What do the Vikings do at 22?

Among other needs,

team could use a playmaker

By Judd Zulgad

McClatchy News Services

MINNEAPOLIS — Mike Mayock’s opinion of what the Vikings should do with the 22nd pick in the NFL draft certainly would receive approval from the team’s fans.


"I know these guys pretty well," said the draft analyst for the NFL Network, who also works Vikings preseason telecasts. "It’s painful to watch them on offense because they’ve got maybe the best football player in the league in No. 28 (Adrian Peterson). Yet, their productivity at the quarterback position has to get better, and they need to find a way to get bigger chunks of yardage than just handing the ball off to Adrian Peterson.

"If they are OK with their two quarterbacks (Tarvaris Jackson and Sage Rosenfels), I think they have to find a playmaker, and that’s where I think their challenge is at 22."

As Vikings officials set their draft board for Saturday, however, the challenge goes well beyond making a decision on grabbing a playmaker. The Vikings, who have six picks in the draft, must weigh their need for skill-position help against the desire to address a need or add depth at multiple spots, including offensive tackle, cornerback, defensive tackle and center.

Add in that Vikings Vice President of Player Personnel Rick Spielman said that at least 78 prospects have been eliminated from consideration because of concerns about injuries or character, and you have difficult decisions — not just at pick 22 but all the way through the seven-round process.

Charley Casserly, a former NFL general manager who works with Mayock at the NFL Network, disagrees with his colleague about how the Vikings should use their top one. Casserly has right tackle atop his list, and indications are the Vikings agree with him.

Ryan Cook started 15 games at right tackle last season for the Vikings but lost the job at one point because of mistakes and inconsistent play. Artis Hicks is an option, but the veteran’s greatest value might be as a versatile backup. Drew Radovich, signed as an undrafted free agent last year out of Southern California, spent the 2008 season on injured reserve.

"Could they use another wide receiver? Yeah," Casserly said. "I wouldn’t deny that. But I think the right tackle to me seems to be a bigger priority."

A record eight offensive tackles were selected in the first round a year ago, and this year six should go. Virginia’s Eugene Monroe, Baylor’s Jason Smith and Alabama’s Andre Smith — all of whom will play left tackle — should be gone by the time the Vikings are scheduled to pick.


That leaves Mississippi’s Michael Oher, Arizona’s Eben Britton and Connecticut William Beatty as the most likely candidates at No. 22, assuming the Vikings don’t trade up or down. Britton, who played left tackle in college but is actually projected to play on the right side in the NFL, has been the name most frequently tied to the Vikings.

Spielman, running his third draft since joining the Vikings in May 2006, declined to get into specifics but admitted the draft is usually the best way to get a top-notch tackle. That point was driven home this offseason when the Carolina Panthers’ Jordan Gross and the Miami Dolphins’ Vernon Carey — two players in whom the Vikings had great interest — were re-signed by their respective teams before hitting free agency.

"It is a premier position, and you have to almost draft guys because there is very rarely going to be an offensive tackle in his prime that’s going to get out there on the open market," Spielman said.

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