‘Playbook’: Draft, free agency go hand-in-hand

Rosters will soon be in a state of flux across the league, and changes will come in two phases: free agency and then the draft.

In reality, those two events work hand-in-hand, because a move to solidify one position in free agency leaves holes to be filled through the draft, and vice versa.

Outside of the Colts taking QB Andrew Luck with the No. 1 overall pick, and the Rams doing whatever they can to deal the second pick – for whoever wants the quarterback they won’t draft in lieu of QB Sam Bradford – all kinds of scenarios are on the table.

Starting with the Vikings at No. 3, let’s speculate on how the Vikings will fill their biggest needs, keeping in mind the symbiotic relationship of the draft and free agency.

Potential picks: CB Morris Claiborne or LT Matt Kalil

The Claiborne route: Last season was a disaster for Minnesota’s Cover 2 defense, which surrendered 4,361 yards through the air.

Claiborne is the best corner available, because his overall athleticism fits in any coverage or scheme. But this pick would ignore another pressing need for the Vikings – a bookend left tackle to protect last year’s first-round pick, QB Christian Ponder.

Vikings quarterbacks were sacked 49 times last year (fifth-most in the NFL).  If the Vikings go with Claiborne in the draft, Buffalo LT Demetrius Bell and Cincinnati LT Anthony Collins are two young tackles expected to hit the free-agent market who could provide an upgrade over LT Charlie Johnson. Both come with their concerns, as Bell has dealt with injuries and Collins has yet to start on a regular basis. But each has shown flashes as pass blockers.

If the Vikings want to go big and are really willing to break the bank, they could try and pry Carl Nicks away from the Saints like they did Steve Hutchinson from the Seahawks years ago. On a smaller scale, they could also supplement the pass protection with a solid blocking tight end such as Kellen Davis, Leonard Pope or Bear Pascoe.

The Kalil route: Kalil is a big, athletic tackle who could use a few more pounds but can cover all kinds of ground as a run and pass blocker.

If the Vikings can sure up their blocking situations, it could be wise for them to try and acquire another weapon to pair with WR Percy Harvin, whether that player is a big name (Vincent Jackson or Dwayne Bowe) or a speedster like WR Pierre Garcon to take advantage of another domed environment.

Cornerback would remain an issue if the Vikings select Kalil, and CB Cortland Finnegan is the only real prize on the free-agency market. But Brandon Carr, Jason Allen, and Tracy Porter are available and would certainly provide upgrades over what the Vikings currently possess.

“Playbook” — the ultimate football Xs and Os show – aired Thursday and Friday on NFL Network during the season. Check the NFL Network broadcast schedule for further details. Follow “Playbook” on Twitter @NFLN_Playbook.

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