Thursday, February 26, 2015

Monthly Archives: February 2013

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As we churn through this exciting offseason there is so much information and opinions flying about that it is almost too difficult to keep it all straight.  It certainly is too difficult to go back and try to find something you read two months ago.

Thus, we have put together a one-stop shop for all of your offseason news, opinions, rankings, and rumors.

We call it the Offseason Tracker and you can visit it by clicking here or the button at the top of the screen.  We’ll keep it up there for the whole offseason, and it’ll be growing bigger on a daily basis.

Check it out and let us know if there is anything we should add to it to make it more useful.

[NOTE:  Click the links to see our free agency rankings for quarterbacks, running backs, fullbacks,tight ends, centers, guards, offensive tackles, wide receivers, safeties, and cornerbacks.  We’ll continue our way through all of the positions this week.]

Outside of Chad Greenway on the strong side, the Vikings have reached somewhat of a crossroads at the linebacker position.  Jasper Brinkley and Erin Henderson were not the world’s best starters at their respective positions in 2012, and each are scheduled to be free agents next month along with backup Marvin Mitchell.

I wouldn’t be shocked if the Vikings re-signed one or both of their starters at some point this offseason, but there are also plenty of opportunities to think about outside of the current roster.  The Draft has some interesting prospects, but free agency also contains some plausible options:

Top Tier

Perhaps the best linebacker set to be a free agent is one coming from our rivals in Green Bay.  Brad Jones filled in very well for the injured Desmond Bishop last season, and it is clear that he should remain a starter somewhere.  He could be a solid fit for the Vikings in the middle, and stealing from a divisional foe is always and added bonus.

It can be hard to spot decent individual talent on the Riaders, but weakside linebacker Phillip Wheeler earned himself a decent contract by sticking out during Oakland’s miserable season.

The Ravens already know that Ray Lewis is a goner, so that makes it even more crucial to re-sign Dannell Ellerbe, who was one of the NFL’s better linebackers this season.

With the starting duo staying healthy this season Larry Grant of the Niners did not get to see extensive action like he did in 2011.  Still, if Grant can go elsewhere and play like he did two seasons ago as a starter, then he will soon be name hear a lot about.

It has been awhile since the Minnesota Vikings have gone into a season with the talent and depth at cornerback that they currently have.  Still, they could use some help at the position, and there are a ton of potential free agents to choose from if they want to dip into that pool.

Antoine Winfield is a possible cap casualty, although it seems unlikely, and A.J. Jefferson is a restricted free agent.  Thus, there are no pressing vacancies at the position at this point, but an NFL team can never have too many good cornerbacks and should never stop looking for upgrades.

Top Tier

Despite the lengthy list of free agent cornerbacks, I am not sure that any belong in this category, but I feel most strongly that Leodis McKelvin out of Buffalo has the highest ceiling.  Plus, he is the most likely to actually hit the open market since Buffalo has so many pending free agents.  He has been pretty solid as a spot starter and provides excellent skills on special teams, and I think he could compete for a starting job across from Chris Cook while also helping out the special teams unit.

Keenan Lewis was very solid for Pittsburgh as a starter in 2012 and could start for most NFL teams, including the Vikings.  Meanwhile, Miami’s Sean Smith underachieved for most of last season, but there is little doubt he still possesses the ability to play at a very high level in this league.

There seems to be a perception out there that the Vikings would be best served by addressing their biggest need, wide receiver, later on in the 2013 NFL Draft.  The reasoning seems to be that the value will be better at the position in rounds two and three.

I’m not certain that I agree that there aren’t a number of receivers deserving of being selected at #23 by the Vikings, but one has to wonder what direction the Vikings could go if there isn’t a receiver available that they deem worthy of the selection.

Linebacker, safety, defensive tackle, and cornerback could all make sense without a doubt.  However, I also think that an instant-starter guard could do a lot to bolster an already formidable offensive line.  Charlie Johnson and Brandon Fusco aren’t scaring any defensive coordinators and could be considered a weakness.

So, with all of that being said, who could possibly be considered when the Vikings are on the clock.  I think we have to start with the guy that seems to be the consensus top guard in this year’s class, Chris Warmack.

Coming out of Alabama, Warmack weighs in at about 6’ 3” and 320 pounds, and appears to be a surefire first rounder that may not even be available to the Vikings at #23.  In fact, as of this posting, my mock draft has Warmack being selected by the Rams at #16.  Brett’s mock draft has him as a top ten pick going to the Jets.

Most mock drafts, in fact, have Warmack being selected before the Vikings get to pick and that alone should be a good indicator that he would be heavily considered should he somehow fall to them.

Going up against some of the toughest competition in the nation, Warmack has been a dominant force that capped a decorated college career by helping to power his offense over Notre Dame for a national championship.

Warmack plays with an impressive amount of strength and explosiveness, and plays in which he run blocks immediately jump off the screen because of how well he clears a path for his running backs.  Like current left tackle Matt Kalil, however, Warmack also displays very sound fundamentals and technique in pass protection.  He plays a very well rounded game and possesses all the attributes that should be attractive to every NFL team.

It is often stated on the comments page of this site that the Vikings should always look for the biggest, meanest, nastiest offensive lineman they can find.  Warmack is exactly that, but also has the athleticism to succeed in a zone blocking scheme, and it would be incredible to watch him play between Kalil and current center John Sullivan.

There really are very few things about Warmack that a scout is going to point out as a negative, and when they do find something it will probably be pretty minor.  He is a tad shorter than the prototypical NFL guard and will need to continue building on his strength at the next level.  He has been the occasional victim of powerful bull rushes (See:  SEC Championship against Georgia’s John Jenkins), but almost every NFL guard has those same issues from time to time.

In the end, if those little faults are enough to cause Warmack to fall to #23, then that might be a very good thing for the Vikings because they would be getting a heck of a football player out of the deal.

The following video is a little different than the normal highlight reel because it features commentary, but it is smart stuff and worth a watch.

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