Currently we are in the middle of the long wait till training camp, July 25th, and as a result nothing of substance has really occurred, which is a good thing. No Vikings’ player has been involved in legal trouble and none of them are holding out, so it is a good offseason; minus the LBs seemingly dropping like flies during OTAs giving guys like former CFL S/LB Brian Peters extra reps to get acclimated. Hopefully when it comes time the starting LBs stay healthy, so the defense can run at a high level.
On Friday the Vikings rookies got their first taste of what playing for Coach Zim is going to be like. Some of these guys were impressive like Waynes, who shocked Zim by how quickly he has picked up new techniques. Zim has also said it likely will be starting out at MLB, but may eventually move to WLB (likely when Greenway moves on). Another interesting note from the first day of rookie practice is Clemmings will get a shot at LG.
Rounds 4-7 will be today and the Vikings have a nice amount of draft capital remaining. Hopefully with this excess of picks that they have the can find more gems like Fusco and Wright, instead of waste of picks like Kendall James and Everett Dawkins. The next seven and a half hours will be action packed even though many fans will not pay attention.
Yesterday was pretty eventful for many draft prospects, but today those that were overlooked, undervalued, or just fell because of bad decisions have a chance to find new homes. They will not be as highly talked about as the 32 players taken in round one, but the guys taken over the next 2 rounds are the foundation of Super Bowl teams. Will the Vikings help out Bridgewater by selecting a WR or OLinemen early? Will they continue to build up the defense? Can Speils find a way to move around over the next two round and get more then the current 2 building blocks we are expected to take?
The answer to these questions and more will come now.
With the draft only hours away, I thought it would be fun to go back and look at Speilman’s previous draft picks, since he received full rule over the draft day decisions, and grade how each one has panned out for the team thus far.
The first part in the grading process was determining how each pick should be graded. You may or may not agree with my grading scale, (more than likely will not), and I welcome you to debate it in the comments below! Please note that this scale is for players after their first year in the league. I figured it makes sense to expect more out of players as they have been in the league longer, so players who have been here one year will have expectations shifted over to the left one column and players who have been here two years will have expectations shifted over to the left two columns – that is unless they have already made it to the leftmost column, in which case I don’t think it would be fair to set expectations any higher.
Next came grading each pick. These grades are based on their performance in the most recent year only. So players like Kalil and Patterson who have regressed from a pro-bowl standing will get no extra credit for previous performance, and players like Floyd will receive no demerits for having warmed up the bench for a year.
Based on these metrics, Speilman has graded above average in his 3 years, with a total GPA of 2.29, having done the best in the most recent year and the worst in his second year. His best success is in the early rounds, and he has been hit and miss on the picks later in the draft. The biggest misses, from a draft value standpoint seem to come from the day-2 (2nd and 3rd round) selections. Granted he has only made 3 picks in those rounds in the past three years, only one of them has graded out favorably, which is pretty disappointing for such an early pick. This gives him a strong argument to continue to use those picks to move back into the first round, if a good player has slipped down to the late 20s.
Will he go 4-years in a row with multiple first round picks? The biggest miss so far has been Patterson, with Kalil not far behind, but there’s still plenty of hope that both players will turn their career around in a big way in 2015.
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers: QB Jameis Winston, FSU
Basically everyone thinks the Bucs will go with Winston and he should be the pick without question if not for his off the field issues.
- Tennessee Titans: DE Dante Fowler, Florida
Fowler is a beast at killing QBs and the Titans face Luck twice a year, so putting Andrew on his back consistently will go a long way in helping them possibly win their division. The Titans may actually trade this pick to the Chargers for Phillip Rivers and the 17th overall pick, allowing SD to snatch up Mariota.
- Jacksonville Jaguars: WR Kevin White, West Virginia
The Jags not long ago drafted a WR in the first round, but he was a dumbass who seemingly refused to learn to call someone to drive him home after a bender and therefore is no longer with them. To answer for this and to help their young QB the Jags should go after a no.1 WR early. White will open things up for Lee and their new TE Julius Thomas.
- Oakland Raiders: DL Leonard Williams, USC
Everyone keeps crying that the Raiders need a WR and while true there is plenty of talent available later on in the draft, but not as many guys as talented as Williams will be. Williams can be paired with Dan Williams and form the West coast Williams’ wall.
- Washington Redskins: DE/OLB Vic Beasley, Clemson
The Redskins lost Brain Orakpo to injury last year and the Titans this year, so a younger healthier replacement should be in the cards early. Beasley just like Folwer is an intercoursing beast when it comes to killing QBs.
- New York Jets: WR Amari Cooper, Alabama
Geno is an ok QB and likely will be nothing more than that, but the Jets may decide that adding a new weapon for him could be the deference in a playoff run. Even if Geno doesn’t work out the Jets next QB will have a pretty decent WR core with Decker, Cooper, Kerley, and Marshall along with TE Amaro.
- Chicago Bears: QB Marcus Mariota, Oregon
You read that right, the Bears should select Mariota. He has the potential to be in the league of the Tannehills and Daltons, which means a legit playoff contender for years to come. There is also the fact that Bears’ new HC John Fox really dislikes Cutler.
- Atlanta Falcons: DE/OLB Alvin Dupree, Kentucky
The Falcons could go in many directions, but adding a speed rusher may be the smart choice. While not as well rounded as Folwer or Beasley (run support), Dupree can get to a QB like no one’s business and when you face Brees and Newton multiple times a season you need someone who can do that.
- New York Giants: OT Ereck Flowers, Miami
The Giants are usually huge proponents in the BPA strategy, but this year they may take a chance a potential in the hopes of landing a LT. By selecting Flowers the Giants can switch around their OLine allowing Pugh to go to his natural position of OG.
- St. Louis Rams: OL Brandon Scherff, Iowa
The Rams bounced LT Jake Long and so last year’s 1st round pick will switch from LG to LT, but that leaves a hole at LG, which can easily be filled by Scherff.
- Minnesota Vikings: WR DeVante Parker, Louisville
This pick may not seem like a priority, but when you have a young QB you must make him comfortable whether that is through improving the OLine or weapons around him. Parker and Teddy are best buds and Parker is ultra-talented, so it just makes sense.
- Cleveland Browns: NT Danny Shelton, Washington
Seeing as the Brownies can’t find a QB and for many years have seen what can happen when your defense has a solid anchor in the middle, it would be foolish to pass on the guy many have compared to Haloti Ngata. Shelton can eat blocks and push the pocket into opposing QBs’ laps.
- New Orleans Saints: DT Malcom Brown, Texas
It sounds very likely that Cameron Jordan may be moving on next season, so the Saints may be in the market for his replacement early on in the draft. Brown would be more of a NT, but would give the Saints a ton of versatility along their DLine.
- Miami Dolphins: CB Trae Waynes, Michigan State
The Dolphins got a steal last year in FA when they sign Brent Grimes, but the CBs that they followed that signing up with are a little underwhelming. That is why they should draft Waynes a very talented CB who needs plenty of work on his technique.
- San Francisco 49ers: DL Arik Armstead, Oregon
The 9ers have lost a lot of talent on defense this off season, so why not add the most versatile DLinemen in the draft?
- Houston Texans: WR Phillip Dorsett, Miami
While this can be considered a reach the Texans need someone opposite of Hopkins after the release of Andre Johnson. Dorsett is called a speed demon, but unlike many others who have been called this he is well-rounded as he route running is smoother and he has a nice pair of hands.
- San Diego Chargers: OL La’el Collins, LSU
Collins can play most position along the OLine, but likely would be a better fit at LG. With his addition perhaps Rivers’ will feel his safety is assured resulting in him resigning with the Chargers. If the Titans end up with this pick they could take Collins as well.
- Kansas City Chiefs: CB Marcus Peters, Washington
The Chiefs may be willing to take a chance on Peters despite his “character issues” and as a result they will land the best CB in the draft.
- Cleveland Browns: OT D.J. Humphries, Florida
This is a pick based on potential as in Humphries has the potential to be a franchise LT if given proper time. While he works on getting stronger and improving his technique, he can operate as there RT, which is an area of need currently.
- Philadelphia Eagles: S Landon Collins, Alabama
The Eagles secondary got a boost during FA, but they are far from done. Collins will not be the final piece they need, but will be a step in the right direction.
- Cincinnati Bengals: WR Dorial Green-Beckham, Missouri
The man with all the talent in the world, but the lack of common sense of a first grader, DGB will give the Bengals an actual complement to AJ Green instead of the rabble they’ve been fielding.
- Pittsburgh Steelers: DE/OLB Randy Gregory, Nebraska
Just a few weeks ago Gregory was considered a lock as a Top 10 pick, but after failing a drug test at the combine and not meeting the ideal weight requirements that the “experts” like he will fall and the Steelers will reap the benefits, that is if he gets his head out of his ass.
- Detroit Lions: DT Eddie Goldman, FSU
Before FA this pick would have seemed illogical, but now after Suh and Fairly have fled DT is now the most obvious need. Goldman may not be as good as Suh, but he is more reliable than Fairly.
- Arizona Cardinals: HB Melvin Gordon, Wisconsin
The Cardz could use a HB to pair with Ellington who is coming off a hip injury. Gordon would be the bee to Ellington’s butterfly.
- Carolina Panthers: WR Breshad Perriman, Central Florida
The Panthers found an absolute jewel in Benjamin in last year’s draft, but they do not have anyone outside of him and TE Greg Olsen. That is why adding the speed demon Perriman makes so much sense; he will need to develop quite a bit, but his potential is equal to Benjamin’s.
- Baltimore Ravens: WR/TE Devin Funchess, Michigan
The Ravens need both a TE and a WR, so why not add the guy who is basically both? Funchess will likely work out better as a TE, but he is determined to be a WR (likely for monetary reasons).
- Dallas Cowboys: LB Eric Kendricks, UCLA
At some point in time the Cowboys are going to realize that Sean Lee will never stay healthy and if they do this year they can land a very talented albeit undersized LB in Kendricks.
- Denver Broncos: C Cameron Erving, FSU
The Broncos allowed C Rodney Hudson to walk and so they should look for his replacement early, that is if they want Manning to stay upright.
- Indianapolis Colts: CB Jalen Collins, LSU
The Colts have a good CB in Vontae Davis, but Greg Toler is more of a third CB. Even if Collins doesn’t work out at CB he is always an option for S, which the Colts need as well.
- Green Bay Packers: LB Stephone Anthony, Clemson
A rumor is circulating that the Packers love Anthony and it makes sense as it will allow Clay Matthews to go back to his natural rush LB position instead of playing MLB.
- New Orleans Saints: WR Jaelen Strong, Arizona State
The Saints sent away WR Kenny Stills and TE Jimmy Graham as a result of rumored conflicts with Brees. This has left them hurting for weapons, so they could add a very talented and large (6’3-6’4) WR in Strong who may slip a bit due to news of having a broken wrist.
- New England Patriots: CB Kevin Johnson, Wake Forest
With Revis taking his island back to New York well actually New Jersey and Browner moving on as well the Patriots are in the need of a CB. While most of the time needs are overlooked by the Pats, Johnson’s talent kinda makes that impossible.
At number 11 there will be many option available for the Vikings, but what one is the correct call? Should they add a weapon for Teddy like DeVante Parker? Maybe we should get him some additional protection like Brandon Scherff. What about helping out the defense by adding either Trae Waynes or Benardrick McKinney? Or should we say screw it and trade back to gain more ammo? No matter what even after everything blows over the answer will not be known till whoever they pick gets on the field, but here’s hoping it’s the right call.
With the Adrian Peterson situation looking as unsettled as ever, it’s going to be difficult to accurately determine where our team needs the most help. However, as draft day continues to inch closer, those of us who live for football can’t help but speculate on who the team will target throughout the draft. Those decisions will depend in no small part, on positions where the team is weak and wants to improve.
The old mantra of drafting the best player available should still be used in this draft to some degree. But if the BPA is for a position that team clearly already has an overloaded abundance of talent, they would be better served to try to fill other vacancies on the roster instead. So I’m going to break down the roster and attempt to determine what positions should get the highest priority in the draft, once the team decides to start using team need to determine what player they should draft.
Offensive Line: Having 4 out of 5 starters returning to this group is encouraging, even moreso when the ones who were injured appear to be healthier than ever, and the high draft pick who has been under-performing is receiving high praise from the head coach. But there’s still a large hole at left guard. The starter, who arguably was the group’s largest weakness over the past few years was cut, and the team has made no moves to replace him. 2014 draft pick David Yankey may be ready to take over. He was projected to be drafted much higher than the 5th round where the Vikings were able to nab him, but even with the litany of injuries to the starters, he never took the field. Still, right guard Brandon Fusco didn’t play in his rookie season, but has been a reliable starter since. Unless Yankey is cleared as a definitive starter though, Left Guard should be among the top priorities for the team once the draft rolls around.
Receivers: This group includes WRs and TEs whose primary responsibilities are in the passing game. That includes Kyle Rudolph, Chase Ford, Jarius Wright, Cordarrelle Patterson, Charles Johnson, Adam Theilen, and newly acquired veteran Mike Wallace. Wallace comes over from Miami with a Diva reputation, but also with some big play potential to back it up. The loss of Jennings may be minimized by the performance of Jarius Wright who has been underutilized by the team so far, compared to his abilities. The team is only slightly lacking in support for Wallace from a gunner on the other side of the field, but Offensive Coordinator Norv Turner has expressed a lot of support for Johnson, and the team still has high hopes that Patterson can still learn to fill that role. This appears to be a small need for the team, and they should only address it if a great player slips much farther in the draft than he should, regardless of how tempting it may be to reunite Teddy with his former College or High School targets.
Running Backs: To keep things a little shorter, this group also includes TEs who are utilized more in the blocking scheme, and may transition to FB from time to time. They include Adrian Peterson, Jerrick McKinnon, Matt Asiata, Joe Banyard, Zach Line and Rhett Ellison. This group is the big wild card. If Adrian Peterson plays for the team this year, and plays to his potential, then they are set to amaze us all in 2015. If, on the other hand, Adrian continues his tantrum into the season, they’re in need of some help. Unless things change in a hurry, the team may be better off trading Peterson for a high draft pick, and using that on one of the many promising rookies entering the draft this year. But that’s one big ‘if’ that can only be answered by Spielman at this point in time.
Quarterbacks: Teddy Bridgewater is joined by new free agent acquisition Shaun Hill, (who spent his first 4-years with the Vikings, but only played in one game), and all-around nobody Pat Devlin. The team would be wise to add one more depth player very late in the draft, but shouldn’t be worried at all about the position so long as they can keep Teddy healthy.
Defensive Tackles: The team has two good starters in Linval Joseph and Sharrif Floyd, who are supported by possibly the best backup DT in the league, Tom Johnson. Shamar Stephen also saw time, rotating in during his rookie year and got some good experience. This is another position in which the team shouldn’t pull the trigger unless a DT is far and away the BPA when one of their picks comes around in the draft.
Defensive Ends: Two more starters return to this group in Everson Griffen and Brian Robison. Although he’s under-performed a bit, Robison has still been a respectable starter ever since he stepped into the role, but his play has diminished recently with age. Add to that his relatively high annual salary, and it’s starting to look like a good time to start searching for his replacement. Scott Chrichton was drafted in the third round last year to potentially take on that role, but didn’t see the field at all in his rookie season, leaving his ability in question. With both starters returning, this still isn’t a huge need, but the team would be wise to start looking for someone in the early-mid rounds to develop and start pushing Robison out the door.
Linebackers: Anthony Barr, Chad Greenway, Audie Cole, Gerold Hodges and Michael Mauti all return to the team this year, along with rookie Brandon Watts who has yet to play in a game. Casey Matthews was added as a free agent, but hasn’t impressed many in his career so far in the NFL. The starting middle line backer was allowed to walk in free agency, leaving many people to speculate that the team should target his replacement early in the draft. However, with Greenway’s effectiveness on the outside starting to dwindle, I have been arguing that the team would be better suited to move him to the middle for the final couple years of his career while the team works on developing Cole and Hodges on the outside. This will help to minimize any losses if the team can’t find a starter in the draft, but will still allow them flexibility to draft one of the many higher quality OLBs in the early rounds of the draft once a better player slips through the cracks.
Cornerbacks: The team boasts one of the NFL’s best and most underrated corners in Xavier Rhodes, and they have just added a respected starter who seems to follow Zimmer around the NFL like a faithful puppy. While older, Terrance Newman provides the team with a man that the coaching staff trusts to man the outside and help the young players along for a year while the coaches develop his eventual replacement. This also allows Munnerlyn to settle into his natural position in the slot, and keeps the less-than-stellar Robinson on the sideline unless an emergency arises. This also gives youngsters Shaun Prater and Jabari price a little more leeway to develop their skills. While the position appears to be reliably covered for this season, the team should have no qualms in drafting a stud early on if they see a guy who has the potential to shine in Zimmer’s system.
Safeties: Harrison Smith was a pro-bowl snub, and will be preparing a big year to help him solidify a new deal before his rookie contract expires. Assisting him will be Robert Blanton, who probably unjustly has been the recipient of heavy criticism from fans. Backing them up are 2014 rookies Ahmad Dixon and Antone Exum Jr., along with Andrew Sendejo and FA acquisition Taylor Mays. This group is pretty deep with young potential, but it’s also a lot of unproven potential. The first two rounds of the draft would definitely be better suited to address different positions, but BPA can easily come into play for Safety after that.
Special Teams: Blair Walsh and Jeff Locke probably aren’t going anywhere any time soon, but long snapper Cullen Loeffler is starting to show his age. The team should definitely try to target an offensive lineman who can specialize in the long snapping duties in the later rounds of the draft so that they don’t have to keep the withering Loeffler around much longer. As a kick returner, Patterson had disappeared a lot in his second year, but hopes are that he will return to form soon. Punt returner Marcus Sherels still remains one of the better at the job in the NFL, so competition for him shouldn’t be much of a factor in the deciding process for the draft.
The first week of Free Agency is over and while a lot of other teams grabbed a ton of players, the Vikings seemingly missed out on their preferred targets. This does not mean the Vikings have not been motivated, but quite the opposite. While other teams have basically been acting like a virgin on his first trip a strip joint, the Vikings have taken their time so as not to blow their load. This has helped them be in contention for DE George Selvie; a DE who specializes in run defense, but with pass rush upside. As well as re-signing a few of their backups (Asiata and Johnson). They were also able to swing a trade for speedster WR Mike Wallace, who is a bit pricey, but is hopefully an upgrade over Jennings. There are still a few holes the Vikings could address, like WR (yes, even with Wallace WR is still a need), LG, CB, and LB, but there is always the draft. Which would help the Vikings prevent an over the cap situation when they re-sign the Hitman, Wright, and possibly Kalil (if he gets back to form).