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Image courtesy of Vikings.com

The Minnesota Vikings were again at the center of trade speculation as pick number 45 approached Friday evening.

However, unable to strike a deal, the Vikings instead filled one of their most pressing needs with a player largely considered to be a first round talent.

UCLA linebacker Eric Kendricks is the newest member of the Mike Zimmer’s defense, joining cornerback Trae Waynes as part of a continuing effort to dominate the defensive side of the football. Kendricks projects as an instant starter within the Vikings defense presuming his knee is healthy.

Kendricks was at the center of a recent report that at least one NFL team has him off their board becuase of a lingering knee issue. However, whatever team that is, they don’t employ trainer Eric Sugarman.

He is largely considered the best coverage linebacker in this draft class and that certainly isn’t something Vikings fans are used to seeing out of their linebackers of late. Former Vikings linebacker E.J. Henderson, known for his issues covering speedy tight ends himself, was on hand to announce the pick.

Kendricks could be Chad Greenway’s eventual replacement in terms of leadership capabilities, and his aggressive nature should provide a nice sense of stability to the middle of this Vikings defense. At 6′ 0″ and 232 pounds, Kendricks plays a balanced style of football that equates to few mishaps in either the run game or in pass defense.