[size=18px]Plenty of quality players available for Vikings in draft[/size]

The opinion here is that the Vikings will take quarterback Jay Cutler if he's available, otherwise they will take one of the many talented linebackers.

Sid Hartman, Star Tribune
Last update: April 27, 2006 – 10:06 PM


Dean Dalton, the Vikings running backs coach under Mike Tice, always has been one of the real experts on the NFL draft, and now that he is out of coaching, he is following the draft more closely than ever.
After serving on the Vikings coaching staff for seven years, Dalton should know the personnel and what the team's needs are.

"I'm pretty impressed. I've been taking a close look at things, and I think there's going to be a lot of talent available," Dalton said of this year's draft.

"Our Vikings team has five picks on the first day of the draft. That's going to give them the opportunity to fill a lot of holes."

Dalton said the draft class is overall a good fit for the Vikings' new Tampa 2 defense.

"There's a great linebacking core coming up through the college draft," he said. "And there's some excellent defensive backs, so it should be a good fit for the Vikings' needs."

Speaking of the linebackers, he said: "Obviously, the young man from Ohio State, A.J. Hawk, is an outstanding player, but I don't know if he'll be there at the 17th pick when Minnesota picks, but you've got a great athlete out of Florida State, Ernie Sims. You've got the young man who's a real complete linebacker out of Iowa in [Chad] Greenway. There's some real good ones at the top of the draft."

Dalton believes the Vikings' biggest need on defense is for a dominating linebacker.

"They lost Sam Cowart, who provided good leadership, and they've got some young athletic guys, but they need a dominant guy to step in there," he said.

The Vikings also will look for help at defensive back, Dalton said.

"Yeah, they tried to match up with [safety] Corey Chavous leaving, bringing in big-hitting Tank Williams, and I like the secondary," Dalton said. "I've always thought that the most underrated cornerback in the NFL was Antoine Winfield, and then Darren Sharper provides great leadership at safety."

Dalton also is of the opinion that the Vikings could use some depth on the offensive line.

"But you know, obviously, they've spent millions of dollars on that new offensive guard, Steve Hutchinson, who's an excellent football player," Dalton said. "That left side of the line was shored up. Getting Matt Birk back was the key. They've got a young guy that we got last year, Marcus Johnson, who's going to come on strong. Adam Goldberg [and] Chris Liwienski [are] battling for the right guard spot. I think that if there is a great lineman, it's hard to pass up, but it depends if they're going to draft for value or for needs.

"If they go for needs, they'll go defense. If they go for value, and there is a great offensive lineman, they'll just make that offensive line even better."

Scott Studwell, the Vikings director of college scouting, agrees with Dalton that there is a lot of talent in this draft, that it's "a rich draft early, a heavy second round and also in the third and fourth round," Studwell said.

My prediction is that the Vikings will take quarterback Jay Cutler of Vanderbilt if he is available at the 17th pick. If he's not, they will draft the best linebacker available.

Jottings

The May 8 issue of Fortune magazine lists the value of Major League Baseball franchises, with the Twins listed at $216 million, 29th in the league. The only team valued worse is the Florida Marlins, at $209 million. The value of the Twins franchise would be worth a lot more with a new stadium, and that is one reason owner Carl Pohlad is willing to contribute $130 million to its construction. Apparently the team's value will go up only if Sen. Larry Pogemiller of Minneapolis decides it should. The most valuable franchise in baseball is the Yankees, at $1.03 billion.

Ex-Twins outfielder Jacque Jones had been in a bad slump with the Chicago Cubs until he hit a game-winning home run Monday, and the fans in right field have really been riding him, causing him to say that there isn't any comparison between the kind fans in Minnesota and the rough fans at Wrigley Field. "Where I came from, they were passionate about baseball," Jones told the Chicago Tribune. "We probably didn't draw as many [in Minnesota], but they were there through thick and thin. [The booing] is something I've got to get used to."

Austin, Minn., native Michael Wuertz, who led Cubs pitchers with 75 appearances last season, is now pitching for Class AAA Iowa. ... Ex-Gophers pitcher Kerry Ligtenberg, who was released by the Marlins in spring training, signed with Iowa last week, and even though he hadn't faced a live hitter in three weeks, he didn't give up a run in 2 2/3 innings in his first two appearances.

Jack Brewer, the former Gophers and Vikings defensive back, signed with the Arizona Cardinals to play for ex-Vikings coach Dennis Green.

One reason the Gophers lost junior college basketball recruit Marcus Sikes, who visited here last week, to Cincinnati is that it is almost impossible to get a junior college transfer enrolled in the University of Minnesota. This is one reason this Gophers coaching job isn't any bargain.

Bloomington Jefferson 6-11 junior center Cole Aldrich recently returned home after spending two weeks in Germany playing for the United States in the Albert Schweitzer Games. The United States went 3-3 and finished in seventh place. Aldrich, the No. 9-ranked player in the class of 2007 by rivals.com, had 31 points, 43 rebounds and nine blocked shots in the six games. Aldrich, who has committed to play at Kansas, will be in Lawrence, Kan., on May 12-14, competing for the Minnesota Magic AAU team in the Jayhawk Invitational. He also will take part in the Olympic trials in San Antonio. Kansas coach Bill Self is a member of the Olympic committee. ... Another member of the Minnesota Magic squad, Blake Hoffarber of Hopkins, was also recently contacted by the Jayhawks and will join Aldrich at the Jayhawk Invitational. The 6-4 guard has led the Royals to back-to-back Class 4A championships. Some other schools he recently has heard from include the Gophers, Illinois, Stanford, Tennessee and Wake Forest.

Tom Lemming -- who produces the Tom Lemming Prep Football Report, one of the more reputable college recruiting services in the country -- was in town Thursday interviewing 10 of the top high school players in the state who will be seniors this year for his 2006 publication.

Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on WCCO 830-AM at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. [email protected]

Plenty of quality players available for Vikings in draft