Vikings by position, Day 3: Influx of talent needed to fix secondary
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Editor's note: Each weekday until the NFL Draft begins on April 28, Tom Pelissero is breaking down the Minnesota Vikings' roster by position, based on observations of games and practice, weekly tape studies and interviews with NFL coaches and scouts.
On the roster (10)
No position group besides quarterback enters the offseason with more uncertainty than a Vikings secondary one veteran NFC personnel man described as "awful" last season. The only lock to start is Winfield (5-foot-9, 180 pounds), who played 98.2% of the snaps last season and remains one of the NFL's best all-around corners as his 34th birthday approaches. He's best suited to play the slot in nickel, though, leaving the outside in the hands of Griffin (6-0, 203) and Cook (6-2, 212), who both are coming off season-ending knee injuries. At age 28, will Griffin ever be the same player after two ACL tears in less than nine months? He's being paid like it, with four years and nearly $18 million (plus escalators) remaining on the contract extension he signed in March 2009. Two meniscus tears derailed Cook's rookie season after a promising camp, and his arrest for allegedly brandishing a gun during an argument confirmed one of NFL teams' fears about him entering last year's draft. Allen (5-9, 194) started 11 games last season, gave up five touchdowns and a 97.2 passer rating on 69 targets and reaffirmed he's a subpackage contributor at best. Sheppard (5-10, 194) looks done at age 30 and probably won't be back. Walker (5-11, 200) turns 30 in August, too, and might be a fallback option just because he's so scrappy. Sherels (5-10, 175), Parks (5-10, 178) and Castille (6-0, 190) are developmental guys with 12 career games between them. Coach Leslie Frazier has expressed support for Williams (6-1, 203), but is being a good guy and sound communicator worth $5.5 million? He turns 30 in October and has blown more impact plays than he's made (three interceptions, one forced fumble) since signing his megadeal three years ago. Scouts inside and outside the organization still believe in Johnson (6-0, 207), who is entering the final year of a rookie contract that included a $1.469 million bonus. But he couldn't keep Abdullah (6-0, 204) from taking his job in camp, setting up a 2010 season marked by nine deactivations, a trip to injured reserve (knee) and renewed questions about his competitiveness. The Vikings placed a second-round tender ($1.835 million) on Abdullah, who most likely will be restricted as a three-year veteran and was adequate in his first season as a starter. Durability concerns and coverage deficiencies probably will keep Sanford (5-10, 200) on coverage units, where he has excelled as a gunner when healthy. Frampton (5-11, 205) received the low tender ($1.275 million) and has to earn his keep on special teams.
One scout's take
"When I think about their defense, one of the first things I think about really are the back four. They have to find a way to solidify the back four, trying to get some blue-chip players in that area. Their (Tampa-2) defensive scheme doesn't necessarily put onus on the operation to find blue-chip players in the secondary. But they could use an influx, an upgrade in their back four in terms of their corners and safeties."
-- AFC executive
Cornerback could be a consideration for the Vikings at No. 12 overall, particularly if Nebraska's Prince Amukamara is available. More likely, though, they'll look for help at cornerback and safety beginning in Round 2, with a high probability of adding multiple secondary players before three days are up.
Last 10 drafts
• 2010: Cook (second round, 34th overall).
• 2009: Allen (third, 86th), Sanford (seventh, 231st).
• 2008: Johnson (second, 43rd).
• 2007: Marcus McCauley (third, 72nd).
• 2006: Griffin (second, 48th), Greg Blue (fifth, 149th), Tyrone Culver (sixth, 185th).
• 2005: Dustin Fox (third, 80th), Adrian Ward (seventh, 219th).
• 2004: Deandre Eiland (sixth, 184th).
• 2003: None.
• 2002: Willie Offord (third, 70th), Brian Williams (fourth, 105th).
• 2001: Eric Kelly (third, 69th), Carey Scott (sixth, 189th).
According to various reports, the Vikings held a private workout with Stanford cornerback Richard Sherman and hosted official visits with Colorado cornerback Jimmy Smith, South Carolina cornerback Chris Culliver and South Florida safety Mistral Raymond.
• Mel Kiper, ESPN: Cornerbacks -- 1. Patrick Peterson, LSU. 2. Amukamara. 3. Smith. 4. Aaron Williams, Texas. 5. Brandon Harris, Miami. Safeties -- 1. Rahim Moore, UCLA. 2. Da'Norris Searcy, North Carolina. 3. Robert Sands, West Virginia. 4. Jaiquawn Jarrett, Temple. 5. Quinton Carter, Oklahoma.
• Mike Mayock, NFL Network: Cornerbacks -- 1. Peterson. 2. Amukamara. 3. Williams. 4. Smith. 5. Harris. Safeties -- 1. Moore. 2. Ahmad Black, Florida. 3. Marcus Gilchrist, Clemson. 4. Carter. 5. Tyler Sash, Iowa.
• Shawn Zobel, DraftHeadquarters.com: Cornerbacks -- 1. Peterson. 2. Amukamara. 3. Smith. 4. Harris. 5. Williams. Safeties -- 1. Moore. 2. DeAndre McDaniel, Clemson. 3. Black. 4. Sands. 5. Jarrett.