NFL Minnesota Vikings

2013 NFL Draft: Final first-round prediction for Minnesota Vikings

Manti Te'o

Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

The 2013 NFL Draft has arrived. In a matter of three days, it’ll be over and we’ll be one step closer to the beginning of the 2013 campaign. During that time, the route that a team takes can make or break the future of the franchise.

That’s why it’ll be so important for the Minnesota Vikings to make the most of their two first-round picks tonight. With two opportunities to add elite talent to their roster, it’ll be crucial for them to fill holes while adding the type of players that can contribute for the next decade. Doing so could be the difference between falling short of the playoffs and making an encore appearance in 2013.

With the draft only a few short hours away, I’m going to give you all my final prediction for what’s going to go down in the Twin Cities when the Vikings are finally on the clock in the first round. So here it is…

If the Vikings hold on to both of their first-round picks, Minnesota needs to snag a legitimate pass-catcher who can help alleviate the pain of Percy Harvin’s departure. Jerome Simpson is no No. 2 wide receiver, so adding someone capable of pushing him down the depth chart is a must.

As much as I would love for the Vikings to land Cordarrelle Patterson, I’m a firm believer that he’s much too talented to fall that far. Meanwhile, there are other options that should be available in the mid-20s. Keenan Allen, DeAndre Hopkins and Robert Woods should still be on the board, but I have a feeling that Patterson’s college teammate, Justin Hunter, will be the eventual pick for the Vikings.

While not as electrifying as Patterson, Hunter is a reliable receiver who has all of the physical tools to contribute from Day 1. He’s a productive playmaker who has outstanding hands, good size and the polish that the Vikings need. At this point in Christian Ponder’s maturation, they need someone who can be a factor from the get-go, not a project. Hunter fits the bill.

If the Vikings, however, only hold on to one pick and end up trading down with the other, they’ll go in a different direction.

While I’m no fan of this pick, there’s a good chance that the Vikings could take a gamble on the talented-yet-naive Manti Te’o. The Vikings have a huge hole that must be filled at middle linebacker, and Te’o is one of the top prospects at the position. Especially since GM Rick Spielman tends to target high-character players, the former Notre Dame star and Heisman candidate makes quite a bit of sense.

For weeks now, the Vikings have been linked to Te’o and appear extremely interested in acquiring the media magnet. Not only does he address a need, but Te’o has the playmaking abilities and coverage prowess to fit into the Vikings’ Tampa 2 scheme. Plus, his intangibles and locker room presence can’t be ignored. Considering all of the reliable sources that have tied him to Minnesota, all indications are that they’ll be giving Te’o a call at some point tonight.

If the Vikings stay put at No. 23 and No. 25, Hunter and Te’o should be the two newest football players to don the horns. That’s not the best-case scenario, but it seems to make sense considering the team’s draft history and buzz leading up to today. In the end, that’s how I believe it’ll play out.

No one can know for sure what will happen when the 2013 NFL Draft finally gets under way. Annually, the ordeal is full of surprises and this year is sure to follow suit. That, however, is my best guess at what the future holds for the Vikings.

Welcome to Minnesota, Justin and Manti (a bit premature?).

Gil Alcaraz IV is a Content Planner/NFL Featured Columnist for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @GilAlcarazIV, like him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google.