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Allen trade, the 'big nickel' and other final draft observations

Some final thoughts on the 2008 draft before we dive into minicamps and OTAs:

Vikings had a crystal ball

The Vikings traded for 26-year-old defensive end Jared Allen before the draft. In my discussions with the Vikings before and after the draft it became clear to me they knew they had to be proactive in the pursuit of Allen -- otherwise they would have had to execute the kind of plan the Jaguars implemented in order to select Derrick Harvey. Minnesota got a proven pass rusher who is in the prime of his career and should be able to complete the next five years of his contract with little problem. Allen will line up next to Kevin Williams or Pat Williams which should only increase his production over the next five seasons. He averaged 11 sacks a season for the past four years and over the next five he could hit 60 sacks (12 per season). But it was the compensation package to get him along with the actions of the Jags that makes it look like Minnesota had a crystal ball.

If you look at the value chart to study the deal -- and I know both teams did -- then it compares favorably with what Jacksonville gave up to draft Harvey. Minnesota surrendered pick No. 17 (1,070 points), No. 73 (225 points), No. 82 (180 points) and swapped a later pick which actually gave the Vikings back 5 points. The grand total in value points for Allen was 1,470 -- and he's already signed, sealed and delivered. As it turns out, 1,470 points is the value of the No. 8 pick in the first round, the spot Jacksonville had to get to in order to draft Harvey.

Jacksonville knew Harvey was rising up the draft boards fast, just as Minnesota believed before the draft. Jacksonville went from no. 26 in the first round to no. 8 and the point total from the value chart equaled 1,247. Harvey has a chance to be a fine pro, but for 223 more points -- equivalent to the 10th pick in the third round -- the Vikings got Allen and still kept their second round pick which they used on fast-rising safety Tyrell Johnson.

'Big Nickel' is getting bigger

Speaking of Tyrell Johnson, there is a growing desire in the NFL for defenses to play more "Big Nickel" defense. You often hear about teams substituting a corner for a linebacker when their opponent sends in an extra wide receiver. Nickel defense is still a very critical part of any NFL defense, but -- with the large influx of athletic tight ends that present a vertical threat in the passing game but also handle a 5-foot-9, 190-pound nickel corner in the running game -- teams are looking to develop a three-safety package.

It's not a new concept; in fact, Bill Belichick had great success using this principle in his early days as the Patriots head coach. Vikings GM Rick Spielman and I had a good conversation about Johnson and the desire to sometimes get a bigger player on the field when the offensive personnel grouping dictates it's the right thing to do. Johnson has corner skills but at close to 6-foot and 207 pounds, he can handle a tight end in coverage and be a force player if the opponent decides to run the ball. It's interesting to think about a defensive package that would put Darren Sharper, Madieu Williams and Johnson on the field at the same time with two corners.

When you look at the league by divisions, it quickly jumps out that "Big Nickel" is the way to go in the NFC East. Jason Witten with the addition of Martellus Bennett (Dallas), L.J. Smith (Philadelphia), Jeremy Shockey (Giants) and Chris Cooley with the addition of Fred Davis (Washington) all present reasons to have a three-safety package ready to go.

My favorite bargains

Every round, including the first, had a player or two that really jumped out at me as a bargain for where the team drafted him. Here's a short list of players that seemed like great deals for where they were selected.

Round 1: RB Rashard Mendenhall to the Steelers at No. 23. He could have gone any number of spots higher, and Mike Tomlin told me his draft room erupted when he fell to them. Not a lot of wear and tear with a great pair of hands.

Round 2: QB Brian Brohm to the Packers at No. 56. A quarterback with 71 TD passes and 12,775 yards in the second round!

Round 3: LB Dan Connor to the Panthers at No. 74. He was outstanding at the Senior Bowl practices and brings 419 tackles, 34 tackles for a loss and 14 sacks. He may be an opening-day starter.

Round 4: DT Dre Moore to the Buccaneers at No. 115. As Monte Kiffin said after the pick, "I can't believe we got a power tackle like Moore this late in the draft." Here's a guy at 6-foot-4, 305 who ran a 4.84 forty. He had 28 plays behind the line of scrimmage in 26 starts.

Round 5: QB John David Booty to the Vikings at No. 137. Booty is a smart player who is much more accurate than people think. If and when he's asked to go out on the field and lead the offense he will be ready. I thought he might have gone in the third round.

Round 6: QB Andre Woodson to the Giants at No. 198. As Giants GM Jerry Reese said to me after the pick, "His value was just too high to pass up at that point in the draft." He has issues with his throwing motion but he also threw 40 touchdowns and just 11 interceptions in 2007.

Round 7: S Caleb Campbell to the Lions at No. 218. Don't think for a second that taking a young man from West Point is a throwaway pick. As Rod Marinelli told me, "This kid can play and he's big enough to maybe work at linebacker." Look for Campbell to be a star on special teams and play a role in some big nickel package.

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