Last year it was 17, this year it is 23. Minnesota originally selected 17th in the 2008 NFL Draft, but that pick flew away in return for one of the best, if not the best defensive end in football; Jared Allen. But that’s beside the point.
The Vikings had a noticeable lack of picks last year, and only one of their selections made even a little impact; Tyrell Johnson. This year, Minnesota could turn their 23rd overall pick into dozens of saved points.
Starting today, Manimal and I will be looking into the 2009 NFL Draft. We will explore many possible scenarios, and may even work out a few possible trades. Be sure to stay tuned as the postseason wraps up and we turn our attention to the draft.
It is generally accepted by everyone that the Vikings need help at offensive tackle, cornerback, and defensive tackle. Quarterback and receiver are both needs as well, but it is doubtful that there will be a quality player of those positions when the Vikings draft. I think the biggest and most glaring need that Minnesota could fix with No. 23 is at cornerback.
Enter: Vontae Davis, CB, Illiniois.
Looking short-term, the Minnesota Vikings have a superb defensive line. The only reason they are not talked about among the Steelers and Ravens is because of pass coverage. Cedric Griffin had an iffy season, and Antoine Winfield is getting older every year. There really is no replacement on the Viking roster, and some are certainly needed.
Davis is the best cornerback the Vikings could hope to draft where they are. Malcom Jenkins is extremely good, but will be long gone by the time Minnesota goes on the clock. This Illinois cornerback, the younger brother of Vernon Davis, is freakishly strong. Going into this past season, Davis was thought to possibly be a top five pick if he declared, but didn’t improve on the field.
Illinios had an excellent threat at the cornerback position; one with the ability to literally split the field in half. Davis was so dominant that opposing quarterbacks rarely threw to whoever he was covering. He was a huge reason why the Fighting Illini had the five wins they did.
Whoever is at the defensive coordinator helm next year would greatly benefit from Davis’ blitzing experience and skill.
Davis also has great special teams’ potential. He blocked two kicks while with the Illini. A blocked field goal returned for a touchdown can be the biggest momentum-changer in sports, and with Davis’ speed; he has that huge play potential.
One reason to back away from Davis is the fact that he didn’t really improve from 2007 to 2008. He was dominant, but not more so than the year before. Illinois head coach Ron Zook recognized Davis’ potential, and benched him for a game as a “wake-up call.” I’m not willing to question his dedication or work ethic yet, but they may cause problems in the future.
The 2009 Combine (coming in late Feburary) will be a huge indicator of how good a pick Davis could be. If all goes as expected, Vontae Davis should blow every other safety out of the water when it comes to the benchpress. Nobody doubts his strength; I’m more curious about his 40 time. If Davis really is as good as advertised, he could potentially raise too far in the Draft for the Vikings to reach him.
Vontae Davis is undoubtedly an interested option. If he were a Viking in 2009, he could be a game-changer.