I am a big fan of drafting best player available, regardless of need, and building your team around solid, young players instead of reaching to fill a void.  After all, there is nothing wrong with having good depth at a position and/or getting better at something you are already good at.

Still, teams have needs and the Minnesota Vikings are quite obviously no exception. 

With that, I present you with my rankings of how the Vikings needs stack up going into this year’s Draft:

1.      Safety

There is perhaps no positional group on any team in the NFL that needs upgrading more than the Vikings need to upgrade their safeties.  Heck, at this point I would say the Vikings have a greater need at safety than the Dolphins do at quarterback.  The thought of Jamarca Sanford and Mistral Raymond being starters instead of depth players, especially in our division, should worry even the most enthusiastic optimists.

2.      Wide Receiver

The Vikings need to be on the prowl for a true #1 receiver to open up this offense under Christian Ponder.  At the very least, they need to add some more speed to the exterior of this offense.  Receivers often take a while to develop, so we need to temper our expectations, but that development needs to begin this year.

3.      Offensive Tackle

The Vikings, at the very least, don’t stand to take a step backwards at the tackle position this offseason with both Phil Loadholt and Charlie Johnson set to return.  The obvious spot needing an upgrade, however, is on the left side and it seems like a near certainty that Matt Kalil will do just that.

4.      Middle Linebacker

E.J. Henderson does not look like he is coming back and Jasper Brinkley, while a promising prospect, is somewhat unproven and has not played football in over a year.  Some competition should be brought in via this Draft.

5.      Cornerback

Chris Cook and Antoine Winfield should be returning while the Vikings also added Chris Carr and Zack Bowman to the roster.  Asher Allen and Marcus Sherels are also still in the mix to compete for roster spots.  The position should already be much better than last season, if these guys can stay on the field, but they should also continue looking for upgrades in this Draft class should some value fall into their laps.

6.      Defensive Tackle

Kevin Williams is getting older, but the team did retain Letroy Guion and Fred Evans.  There are also some rotational guys like Christian Ballard and Everson Griffen that can fill in during passing downs.  What the Vikings really should covet is a true nose tackle that can, hopefully, bring this front four back to the Pat Williams era of stopping the run.

7.      Kicker

If this is truly a rebuilding year then why not rebuild the kicking game by finally parting ways with Ryan Longwell who showed signs of degrading last season and doesn’t have nearly the leg he once did.  Of course, in order to jettison Longwell, a prospect worthy of taking his spot must be selected.

8.      Defensive End

Jared Allen, Brian Robison, and Everson Griffen are a great top three to the depth chart.  Christian Ballard could also see some snaps here.  Still, some competition and depth could always be used at arguably the defense’s most important position.

9.      Outside Linebacker

Chad Greenway and Erin Henderson are capable starters but losing Heath Farwell and Kenny Onatolu in consecutive offseasons leaves a need on special teams.  Developmental guys with special teams value are going to be available later on in this Draft.

10.  Center

If Brandon Fusco successfully nabs a starting gig at right guard then there could be roster spot available at backup center.  The Vikings have enough versatility along the line, however, that it shouldn’t be considered a real high priority.  John Sullivan is going to be the starter but he has proven to be an injury risk.

11.  Guard

The Vikings have already put together a giant competition for both guard spots.  Brandon Fusco, Geoff Schwartz, Chris DeGeare, and Joe Berger will be duking it out and Charlie Johnson should get added into the mix if the Vikings successfully nab a new starting left tackle.  No more depth is really needed unless the Vikings feel they can grab a truly special talent at the position.

12.  Quarterback

I’m not saying the Vikings couldn’t use an upgrade at quarterback.  I’m not saying that either Christian Ponder or Joe Webb are the sure-fire answer at the position.  I am saying, however, that all of the spots available seem to be spoken for.  Sage Rosenfels returns as the veteran third stringer and McLeod Bethel Thompson is already on board as a likely camp arm.  Another youngster might be added, but there is no need for a huge investment unless the unthinkable happens and Andrew Luck falls to #3.

13.  Tight End

With Kyle Rudolph and John Carlson penciled in as starters and Allen Reisner, Daniel Hardy, and Mickey Shuler rounding out the depth it is hard to imagine the Vikings even considering anything less at the position than a true bulldozer of a blocker.  Those options will be limited.

14.  Running Back

Adrian Peterson will be on the mend in 2012 but Toby Gerhart will be there to pick up the slack.  Caleb King, Jordan Todman, and Lex Hilliard offer some nice competition for added depth.  If there is a need it would be for a true scat back capable of catching passes on third downs and possibly filling in as a slot receiver.

15.  Punter

No real need, Chris Kluwe is a fine punter. 

16.  Fullback

I think last time I counted we have 93 guys on our roster that can play fullback thanks to Rick Spielman’s recent “spending spree.”