cam Newton, Prince Amukamara, or Julio Jones. If that were the case, in all three instances I think the Vikings would jump on them. Especially Newton.
With the debacle that was Brett Favre in 2010, it leaves the Vikings with Joe Webb and Tarvaris Jackson as their prospective quarterbacks this season. But Jackson is a free agent and it only seems the Vikings will keep him if they become desperate for a veteran option. They seem almost certain to use their top pick or second round pick on a passer since they lack a third rounder. And while Newton is a bit raw, presents the athletic upside that I think the folks in Minnesota would covet.
They don’t really need a receiver with Sidney Rice and Percy Harvin as their top two options, but Jones is the caliber of playmaker that would be hard to resist, especially with Rice coming off injury, and Harvin having his own issues with durability.
And Amukamara works because their secondary struggled due to injuries, and he would be their best candidate as a long-term heir apparent to Antoine Winfield as their No. 1 guy.
Without one of those Big 11 players available, it’s going to be hard for the Vikings to move down as well from No. 11 because it’s going to be less likely teams are going to covet any of the players in the next tier to put something together to move up.
The Vikings have never been in love with left tackle Bryant McKinnie. While he gets Pro Bowl bids, he’s not quite the caliber of pass protector that the team really wants up front. So a player like Smith is an intriguing talent. Smith could push Phil Loadholt at right tackle immediately, and then move over to the left side down the road to replace McKinnie. But the Vikings have traditionally preferred bigger offensive linemen to open holes for Adrian Peterson than the undersized Smith who is 307 pounds.
There are concerns that the team may not bring back free agent Ray Edwards when the time comes and replacing him with a similar edge rusher like Aldon Smith makes a lot of sense. But at the same time, the VIkings seem to like Brian Robison and Everson Griffen as possible replacements as well.
That likely leaves Illinois defensive tackle Corey LIuget as the best choice. The word seems that the team is prepared to move on from Pat Williams at defensive tackle. And there is a major need for them to add another beef eater in the middle to replace him. Letroy Guion, Jimmy Kennedy, and Fred Evans have been decent in spot duty, but none have performed at a high enough level that Minnesota should be comfortable going into the season with them as their full-time starter. Liuget isn’t quite as massive as Williams, but is big, athletic, and strong so that he offers the potential to be a run-stopping force in the middle of that defense.