The Vikings currently are slated to have the 18th overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, and opinions vary on which position the team will target first.
While a number of experts and media analysts have pegged Minnesota to select an offensive lineman in their mock drafts, NFL Media's Ian Rapoport reminded that the Vikings also could take the "best player available" approach.
Rapoport spoke with former Vikings linebacker Ben Leber at the NFL Scouting Combine Wednesday and explained his thought process:
"The interesting thing is … let's say the Vikings need an offensive lineman, sure. The actual evaluation has to match up with the draft slot," Rapoport said. "If the best grade you have on a left tackle is a second-round grade, you're not going to take that guy at 18. You're going to take whoever is the best evaluation for that spot and then say, 'OK, we can take a tackle in the second round or the third round.'
"There's a lot of options, and to me, the Vikings are the way they are because they've drafted extremely well," Rapoport added. "They haven't done that by reaching on guys."
Leber made the rounds with Vikings.com in Indianapolis, catching up with a number of NFL media personalities and picking their brains about the upcoming draft.
Albert Breer of The Monday Morning Quarterback said he would "never rule out" Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer snagging a defensive player in the first round, depending on how the roster situation shakes out through free agency.
Breer also said the draft's makeup could lead to capitalizing on a position other than offensive line early and then "still getting a good offensive lineman in the second or third round."
"I think there's as deep a class as there's been at [offensive line] for the past few years," Breer said. "A lot of teams need them, so not only is there going to be opportunity in the first round, [but in the] second round and third round, there are a lot of guards and centers that, from what I understand – I'm not a scout, but from the people I talk to – it certainly sounds like there's going to be a lot of guys who you're going to be able to plug in right away, and they're going to play in the league a long time."
Quarterback-turned-analyst Brady Quinn also weighed in on the Vikings draft possibilities.
Quinn pointed out the strength of this year's defensive line class and called it "top heavy but deep" and "rich with a lot of talent." He made a case for selecting an interior lineman or edge rusher if a top name falls to No. 18 and is "just too good to pass up."
"[And] Mike Zimmer's got a background as being a secondary guy; maybe all of a sudden you get one of those cornerbacks you're looking at," Quinn said.
"You never know; that kind of stuff happens. So that would be the one thought in the back of my mind," he continued. "Outside of that, though, I think if you're looking at offensive linemen, I would think tackles, maybe?"
Quinn highlighted Washington State tackle Andre Dillard as his pick for the Vikings.
"That would be the guy I'd try to target," Quinn told Leber.
Amid acknowledging that the NFL Draft is always unpredictable and it's nearly impossible to foresee the way dominoes will fall, Chris Simms and ESPN's Field Yates each retained their offensive line projection for Minnesota.
Yates believes Minnesota's focus will be on bolstering its offensive line as the Vikings work to rebound from an 8-7-1 campaign in 2018.
"I think specifically, in terms of areas of improvement … finding a way for the offensive line to be fortified and to play better overall," said Yates, who later added, "the biggest need is offensive line."
Added Simms: "I do think offensive line, not only for the run game, but I think to protect your biggest asset, which is [quarterback] Kirk Cousins, makes a lot of sense."