Star Lotulelei: Will Top NFL Draft Prospect Fall to Minnesota Vikings?

Chris SchadContributor IIIFebruary 27, 2013

PASADENA, CA - OCTOBER 13:  Defensive tackle Star Lotulelei #92 of the Utah Utes battles offensive lineman Torian White #77 of the UCLA Bruins as he rushes quarterback Brett Hundley #17 at the Rose Bowl on October 13, 2012 in Pasadena, California. UCLA won 21-14.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Star Lotulelei is one of the most recognized names coming into the 2013 NFL draft. With a 6'3", 320-pound frame, the defensive tackle from Utah is known as a mauler inside that has the potential to shut down the opposing running attacks and create a matchup nightmare for the interior offensive line.

Many had Lotulelei as a top-five pick heading into last weekend's NFL combine until he failed a physical for having an unspecified heart condition.

Now he's currently feeling the effects of a free fall on draft boards while doctors run tests to see how serious this condition is. The situation has many teams wondering if Lotulelei can fall to them at their respective position in the first round.

The Minnesota Vikings will pick 23rd in the first round of the draft this year. If Lotulelei is at their doorstep when they go on the clock, this a risk they have to take.

The Vikings defense took a step forward in 2012. While they weren't the 2000 Baltimore Ravens, they were able to make a jump from 21st in total yardage in 2011 to 16th in 2012.

They were also able to add some young talent as Chris Cook had a solid season despite missing six games with a broken wrist, and Harrison Smith established himself as a promising free safety prospect with two interception returns for touchdowns.

Where there was plenty of improvement to be found, the one area that the team had trouble with was their defensive line.

It didn't help that perennial All-Pro candidate Jared Allen was dealing with a torn labrum in his right shoulder all season, but the interior defensive line didn't make life easy for him or Brian Robison either.

Former All-Pro Kevin Williams was able to register only two sacks all season, and his 20 tackles were a career low.

A lot of that has to do with the players next to him, as Letroy Guion, Fred Evans and Christian Ballard were not effective enough to let the normally disruptive Williams make plays.

In fact, Williams' best years were when he was paired with Pat Williams to form a duo nicknamed by Vikings fans as the "Williams Wall."

From the time Pat arrived in 2005, the Vikings were perennially a top-five defense against the run, and Kevin was able to take advantage of the single coverage, earning 27.5 sacks and four Pro Bowl appearances.

This is where Star can help the Vikings.

There have been other names tossed out as fillers of the "Fat Pat" role on the Vikings defense, such as Missouri's Sheldon Richardson or Ohio State's Johnathan Hankins, but none of them have the potential that Loutlelei can have on this defense.

Having an elite defensive tackle next to Williams can unleash the beast that dominated the NFC North during the late 2000s, despite turning 33 next August.

Of course, all of this assumes that Lotulelei's heart condition does not turn out to be serious, but teams may still take him off their board regardless of what the final diagnosis is.

Hopefully, the Vikings will not be making that mistake.