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Greenway Shares A Locker With Patients At Amplatz

Posted by Mike Wobschall on March 23, 2012 – 10:58 am

Vikings LB Chad Greenway is one of the most community-conscious players on the team, and he was in fact named the Vikings 2011 Community Man of the Year for his outreach efforts. And now he’s off to a fast start in making an impact on the community in 2012.

On Thursday, Greenway will launch “Chad’s Locker” to the children at the University of Minnesota Amplatz Children’s Hospital. The locker, which is an initiative of Chad’s Lead the Way Foundation, is provided to the children to help during their time at the hospital. The locker enriches the lives of chronically and critically ill children by providing them and their families with access to iPads, notebook computers, DVD players, and an Xbox game system and other electronic handheld games to pass the time during recovery and treatment.

Greenway will be joined by his wife, Jenni, on Thursday to launch the project. Chad and Jenni together have been leaders in community outreach efforts. They have volunteered their time with several local organizations, including Memorial Blood Centers, Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board, Sanford Hospital, University of Minnesota Amplatz Children’s Hospital, Fuel Up To Play 60, Taste of the NFL, United Way and the Make-A-Wish Foundation. 

The Greenways took their volunteerism to a new level when they established the Lead The Way Foundation (ChadGreenway.org) to enrich the lives of individuals and families who are in need medically or financially. For the past 5 years on Father’s Day, Chad and Jenni have partnered with the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board for the Greenway’s Gridiron Gallop 5K race, benefiting Minneapolis youth sports programming.


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Good News And Bad News From Claiborne’s Pro Day

Posted by Mike Wobschall on March 23, 2012 – 6:20 am

For those of you who would prefer the Vikings take CB Morris Claiborne with their 1st-round pick in next month’s draft, there is good news and bad news.

We’ll give you the good news first.

Claiborne participated in LSU’s pro day on Thursday and registered an impressive time in the 40-yard dash, covering the distance in 4.39 seconds, a vast improvement from his 4.50 time at the Combine in February.

The bad news, though, is that Jim Kleinpeter of nola.com reports Claiborne disclosed after his workout that he will undergo surgery to repair a torn ligament in his left wrist on Friday. Claiborne injured the wrist in a regular season game against Alabama, but was able to play through the injury and the pain for the remainder of the Tigers’ season.

My guess is the injury isn’t serious enough to impact Claiborne’s draft stock, especially with the mention of his pending surgery not made until midway through Kleinpeter’s piece.

For those of you interested in other LSU prospects, such as DT Michael Brockers or WR Reuben Randle, full results of the program’s pro day can be seen right here.


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Claiborne-Over-Kalil Talk Heats Up Around Vikings

Posted by Mike Wobschall on March 21, 2012 – 12:39 pm

The NFL draft is a premier event on the sports calendar, largely because of the drama involved with not knowing – but then finding out – where the country’s top college football players will begin their professional careers. This year, however, the level of drama has been reduced a bit at the top of the 1st round.

It’s all but a foregone conclusion that the Indianapolis Colts will take QB Andrew Luck with the #1 pick and that the Washington Redskins will take QB Robert Griffin III with the #2 pick. It’s also been assumed for several months now that the Vikings will take LT Matt Kalil with the #3 pick.

But not so fast.

Talk is heating up now that Kalil might not be a lock to go to Minnesota at #3 after all. I’ve had several fans email with a compelling case for the Vikings to take LSU CB Morris Claiborne instead of Kalil. Earlier this week, St. Paul Pioneer Press columnist Bob Sansevere broached this same topic, citing a conversation he had withVikings GM Rick Spielman in which there was more gushing about the CB than the LT. And then there’s this from a website I frequent called the NationalFootballPost, where NFP’s Matt Bowen provides plenty of reasons for the Vikings to choose Claiborne instead of Kalil.

Again, there’s a compelling case to be made for taking Claiborne at #3. The Vikings ranked 26th against the pass in 2011 and they yielded the most passing TDs. On top of that, the Vikings play in a division that features 3 productive passers in Jay Cutler, Aaron Rodgers and Matthew Stafford, along with a talented crew of WRs led by the likes of Greg Jennings in Green Bay, Calvin Johnson in Detroit and now Brandon Marshall in Chicago.

While Chris Cook and Antoine Winfield should be in the fold for 2012, there’s still another starting CB spot that is currently vacant, and the Vikings have not signed a starting-caliber free agent CB to compete for that job. Does that mean they plan to select one such CB with their 1st-round pick?

All-in-all, I’m still leaning toward taking Kalil with the #3 pick. I see him as a 10-year starter and multiple-time Pro Bowler at a premier position. He’ll be a key cog in an offensive line that will protect a young franchise QB and block for the NFL’s best RB. Nothing against Claiborne, I think he’ll be a fine player at an important position, too. But right now, I’m picking Kalil because his talents and skill set project well to the next level and because he’ll aid the development of Christian Ponder.

What do you think, Vikings fans? Let us know by leaving your thoughts in the comments section below this entry.


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Vikings Sign RB Hilliard; DT Evans

Posted by Mike Wobschall on March 21, 2012 – 12:26 pm

On Wednesday the Vikings made official the signing of two free agents, with RB Lex Hilliard joining the club and DT Fred Evans re-signing.

Hilliard is a 4th-year player who was drafted by the Miami Dolphins in the 6th round of the 2008 NFL Draft. He has rushed for 130 yards and 2 TDs in his career. A product of the University of Montana, Hilliard helped the Dolphins rank 4th in the NFL in rushing in 2009 when they ran for 2,231 yards. The Montana native also has 26 receptions for 210 yards and 2 TDs receiving over his 3-year career.

Evans joined the Vikings organization as a free agent in 2007. In his 5 seasons with the Vikings, Evans has played in 64 games and started two, recording 73 totals tackles along with 8 tackles for loss and 1.0 sack.


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Two For Tuesday: Vikings Sign Free Agents

Posted by Mike Wobschall on March 20, 2012 – 4:59 pm

On Tuesday afternoon the Vikings re-signed a familiar face to fortify defensive line depth and they reached agreement on a free agent contract with a new player to beef up the RB stable.

DT Letroy Guion, who hit the open market last week, was re-signed by the Vikings and figures to be a regular member of the DL rotation under new position coach Brendan Daly. Guion was a 5th-round pick of the Vikings out of Florida State in 2008 and will turn just 25 years old in June.

The Vikings also signed RB Jerome Felton, who was also selected in the 5th round out of Furman in the 2008 NFL Draft. He was selected by the Detroit Lions and played there for three seasons. He’s also spent time with the Carolina Panthers and Indianapolis Colts. Interestingly, Felton’s Mother, Sabrina, is German and was a former professional gymnast and his brother, Simon, served in Afghanistan with US Army.


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Tuesday’s Hot Topic: Tim Tebow’s Next Team

Posted by Mike Wobschall on March 20, 2012 – 8:00 am

It was only 12 days ago that QB Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts parted ways, but it felt like 12 weeks with all the coverage of Manning’s search for a new team. On Monday, Manning made a decision, and that decision was to play for the Denver Broncos.

Once the Manning-to-the-Broncos news emerged, questions were immediately raised about what that meant for Tim Tebow’s NFL future. Tebow, of course, infused life into a listless franchise and took a team that began the season 1-4 all the way to the playoffs, even winning a Wild Card round game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Following the news of Manning’s desire to join the Broncos, a report quickly surfaced that Denver would try to trade Tebow rather than keeping him on the roster behind Manning. So that begs the question: Where will Tebow play in 2012?

Let’s start it off by looking at the Vikings. I’d be interested in the Vikings considering adding Tebow because, in my opinion, he is a winner and will make any team he joins better. Let me state my case…
– If he came to Minnesota, it wouldn’t be so the Vikings could hand him the keys to the offense. Christian Ponder is the future at QB in Minnesota.
– I believe Vikings Offensive Coordinator Bill Musgrave and his staff could find a way to utilize Tebow’s skill set.
– If nothing else, Tebow is a good runner who averages 5.4 yards per carry for his career. We know how much Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier values a sound running game, plus superstar RB Adrian Peterson is coming back from a serious knee injury.
– One potential hurdle is the presence of Joe Webb on the roster. We all know about Webb’s athletic ability and most of us share an interest in trying to find a way for Webb to contribute. Perhaps adding Tebow to the fold with Webb already in the mix would only complicate matters in Minnesota?
– I’m not sure if adding Tebow would yield positive results, but that’s for Vikings coaches and scouts to decide. They know much more about it than me. But for the time being, I’m interested in adding Tebow.
– My interest in adding Tebow says nothing about the players already on this roster and everything about the admiration and respect I have for Tebow and his football ability.

I’m certainly not anticipating the Vikings getting into the mix for Tebow. I’m only raising the possibility in this forum to generate discussion among the fan base. So aside from debating whether or not the Vikings should acquire Tebow, I’ll list a few other teams that I believe should consider acquiring Tebow. Let us know what you think by leaving your thoughts in the comment section below this entry…

Jacksonville Jaguars and Miami Dolphins – These two franchises are at the front of the line in terms of teams that should acquire Tebow. He is from Florida, played college football at the University of Florida and he would immediately improve both teams. He’d also create a buzz in both towns that would help sell tickets and hope for fan bases who must certainly be pessimistic after many seasons of watching a losing product.

New England Patriots – If he doesn’t end up with the Vikings, my next choice would be New England. Just as is the case in Minnesota, Tebow would not be handed the keys to the offense in New England. He’d be used as a utility player, for lack of a better term, and I’d love to see how Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick could use Tebow’s talents.

New Orleans Saints – I don’t want to see this happen because the Saints play in the NFC with the Vikings. But Saints Head Coach Sean Payton is one of the most creative offensive minds in the NFL, and it’d be interesting to see what kind of production he could get from Tebow in that offense.

Philadelphia Eagles – I  there anyone better at getting production out of QBs than Andy Reid? Look what he’s done in resurrecting Michael Vick’s career. Look how he made Kevin Kolb look like a potential franchise QB. Just as I think Musgrave and Co. could find ways to use him here, I know Reid and his staff could utilize Tebow’s skills appropriately.

San Francisco 49ers - They lost out on the Manning sweepstakes, so why not take a stab at Tebow as a consolation prize? Alex Smith did a nice job last season, but he’s still an unrestricted free agent and we don’t know where he’ll end up. Even if Smith returns to San Francisco, there’s still room for Tebow. Jim Harbaugh is a good football coach, so I think he could figure out how to use a good football player.

Others who should consider Tebow: Buffalo, Cleveland, Green Bay and St. Louis


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Still Available: 10 Free Agent Possibilities For The Vikings

Posted by Mike Wobschall on March 19, 2012 – 6:38 am

On Friday we discussed the possibility of the Vikings visiting with a pair of free agents in OL Geoff Schwartz and DB Alan Ball. On Sunday we took a look at whether or not former Colts DB Melvin Bullitt was a good fit in Minnesota. Both discussions generated plenty chatter in the comments section, so let’s keep it going with more free agency talk.

Below is a list of 10 available unrestricted free agents that I’ll be keeping my eye on this week as the second wave of free agency begins. I’ve also left a comment or two on each player. Let us know which free agents you’d like to see the Vikings consider by leaving your thoughts in the comments section below this entry…

CB Aaron Ross – Already a two-time Super Bowl winner, Ross was not retained by the NY Giants and he remains available for CB-needy teams. This is not a news flash, but the Vikings need more CBs. The 6-0, 197-pound CB is a touch older than a team rebuilding would prefer (he turns 30 in September), but he has experience playing in big games and he’s a guy you can rely on while playing man coverage. Given how much money teams are spending on free agents this year and the fact that Ross has two Super Bowl rings, his price tag might be inflated enough to scare the Vikings away, and that would be understandable. If that doesn’t happen, though, he’s an option I’d be interested in seeing the Vikings pursue. Ross was a 1st-round pick out of Texas of the NY Giants in 2007.

Ross signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars

CB Tracy Porter – The same price-tag related reservation I have about Ross applies in Porter’s case because he’s a former Super Bowl-champion as well and his value could be inflated because of that. If he can be had at a reasonable price, though, I’m interested. He’ll be just 27 in August and he has good size (5-11, 188 pounds) for his position. I’m not sure he’s as physical a player as you’d like, but he can play man coverage and he’s played well in big spots. Porter was a 2nd-round pick of the Saints in 2008.

WR Ted Ginn – He’d solve any question about the kickoff and punt return role for the Vikings because he’s one of the two or three best returners in the NFL. One concern in adding Ginn, though, is finding a way for him to contribute on offense. Measuring in at 5-10, 180 pounds, Ginn doesn’t play the position with physicality and he’s had just 12 and 19 receptions in the past two seasons with San Francisco. Another concern is health, as he missed time in last year’s playoffs with a leg injury. If his leg injury is sufficiently healed and if the Vikings feel they can use him efficiently on offense, Ginn might be an interesting addition to the team, most notably for his return ability.

DT Pat Sims – Admittedly, I don’t know a whole lot about Sims and the skill set he possesses. But I do know he’s available, and that he measures in at 6-2, 330 pounds. Those dimensions make it possible that he could fill the spot opposite Kevin Williams on the Vikings interior defensive line, though it’s also possible he was more of a 3-technique (Kevin Williams’ position) with his former team, the Cincinnati Bengals. There’s also something to be said for not worrying about the distinction between the Kevin Williams-type DT position and the Pat Williams-type DT position, and instead focusing on the fact that Sims might be a good football player regardless. I don’t know if he is, but he’s a free agent coming off his rookie contract and he plays DT, so I’m interested. Sims was a 3rd-round pick in 2008 out of Auburn.

S Reggie Smith – There’s nothing in Smith’s background that will make fans jump out of their skin at the thought of adding him to this roster, but he does play a position of need and he fits the mold of a typical Rick Spielman free agent signing – coming off his rookie contract, ascending career arc and looking to prove himself as a capable starter in the NFL. Smith was a 3rd-round pick of San Francisco in 2008 and he began his career as a CB. He then converted to safety in 2009, started 7 games at safety in 2010, and was a reserve in 2011. He stands at 6-1, 200 pounds, will turn just 26 in September, and played college football at Oklahoma.

LB EJ Henderson – A leader and major contributor on the Vikings defense for years, it’s hard to imagine life without Henderson in the middle. But maybe we won’t have to imagine that for another year. Right now Henderson is on the market, but if he doesn’t find an attractable enough offer with another team, it’s possible he and the Vikings could reunite for another season while Jasper Brinkley and any other middle LB the Vikings acquire through the draft or free agency develop.

Others to consider…
Former Seattle Seahawks LB David Hawthorne and former Atlanta Falcons LB Curtis Lofton are two of the best unrestricted free agents remaining, but I believe they’ll command a salary too high for the Vikings. While the Vikings could find a way to put either under contract, I’m not convinced it’s a sound economical approach to improving the roster. The money required to sign one of either Hawthorne or Lofton could be used to extend a player currently under contract with the Vikings (WR Percy Harvin, perhaps) or it could be used to acquire multiple players that could address multiple needs on the roster.

Another LB to consider is former Detroit LionsLB Stephen Tulloch. He could play middle LB in the Vikings defense finds itself in a place where Henderson is not asked to return and Brinkley is not ready to assume a starting role. Once again, price tag could be an issue here. But Tulloch has good upside, will be just 27 years old this season and is a proven productive player in the NFL.

Tullock re-signed with Detroit

CB William Gay has not been retained by the Pittsburgh Steelers and could make for a nice option in Minnesota. The 27-year old 5-10, 190-pound CB was an important part of the Steelers defense, but you have to wonder if his solid play was the product of the system and talent around him. I’m not paid to make those decisions, but someone is and if Gay is deemed to be a quality player in coverage, he could be an option for the Vikings in the second or third wave of free agency.


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Trade Demand For Vikings #3 Pick Still A Good Possibility

Posted by Mike Wobschall on March 19, 2012 – 6:02 am

Late last week we examined the possibility of a robust trade market emerging for the Vikings #3 pick, with former Texas A&M QB Ryan Tannehill’s proposed inflated draft stock being the genesis of the demand for the Vikings selection.

One could assume Tannehill will be in high demand because he’s regarded as the 3rd best QB prospect in this year’s draft and the first two prospects – Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III – will be selected with the first two picks.

As was theorized in that blog entry, QB-needy teams such as Cleveland, Miami and Seattle who miss out on QBs in free agency will be looking to upgrade their QB situations on draft day. With that being the case, those teams could opt to trade up to the Vikings slot in order to select Tannehill.

One aspect of this entire theory we didn’t mention was the possibility that any of those aforementioned teams who strike a deal with a QB in free agency (Peyton Manning, for example) might displace a QB on their roster, thus giving teams who are still looking to improve another option. For example, if the San Francisco 49ers sign Manning, that leaves Alex Smith as an alternative for other teams. If the Tennessee Titans sign Manning, that leaves Matt Hasselbeck as an alternative. None of this helps the Vikings, but I also think it won’t eliminate the chance that some team will want to trade up for the Vikings #3 overall pick.

Over the weekend, the 2nd-best free agent QB signed with one of the QB-needy teams identified above. The Seattle Seahawks signed Flynn, taking them off the menu of teams that might consider trading up to select Tannehill. The good news is, though, that the Seahawks signing of Flynn does not make available a new QB. Seattle is expected to retain last year’s starter (Tarvaris Jackson) and have a competition for the starting spot.

So where does that leave our theory on a robust market developing for the Vikings #3 overall pick? There’s still a good chance. As of right now, I’m pegging Cleveland and Miami as the two teams most likely to consider trading up to the Vikings spot for the right to select Tannehill. The Dolphins weren’t able to sign Flynn, and they will lose out on the Manning sweepstakes as well. As for Cleveland, they have Colt McCoy as their starter now, but it wouldn’t be a surprise to learn that they’re looking to upgrade. On top of that, Cleveland is in the 4th spot, so they won’t have to pay as much as Miami to move up and secure the rights to Tannehill.

There could be others, too. A lot can happen between now and draft day, plus you can never rule out the possibility of a surprise team emerging late in the process. If Denver misses out on Manning, could they be candidates to trade up for Tannehill? How about Arizona, Buffalo or Kansas City?

So as has been the case for months, the Vikings are in a great spot as holders of the #3 overall pick. And they have well over a month before the NFL draft to figure out how to maximize their great position. As explained last week, the ideal scenario is for the Browns to feel compelled to trade up one spot to block other teams further down in the 1st round from doing so, which will net the Vikings draft-pick compensation while moving them down just one spot so they can still get their player of choice.


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A Colt Connection In Vikings Secondary?

Posted by Mike Wobschall on March 18, 2012 – 1:26 pm

Three days ago, the Indianapolis Colts signed free agent S Tom Zbikowski – who had been with the Baltimore Ravens – to a contract. The move reunited Zbikowski with Chuck Pagano, who was the defensive coordinator in Baltimore but is now the Colts head coach.

That got me to wondering if a similar type of reunion might be a way for the Vikings to address their secondary, too. Former Colts DBs coach Alan Williams is now the Vikings defensive coordinator, and former Colts DB Melvin Bullitt is still an unrestricted free agent. It would be a somewhat ironic turn of events, with Pagano now with the Colts after Williams’ (and much of the rest of the Colts staff under Jim Caldwell) departure and Zbikowski now with the Colts after the release of Bullitt.

But none of that matters, the Vikings have holes to fill in the secondary and a part of the solution could be the addition of Bullitt.

Bullitt stands at 6-1, 201 pounds and will be just 27 years old when the 2012 season begins. He fits the bill of a typical Rick Spielman-type of free agent signing as a guy coming off his rookie contract with an ascending career arc and aspirations for more playing time.

A 5-year veteran out of Texas A&M, Bullitt has a background that Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier will appreciate, entering the NFL as an undrafted free agent with the Colts in 2007 and finding a niche on the roster until he finally earned a starting role. It’s a similar career path to Frazier’s with the Bears in the 1980s.

Bullitt was a standout specials teams player and a special teams captain with the Colts, but he also developed into a regular contributor on defense, starting 21 games in the 2008 and 2009 seasons. He has nearly 200 tackles, 13 passes defensed, 7 INTs and 2 forced fumbles in 50 games played. Injuries have limited his playing time the past two seasons, though, and now he’s looking to bounce back with a new team.

Will the Vikings be that team? Only time will tell. To my knowledge the Vikings haven’t expressed interest in Bullitt, but that doesn’t mean something won’t materialize over the next couple weeks or so. It’s just a name to watch this offseason.


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Trade Market Emerging For Vikings #3 Pick?

Posted by Mike Wobschall on March 16, 2012 – 3:58 pm

As I’ve written about several times and have discussed even more on the radio air waves, the Vikings have been and continue to be in a great position as holders of the #3 overall pick. And now I’m wondering if that position will get even better. Let’s think about it…

Several teams entered the offseason with a need at the QB position. Obviously the Indianapolis Colts will satisfy that need by selecting Andrew Luck with the #1 pick. With the Washington Redskins trading up from #6 to #2 with the St. Louis Rams, it looks as if they’ll try to solve their QB situation with Robert Griffin III. Many thought the Vikings potential to trade back from #3 took a major hit after the Rams-Redskins trade, but that may not be the case.

As we stand right now, several QB-needy teams remain. We’ll count the Cleveland Browns, Miami Dolphins and Seattle Seahawks as teams looking to upgrade their starting QBs. The two most attractive options on the open market are Peyton Manning and Matt Flynn. Manning appears to be heading to either the Denver Broncos, San Francisco 49ers or Tennessee Titans, leaving the three aforementioned QB-needy teams still in need. Flynn, who has been linked to Miami because of his connection to Dolphins Head Coach Joe Philbin from their time together in Green Bay, is also on Seattle’s radar. He’ll likely go to one of those two franchises, leaving the other and the Browns as teams still looking to upgrade their QB situations.

And that’s where I believe the trade market for the Vikings #3 selection comes into play. After Luck and RG3, the top QB prospect in this year’s draft is Ryan Tannehill. An objective, isolated look at Tannehill would probably not yield a Top 10 grade in the 1st round, but with QB being such a vital position and with this year’s Top 2 QBs expected to go with the first two overall selections, Tannehill’s draft stock will become inflated.

In fact, Sports Illustrated’s Peter King recently pondered – via twitter – the possibility that any team looking to acquire the former Texas A&M QB may have to move up to the Top 4. Cleveland holds the #4 pick, which means that any QB-needy team that loses out on the Manning and Flynn sweepstakes must deal with the Vikings at #3 if they want a guaranteed shot at Tannehill before the Browns selection.

What does this mean for the Vikings? Well, there is a chance that none of this plays out and the Vikings will either stay at #3 and select a player of their choice, or they’ll have to leverage the availability of players such as WR Justin Blackmon, CB Morris Claiborne and RB Trent Richardson to other teams in order to trade back. But there’s also a chance that the market for Tannehill blows up to the point that some team(s) will seriously consider trading up to #3 in order to secure the opportunity to select him.

If that does indeed happen, the Vikings will have to decide how far back they’re willing to drop. If the Seahawks lose out on Manning and Flynn, resulting in a desire to trade up, the Vikings would have to be willing to drop down to #12, which means LT Matt Kalil as well as Blackmon and Claiborne, would surely be gone. If it’s Miami, the deal is a bit better for the Vikings because the Dolphins hold the #8 pick, but Blackmon and Claiborne would still likely be gone. Keep in mind, Tannehill’s college head coach was Mike Sherman, who is now the Dolphins Offensive Coordinator.

The ideal scenario, in my view, would be for Cleveland to move up 1 spot from #4 to #3 in order to select Tannehill. That would ensure the availability of Blackmon, Claiborne and Kalil for the Vikings.

It’s a lot to digest, but the moral of the story is a robust trade market could emerge for the Vikings #3 overall pick, which is a great thing for a franchise coming off a 3-13 season and in rebuilding mode. As they’ve been the entire time, the Vikings are in great position with the #3 pick and I look forward to watching Rick Spielman and Co. leverage that great position in order to improve this roster.


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