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Approaching The Draft: Cornerback

STATUS: Cornerback has been labeled one of the Vikings primary needs coming into this offseason. The contract extension given to Cedric Griffin makes him the only corner on the team that doesn’t become a free agent after this season. However, talks are going on now to extend the contract of pro bowler Antoine Winfield. Those two are pretty much locks to be the starters next season, but the Vikings would love to find an immediate impact type of guy to come in on nickel downs, allowing Winfield to slide into the slot where he’s at his best.

My new partner in crime, Chris Boynton, recently wrote an article where he narrowed down the Vikings top need to cornerback. However, I would argue that it is not as big of a need as everyone thinks because of one guy he didn’t mention in his article. Charles Gordon was having a fantastic season as the Vikings nickel corner before his injury sidelined him. All indications are that he’ll be healthy in plenty of time for training camp, and I couldn’t blame the Vikings one bit if they were comfortable bringing him in on nickel downs.

That leaves Marcus McCauley, Benny Sapp, Karl Paymah, Marcus Walker, and Derrick Roberson to duke it out for the remaining one or two spots on the roster. I’d say Sapp and Paymah have the advantage heading into the competition. So, the Vikings will already be cutting three of their current corners after camp, and adding another corner via the draft means they’ll have to cut four.

ROUND ONE: Vontae Davis is thought to have a small chance at making it to the Vikings. The Vikes brought him in for a visit, and it’ll be interesting to see if they zero in on the guy. He is arguably the only corner in this year’s draft that could be the aforementioned big, physical corner that would allow Winfield to slide into the slot. Davis might also have the ability to push Griffin out of his starting role. If Davis is on the board at #22, you know that he’ll be well considered.

WHO THEY SHOULD TARGET: In the Vikings defense, not much emphasis is put on needing all-star cornerbacks. While it’d be nice to have one, I think the Vikings have more talent at corner than they are given credit for and will not draft a corner unless a talent too good to pass up falls into their laps. In the end, competition is great and to simply bring in an undrafted rookie to compete for a spot on the practice squad or special teams would allow the Vikings to use their picks on more pressing needs. A corner like Ryan Mouton of Hawaii might fit that bill pretty well. He ran a 4.54 and has a good ability to stick that foot in the ground and make a high jump to interrupt the pass. The fact that he’s a competent kick returner doesn’t hurt either.

Coye Francies out of San Jose State has all the skills and ability to be a solid NFL corner. However, his history with illegal weapons, being arrested, and having to transfer will be enough to get him nixed from the Vikings big board. Oh, and he had a 4.63 at his pro day… not good.

I think the Vikings are going to get Winfield’s contract extension done prior to draft day, and they will shy away from taking any corners early because of their current depth and other pressing needs. However, Childress love competition and I would be surprised if at least one corner wasn’t drafted this year. I see them using a late pick, one of their 7th rounders, to get a guy like Londen Fryar out of Western Michigan. He’s got decent size and has a nose for the football. His tackling ability and adequate speed would make him a candidate for a job on special teams.

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