Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Monthly Archives: April 2013

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The Vikings are preparing to make two first round selections next week, but they are also taking a look at adding a guy that once was selected 28th overall by the Seattle Seahawks.

Free agent defensive end Lawrence Jackson was reportedly scheduled to meet with the Vikings today.  Jackson was a standout at USC before being selected by Seattle in 2008.  He played with the Lions over the last three seasons and has never quite lived up to his draft position.  Over the course of his career Jackson after starting 24 games during his two seasons in Seattle and none with the Lions.

He has only generated 98 tackles, 19.5 sacks, four forced fumbles, and two recoveries in his five seasons.  Still, at age 28, he could certainly provide the Vikings with some interesting depth at their most talented position heading into training camp.  Defensive ends Jared Allen, Brian Robison, and Everson Griffen are all due to be free agents following this season.

Signing a guy like Jackson would all but eliminate the need to draft a pass rusher next week.

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A few things I wanted to update our readers on while I was thinking about it:

GIVEAWAY:  Don’t forget to take advantage of our “thank you” giveaway.  There are nine days left to enter, and you can enter every day, for your chance to win some Amazon.com gift cards compliments of… well… us.  Don’t forget to get your daily entries in by visiting our Giveaway Page.

BIG BOARD:  Yes, we plan on releasing a Vikings-specific Big Board once again this year, and Brett is lined up to work hard throughout Draft weekend updating it in real time by crossing off players as they are selected.  Our Big Board is very close to being finalized, and I would guess we’ll be ready to post it sometime this weekend.

For those that don’t remember, our VT Big Board is made up in a somewhat complicated manner.  We essentially spend tons of time doing data entry in a spreadsheet, using other prominent big boards from the leading experts, and put them side-by-side with our own big boards.  We then use a weighted formula to create a big board that is 100% unique.  It includes input from all of the experts as well as the Vikings-specific rankings we put together.

We’re excited to share that with you and it is coming soon.

LIVE CHAT:  Yes!  We plan to have a place to chat live with other Vikings all set up for you during Draft Weekend.

For a number of reasons, we were looking for an alternative to our normal format, and one VT reader stepped up to the plate to help out.  The reader many of you know as “Harvest” has generously volunteered to set up a chat room which will be hosted here at VT.  It will look very different, has it’s pros and cons, but should provide a great experience for all of us on Draft Weekend.  Even more generous of “Harvest,” he has volunteered to provide us with tech support throughout the entire event which will allow Brett and I to focus on normal content for the site.  I am excited about this and can’t wait to see you all there!

[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!]

Last year, the Vikings traded up to near the end of the first round and took safety Harrison Smith, and that move improved the secondary in such a way that I wish we could clone him.  We can’t clone him, but there is one player in this Draft I think plays a very similar game and would make one of the most feared safety duos in the NFL should he be drafted to start next to Smith.

The prospect I am talking about is Florida’s Matt Elam who measures a little short at 5′ 10″ but plays the game of football in a way that will put fear into the hearts of ball carriers or route runners.

At 208 pounds, Elam has an intimidating frame and hits as hard, if not harder, than any defensive player in this class.  He may even be more feared for his “big hits” than Smith is.  Like Smith, he may occasionally whiff on a tackle by being too aggressive or draw too many penalties but, lets face it, it is worth it.

In high school, Elam played multiple positions on both sides of the football, and made safety his full time role after playing mostly on special teams during his freshman season at Florida.  While he saw some time on defense too, Elam’s 22 tackles as a freshman came mostly from excelling in kickoff coverage.

In 2011, Elam became a full time starter as a strong safety, and did so in every game of the season.  He made an immediate impact by putting up 78 tackles, led the team with 11 tackles for a loss, two interceptions, seven defended passes, and two forced fumbles.  2012 was even better as he once again was durable enough to play every game, notched 76 total tackles, 11 tackles for a loss, two sacks, a forced fumble, and four interceptions.

Elam had a solid Combine week where he posted a 4.54 second forty time, 17 bench press reps, a 35.5″ vertical, and 118″ broad jump.  Elam chose to stand on those results and didn’t participate in timed drills at the Florida pro day, but he did receive high praise from those in attendance during the drills he took part in.

Where Elam fits into a defense is the best is where he is allowed to play in the box, close to the line of scrimmage, and make a play on the ball.  He shows incredible instincts and football smarts, seemingly always playing a step faster than anyone else on the field, and uses his strength and tenacity to impose his will on opponents.  He is just simply violent.

His big hits and run stopping ability will gain him the most praise, but he also has very good range and is no slouch in the passing game.  He might tend to be overly aggressive at times, gambling to make the big play, but otherwise is solid in covering ground sideline-to-sideline and matching up against most pass catchers.  You may not want him to man up against Brandon Marshall or Calvin Johnson, but he is going to be plenty capable of covering most slot receivers and even being effective against bigger tight ends.  His smarts certainly aren’t limited to diagnosing run plays, and often makes the reads quick enough to be in the right position to defend a pass.  One my favorite things about his coverage ability is that even when he gets turned around and out of position, he has the athleticism to catch up and the smarts to watch the receiver’s eyes, understand when the football is coming and where, and get his arm up to disrupt the pass.

Elam isn’t a perfect prospect, but he is well rounded and (as you will see in the video below) certainly has that “wow factor” you want to see in a first round prospect… his big hits.  The Vikings retained Jamarca Sanford and still have Mistral Raymond so the situation at safety isn’t as dire as it once was, but I firmly believe that Elam would be a big enough upgrade at the starting spot across from Smith that he would be a great selection for the Vikings at the end of the first round.  He would be of great value as a special teams gunner, as well, and I’ve been saying all offseason that the positions in the middle of our defense has to be a high priority after what we saw last season.

In my opinion, Elam is no doubt a top 25 prospect, and the Vikings currently hold #23 and #25.  He is a guy worthy of either spot.

One of the additions made to the NFL Draft for the pleasure of us viewers at home has been the addition of former players announcing the second round selection for each team.

This year, the Vikings will be represented by former safety Joey Browner, according to reports.  Browner, of course, is well known as one of the best defensive backs to ever wear a Vikings uniform, which he did for nine seasons. Browner earned three All-Pro nods during that time, as well as six Pro Bowl honors.

It will be great to see him again in a couple of weeks.

[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!]

Leslie Frazier didn’t exactly give current offensive line backups a ringing endorsement when he said “we need a swing tackle, we don’t have that.”  He went on to say the Vikings “need more competition at the guard position” and these comments struck me as out of character for a guy that normally seems very careful about saying anything that might shed a negative light on his current roster.

On the other hand, he certainly isn’t lying.

The Vikings could use an increase of talent at the guard position, someone capable of pushing both starters, and they don’t really have a proven swing tackle on the roster.  The need is there, and it may not be a first round need, but Frazier probably isn’t sending up any smokescreens in this specific instance.

One option outside of the first round could be Syracuse left tackle Justin Pugh, standing at 6′ 4″ and 307 pounds, who was a rock solid pass protector in college but probably fits best as a utility lineman in the NFL due to his lack of size.  At Syracuse he was a redshirt freshman, started every game in the next two seasons, and then had to sit the first four games of the 2012 season due to an offseason surgery on his shoulder.  He played in each of the remaining nine games as a starter.

Pugh is a divisive prospect in the draftnik community.  Some say that his lack of size and short arms, combined with suspect strength which leads to struggles against bull rushes, will prevent him from ever having a very high ceiling.  Others say that his mobility, footwork, balance and quickness will allow him to be an immediate upgrade at guard for some NFL team.

Me?  I tend to think he is a classic “mixed bag” case and will be a bit of both.  He clearly has some physical limitations, but there is also a lot to like about his agile style of play for teams running a zone blocking scheme.  He is not only an athletic offensive lineman, but a technician that continues to develop his craft, with plenty of starting experience (37 games) to build off of.

Lastly, Pugh is known as a very high character guy with an incredible work ethic.  He has long supported worthy causes, such as the Special Olympics, and will surely make his future franchise proud with his off-field commitment to doing good.

His limited skill set may cause some teams to slide Pugh down their draft board, and he may fall as far as the third round, but that could play right into the hands of teams like the Vikings that could utilize Pugh’s attributes on Sundays.  He would be well worth a second round selection for the Vikings, and would be considered an absolute steal in the third.  He is someone to keep an eye on during day two.

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