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"Loaded" D-Line Group Could Intrigue Vikings

Teams who truly do commit to taking the best player available when they're on the clock may wind up with a defensive lineman in the 1st round this year, including the Vikings at pick No. 23.

"The defensive line group is loaded," ESPN's Todd McShay said. "So if you're talking strength, my guess is when you get to that range of the draft that's probably where the best players are going to be."

Defensive line is not just a strength of this year's draft class. It's also a strength of the Vikings roster right now, with all four starters under contract for 2016 plus backups such as Danielle Hunter and Tom Johnson flashing starter ability, as well. But the Denver Broncos showed this past season that a strong and deep defensive group up front can carry a team to the promised land, and McShay constructed a compelling case for the Vikings to take their strength and make it stronger.

 "If Rick Spielman is sitting there looking at his board and he has similar grades on an offensive tackle or a guard and a defensive tackle, he's probably going to take the offensive lineman," McShay explained. "But it kind of depends on how things flow. I can say this…you look at New England years ago, you look at Green Bay, you look at Denver recently…four out of five years drafting a pass rusher with that first-round pick. Carolina what they did a few years ago with Star Lotulelei and Kawann Short and making sure they solidified their defensive line.

"I know it's a cliché, but it's never been more true – you just can't have enough pass rushers and defensive front guys. So if you get in a bind and there's not a position there, it's not a bad place to go."

Defensive linemen and linebackers take the field today at the Combine for drills. As you can see by the rankings below, NFL Media's draft analysts agree with McShay that great talent and depth exists in the defensive front of this year's draft class. Case and point: Daniel Jeremiah has 13 DTs listed among his top 50 prospects. Add in five DEs among Charles Davis' top 50 and you have 18 defensive front four positions ranked among the top 50 players.

Below are Mike Mayock's top 5 LB rankings and Bucky Brooks' top 5 hybrid DL/LB rankings along with the list of DL in Davis' and Jeremiah's top 50 rankings.

Mayock's Top 5 LBs
1. Jaylon Smith
2. Myles Jack
3. Reggie Ragland
4. Darron Lee
5. Deion Jones

Brooks' Top 5 Hybrids
1. Noah Spence
2. Leonard Floyd
3. Kamalei Correa
4. Kyler Fackrell
5. Dadi Nicolas

Jeremiah's Top 50 Prospects - DTs
5. DeForest Buckner
14. Jarran Reed
15. A'Shawn Robinson
19. Robert Nkemdiche
26. Vernon Butler
27. Sheldon Rankins
34. Andrew Billings
37. Chris Jones
39. Kenny Clark
40. Austin Johnson
41. Jonathan Bullard
45. Adolphus Washington
47. Sheldon Day

Davis' Top 50 Prospects - DEs
2. Joey Bosa
16. Shaq Lawson
18. Noah Spence
30. Kevin Dodd
46. Yannick Ngakoue

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