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Expert Takes: What Will Vikings Do With the 18th Pick?

The Vikings are four weeks and 17 picks away from being on the clock in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft.

Minnesota currently holds the 18th overall pick — one of Minnesota's eight total selections over three days — and are scheduled to pick in the latter half of the first round on April 25.

While there is plenty of time until then to dissect what direction the Vikings will do, a multitude of experts recently gave their opinion this past week at the Annual League Meeting down in Phoenix.

The latest edition of Mock Madness had 15 of 21 analysts taking an offensive linemen, which has been the most common projection in recent weeks.

But trying to predict what Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman will do?

Good luck with that, said ESPN NFL writer Kevin Seifert.

"Well, the popular pick would be an offensive lineman, but I really do think that Rick Spielman has proved over time that he will take the guy that they have rated as best for their team at that spot, whether it's the right position that everybody wants or not from a fan perspective, that's not necessarily what they take into consideration," Seifert told Vikings.com. "So, it really depends on who's there. I've never once, I don't think, [correctly] predicted a Rick Spielman first-round pick, so I guess I won't try to start now or try to be accurate with it now.

"I don't think it's a doubt that they'll probably elevate offensive linemen in their ratings in terms of positions [and] if all else is equal, take an offensive lineman over somebody else, but a lot will depend on who's there – and also, the run on quarterbacks, if there is one," Seifert added. "And we saw that last year, there was a run on quarterbacks at the top of the draft, and that pushed other positions down. If that happens again, it's a little bit less likely, given the [quarterbacks] available this year compared to last year, but if it does happen, it gives the Vikings a better chance of being able to take a great player at another position."

As Seifert alluded to, the Vikings could go a number of different ways at pick No. 18, depending on how the board falls.

If there are a handful of top-rated linemen still available then, maybe that's the route. And if they are gone, maybe it's an impact defensive lineman or tight end?

Count Courtney Cronin, the ESPN Vikings beat writer, as someone who thinks the Vikings will lean toward someone who will help protect quarterback Kirk Cousins and open up holes for running back Dalvin Cook.

"I think offensive line is certainly the area the fan base wants them to address. They did it a little bit in free agency by getting Josh Kline," Cronin said. "What role will that fill? It looks like right now that will be the void at right guard. He could potentially go in and take that spot.

"But I do think there's still a lot of work to do on the interior of this offensive line. Regardless of how people think Mike Remmers, Nick Easton and Tom Compton played during their careers in Minnesota, losing them loses bodies, and for an offensive line that has dealt with injuries issues over the last few years from a numbers game, that hurts," Cronin added. "I think addressing that early and potentially maybe often — I know the fan base would love to see it — I think that could be what this team needs to take the next step."

Yet just because offensive line is a need doesn't mean the Vikings will address it right away, at least according to NFL Network's Tom Pelissero.

Pelissero said he doesn't "think there's any question" Minnesota will take an offensive lineman at some point.

But in the first round? Spielman and the Vikings proved in 2018 that they could just go with a top-notch talent, as they did when they tabbed cornerback Mike Hughes with the 30th overall pick.

"But you go back to a year ago, you're not just going to draft a position – people sometimes mock the 'best player available' thing, but that's a real thing. You don't draft an offensive lineman you had in the second [round] over a corner that you had in the first," Pelissero said. "Mike Hughes, when he was on the field, was arguably the Vikings best cornerback last season. Now, he's going to be coming off a knee injury, so we'll see exactly how that process plays out, they expect him to be ready for the season.

"But once there was that run on guards last year, the Vikings hand was forced a little bit," Pelissero added. "Will Hernandez would have been there. They didn't think he was a great fit for the system, and those are the decisions they have to make. They think they got a really good football player, and what you saw from Hughes would [support that]."

If we take out offensive linemen as a possibility for Minnesota, other positions that experts in Phoenix threw out were tight ends, safeties and defensive end.

The Vikings have a valuable commodity in tight end Kyle Rudolph, but more depth could be needed. And while Harrison Smith and Anthony Harris made a solid tandem for the majority of 2018, perhaps Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer would look to add a young playmaker to his secondary.

And teams are always looking for pass rushers — especially in a stacked class like this one — despite having the talents of Everson Griffen, Danielle Hunter and Stephen Weatherly on the roster.

"Overall, it's a very solid roster, so they don't have to reach for anything. … The best organizations think more broadly," said Adam Caplan of SiriusXM Radio. "They're thinking not for one year but three, four years down the road, and that's why I think defensive end would make a lot of sense there."

No matter which direction Spielman, Zimmer and the rest of the Vikings go in the first round, it's a safe bet that they will have plenty of high-level players to choose from.

At worst, the Vikings end up with a top-20 player to help make an immediate impact in 2019.

And if a run on one position group pushes talent down the board, Minnesota could end up with a top-5 or top-10 player down at pick No. 18.

"I don't know… tight end, offensive line, best player available. Probably not corner, but you never know," opined NFL Network's Ian Rapoport. "They can do whatever they want – it's a great position."

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