NFL Minnesota Vikings

2014 NFL Draft: 5 CBs the Minnesota Vikings Could Target

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5 CBs the Vikings Should Consider

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One of the Minnesota Vikings’ biggest needs this offseason lies at cornerback. They could look to free agency to address the issue, but might also use a pick or two during the 2014 NFL Draft to make sure they don’t repeat as one of the worst pass defenses in the NFL this upcoming season.

The biggest reason the Vikings struggled in pass coverage this past year was the poor play they saw from their cornerbacks. Chris Cook, the veteran of the group, was constantly out of place in coverage and was exposed as a serious liability. Josh Robinson is still a work in progress, but couldn’t handle the toughness and physicality of bigger receivers. Even Marcus Sherels suffered from his fair share of struggles out of the slot.

There is some hope, though, for the Vikings moving forward. Xavier Rhodes, a 2013 first-round pick, played well in limited action last year. After earning significant playing him, he showed some promise despite occasional setbacks. However, injuries hampered him towards the end of the year and kept him from unlocking his full potential.

This year, though, Rhodes will be given the opportunity to solidify himself as the full-time starter.

Teams around the NFL are looking for big, physical cornerbacks in the mold of Richard Sherman and the Seattle Seahawks’ defense. Those attributes will be as important as ever during the 2014 NFL Draft, where teams like the Vikings will be looking for that hard-hitting cornerback who can shut down even the best receivers in the league.

With that in mind, here’s a look at five cornerbacks the Vikings could target and what they would bring to the table if Minnesota calls their names on draft day.

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Antone Exum, Virginia Tech

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The Vikings are trying to build a tough, physical secondary, and the building process started last season with the addition of Rhodes. This year, bringing another one aboard would be a smart decision. Exum is a serious option in the middle rounds of the upcoming draft. Although he didn’t see the field much in 2013 while battling his way back from an ACL injury, Exum is a physical, aggressive cornerback who can shut down receivers. He also has a knack for causing fumbles, which is always a plus.

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E.J. Gaines, Missouri

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One of the key pieces of the Missouri defense this past season, Gaines has proven over the last year that he belongs in the NFL. With outstanding man coverage abilities and the toughness needed to play the run at the next level, Gaines offers the entire package at cornerback. While there’s still plenty of work for the former Tiger to do before he can be a quality starter, he showed in 2013 that there’s tons of natural ability to work with. The Vikings would be smart to snag a player like Gaines on Day 2.

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Darqueze Dennard, Michigan State

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If the Vikings stand pat at No. 8 and none of the top quarterbacks are still available, they could choose to address the defense with their first-round pick. If that’s the case, a player like Dennard might be their best bet at upgrading the pass defense. Dennard is a big, physical cornerback in the mold of Seattle’s defense, and would team with Rhodes to create a dynamic duo. Many have him as this class’ top rated cornerback, so it certainly wouldn’t be a bad move.

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Kyle Fuller, Virginia Tech

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If it wasn’t for numerous injuries and a small frame, Fuller might just be the full package at cornerback. The former Hokie is an aggressive, physical player who isn’t afraid to step up against the run or make a big hit on a receiver to jar the ball loose. Fuller displays impressive technique, plays outstanding man-to-man coverage and can be a difference-maker no matter what the offense throws at him. Sounds like something the Vikings would definitely be interested in.

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Stanley Jean-Baptiste, Nebraska

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One of the biggest cornerback prospects of the 2014 class, Jean-Baptiste turned heads during the Senior Bowl with his physical play and similar characteristics to Sherman. While there’s still work for the Nebraska product to do before he’s ready to be a starter, the physical tools are there for him to succeed. The Vikings need a hard-nosed cornerback to couple with Rhodes, and Jean-Baptiste seems like an ideal fit if he falls to Minnesota in the second round.

Gil Alcaraz IV is the Director of Content for Follow him on Twitter @GilAlcarazIV, like him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google.