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Opinion

NFL Draft time arrives as teams attempt to upgrade

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April 23, 2010

We are a little over two and a half months removed from Super Bowl XLIV, but the NFL hits the national spotlight this week as we have arrived to the NFL Draft this weekend. This year, the draft will take place on a different format instead of their traditional first and second round coverage on Saturday and third through seventh round coverage on Sunday. This week Thursday will have the first round coverage; Friday will have the second and third round; and Saturday will have the fourth thru seventh round coverage.

Leading up to the NFL Draft, every sports site and almost every fanatic football fan comes up with their own mock draft of the first round picks, or in the case of the fanatic football fan, they come with a list of players they wish to see their team take in the draft. I won’t come up with my own mock draft here, but I will take the two most popular teams, the Packers and Vikings, and address what their glaring needs are and who they should take in the first round.

Depending on which sport site you visit or which fanatic football fan you talk to, the Packers have a different player that they think will be drafted in the first round; whether its an offensive tackle or guard or a defensive tackle to address their secondary needs in drafting a cornerback or safety.

I tend to agree with those saying the Packers need to address their offensive line needs in the first round. Aaron Rodgers was sacked 50 times last year and 34 times the year before. Being sacked 84 times in his two first years as a fulltime starter means he’s either holding onto the ball too long or his line isn’t keeping the defenders off of him. I’m sure it’s a combination of both, but the need for an offensive lineman is there. In this year’s draft, only one offensive guard is projected to be taken in the first round. Mike Iupati, an offensive guard from Idaho. There are a couple teams in the draft ahead of the Packers that could be looking at him. The New York Giants, San Francisco 49ers and Pittsburgh Steelers are three teams also looking to bolster up their offensive lines in the draft, and Iupati would fit their needs.

If the Packers are looking to take an offensive tackle instead of a guard, their best bet would be Anthony Davis from Rutgers. Davis is ranked fourth at his position and 21st overall in the draft. The three tackles ranked ahead of Davis: Russell Okung from Oklahoma State, Trent Williams from Oklahoma, and Bryon Bulaga from Iowa, look to be off the board before the Packers select their pick. Many teams will be looking to improve their offensive line this year, and with many good tackles in this year’s draft, there is a possibility of five or six even tackles being drafted in the first round.

Back to the Packers though, the Packer’s first choice should be Iupati. If he is off the board by the time of the Packers select, then they should go with Davis, unless any of the three tackles ahead of Davis slip down to the 23rd spot where the Packers are selecting from this year (unless they decide to trade the pick away). Other areas the Packers need to address in the draft would be the secondary, whether its cornerback or safety, and also defensive tackle.

The Vikings glaring need isn’t so much finding an immediate starter from the draft, but to add depth to any of the positions on the team. The only key departures from last season for the Vikings is running back Chester Taylor, and while nobody knows if Favre is coming back or not, but everyone seems certain he will return for a 20th season. Also, cornerback Cedric Griffin is coming off of knee surgery in the offseason and might not be ready for the start of the season. That could play into what the Vikings will do in the draft as it looks like their biggest need will be adding depth to the cornerback position. Four cornerbacks stand out right away to me, but only three is have a chance to be available in the 30 spot, where the Vikings will pick in this year’s draft (unless they decide to trade the pick away).

Joe Haden from Florida is ranked first at the cornerback position and could be a top 15 pick, and the Vikings have a slim shot at acquiring from the 30th spot. The other three cornerbacks: Kareem Jackson from Alabama, Kyle Wilson from Boise State, and Devin McCourty from Rutgers are the three others that stand out. All three are projected to be picked between 20 and 32 in the draft, and one of the three could land into the Vikings lap. Also, there have been talks of the Vikings drafting Maurkice Pouncey, who is a center from Florida. Another position that has been talked about for the Vikings is quarterback. Whether Favre comes back or not, the Vikings need to address their quarterback situation soon.

If Favre does come back he only has maybe a year or two left in the tank. If Favre doesn’t come back the Vikings are stuck with Tavaris Jackson, who has had chances to take over this team and really hasn’t shown much progress, and Sage Rosenfels, who has been a back-up for most of his career. He has had starting opportunities with the Miami Dolphins and Houston Texans and has not been able to handle it. Tim Tebow from Florida and Jimmy Clausen from Notre Dame are two possibilities if the Vikings are going to pick a quarterback in the first round. Tebow, Clausen and Colt McCoy from Texas all look to be picked by the second or third round.

The Viking’s first choice should be cornerback Jackson. Second choice for the Vikings should be Pouncey. I highly doubt any of the three quarterbacks will be available when the Vikings pick in the second round, but if Tebow, Clausen, or McCoy are available in the for the Vikings, than that would be the opportunity to take one of the three quarterbacks.

Derek Johnson is a student at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls.