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Approaching The Draft: Outside Linebackers

CURRENT STATUS: The Vikings have solid linebackers starting on the outside in Ben Leber and Chad Greenway. Their primary backup is recently re-signed Heath Farwell, who was hoping to get a chance to start by entering free agency but came up empty. Kenny Onatolu was a very successful CFL player until signing with the Vikings this winter. Him and Erin Henderson will compete for roster spots. While the Vikings appear solid at OLB, there is room for improvement. Leber’s coverage skills have been criticized over the years, and depth is a concern as the backups have very little combined NFL experience.

ROUND ONE: USC has a pair of linebackers who are almost first round locks in Brian Cushing and Clay Matthews. One or both of these players could be available to the Vikings at #22 and quite frankly would be great additions to an already solid defense. Matthews has climbed the draft boards and seems to have versatility to get a higher rating than Cushing, especially depending on the accuracy (or lack there of) of reports that Cushing has tested positive for banned substances at the Combine.

WHO THEY SHOULD TARGET: I would not blame the Vikings for targeting a linebacker with their first pick, but I still think it is less of a priority than other positions. In fact, I’d say the Vikings should be in good shape to rake in some high quality undrafted players again this year. A guy like Adam Leanord from Hawaii could come in and compete to make the roster as a special teams contributor.

LEAST LIKELY TO BE TARGETED: Brian Toal of Boston College has the talent, but he lacks the size and the durability to make it in the NFL. I highly doubt the Vikings bringing in a guy who has virtually zero-chance of cracking the roster.

MOST LIKELY TO BE TARGETED: I think the Vikings will be staring at group of very talented linebackers still available to them at #22. If they don’t trade around, or if someone great doesn’t fall to them, then I think they will take the best player available who will probably be Clay Matthews. Matthews would be a huge upgrade to a special teams that desperately needs help, and would also be in instant competition with Ben Leber for a starting job.

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