Well, the 2010 NFL draft is right around the corner (just kidding) so I thought I’d take this opportunity to point out a few things as it relates to the Vikings and also point out a few players to keep an eye on during this next season of college football.
First, the Vikings have a full slate of picks in 2010 as of right now. They should also recieve some compensatory draft picks being they let Birk and Sharper leave during free agency combined with the fact that they have been very inactive in free agency this offseason. Since Birk and Sharper are both over thirty, the Vikings will recieve a maximum of two 5th rounders. Due to the relatively small contract Sharper recieved, I would expect the Vikings to get a 5th and a 6th as compensation for losing their two veterans. Compensatory picks cannot be traded or packaged in a trade.
Second, next year’s draft is expected to be one with the highest quality of prospects in decades. This is due to the fact that many good players opted not to declare for the draft this year in hopes of next year being an uncapped year. Also, underclassmen will be more likely to declare early next year in hopes of cashing in on an uncapped year and also in fear of a rookie pay scale being implemented the following year.
I’ve heard that up to 60 players could carry first round grades into the draft next season. Of course that number could vary depending on how players perform this year, who declares and who doesn’t, and injuries endured, but the quality and the depth next year should at the very least be much improved over this year. That makes 2010 draft picks all the more valuable, and teams (besides the Broncos apparently) are going to try and stockpile as many picks as they can to get in on the goods.
In fact, if Vikings rookies Ian Johnson and Asher Allen perform very well in training camp, do not be surprised to see players like Antoine Winfield and Chester Taylor placed on the trading block. The Vikings may or may not actually trade them, but with the quality of the draft next year, they’re probably willing to entertain offers for these aging veterans who will see their contracts expire after this season. Ray Edwards is also entering a contract year, and while he is not real old, the Vikings may also be willing to listen to trade offers since they have promising Brian Robison behind him on the depth chart and Kenechi Udeze making a possible comeback.
Next, it seems that at this time quarterback, defensive tackle, and safety could be the Vikings top needs heading into next years draft, with outside linebacker, running back (if they let Taylor walk), and cornerback (if they let Winfield walk) also being possibilities.
Here’s a look at a few players to watch this year, as each of them could potentially be drafted early by the next year:
1. Sam Bradford, Oklahoma: He’s got a cannon for an arm, and needs to show the world that he is better than he played in the National Championship. Barring injury, Bradford is a first round lock.
2. Tim Tebow, Florida: Could you imagine Tebow reuniting with Harvin on the Vikings roster? He will have a lot to prove this season as there were a lot of nay-sayers out there at the end of this last year. Tebow is a high character, gigantic, and athletic player suited to play many positions on an offense. And with the Vikings selecting Phil Loadholt for the right side of the line, having a lefty QB may not be such a disaster.
3. Jevon Snead, Ole Miss: Snead has been a major reason for the Rebels most recent success, and if he continues to shine this season and declares early, then he could surpass Tebow and Bradford as the top passers in the draft.
1. Jonathan Dwyer, Georgia Tech: If the vikings allow Chester Taylor to leave or be traded, then it is conceivable that they target a running back next year. Dwyer is a phenom, and averaged 7 yards per carry last season.
1. Arrelious Benn, Illinois: He’s not really tall, he’s not incredibly fast, he’s not a super high jumper, but Arrelious Benn sure knows how to catch that ball. Consistency and sure hands are what’ll ensure that Benn is the top wide out taken next year, if he keeps it up, of course.
2. Dez Bryant, Oklahoma: Bryant put up 1,480 yards and 19 touchdowns last year, and also returned two punts for touchdowns. He’s a game changer and will be looked at early on.
1. Kristopher O’Dowd, USC: This year I was really pulling for the Vikings to draft Alex Mack. Depending on how John Sullivan and/or Ryan Cook and/or Jon Cooper do at center this year, I might just be pulling for O’Dowd to be taken in the first next year. An absolute mauler.
1. Terrance Cody, Alabama: Looking for a replacement for Pat Williams? How does 6′ 5″ and 365 lbs. of pure run stopping ability sound to you? That’s what Cody brings to the table.
2. Ndamukong Suh, Nebraska: In 2008 Suh had 76 tackles, 16.5 tackles for a loss, 7.5 sacks, two blocked kicks, and two interceptions… which he returned for two touchdowns. Kind of hard to argue with production like that.
1. Sergio Kindle, Texas: The Vikings like their linebackers big. Not only is Kindle big (6′ 4″ and 260 lbs.) but he’s freaking fast. With 10 sacks last year, expect to see kindle light up the college ranks in 2009.
2. Mark Herzlich, Boston: If production were the name of the game then Herzlich has won. How does 98 tackles, 9 for a loss, 2.5 sacks, seven passes deflected, six interceptions two of which were returned for TDs sound? Thought so.
1. Trevard Lindley, Kentucky: Lindley has had an incredibly productive career and would fit the Vikings mold for a corner, although is a bit bigger than Winfield and Asher Allen. He’s a ball hawk that is always helping Kentucky upset somebody by making a great play.
2. Joe Haden, Florida: A true cover corner that doesn’t let much by him. There is a good chance that Haden declares early and becomes the top corner prospect int he draft.
1. Eric Berry, Tennessee: Berry is probably the top safety prospect to come out since LaRon Landry, if not better than that even. 72 tackles, 8.5 for a loss, 6 passes defended, three sacks, and seven iterceptions two of which went to the house. If you’ve ever wanted to know what it’s like to see Ed Reed or Bob Sanders in purple, then this might be the next best thing.
2. Taylor Mays, USC: An incredibly hard worker with a huge frame for a safety (6′ 4″ and 225 lbs.). Oh, and he can probably run a 4.35 as well. He’s hard to pass against and can lay some whopping hits on guys as well.
So there you have it. Keep an eye on those guys this season, as they may just be the Vikings next first round pick.