LIVE › 4-5 a.m. Mike Tirico's Weekend Blitz College
NEXT › 5:05 a.m. Race Day
6:05 a.m. The Sporting Life
7:05 a.m. Minnesota Home Talk
8:05 a.m. Cover Your Assets
9:05 a.m. Tee Time
10:05 a.m. Saturday SportsTalk
Updated: April 20th, 2011 9:05pm
Vikings by position, Day 4: Lots of questions at tight end beyond 2011

Vikings by position, Day 4: Lots of questions at tight end beyond 2011

by Tom Pelissero
Email | Twitter
SportsWire Daily

Get the 1500 ESPN SportsWire delivered to your inbox daily, and keep up with all the news in Twin Cities Sports


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.

Day 4

Tight ends.

On the roster (3)

Jeff Dugan, Jimmy Kleinsasser, Visanthe Shiancoe.


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

Draft outlook

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.

Linked in

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.

High fives

Mel Kiper, ESPN: 1. Kyle Rudolph, Notre Dame. 2. Lance Kendricks, Wisconsin. 3. Luke Stocker, Tennessee. 4. D.J. Williams, Arkansas. 5. Rob Housler, Florida Atlantic.

Mike Mayock, NFL Network: 1. Rudolph. 2. Kendricks. 3. Stocker. 4. Williams. 5. Virgil Green, Nevada.

Shawn Zobel, 1. Rudolph. 2. Stocker. 3. Kendricks. 4. Williams. 5. Housler.

Up next

Offensive linemen.

Tom Pelissero is Senior Editor and columnist for He hosts from 6 to 8 p.m. weeknights and co-hosts from 10 a.m. to noon Sundays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Tom | @TomPelissero | Tom Pelissero