Vikings by position, Day 4: Lots of questions at tight end beyond 2011
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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 (3)
Coach Leslie Frazier has said he wants to inject youth at the position, and why not? All three veterans on the roster are entering the final year of their respective contracts on the wrong side of age 30. Shiancoe (6-foot-4, 250 pounds) made a case for an extension after his breakout 2009 campaign and always plays with passion. But now he's about to turn 31 and coming off a season in which his production plummeted (47 catches for 530 yards and two touchdowns), his blocking sagged and he led all NFL tight ends with 12 penalties. Once Frazier took over and emphasized the run, Shiancoe ceded more snaps (68.1% for the season) to Kleinsasser (6-3, 272), who remains one of the league's top blocking tight ends -- perhaps even better as an extra man in protection than a road grader in the run game. At 34, though, it's unclear how much longer Kleinsasser wants to play. Nobody outworks Dugan (6-4, 258), who always has been physically limited and turned 30 this month as well. His $775,000 scheduled base salary pales next to Shiancoe's ($3.1 million) and Kleinsasser's ($3 million), but he's the sort of third-tier player who might feel the pinch of the next salary cap.
One scout's take
"(Shiancoe)'s been solid, and when you consider where he came from and the growth as a player, I think he still has another couple years left in him. Kleinsasser, he is what he is -- he's the grizzled vet. So yeah, you could definitely stand a young football player in there. I'm showing Dugan as the third. You could very well go out there and get another talented guy to come in and be ready to take the reins off."
-- AFC personnel director
The Vikings haven't used a pick in the top six rounds on a tight end since 1999, when they drafted Kleinsasser in the second (44th overall) out of North Dakota. Some in the organization thought they'd uncovered a gem in the seventh last year with Mickey Shuler, but Miami pounced when the Vikings tried to slip the rookie through waivers. There are more pressing short-term needs, but the age and contract status of all the tight ends on the roster make spending a mid- to late-round selection on the position in this year's draft a virtual certainty.
Last 10 drafts
• 2010: Shuler (seventh round, 214th overall).
• 2009: None.
• 2008: None.
• 2007: None.
• 2006: None.
• 2005: None.
• 2004: Dugan (seventh, 220th).
• 2003: None.
• 2002: None.
• 2001: None.
According to various reports, the Vikings have held official visits with Tulsa's Charles Clay, North Carolina's Ryan Taylor and Portland State's Julius Thomas.
• Mike Mayock, NFL Network: 1. Rudolph. 2. Kendricks. 3. Stocker. 4. Williams. 5. Virgil Green, Nevada.
• Shawn Zobel, DraftHeadquarters.com: 1. Rudolph. 2. Stocker. 3. Kendricks. 4. Williams. 5. Housler.