In drafting college and/or high school players for the pros, the age old question exists whether to draft the best available player, or to draft for need. The Minnesota Vikings have mixed the philosophy recently - most notably drafting Adrian Peterson when the running back situation was already solid - and have come away with success.
In this year's NFL draft, the Vikings appear to have drafted for need, and at first glance seem to have done an excellent job of it. While likely only being a 12-men-in-the-huddle penalty away from being a Super Bowl participant in 2009, the roster does not need a whole lot. A few areas that could use strengthening however are cornerback, running back, and both lines.
Former Pro Bowl cornerback, Antoine Winfield, was 32 years old last season, and has missed 12 games due to injury over the last three seasons, the Vikings simply have to look for an eventual replacement at the position. With their first pick - the first of their two second round picks - the Vikings selected University of Virginia cornerback, Chris Cook.
The swift running 6'-2" Cook, can certainly provide quality depth in the secondary as a nickel back, while being groomed to be a starter within the next couple of years.
Running back Chester Taylor played three seasons with the Vikings, the first year as a starter, but he just departed through free agency to the rival Chicago Bears. With their second pick - the second of their two second round picks - the Vikings selected Stanford running back, Toby Gerhart.
Last year, Gerhart only led the entire nation in rushing with 1,871 yards, and he also led the nation with 27 touchdowns. Gerhart won the Doak Walker Award, given to the best running back in the country, and were he not to have played on the west coast - thus rendering him a possible victim of east coast bias - he likely would have finished first, instead of second in the Heisman Trophy voting, that honor being awarded to the best player in college football.
With one half of the Williams Wall, Pat Williams, indicating that he might retire, defensive line depth may need to be addressed in the offseason. The Vikings did not specifcally draft a defensive tackle to be a future replacement for Williams but they did draft another defensive lineman with their third pick, USC's defensive end, Everson Griffen. The Vikings may look for defensive tackle help through free agency or trades.
Griffen's being taken in the fourth round could be a pick that looks good in a few years, but he does not figure to see a lot of playing time his rookie season unless injuries come into play. Nonetheless, a team can never have too many good pass rushers.
The one area of play for the 2009 Vikings that did not live up to the hype, was the play of the offensive line. While the Vikings did not immediately address that area, they did draft Wake Forest guard, Chris DeGeare, with their fourth pick.
Whether DeGeare can come right in and challenge for a starting spot on the right side, or provide some needed depth remains to be seen. Either way, depending on his play, he should have the chance to contribute early in his career.
With drafting Peterson, and of course going a ways back, Randy Moss, in the first rounds, the Vikings have benefited greatly by drafting for the best player available. This year, trading out of the first round to gain multiple picks in order to get specific players being targeted, the Vikings seem to have gone for filling needs. How well this plan worked, may be revealed as early as this upcoming 2010 season.