By Jim Rueda
Free Press Sports Editor
Editor’s note: This is the third of three columns leading up to tonight’s first round of the NFL Draft. Chad Courrier offered his opinion on Friday and Shane Frederick weighed in on Tuesday.
Draft day is finally here and that means Mel Kiper has a little more than 72 hours before he can slink off into obscurity again for another nine months. (Oops, I forgot the endless post-draft analysis. I guess Mel will be sticking around for awhile).
Anyway, it’s time to predict what the Vikings will do later tonight when their number finally comes up. They have picks 23 and 25 in the first round.
Co-hort Chad Courrier has predicted a wide receiver with at least one of those selections. Fellow crony Shane Frederick says it will be a defensive lineman.
I like Shane’s pick better than Chad’s for a couple of reasons, not the least of which it’s safer. This year’s draft is heavy on lineman on both sides of the line, which means a quality player at that position should be available in Round 1.
While they are both pretty good predictions, I’m leaning toward an inside linebacker as the team’s first choice. If you take a look at the team’s depth chart right now, something named Tyron McKenzie is listed first at middle linebacker. It’s a sure bet the Vikes want to upgrade at that spot.
There are some good LB’s to be had coming out of college this year. Unfortunately, the top three — Dion Jordan of Oregon, Barkevious Mingo of LSU and Jarvis Jones of Georgia — are outside linebackers.
The consensus for inside linebackers seems to be that Georgia’s Alex Ogletree and Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o are the two best. And there’s a decent chance one or both of them will be there when Minnesota picks.
Ogletree stands 6-feet-21⁄2 and weighs 242 pounds. He ran a 4.69 at the scouting combine.
Talent wise, Kiper and his peers believe Ogletree should be a Top-10 pick. There are, however, character concerns, which means he may drop to Minnesota. He missed the first four games of last season after failing a drug test and then was arrested and charged with DUI in February.
Te’o, despite his invisible girlfriend, does not have the character flaws of Ogletree. But he didn’t shine at the combine (4.82) and failed to impress in the BCS championship game when Alabama took it to him.
Rest assured Vikings GM Rick Spielman has been doing a lot of checking on both players and will rank them accordingly. If they don’t take one with the 23rd pick, don’t be surprised if they come back and nab one at 25.
One other player to consider is Florida State cornerback Xavier Rhodes. That’s certainly another team need but there’s only a small chance Rhodes will still be available when Minnesota picks.
Linebacker is more likely, even if it means Vikings fans have to keep their fingers crossed.
Jim Rueda is the Free Press sports editor. To contact him, call 344-6381 or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org@mankatofreepress.com.