The NFL Draft is set to begin on Thursday and teams are concluding their scouting reports on potential prospects. Teams know what they need and which players are capable of filling those needs.
The Vikings have a list of needs of their own. Though their offensive line is the most glaring at this stage, there may also be an immediate need on the defensive line as well, more specifically the three-technique tackle position.
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Defensive Line Roster (from left tackle to right tackle):
Everson Griffen*, Sharrif Floyd*, Linval Joseph*, Brian Robison*, Danielle Hunter, Datone Jones, Tom Johnson, Shamar Stephen, Toby Johnson, Stephen Weatherly, Sterling Bailey, B.J. Dubose
(*) – projected or incumbent starter
The Minnesota Vikings have spent the past three seasons rebuilding the defensive line into one of the league’s best fronts. After bottoming out in 2012, coach Mike Zimmer has turned this unit into a ferocious group capable of generating pressure against even the best offensive lines the NFL has to offer as they have been among the top 10 units in sacks the past two seasons, with Everson Griffin leading the way. The team also has longtime veteran Brian Robison and third-year lineman Danielle Hunter who add more ammunition to this pass rush.
Despite the success, there have been some shortcomings that are of concern. Even with the team’s success against the pass, the Vikings have still struggled to defend the run, finishing 20th in 2016, though much of that can be attributed to their collapse during the final six weeks of the season. Outside of Linval Joseph, the team has lacked any other personnel who are adept to helping to plug the middle of the line versus the run. Defending the run has been an issue during Zimmer’s three seasons, finishing no better than 17th in any season thus far.
Everson Griffen’s 2016 stat line: 48 tackles (1 for loss), 8 sacks, 2 forced fumbles (3 fumble recoveries), 1 touchdown
Linval Joseph’s 2016 stat line: 77 tackles (2 for loss), 4 sacks, 3 forced fumbles, 1 blocked kick
Brian Robison’s 2016 stat line: 28 tackles (3 for loss), 7.5 sacks, 3 forced fumbles
Danielle Hunter’s 2016 stat line: 56 tackles (1 for loss), 12.5 sacks, 1 forced fumble (1 fumble recovery), 1 touchdown
Another concern is the health of defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd. A 2013 first-round selection, injuries have been an issue since being drafted. He missed all but the season opener last season after what was supposed to be minor surgical procedure on his knee. Now with news of lingering nerve issues affecting the quadriceps in the same leg, the team may be forced to seek out an alternative in this year’s draft.
Need (none; 1 — desperate; 10): 2 to 3
Chances Vikings draft a defensive lineman: Low to Medium
Though this team is talented versus the pass, they have been inconsistent against the run, making additions to this group a necessity. With the Vikings unsure of Floyd’s ability to recover from his latest injury, they could very well look to draft a defensive tackle as early as their first pick, giving them someone to pair with Linval Joseph upfront as to finally address a subpar run defense. Michigan State’s Malik McDowell is a possibility if he manages to fall to the 48th pick. Another name that comes up is Caleb Brantley from Florida University. However, with his recently reported possible misdemeanor charge stemming from a battery accusation, he could find himself off the Vikings radar entirely, as well as several other teams.