INDIANAPOLIS -- Hello from Indiana, where we're setting up camp in advance of the NFL scouting combine. We're back at it with our Countdown to Combine series, looking at four positions where the Minnesota Vikings need help heading into the 2014 draft. It all leads up to our coverage of the combine, which begins on Thursday.
Position of need: Defensive back
The Vikings allowed more points than any team in the league last season, and a secondary that suffered in the wake of Antoine Winfield's departure was a big part of the problem. Josh Robinson struggled to fill the slot corner position Winfield had played so well -- to the point where the Vikings nearly brought Winfield out of retirement before their Sept. 29 game in London -- and cornerback Chris Cook continued to struggle in man coverage, exposing the team's passing game during a season when their safeties were beset with injuries.
Three players the Vikings might be targeting:
Justin Gilbert, Oklahoma State: The cornerback would give the Vikings another big cover corner to pair with Xavier Rhodes. He's at the top of Mel Kiper Jr.'s cornerback rankings, and could be the kind of player the Vikings can get if they wind up trading back a few spots from the No. 8 overall pick. New coach Mike Zimmer will likely use more man coverage than the Vikings have employed in the past, and being able to put Gilbert with Rhodes would be an impressive foundation for the Vikings' secondary.
Darqueze Dennard, Michigan State: He isn't far behind Gilbert in many rankings, and would bring a similar skill set; Dennard can also be a press corner, and like Gilbert, he would give the Vikings a corner with a knack for making big plays. That element, in particular, would be a welcome addition to the Vikings' secondary; Cook has started the second-most games in NFL history without recording an interception.
Jason Verrett, TCU: The 5-foot-10 corner would provide a different kind of option from Gilbert and Dennard; he would likely be able to step in and play slot cornerback, if the Vikings' new defensive staff didn't feel Robinson had grown enough to handle the job. In any case, it might behoove the Vikings to have another option for the position.