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Monday Morning Mailbag: Draft Weekend Fallout

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With the drafting of Dalvin Cook, a great choice, how do you see the running backs being ranked going into training camp? I think Latavius Murray is the clear-cut No. 1, but I think No. 2 and No. 3 is interesting. -- Jeff Sanders Kirkwood, MO

I wouldn't say any of it is clear cut. McKinnon is the only returning player of the three, Murray is currently sidelined with an ankle injury and may not get on the field until training camp, and Cook is new to the picture. I am quite certain all three backs will be asked to contribute significantly in 2017, and I will not be surprised if Cook is an immediate impact player; running back is a position where rookies can come in and help right away.

Thought we were high on Dan Feeney, but why the move up for Pat Elflein? -- Chris Kulak

I saw a lot of people skeptical of the trades back the Vikings made on Day 3, but it's this trade up for Elflein that should be receiving more attention than any of the trades back. If you look at who was available at center, guard and tackle at the time the Vikings traded up to where they selected Elflein (sixth pick of the 3rd round), it was clear that center had the least depth of the three. So the Vikings knew that if they wanted to address the center position with any sort of significance, they needed to do it right then and they needed to trade up to do it. And what transpired after the Vikings took Elflein proved that theory correct. The next team on the clock (Chargers) took an interior linemen (Feeney) and then 13 offensive linemen (six tackles, seven guards) were taken before the next center (Cincinnati took one late in the 5th round). That tells me Elflein was not going to last much longer and it tells me that had the Vikings missed on Elflein, they likely would not have had a good opportunity to add a quality center in this draft.

Not that it's up to anyone but the coaches, but for sheer speculation's sake, do you anticipate that Pat Elflein will play guard or center? -- Austin

I expect it'll be center, especially since Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer said that's where they'll start him once he gets to rookie camp later this week. Last year's starting center, Joe Berger, has position flexibility and can kick out to guard, plus he's a great backup center if something should happen to Elflein or if Elflein is unable to handle the starting job.

As a Virginia Tech fan, I wanted the Vikings to draft Bucky Hodges his whole career, and I was ecstatic when I found out it actually happened! I'm so excited for this. I feel like we shouldn't use him as a normal TE, rather just utilize him as Tech did as a WR, especially in the red zone. How do you feel we will use him? Skol Hokies! -- Ian Smith Strasburg, VA

There's no question you'd categorize Hodges as a receiving tight end, and I think that's where he'll make his biggest contributions. But that doesn't mean he won't be asked to improve and produce as a blocker. If all he ever does is run routes, then the opposing defense will know what the Vikings offense is up to every time he's on the field.

If our choices in this year's draft are any evidence, do you believe our front office is confident in Trae Waynes' and Mackensie Alexander's future development into consistent starters or even stars? -- Austin Trummel San Diego, CA

The Vikings didn't address the secondary until their final pick of the draft – No. 245 overall. So, yes, I'd say that is a vote of confidence in the players currently under contract at cornerback. And honestly, there's reason to feel that way with Waynes development last year and with Terence Newman re-signed to potentially be nickel cornerback insurance against Alexander not earning a job, getting hurt or needing to be replaced.

How do you choose between two players at need positions who are both at the top of the board? -- Eli @SkolSees

A big part of it is depth at that position in the draft class, just as we discussed above with regard to Elflein. If you have a center and a linebacker, for example, with the same grade and they are at the top of your board, then you'll look at the depth behind those two guys. Whichever position has the biggest drop off after the first guy will probably get the nod in that situation. There are other factors you can bring into play, but that is probably the most significant one.

Although we had a good 2017 draft that netted some promising, skilled players, do you think the Vikings are still interested in picking up a veteran DT or safety? I look forward to hearing your thoughts. -- Wade St Louis, MO

Yes. I expect it, especially after GM Rick Spielman essentially teased it at the end of our post-draft interview with him. He said building a roster is a never-ending job and that there's "always a vet or two out there that we may be looking at." Now that the draft is over, teams know which position(s) still could use talent and the veterans know which teams have potential openings that won't be filled by a high-priced free agent or a draft pick. That means some veteran signings could be coming down the pike.

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