NFL Minnesota Vikings

Minnesota Vikings 7-Round Mock Draft: Post-Combine Edition

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Minnesota Vikings 7-Round Mock Draft: Post-Combine Edition

Brace Hemmelgarn - USA Today Sports

It was made clear after taking several steps back last season that the Vikings were in desperate need at several different positions. The Vikings actually have a need at most key positions other than halfback where they have perennial Pro-Bowler Adrian Peterson. He's a mainstay, but most other players in Minnesota are being put on notice. This new coaching staff led by new head coach Mike Zimmer is going to play the best players, period.

One huge need for the Vikings is quarterback. They've swung and missed in the draft and free agency in recent years, and this season they need a home run. Someone who can throw the ball in addition to handing the ball off to AP is desperately needed for the Vikings to contend in a very competitive NFC North division. Who they decide to take in this draft could determine the trajectory of the franchise over the next five seasons.

The team also needs help in the middle plugging up the run. Since Pat Williams left, the Vikings have majorly felt it. They've managed to do some decent patchwork, but they need another run stuffer that will be in Minnesota for the long-term; and there are plenty of those in this year's draft.

Another area on the defensive side of the ball that the Vikings need help with is their secondary. They could use some cornerbacks and safeties to shore up the pass defense. Going up against Calvin Johnson, Jordy Nelson, Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery on a regular basis isn't an easy task. It's very possible that the Vikings could be searching for a diamond in the rough to instantly install into their secondary.

There are other areas that the Vikings could stand to add some depth, and who they take for those positions may come down to a couple of things. It may come down to taking the best overall player when it's their turn to pick in the middle rounds or it could come down to which position they feel is higher priority when they're picking at any given time.

There's no doubt the Vikings need to improve from a year ago and it starts in April with the NFL Draft. Following the combine, this is the way they could decide to go.

Jacob Kornhauser is a writer for "Like" him on Facebook, follow him on Twitter or add him to your Google+ network.

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Round 1 (8th Overall): QB Blake Bortles, UCF

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It's very possible that the Vikings could trade down in the draft if Bortles is off the board before they pick, but we have to go based on what they have right now. Bortles is shooting up draft boards because he has the size, tools and athleticism to make things happen. He looks like he could be a starter right away, and while he will take his lumps, his skill makes him an average NFL quarterback from day one with nowhere to go but up.

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Round 2 (40th overall): DT Ra'Shede Hageman, Minnesota

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The Vikings desperately need a consistent run-stopper, so why not pick a player from their own backyard? Hageman, who attended the University of Minnesota, is an absolutely massive 6-foot-6 and 331-pounds. That size reminds you of Pat Williams who played the same position for so long for the Vikings. Minnesota should be thrilled if Hageman is still on the board when they're picking in the early second round.

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Round 3 (72nd overall): SS Craig Loston, LSU

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Loston is battle-tested as he has played his college football in the SEC. He's a hard-hitter who also has some ball skills. The Vikings' safety play was actually pretty good against the run last season, but they were dreadful against the pass. Loston makes sure they maintain their defensive support on the run while improving support on the pass.

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Round 3 (96th overall): CB E.J. Gaines, Missouri

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After forgoing the draft last season, Gaines enters this draft the same way he would've last season. He's a bit undersized for an NFL defensive back, but he's a legitimate playmaker. He makes plays on balls in the air and once he gets a pick, he's a threat to run it back. Gaines should be solid on special teams as well if the Vikings were to decide to go that route.

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Round 4 (104th overall): OG Brandon Thomas, Clemson

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The Vikings will need help on the interior to protect whoever their new quarterback ends up being, and Thomas could be their man. Projected to fall to the fourth round, Thomas is a large body who uses his hands well to ward off defenders. With a potential rookie quarterback under center, the Vikings need to make sure they have all their bases covered on the offensive line.

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Round 5 (136th overall): ILB Preston Brown, Louisville

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At 6-foot-2 and 256-pounds, Brown has NFL size right now. The problem is that he's just a little bit rough around the edges in his technique. If he ends up being a quick learner, he could be a steal in the fifth-round for the Vikings. While he's not likely to start right away, he would provide some depth for an aging linebacking corps and be able to step in when the current group exits.

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Round 6 (168th overall): WR Kevin Norwood, Alabama

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Playing big time college ball at Alabama, Norwood is used to the pressure. Even though he's projected to drop into the sixth-round, he has the potential to be a playmaker within the Vikings' offense. While they work in a new quarterback -- if that's the route they decide to take -- they will need several playmakers around him. Nobody currently on the team is a superstar and Norwood won't be either, but giving a rookie quarterback three or four decent options to work with would benefit him greatly.

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Round 7 (200th overall): DE Taylor Hart, Oregon

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Hart is a high-motor guy out of Oregon who works hard every single day. In a less talented way, his play style is actually reminiscent of Jared Allen. He will have to work his butt off this summer, but he's very capable of making an NFL team and contributing. While he may be used as defensive line depth at first, his work ethic may get him on the field sooner than most seventh rounders.