The Free Press, Mankato, MN

May 2, 2014

Courrier: Vikings should continue building defense in draft


The Mankato Free Press

---- — Quarterback, schmorterback.

All the national draft “experts” want or expect the Minnesota Vikings to take a quarterback with the No. 8 pick in Thursday’s first round of the NFL draft, noting how poorly that position played last season.

But when it comes to needs, quarterback should not be on top of the Vikings’ list. Next week, Shane Frederick and Jim Rueda will argue otherwise, but the Vikings need to pay more attention to defense in next week’s draft, especially in the first round.

Jadeveon Clowney, a defensive end from South Carolina, will likely be the first defensive player taken, maybe the first overall selection. But that’s based on speed, size and athleticism, not production or film, which makes him a huge risk. If you saw Clowney play last season, you wouldn’t take him in the first round ... or any round.

The next defensive player taken will likely be outside linebacker Khalil Mack, who would be a perfect fit for the Vikings, but he’ll likely be chosen in the top three or four picks.

After that, it seems the Vikings will have their choice of defensive players.

Outside linebacker Anthony Barr of UCLA would be a nice addition, as would inside linebacker C.J. Mosley from Alabama, a solid program.

The cornerback position seems stacked, with Oklahoma State’s Justin Gilbert seemingly at the top of that list. Ohio State’s Bradley Roby, Virginia Tech’s Kyle Fuller, Michigan State’s Darqueze Denard and TCU’s Jason Verrett seem to have some first-round steam. Given how many misses the Vikings have had with cornerbacks, it seems a risky, but completely defendable, selection.

The Vikings have paid a lot of attention to the defense in the offseason, signing defensive tackle Linval Joseph, defensive end Corey Wootten, safety Kurt Coleman and cornerback Captain Munnerlyn.

Last year, the Vikings bolstered the defense by using first-round draft picks on tackle Sharrif Floyd and cornerback Xavier Rhodes. Given some of the prolific offenses in the NFC North, you can’t spend too many resources on defense. You’ve already hired a defensive-minded head coach in Mike Zimmer.

Going into the offseason, it seemed there were three quarterbacks who would be taken at the top of the draft, but upon further inspection, Johnny Manziel, Blake Bortles and Teddy Bridgewater have had enough flaws exposed that it’s hard to justify using a top pick on any of the three. The Vikings missed on Christian Ponder back in 2011, and that mistake can’t be repeated. By signing Matt Cassel in the offseason, the quarterback play will be good enough, provided the defense makes strong improvement. Using that first-round pick on the defense would be another step in building a shut-down crew.

Chad Courrier is a Free Press staff writer. To contact him, call 507-344-6353, e-mail at ccourrier@mankatofreepress.com or follow his Twitter feed @ChadCourrier.