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Minnesota Vikings deal No. 3 pick one hour before NFL Draft

Scott Levin's picture

It has long been known the NFL Draft actually starts with the Minnesota Vikings at No. 3. With an hour to go before the first pick, that thought has changed.

Adam Schefter of ESPN is reporting that the Vikings have traded the No. 3 pick to the Cleveland Browns. In return, Minnesota will receive the Browns No. 4 selection and unknown additional compensation.

UPDATE: In addition to the No. 4 pick, the Vikings will acquire a 4th, 5th and 7th round pick from Cleveland.

The decision to move up one spot by Cleveland was clearly to ensure that nobody else leapfrogs them to steal running back Trent Richardson from Alabama. Richardson is believed to be the preferred choice of Cleveland, who hopes the star halfback prospect will provide a spark for their lackluster offense.

For Minnesota, the move made plenty of sense. Dropping one spot does not change the team's draft strategy. The Vikings were unlikely to pursue Richardson, meaning they will select from the same group of prospects and pick up some additional picks later in the draft.

Minnesota is expected to choose between offensive lineman Matt Kalil from USC, cornerback Morris Claiborne from LSU or wide receiver Justin Blackmon from Oklahoma State at No. 4.

In the draft pick value guide used by most teams to determine the value of each selection, the third overall pick holds a point value of 2200. The fourth pick is worth 1800 points. The 400-point difference is equal to the 50th overall selection in round two. It remains to be seen if Minnesota asked for more compensation to allow Cleveland to get their targeted player.

If the Browns take Richardson as is expected, the back will immediately become the primary ball carrier for Cleveland. The team planned to rely on Peyton Hillis last season, but the bruising back battled injuries and expressed disappointment over not receiving a contract extension. Hillis left the team and signed with the Kansas City Chiefs this offseason.

For Minnesota, offense could be hard to come by with star running back Adrian Peterson recovering from a major knee injury. This could prompt the team to add Blackmon and give young quarterback Christian Ponder a primary target. However, Kalil would fill a need in bulking up Minnesota's offensive line, and Claiborne is considered to be the best defensive prospect in the draft by most scouts.

The NFL Draft's first round begins at 8 p.m. ET. The second and third rounds will take place Friday, while the remaining choices will be made Saturday.

RELATED: NFL Mock Draft - Forecasting the First Round

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

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