To shake things up a little this weekend I decided to solicit questions from the audience for the first time in a long time.  As the Draft approaches, there is always an increase in questions from those that for some reason find this hack blogger’s opinion to be relevant, and I wanted to give the opportunity to ask as many as possible before the pre-Draft craziness fully sets in.  Below are the results.

There have been some recent questions about our tradition of our Draft Weekend Live Chat and whether it will live on in 2013.

Our normal software avenue has decided to start charging for their services.  They are now charging by the number of readers that use the live chat services and VT has really started to take off recently, which is a great problem to have, and we expect thousands of people to visit our site on Draft Weekend.  This means it could be a pretty expensive proposition for this little blog to consider.

Still, Brett and I are currently evaluating alternatives, and we are sure to come up with something.

One of our loyal readers very generously offered to set up a chat room for us here at VT free-of-charge and we’ve been testing it out.  There are some pros and cons to it, and it won’t look as slick as what you’ve grown used to, but I think it will get the job done.  Stay tuned!

A number of people asked about us updating our mock drafts and releasing some sort of positional rankings prior to the Draft.

Yes, my mock will be updated at least once (probably more) prior to the draft taking place.  I’m hoping to find the time to add a second round fairly soon, as well.

I am also working on creating a VT-unique “Big Board” of about 300 players.  Last year Brett worked hard to make our Big Board update somewhat instantly as the Draft progressed, crossing off players as they were selected on Draft Weekend.  Preferably we’ll be able to get something like that together again.  That’s the goal.

Okay, now onto some more interesting questions.  SKOL12 wanted to know what type of defensive tackle the Vikings are in need of.  Do they need a big run stuffer, and athletic pass rusher, or someone a little more balanced?

I think it is clear that the Vikings don’t have a massive run stuffer and could benefit from grabbing one like John Jenkins or Jesse Williams.  Given the age, possible regression, and heavy cap hit of Kevin Williams I also can’t see the downside of drafting a very well balanced defensive tackle like Sylvester Williams.  With the Vikings defense struggling greatly against mobile quarterbacks last season, and about 10 of them on the schedule this season, getting more athletic in the middle of the defense needs to be a priority, as well, which is why a guy like Sheldon Richardson appeals to me so much.

Ideally, Letroy Guion and Christian Ballard can step up to the plate in 2013, and Kevin Williams regains some of his previous spark.  That might be a lot to bank on, however, and the Vikings need to add some competition via the Draft regardless of the type of lineman they are eyeballing.

Reader SB wants to know if trading up into the late teens to grab Sheldon Richardson would appeal to me if it only costs a fourth or fifth rounder to pull off.

Yes!  I consider Richardson to be a special talent and any team in that range will be interested in him.  It will likely cost a lot more than that to move up in the first round, but if this deal presented itself I would certainly move up and get my guy.

CALVKG asked what Christian Ponder is doing this offseason, wanting to know what he is doing to get better.

Besides reportedly having a proper wedding with his new wife, Samantha, Ponder has been working out in Arizona this offseason.  Not many reports have emerged of the specifics of his training, but we do know that his top priority in the early offseason was to recover from the painful arm injury that kept him out of the playoff game at Lambeau Field, and all indications are that he is healing well.

I was asked by MALTE to name a few players that might fall to the mid-20′s that should be drafted much higher.

Usually when a top-15 talent begins to freefall it is for a reason, but this can still be unpredictable.  For example, the NFL has amazingly kept secret the drug test results from the Scouting Combine thus far, so if a player being ignored on Draft weekend begins to puzzle fans, it could simply mean the teams know something we don’t.

I think Manti Te’o and Alec Ogletree are both players that warrant being picked ahead of the Vikings but might fall due to character concerns.  Guys like Keenan Allen might fall further than expected due to injury concerns.  Defensive linemen in this crowded class may fall due to the simple facts of supply-and-demand.  So, yes, I think it is likely that there are multiple top-15 talents that could be available when the Vikings are on the clock and they could be in line for some real values.

LEGENDARY FAN wants to know if I think the WR and DT positions are deep enough to find good talents in the second round.

Without a doubt.  Wide out and defensive tackle are very deep this year and I think some future Pro Bowlers will be added to team int he mid-rounds of this class.  A wide out like Quinton Patton or a defensive tackle like Kawann Short could really make the Vikings draft a success through the first two rounds.

Here’s a fun one from FRAGILE FREDS:  ”Jared Allen’s mother had three children. The first was April. The second was May. What was the name of her third child?”

I’ll leave it up to the readers to decide what Jared’s mother possibly could have named her child.  Hint:  He came out of the womb with a mullet.

C.CARTERHOF wants to know how many Pro Bowls I think Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o will make.

A lot of that will depend on how the Pro Bowl rosters are decided moving forward.  The current voting process is essentially a glorified popularity contest, and Te’o is certainly not the most popular guy in the world right now, so a change like the suggested draft option to make up Pro Bowl rosters may change the entire meaning behind that honor.

Anyways, to the meat of the question, I think if Te’o lands in the right situation he could be one of the best middle linebackers in football.  I think teams like Minnesota, New England, and Chicago could end up being really good landing spots for him.  I feel like he might be destined for failure if he somehow ends up on a team like Miami, the Jets, or Oakland.

ADAMG88 is from Europe and wants to know what next year’s rookie quarterback class might look like and when we should target a backup plan in case Ponder officially flops.

Thanks for leaving the comment, sir, I hope to see you around more and more!  It is always great to get new “regulars” in the comments section, and we have a few Europeans in the bunch already, which is always fun to talk about.

I think teams always need to be on the lookout for new quarterbacks.  Even though franchise quarterbacks are selected almost exclusively in the first round, it can be argued that the backup quarterback position is the second most important job on the roster.  I am never, ever, ever opposed to the Vikings selecting a quarterback they want to get to know better whether it be in the first round or the seventh round.  I thought they selected Christian Ponder too early (#12), but it is also hard to get mad at them for finally taking the whole draft-a-franchise-quarterback thing seriously after years and years of retreads.

This year, and next, both look questionable at the quarterback position, but the Vikings would be wise to constantly be keeping an eye on the prospects coming out.  One guy this year that I really think could be a steal this year is Tyler Wilson out of Arkansas.  I would love to see the Vikings bring him in if he falls to them at a reasonable point in the Draft.

Cornerback Johnthan Banks is a guy CARL K wants my opinion on in terms of how he might fit with the Vikings.

I absolutely think Banks is a first round talent if his knee injury checks out, which seemed to slow him up in the second half of his senior season, and even at the Combine.  Banks can play corner or safety, in man or zone, and could be a punt return option.  I would have no problem at all with Banks being a first round target for the Vikings if head trainer Eric Sugarman signs off on that knee.  In fact, that could end up being a major steal.

ZP wants to know my opinion on cornerback David Amerson out of N.C. State.

Hi, ZP, good to see you hanging out here!

I wish the Vikings had about 15 second round picks, and Amerson is one of about 15 reasons I wish that.  He has good size, underrated speed, and incredible ball hawking skills in zone coverage.  He tried to do too much in 2012, after having a lights-out season in 2011, but NFL coaching could make all the difference for a guy that clearly has all the skills and character to be a true difference maker in the NFL.  I plan on profiling Amerson very soon, and the reason for that is that I think he is an absolute perfect match for the Vikings defense.

Taking a step away from the Draft for a second, SB wants to know my thoughts about the Vikings possbily pursuing middle linebacker Rolando McClain who was recently cut by the Raiders.

It really bothers me that the Vikings left such a gaping hole on the roster entering April.  They are almost forced to, as Leslie Frazier admitted publicly  find their new starting linebacker in the Draft or roll the dice on the untested Audie Cole.  Could signing McClain help them in terms of flexibility during the Draft?  Sure, I really liked him a lot coming out of college, but his off the field stuff is very much on the serious side, and I just don’t see the Vikings inviting more of that into their locker room.  If Vontaze Burfict wasn’t worth a seventh rounder last year, then I really don’t think McClain is worth a paycheck to them.

CSLINDE wants to know my thoughts on Geno Smith falling to the Vikings at #23 and whether or not it would be breaking some unspoken rule to draft a first round quarterback with Ponder on the roster.

First of all, unless the teams of the NFL do a sudden about face and decide they actually don’t like quarterbacks with franchise potential, then Smith isn’t making it anywhere close to #23.  Or Matt Barkley for that matter.  If the Vikings think that a quarterback in this Draft has franchise capabilities then I absolutely think they should select him at #23 if available.  I know that they would prefer to avoid a quarterback controversy after that issue plagued the Brad Childress era entirely, but at some point Ponder will need to elevate himself above competition if he wants to avoid competition.

SB wants to know if I would consider safety Kenny Vaccaro to the Vikings as a possibility.

Yes, you betchya.  The Vikings have Harrison Smith on one side, and will continue to have decent competition between Mistral Raymond and Jamarca Sanford on the other, but Vaccaro represents a clear enough upgrade in the middle of our defense that I wouldn’t flinch.  I doubt he’ll be there, but if he is then I wouldn’t hesitate.

MALTE is curious as to what I see as our biggest need on defense.

Linebacker, without a doubt.  Middle linebacker, to be specific.  A case could be made for defensive tackle or cornerback, but the starting middle linebacker spot has just been ignored for too long, and really needs some major attention.  It makes me nervous that the Vikings have left such a clear need unaddressed this far into April.  A lot will ride on the shoulders of whichever linebacker they select.

LEGENDARY FAN is wondering if Notre Dame tight end Tyler Eifert might be an option to pair with Kyle Rudolph.

I think they could be a very good duo, but as much as it pains me to say this, I think the Vikings have some needs to address before they can even consider taking yet another tight end.  I wish they had more flexibility to make a luxury pick like Eifert would represent, but they don’t.