Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Monthly Archives: February 2013

The Vikings want an “all-encompassing” wide receiver added to the roster this year, if possible, but whether or not they can find that guy (whoever that might be) they should still be looking at others for overall improvement to the passing game’s arsenal.

One of the guys they are reportedly going to check out, according to Leonard Washington as passed along by SportingSota, is free agent wide out Steve Breaston.

After showing to be a capable receiver when starting across from Larry Fitzgerald in Arizona, Breaston jumped ship to Kansas City where poor quarterback play and other factors essentially caused him to fall off the face of the earth.  According to the reports, the Vikings will meet with Breaston this week along with the Dallas Cowboys, Cleveland Browns, and Detroit Lions.  He has already met with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

It is a bit surprising to see the 29 year old generating this much interest.  He is five seasons removed from his career best totals of 77 catches, 1,006 yards, and three touchdowns.  Last season in Kansas City he was completely cut out of the Chiefs offense (if you want to call it that) and only managed seven catches for 74 yards.

On the surface, Breaston doesn’t really fit the mold of what the Vikings should be looking for, as he isn’t exactly a beacon of youth and doesn’t necessarily “do it all.”  At 6′ 0″ and 189 pounds he isn’t going to command a ton of red zone respect, and his speed doesn’t represent the dangerous type coveted to open things up for Adrian Peterson.

If the price is right, however, signing Breaston could make some sense when you think about Rick Spielman’s stated goals.  First, because Breaston is not a natural free agent (the Chiefs cut him) he would not count against the Vikings if they are hoping to get 2014 compensatory picks.  Only natural unrestricted free agents count against that formula, and Spielman has stated he wants to have 10 draft picks going into any Draft.

Second, the presence of a veteran receiver at this point in the offseason could relieve some pressure that is currently on Spielman to make some big moves at the position.  Breaston’s presence isn’t going to solve the Percy Harvin situation, and it won’t give the Vikings any added leverage in free agency, and it won’t squelch the need to draft some young wide outs… but, it will provide some decent insurance in case one of the above doesn’t go quite as planned.

I don’t know that Breaston is the type of guy that would ignite a fanbase, or cause a spike in season ticket sales, but it is nice to know that the Vikings haven’t totally turned out the lights on free agency before it has even started.

 

Are you a wide receiver that has declared for the 2013 NFL Draft?  You are?  Well, then you can fully expect that between now and Draft Day you will be the subject of my “Draft Target” series at some point because, well, the Vikings need help at the position.

Quinton Patton, you are up next!

Patton hails from Louisiana Tech where he played for his junior and senior seasons after playing his first two seasons for the football powerhouse that is Coffeyville Community College.  Patton stands at 6′ 0″ and 200 pounds and combined for 2,594 yards and 24 touchdowns in his final two seasons.

The Vikings reportedly met with Patton during this week’s Combine, which isn’t anything surprising, but they are sure to be interested in a wide out with his skill set to try and boost their offensive production.  A guy like Patton is of particular interest because he is not expected to require a first round investment to obtain.

Patton doesn’t have elite size and he didn’t burn up the forty yard dash in Indy (4.53), but he has very soft hands and is perhaps the most refined route runner in this class.  In fact, Patton didn’t finish among the best at any Combine event other than the 20 yard shuffle, which somewhat aligns with his pedigree.

Where Patton might lack elite he speed he makes up for it with excellent fundamentals.  He gets of the line very quick which prevents an opposing corner from jamming him with success, he displays very good acceleration and body control throughout his route, and has enough wiggle after the catch to make great things happen.  Perhaps my favorite trait he possesses is his ability and willingness to go across the middle on a route with a toughness and attitude that reminds me of a young Brandon Marshall.

He also has a reputation as a player that never takes a play off, is very instinctive and intelligent on the field, and is a rare college prospect that is a proven down field blocker.  One of the best cornerbacks in this Draft class, Johnthan Banks from Mississippi State, says that Patton is the best and most complete wide out he played against in college.

“I feel like (Patton) from Louisiana Tech is the best receiver I’ve played against since I’ve been here,” said Banks. “I’ve gone against some good ones in the SEC, too, but he’s probably the most complete.”

Complete.  Now there is a word that is sure to appeal to Rick Spielman after his Head Coach’s recent comments about what he is looking for in a wide out.

“You’re always looking for speed at the wide receiver position,” said Frazier in Indianapolis. “We need an all-encompassing guy — can run by some people, make a difficult catch, run with the ball after he catches it.”

Patton just might be the “all-encompassing guy” that Frazier is after to take his passing game to the next level, and Spielman may not have to use up his first rounder to get him.

Oh, plus the guy can return kicks pretty darn good, too.

[NOTE:  Click the links to see our free agency rankings for quarterbacksrunning backs,fullbacks,tight endscentersguardsoffensive tackleswide receiverssafetiescornerbacks, and linebackers.  We’re almost done!]

The Vikings appear to be at somewhat of a crossroads when it comes to the defensive tackle position.  On the surface, they appear set to simply continue with the guys they have, but it could also be much more complicated than that.

Kevin Williams is set to make $7 million for each of his two remaining seasons under his current contract, but that salary no longer aligns with his declining production and he is likely going to be approached about taking a pay cut, which can sometimes end up in a player’s outright departure.

Prior to the 2012 season, Letroy Guion received a three year contract worth $9 million which suggested the Vikings had faith in his ability to be an effective starter next to Williams, but he did little to instill full confidence during the first year of his new contract.  Fred Evans did a nice job in spelling either starter and should be retained through the last year of his contract.

Still, from tackle to safety, it is common for observers to assume the Vikings would like to strengthen the middle of their defense.  Defensive tackle is a position that cannot afford to take a step backwards and the Vikings front office should be very interested in any opportunity to improve.  Free agency might offer some help:

Top Tier

Chicago’s Henry Melton is only 26 years old and played like an absolute monster in the final year of his rookie contract.  He was by far the Bears best defensive lineman in 2012 and they will not part with him easily.  This guy kind of reminds me of a young Kevin Williams with his ability to be disruptive in the passing game, but he isn’t going to be anyone’s savior against the run.  There are some worries out there that Melton’s stardom coming about during a contract year wasn’t a coincidence, but there are going to be teams willing to assume that he is every bit as good as he showed last season.

We have already discussed the possibility of the Vikings upgrading the guard position via the NFL Draft or free agency, and noted that Chance Warmack is one of the better prospects at the position to come out in quite some time.

Not far behind Warmack, however, is North Carolina guard Jonathan Cooper whose versatility gives him a fighting chance to actually be selected ahead of Warmack.  After all, some teams seem to place a very high value on versatility and Cooper’s ability to play three (or maybe even four) positions on the offensive line will only increase his probability of getting drafted early on day one.

Cooper recently put on some needed weight and checked into the NFL’s Scouting Combine at 6’ 2” and 311 pounds, which are both good measurements for him to have on file, as there were questions about his ability to play effectively in the NFL at his listed sub-300 weight.

North Carolina has benefitted from a great offensive line, led by Cooper, and a solid run game highlighted by Giovani Bernard.  Cooper has been a mainstay starter for the Tarheels his entire career, proving to be fairly durable with only three missed games on record.

From a scheme standpoint, the Vikings would be an excellent fit for the very athletic and agile Cooper, who is likely to excel as a pulling guard at the next level that is plenty capable of holding his own against the pass rush attack.  He would be that guy, much like Matt Kalil, that you see putting second-level blocks on linebackers on Adrian Peterson’s highlight reel of the week.

That athleticism was on display this weekend as Cooper had an excellent all-around Combine performance that should have solidified his status as a first round pick, possibly off the board before the Vikings make their first selection.

Don’t be surprised if the Vikings end up playing against Cooper twice a year, as this guy certainly must be on Chicago’s radar.

I have long carried a banner that says “Accuracy By Volume” when it comes to my hopes for successful Vikings drafts.

When Rick Spielman was available to the press in Indianapolis he was asked a lot of questions that he essentially left unanswered.  He offered up nothing new regarding Percy Harvin’s status with the team.  He indicated very little when it comes to possibly restructuring the contracts of veteran players such as Jared Allen and Kevin Williams.  He didn’t say much at all that couldn’t have been predicted, almost verbatim, by anyone that even casually follows the NFL.

One thing he did say, however, perhaps offers a clue to solving the puzzle that is offseason speculation.

“I like picks,” Spielman said when asked about the possibility of trading down on Draft Day.  “My goal is to always have 10, if I can have 10 picks.”

I found these two sentences to be more intriguing than all the others that he spoke combined.  Why?  Because that leaves Spielman one pick short of his goal, that’s why.

I consider this to be a sort of bat signal, an invitation to other teams, indicating the Minnesota Vikings are open for business.  It sounds to me like Spielman has every intention of adding one more pick this season, and it won’t come as a compensatory selection, and would likely prefer to get a jump start on stockpiling 2014 picks, as well.

There are a number of ways Spielman can attain his desired quantity of picks.  Trading down from the #23 spot would go a long ways towards meeting that goal, but so would trading players… good players… really good wide receivers that can also return kicks and line up as a running back, perhaps.

As the Pioneer Press managed to point out when they weren’t stalking Percy Harvin at his Florida home, the Vikings have selected 10 players in each of the last two drafts, and 18 of those 20 are still on the roster today.  Nine of them played as starters, or saw significant playing time, in 2012 and are expected to contribute even more next season.

This Draft class, as acknowledged by Spielman and plenty of others, is considered to be a very deep one with a record number of underclassmen available for the taking.  It may not be as top heavy as in years passed, but there are impact players expected to come off the board in all rounds, particularly in the offensive and defensive line groups.

Prior to the 2011 Draft, I indicated that Spielman has plenty of mistakes on record that resulted from ill-advised trades, but he has somewhat vindicated himself while enjoying more power and freedom during the Leslie Frazier era.

Spielman’s comments in Indianapolis should be considered fair warning, though, that he is aiming for three years straight of successful movement on Draft Weekend.

Which, of course, will make things a hell of a lot of fun.

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