Anyone that's read my writings on here knows exactly what I think the Minnesota Vikings should do with their first pick in the 2012 NFL Draft. . .they should run, not walk, to the podium to select USC offensive tackle Matt Kalil. That's an easy decision. However, the draft consists of a lot more than one round, and the Vikings have significantly more than one major need. Having been largely inactive in free agency, save for a couple of minor signings, the team has not address a couple of needs that happen to be very deep in this year's draft class.
Specifically, after the Vikings address their offensive line with Kalil, their next areas of focus should be at the wide receiver position and the secondary. Both of these groups were woefully deficient in 2011 for the Vikings, but which of the two should the team look at first? If you asked enough Vikings fans, they would probably be pretty evenly divided on this subject. Let me put my two cents in here.
With the signings they have accomplished this off-season. . .specifically the signing of tight end John Carlson, offensive lineman Geoff Schwartz, fullback Jerome Felton, and running back Lex Hilliard. . .it appears as though the Vikings are going to be focusing their offense more on a short-range type of passing game that will take advantage of the ability of Carlson, Kyle Rudolph, and Percy Harvin to create mismatches. Combine that with the backfield duo of Adrian Peterson and Toby Gerhart, and a field-stretching wide receiver doesn't appear to be at the top of the priority list for Rick Spielman and company.
The secondary, on the other hand, might have been the worst unit in all of the National Football League in 2011. How bad was the Minnesota secondary? The Vikings finished tied for the NFL lead with 50 quarterback sacks in 2011, yet still managed to allow opposing teams to throw for a quarterback rating of 107.6 for the year, the second-worst figure in that department in the history of the league. To put that in perspective, Tom Brady's passer rating for the 2011 season was 105.6. . .so, on average, the Minnesota Vikings' pass defense made every quarterback they faced last season look slightly better than Tom Brady.
Did I mention that the Vikings had the most sacks in the National Football League last season? Because if I didn't, I need to in order to underscore just how awful the Vikings' secondary was.
The Vikings' secondary also set an NFL record in 2011 by going nine full games without intercepting a pass, and nearly had a tenth in a row before rookie Mistral Raymond intercepted Rex Grossman in Minnesota's penultimate game of the 2011 season against the Washington Redskins. I understand that most of that was accomplished without Antoine Winfield, who suffered an injury that put him on injured reserve, and Chris Cook, who spent half of last season playing in the Minnesota Prison Rec League. Those two players will both be back in 2012 for the Vikings, but even with those additions, with the NFL transforming into a passing league, the Vikings need to load up on as much talent in the secondary as they can.
So, what players could the Vikings be looking at in the early part of the second round? In a perfect world, Alabama safety Mark Barron would fall to that spot. Barron is considered the best safety in the draft, but had to have hernia surgery after the Crimson Tide's season came to an end. Some have speculated that could cause him to drop out of the first round, but I would be surprised if that happened. Notre Dame safety Harrison Smith has been mentioned, but the Vikings could probably trade down in Round 2 from number 35 and grab him.
The cornerback position, however, should have plenty of talent available at the start of the draft's second day. Barron's Alabama teammate, Dre Kirkpatrick, seems to be sliding down the board, but like Barron I wouldn't expect him to drop all the way out of Round One. However, players like Nebraska's Alfonzo Dennard and Virginia Tech's Jayron Hosley will be available. North Alabama's Janoris Jenkins will be there as well, but the Vikings might not be too keen on taking a guy with issues like Jenkins has. . .he wound up transferring from the University of Florida after issues with marijuana.
The Vikings' first pick in the 2012 NFL Draft should be an easy one. After the Vikings take Matt Kalil, however, their secondary should definitely become their primary focus.