Saturday, January 31, 2015

Monthly Archives: April 2013

The NFL Draft has the same allure as a record Powerball jackpot.

Men (and some women) from around the globe converge onto the internet for about 11 and a half months to try an predict, analyze, and grade the next year of fresh prospects.  We follow their every move, chart their plays, scour police blotters, and argue about their potential all the way up until their names are called… and then some more.

I’m not going to say that analysts, bloggers, or fans know nothing about these prospects.  They know quite a bit, actually, and it really is impressive how much more the common man knows about Tyrann Mathieu’s pee than he knows about… oh, we’ll go with Darfur here in order to maintain my long and proud tradition of being completely cliche.

While we know quite a bit about these prospects, and know even more about the rosters that make up our favorite teams, the truth is that the ultimate reality show that is the NFL Draft process gets it’s appeal from the fact that it is almost completely, utterly, 100 percent unpredictable.  Outside of some obvious top three picks, the only thing that is predictable about the NFL Draft is that it will be unpredictable (see, cliche after cliche, I can’t help myself).

Now, I have been predicting all offseason long that the Vikings would aim to select Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o in the first round of this week’s Draft, and wavered on that prediction only momentarily between Percy Harvin’s departure from Minnesota and Greg Jennings’ arrival.

That is why I was shocked to see someone much older, much more experienced, and someone that is supposed to be much wiser than me make a bold and perhaps foolish statement.

[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!]

Alabama defensive tackle Jesse Williams has become one of the more divisive prospects in this class that doesn’t have any known drug test fails, arrests, or fake girlfriends.  Many draftniks consider Williams to be a top 20 talent while others view him as an average talent, such as NFL Network draft guru Mike Mayock who ranks Williams at #97 on his big board.

I’m more in the middle of these two sets of opinions, with Williams currently #64 on our VT Big Board, and Williams certainly possesses some traits that should be desirable to the Vikings front office.

Williams is a mammoth of a man at 6′ 3″ and 323 pounds and displays incredible strength, posting 30 bench press reps at the Combine and also reportedly capable of benching 600 pounds.  He uses his brute strength on the field to manhandle opposing blockers, play two gaps at a time, and fairly consistently pushes the pocket in a disruptive manner.  With some NFL coaching helping to clean up his fundamentals, he may end up having one of the most feared bull rushes in the NFL.  He has the versatility to play multiple positions in just about any defensive scheme and has experience to prove it.

Despite his versatility, my main concern with Williams is that he seems very one dimensional and will be strictly a two-down player.  He lacks the speed, range, and pass rushing arsenal to be much more than that.  He wasn’t even an every-down player in college, and seemed to get very quiet for Alabama as games wore on, which suggests that conditioning could be a significant issue especially since motivation and hustle do not seem to be the problem.

Pat Williams is someone the Vikings have yet to adequately replace, and a lot of that has to do with just how unique of a player Pat was, and I don’t see Williams being of a similar ilk.  He could eat up space and double teams on running downs, and his strength could cause him to make the occasional splash play, but he would certainly be part of a rotation as more of a role player.  That role, however, is one that is very important to the Vikings defense and one he will surely succeed at playing.

The Australian-born Williams started out by playing for a junior college in Arizona before deciding to jump to Alabama in 2011.  He then started all 13 games as a five-technique defensive end and notched 24 total tackles, four of which were for a loss.

Last season he moved to the full-time starting position at nose tackle where he started all but one game, having to sit one out because of concussion symptoms, which of course is a concern in this modern-day era of the NFL.  He was more productive in this role, however, and managed 37 tackles, 2.5 for a loss, two half sacks, a blocked kick, and numerous reps as the lead blocker in Alabama’s goalline plays.

I see Williams as a run stuffing rotational player that is both physically limited and in possession of untapped potential at the same time.  He still has room to improve on the things he is proficient at, as his football experience isn’t as extensive as American-born prospects, and the Vikings could certainly stand to benefit from him falling to them in the second or third rounds.

 

 

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The 2013 NFL Draft is drawing nearer and we here at VT are giddy as can be, like kids before Christmas.

One of the things we’ve done in recent years is create a “Big Board” that stacks up all the NFL Draft prospects in a unique way, and will allow you to follow along throughout Draft Weekend to see who we have remaining as our top rated prospects as the weekend progresses.

The Big Board is not necessarily strictly our rankings.  We use boards of all our favorite draft analysts, some mainstream and some not, and then factor in our own Vikings-specific rankings, to create a unique board that averages the opinions of everyone we include.  You can view the entire board here, where we have ranked 229 players, and can access it at any time from the menu section at the top of our main page.  Brett even put together a nifty little option for those that might be interested in printing it off to follow along during the event.

Since the Vikings have two of the top 25 picks in this Draft, here is how we stack the top 25 players of this year’s class:

1.  Luke Joeckel, OT

2.  Star Lotulelei, DT

3.  Sheldon Richardson, DT

On Thursday we learned that the Vikings will open the 2013 regular season against the Detroit Lions.

Coincidentally, or perhaps not, the Vikings have also played host to two free agents that spent last seasons in Detroit.  We already made mention of defensive end Lawrence Jackson’s visit, but now we have also learned that cornerback Jacob Lacey made a visit, too.

Lacey, who turns 26 next month, was an undrafted free agent signed by the Colts in 2009. He played three seasons with Colts, starting 27 of those games, and five interceptions, two return touchdowns, 21 defended passes, three forced fumbles, one recovery, and 158 total tackles.

He then moved onto Detroit for one season where he had nine starts, 29 tackles, four defended passes, and an interception.

Lacey hasn’t been overly durable throughout his NFL career, but he could represent some experienced talent at a position in need of depth.  If I had to guess, I would say the Vikings have a more genuine interest in Lacey than they do Jackson.

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NFL Network is in the process of their unveiling of the 2013 schedule.  Via Access Vikings, the Minnesota Vikings 2013 schedule is as follows:

Week Day Date Opponent Time (CT) TV & Radio
1 Sunday Sept. 8 at Detroit Noon FOX | KFAN
2 Sunday Sept. 15 at Chicago Noon FOX | KFAN
3 Sunday Sept. 22 vs. Cleveland Noon CBS | KFAN
4 Sunday Sept. 29 vs. Pittsburgh* Noon CBS | KFAN
5 BYE
6 Sunday Oct. 13 vs. Carolina Noon FOX | KFAN
7 Monday Oct. 21 at New York Giants 7:40 PM ESPN | KFAN
8 Sunday Oct. 27 vs. Green Bay 7:30 PM NBC | KFAN
9 Sunday Nov. 3 at Dallas Noon FOX | KFAN
10 Thursday Nov. 7 vs. Washington 7:25 PM NFLN | KFAN
11 Sunday Nov. 17 at Seattle 3:25 PM FOX | KFAN
12 Sunday Nov. 24 at Green Bay Noon FOX | KFAN
13 Sunday Dec. 1 vs. Chicago Noon FOX | KFAN
14 Sunday Dec. 8 at Baltimore Noon FOX | KFAN
15 Sunday Dec. 15 vs. Philadelphia Noon FOX | KFAN
16 Sunday Dec. 22 at Cincinnati Noon FOX | KFAN
17 Sunday Dec. 29 vs. Detroit Noon FOX | KFAN

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