Saturday, August 29, 2015

Monthly Archives: March 2013

[Note:  Want to see a list of every player featured in our “Draft Target” segment?  Click here to visit the Offseason Tracker where there will be a list of all these players.  Check back often as there are plenty more to come!]

Almost any evaluation of USC wide out Robert Woods is going to have a lot of positives, but a lot of those compliments of his game will come with a qualifier that reads “when healthy” which in and of itself is a red flag.

Woods followed up a prolific college career with a very decorated three years at USC.  He was Matt Barkley’s favorite target as a freshman and sophomore, and still managed to produce decent numbers despite his arthroscopic ankle surgery prior to his junior season.

The angle is the biggest question mark with Woods, as he clearly wasn’t as dominant last season as he previously was, but “when healthy” he looks like a top ten prospect.  At some point in the Draft, a team will decide that the risk of selecting an injury concern no longer outweighs the reward of getting a potential franchise receiver.

At 6′ 0″ and 201 pounds, Woods possesses decent size and an elite skill set that could make him a household name over the next decade.

He has the speed and agility to create separation, even against top notch competition, and then a large catch radius that makes life easy on teh quarterback.  His routes and timing are among the best in this class and he can be kind of a bully, when necessary, if it comes  fending off a cornerback for the football.

He works really hard to make plays in traffic coming across the middle of the field and especially in the end zone.  Very good awareness and timing allows him to come up with the football, and get his feet in bounds,  when it seems there is no room for error.  He can lay out, high point the football, or tap the toes to make jaw dropping catches at times.

After the catch, Woods has a no-nonsense style of play, and he gets himself turned upfield quickly to try and maximize his yardage.  Unfortunately, he sometimes gets turned up field too quickly and gets ahead of himself resulting in a dropped pass.  It isn’t the only reason Woods drops passes, and he does more of that than one would like to see, but it seems to be a pattern.

Woods is a well rounded receiver, who blocks quite well and has experience as a return man, and could really be an impressive specimen should he add some bulk and get some high quality NFL coaching.

If it weren’t for the ankle, I would say that Woods is a sure-fire first round pick, so the Vikings need to rely on Head Trainer Eric Sugarman and his evaluation to see where he lands on their draft board.  Should he somehow manage to still be available when they are making a choice in the second round, I can’t imagine he wouldn’t be a very serious consideration.

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6

Laundry.

It’s a cliche to say it, but the truth is that is what we root so hard for every Sunday, and all offseason long we scour the internet for any bit of information that might tell us who will be wearing it next season.

Ever since free agency was born unto the National Football League, the meaning of “family” has gone by the wayside and loyalty is certainly a thing of the past in almost every instance. There have been a lot of reminder of this over the last couple of weeks.

The Vikings traded one of their most successful first round selections, Percy Harvin, to the Seattle Seahawks for a number of reasons that seem to all be business related for both player and team.  Then, we learned that long time cornerback Antoine Winfield was abruptly kicked to the curb due to a high salary and an increasing age.

Now, the Vikings stole away yet another life long Green Bay Packer in wide out Greg Jennings, which is the football equivalent of William Wallace joining the British in battle.  This is yet another example of loyalties meaning far more to the spectators than it does to the players or organizations.

Now, I’m not blaming the players.  If Winfield’s situation taught us anything it’s that players owe it to themselves to take advantage of their premier skills in what sill be a truncated career before their organization deems them expendable.  I also don’t blame an organization for wanting to part ways with a player as it is their job to field the best possible team that gives them and their fans the best chance at a Super Bowl.

It has been so long since the Vikings have had a top flight receiver on the roster, a traditional number one receiver anyways, that Vikings fans didn’t seem to mind in the slightest that Greg Jennings is a lifelong Packer.

Still, he is putting in some effort to make sure he is a popular guy.

Jennings appeared on KFAN Radio this morning with Paul Allen and really opened up about a number of topics with equal portions of honesty and tact that made for a really impressive interview.

He immediately scored some points by attaching himself to the last Packer that gave Minnesota a legitimate shot at a Super Bowl, Brett Favre.

“Literally, as I got off the plane and (offensive coordinator Bill) Musgrave walked up to me, I’m on the phone with Brett,” Jennings said as transcribed by Viking Update. “I spoke with Brett two or three times throughout this process. He shot me straight. I knew if there was one person that would shoot straight and tell me exactly what I wanted to hear and things I possibly didn’t want to hear, it would be Brett. He did that for me.”

The organization has undergone a face lift since Favre was last on the roster, but many key components still exist, and most of you know I don’t care for the guy but it is still encouraging to hear that a veteran NFL player was willing to give his endorsement of the organization to another player and friend.  Those types of things can prove useful during times like free agency.

Unlike Percy Harvin, who actively seemed to avoid the topic of quarterback Christian Ponder, Jennings went out of his way to paint a bright future for his new quarterback with a positiveness that is sure to have the Vikings P.R. Department sharing a bottle of champagne tonight.

[Note:  Want to see a list of every player featured in our “Draft Target” segment?  Click here to visit the Offseason Tracker where there will be a list of all these players.  Check back often as there are plenty more to come!]

With the fee agency flurry leaving the Vikings roster somewhat shaken up there is one glaring need that sticks out above the rest at this moment.  Sure, cornerback and wide receiver need to be a point of emphasis.  Defensive tackle could still use some work.  There is one need, however, that seems quite a bit more desperate than the others.

Jasper Brinkley has signed with Arizona while Marvin Mitchell remains a free agent.  That means the position is virtually unfilled at this point and could potentially be a first round priority during the NFL Draft.

So far, Manti Te’o is the only other middle linebacker we have profiled in this series, but we will certainly be filling you in on plenty of other prospects at the position prior to Draft Weekend.  Today, I want to take a look at LSU middle linebacker Kevin Minter, who many Vikings fans have on their wish list for April.

Minter became a starter at LSU in 2011 after his predecessor, Kelvin Sheppard, was drafted in the third round.  His first season was pretty pedestrian, really, as he started 11 of 14 games to rack up 61 tackles.  Of those, 3.5 were for a loss, he had one sack, a forced fumble, and one fumble recovery for a touchdown.  In 2011, Minter was barely a guy one noticed on the star studded LSU defense that included Morris Claiborne and a handful of guys that could easily be drafted ahead of him this year.

In 2012, that all changed as Minter not only became noticeable within the LSU defense, he was named LSU’s Most Valuable Player and seemed like he was All-Everything following the season.  He was certainly more productive, having started all 13 games and notching 130 tackles, 15 for a loss, four sacks, a forced fumble, five defended passes, and an interception.  He still had considerable talent around him, but he seemed to be elevating their play this season, not the other way around.

Minter measured into the NFL’s Scouting Combine at 6′ 0″ and 246 pounds.  He didn’t exactly tear it up with his 4.81 second forty yard dash or his 25 bench press reps, but he looked to be the same guy you saw on tape, for better and for worse.

He looks to be a very intelligent football player who sniffs out screens, shows great diagnostic abilities, and solid gap discipline.  Combine that with a knack for getting around, or through, blockers and you have a Mike backer that just always seems to be in the right place at the right time on running plays.

Minter is a very good run defender and would instantly make things tough on opposing running backs looking to stay between the tackles.  He is an excellent tackler, perhaps the best in this Draft class, and is going to add a lot of consistency in the middle to the team that drafts him.  The ability to crush a ball carrier, however, might be his best attribute when it comes to defending the pass.

I don’t mean to say that Minter is a completely inept pass defender (he isn’t), but my game plan as a coach certainly wouldn’t revolve around matching him up against a guy like Vernon Davis or Rob Gronkowski.  In fact, my game plan would try to make sure that happened as little as possible.

He’s a big man that plays big, but he is also of moderate speed and it shows in coverage.  He is a plodder that can look awkward trying to shadow a running back or provide zone coverage of a slot receiver   He is, in a lot of ways, a lot like what we saw out of Jasper Brinkley during the 2012 season as far as coverage goes.  He is going to struggle sticking with just about any various type of route runner, but will occasionally be able to deliver a jarring hit after the catch.

Minter is already a grade “A” run stopper, and could continue to develop his pass defending via some good coaching, and is a capable blitzer.  He possesses the physical skills to be a middle linebacker in the 4-3 scheme and makes enough big plays to make him very intriguing.

I do think that he is best suited for the 4-3 and that scouts will recognize this.  This might limit the number of teams that place him higher up on their draft boards.  The NFL Advisory committee reportedly gave him a third round grade when he was deciding whether or not to stay at LSU for another year.  Many draftniks have him grading out as a late first round talent, however.

I worry greatly that the Vikings will burn one of their first round picks on a two down linebacker, and I worry that Minter will be a two down linebacker throughout his NFL career.  Thus, I can’t say that I would be real supportive of them taking him at 23 or 25.  However, he has a skill set that is attractive enough, and if they can trade back a bit, or if he is somehow still on the board in the second round when they are on the clock, then I think he could represent a solid addition to the middle of the Vikings defense.

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13

A lot of good looking blockbusters are poised to release this summer, but I just tripped across this trailer (thanks to some great Twitter followers) and I thought I’d pass it along for all of you to enjoy.

 

Hell, I’m already looking forward to the sequel!

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