Saturday, April 25, 2015
Blog

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Here at Vikings Territory, we know better than most that it’s possible to find writing opportunities in all sorts of ways. Meet Tom Speicher. He got his start in 2003 when he entered a contest to be a Star Tribune web columnist for a year … and won.

Speicher was awarded the column for a season, after which he looked for new venues to write for and came across Vikings Update, which had been transformed into a monthly magazine.

“Eventually they hired me to write the ‘Where Are They Now?’ features on former [Vikings players],” Speicher explained. “It’s been a lot of fun! I have also had the opportunity to do assignments for the magazine at NFL Films and the Pro Football Hall of Fame.”

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NFL Mock Draft 2015 Brent
Photo courtesy of Vikings.com


What does Big Draft know?

It knows a lot of things about a lot of people that don’t find their way into scouting reports or media coverage until after the draft, and it’s always a surprise. Jesse Williams fall out of the first round into the fifth round, or Antonio Richardson’s fall from the second round into UDFA were not well modeled by larger media coverage of the draft, but Teddy Bridgewater’s fall out of the top ten was, as was Shayne Skov’s fight for a contract after the draft.

For the most part, missing these pieces of information make it difficult to predict the draft, and big boards from third parties without a strong access journalism background can miss on these players. But that doesn’t mean the evaluations are wrong, or even that they’re worse at evaluating.

Right now, for example, people (including me) are freaking out because Vic Beasley isn’t in Mel Kiper and Todd McShay’s most recent first-round mock draft. Freaking out not necessarily because they are doing anything ill-advised or dumb, but because this is the kind of thing driven by their access to teams. It is, for example, a more extreme inverse version of Breshad Perriman’s constant appearance in the first round of Kiper’s mock drafts.

There are two general approaches to draft coverage: 1) Who is going to pick who and 2) Who is good. Last year, we separated the draft boards into two categories: Forecasters (who do a job more closely resembling question #1) and Evaluators (who are closer to answering question #2 than question #1).

Generally speaking, the forecasters have been or are currently employed by media organizations that thrive on access, and that gives them access as well. Beyond that, people like Nolan Nawrocki (formerly of Pro Football Weekly and NFL.com) publish draft guides that are driven in big ways by the access they have.

Sometimes that access influences the actual talent evaluation, but often it will influence the final grade by speaking to the gravity of character concerns, injury concerns or some other errata.

Last year, unusual clusters of similar rankings at odd points in the charts confirmed (to me) the clear separation between those two groups of draft boards. This year, there are far fewer clusters in that data (it’s a more polarizing draft), but they do show up.

The media haven’t finalized their rankings, however, and we’re missing a lot of big names, like Daniel Jeremiah, Mike Mayock and Mel Kiper, who all have fewer than 100 players ranked. Expect those boards to solidify in the coming week and create starker divisions between the forecasters and evaluators.

Their boards, plus the biggest disagreements and most polarizing players below. If you want to jump straight to the 300-player version of the final consensus board, click here.

If you want to look at what the forecasters are saying right away, click here. For the evaluators, click here.

For alternate boards, click here.

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Brent: Luke Kuechly, MLB, Carolina Panthers
There is something to be said about adding a top WR to the roster in hopes of helping Teddy Bridgewater and I would have a hard time arguing against that logic. However, adding Kuechly would be tremendous for this defense. Simply the best at his position, Kuechly is excellent against the pass and the run and would serve as a the leader of the defense. Filling a big hole on the Vikings defense, his consistency would allow Zimmer to be super creative and flexible with his other defensive studs and would give the Vikings two of the top young linebackers in the league.

Austin: Luke Kuechly, MLB, Carolina Panthers
The Minnesota Vikings have one gaping hole on the defensive side of the ball – middle linebacker. With Patrick Willis retired and Navarro Bowman returning from a gruesome knee injury, Kuechly begins 2015 as the league’s best middle linebacker. Since entering the NFL in 2012, Kuechly has racked up 473 tackles and is a constant presence around the football. He possesses a rare combination of speed and aggressiveness, and consistently uses his football IQ to diagnose plays in the backfield. He’d step in immediately and contribute on Mike Zimmer’s unit.

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Photo courtesy of vikings.com

It’s probably not news to you that the 2015 NFL schedules were released. Looking to the Vikings schedule, I can’t get over the fact that we’ll have to wait until 9:20pm central time on Monday night in order for our season to kick off. Is the off season not long enough as it is?

Looking beyond week 1, the Vikings have arguably the toughest schedule in the entire NFL. Let’s make some wild assumptions about how well the team will fare in the new year. Of course this is purely for fun, we’re one week from the draft and these teams won’t take final shape for months from now.

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