BRISTOL, Conn. -- The Minnesota Vikings' defensive end situation -- from Everson Griffen on the right side to Brian Robison on the left and Danielle Hunter wherever the team decides to line him up -- is as good as any in the league. It's what's happening in the middle of the line that might give the Vikings reason to seek help in the NFL draft this week.
The Vikings' three-technique tackle position, in particular, is in flux, with Sharrif Floyd still trying to overcome a nerve issue that's preventing his right quadriceps muscle from firing properly. The Vikings' top pick in the 2013 draft, Floyd played just one game last season, having knee surgery in September and spending the rest of the season rehabbing after the September operation caused the nerve issue.
Datone Jones, who joined the team from the Green Bay Packers, could be asked to work at defensive tackle, with the 32-year-old Tom Johnson coming off a hamstring tear that ended his 2016 season. Given how many questions they still have at defensive tackle, there's a case to be made that the position is the Vikings' top draft need outside of the offensive line. With the contracts of Griffen, Robison, Hunter and Linval Joseph all set to expire after 2018, the time might be right for the Vikings to think about their future on the defensive line, as well. But in the short-term, it's the three-technique spot that stands out as a significant need.
Current DLs (2017 cap number in parentheses): Griffen ($8.5 million), Joseph ($6.85 million), Floyd ($6.757 million), Robison ($5 million), Jones ($3.718 million), Johnson ($2.35 million), Shamar Stephen ($1.854 million), Hunter ($792,806), Toby Johnson ($540,000), Stephen Weatherly ($540,000) Sterling Bailey ($465,000), B.J. Dubose ($465,000).
Player with most to prove in 2017: Floyd's ability to prove himself will depend on his health status for this season. But if he is healthy, Floyd will need to deliver consistent production to convince the Vikings to bring him back for a second contract. He's been impressive when healthy, but that hasn't happened often enough, and it's hard to imagine the Vikings going out on a limb for the 24-year-old unless he's a) able to stay on the field and b) a consistent force when he's in the game.
Draft need: Three-technique tackle is the most obvious need, and the Vikings have spent some time with Michigan State's Malik McDowell, who could be a fit at No. 48 if he's still available. Florida's Caleb Brantley had seemed like a possible fit, though the tackle was charged with misdemeanor simple battery this past Friday after he allegedly struck a woman and rendered her unconscious earlier this month. At defensive end, even though the Vikings have a deep rotation of pass-rushers, they've typically looked to add an athletic player to the group each year Zimmer has been in Minnesota. A player like Villanova's Tanoh Kpassagnon -- a 6-foot-7 end with 35 5/8-inch arms -- could catch the Vikings' eye, as they look to give defensive line coach Andre Patterson another prospect to mold.