We're just about ready for the 2011 NFL Draft, and of course, with every real-time draft comes traipsing along a clever mock draft for all to enjoy.
Over the past weeks the main argument has been quarterback versus defensive tackle with cornerback versus outside linebacker coming in a close second.
Either way, the Vikings are chock-full-of needs on both sides of the line of scrimmage.
Let's take a look at what I predict will happen, and let's see how close—if at all—I actually come.
Round 1: Nate Solder - OT - Colorado:
Surprise, surprise, surprise! No quarterback and no defensive end, the Vikings shore up the OT position—while sending a message to Bryant McKinney—in selecting the mammoth 6’ 8” 319 pound Nate Solder (the guy on the left for those who don't know).
What’s a draft without surprises, right?
Not only do the Vikings have a need for an OT, but the Vikings figure it to be the wisest first selection, if for anything, to keep Chicago and Detroit’s grubby little hands off of him.
The massive tackle is an aggressive trench man who is more athletic than most defensive ends, has an 81 inch wing span, and is the type of true grit power player the Vikings will need to protect whoever is at the helm.
Remember, having two good tackles ensures protection for your QB, which in turn, ensures the proper development.
Round 2: Rahim Moore - CB - UCLA:
With heavy anticipation of the next QB for Minnesota coming in the second round, Vikings fans get thrown another curveball as the organization sticks to a plan of draft for the future and for the now by selecting UCLA’s Rahim Moore.
Another area the Vikings are desperate for overall help, Minnesota quickly reacts to what is looking like a very weak position in the draft by grabbing the best, while available.
Moore was a standout player for the Bruins who is being compared to the great Ed Reed, who Moore says he tries to model his game after.
The Vikings need a solid quality cover man who can rotate between corner and safety, immediately contribute in all coverage schemes (if needed) and has the experience to be a low maintenance rookie with star-like qualities.
Moore is also a perfect fit the oft aggressive defensive approach of the Vikings.
Round 4: Ricky Stanzi - QB - Iowa:
Much to my chagrin, TCUs Andy Dalton has already found a new home (my guess is Buffalo) shattering my dreams of actually predicting he would be around in the fourth round.
That’s fine, bring on Ricky Stanzi!
Owner Ziggy Wilf and company decide that passing on the deal of a lifetime in Stanzi as a fourth rounder would be as dumb as the kickoff rule change, and pull the trigger on the underrated Iowa QB.
Stanzi is a clever QB who can utilize the short passing game to his advantage—or safety—while possessing the ability to exploit the long ball when appropriate.
Round 5 (first selection): Austin Pettis - WR - Boise State:
At some point, the Vikings are going to have to consider a wideout of some capacity. With Bernard Berrian likely not to return (thank god) and Sidney Rice’s future up in the air, the team has a significant need for anyone who can effectively catch a ball.
Austin Pettis is a methodical receiver who can play out of the slot, as well as, contribute as a deep ball threat.
Pettis’ true talent is in the slot as he can cause defenses to pay extra attention to his ability to split coverage and rake in balls over the middle.
But with the Vikings having more double TE sets in the mix this year, featuring another deep receiver alongside Percy Harvin will be paramount to utilizing what could be five weapons on the field—assuming Rice does not return.
Round 5 (second selection): Sione Fua - DT - Stanford:
OK, now we get to the nitty-gritty of things.
In a somewhat unexpected turn of events, the Vikings decide to hold the check book a little closer, and take a safer approach to drafting a defensive lineman.
Rather than buy into all the hoopla surrounding the first and second rounders, the Vikings decide to go after someone who fits their scheme, as well as, their needs.
Sione Fua is a very interesting player who helped the Stanford Cardinals improve their run defense from 55th in the nation to an impressive 19th.
The most intriguing aspect though, is this is a guy who underwent the team’s transformation from a true 40 defense to a more 3-4 type scheme. He is a heavily experienced two-gap lineman—a rare commodity—but a perfect fit for the Vikings demanding, multi-look scheme.
Not to mention a bona fide steal in the fifth.
Round 6: J.T. Thomas - OLB - West Virginia:
A member of one of the best defensive teams in West Virginia, J.T. Thomas is chock full of talent and experience which isn’t always found in a linebacker this late.
Thomas is a multi-tooled backer who can play both the strong side and the weak side (the most needed areas for the Vikes) with ease and comfort.
As I mentioned before, J.T. Thomas is a speedy backer who can move laterally against the run, press up front on coverage and get into pass-rushing lanes with ease, making him a near five-tool player.
His only knock is his history of injuries—and the fact that zone coverage is not his strong suit…but not very many collegiate backers can boast otherwise.
Round 7: Kyle Adams - TE - Purdue:
The Vikings are eventually going to settle in and grab themselves a TE for various reasons:
1. Shiancoe isn’t getting any younger.
2. Depth and youth.
3. The need for another solid blocking TE who can also be a possession receiver.
Kyle Adams has a great TE build and he knows how to work against zone coverage effectively, which is why he is known as a move-the-chains TE.
In addition to his natural ability to play both sides of the position, he also is a go-getting type of receiver willing to fight for possession, and can be the developmental short-game type of TE the Vikings will need in their new double TE sets.