It’s time for another mock draft, if only because I feel like it. Because mock drafts provide more fodder as a “what if” than a genuine prediction, I’m not really taking them seriously unless I’m actually composing a round-by-round wishlist, which I’ll do on occasion anyway.

At the same time, mock drafts are no fun without rules. Naturally, I can’t just project that the Vikings draft Bridgewater in Round 1, Clowney in Round 2, Mack and Watkins in Round 3 and so on—I’ll hold myself to availability models that I find around the internet—generally speaking that means Drafttek and Bleacher Report because there are not many other seven-round mock drafts that provide a good clue of who will be available.

For kicks, I’ve added another rule: in this mock, the Vikings are only allowed to draft players that fit the mold of a Nick Saban Alabama player. That means big, smart, pro-ready players that aren’t necessarily fast and can’t backpedal. They might also be susceptible to knee and back injuries, but have good character.

This doesn’t mean they can only draft players from Alabama (though I won’t prevent myself from doing that either), just players who fit that mold at certain positions. Just like last time, this isn’t really the strategy I think the Vikings should pursue, just one way to think of a mock draft.

One last note: all highlight videos should be considered NSFW unless you mute. Except, of course, the Draft Breakdown videos.

 

 

Pick 8: C.J. Mosley, ILB Alabama

It may be cheating to start off with an actual Alabama pick, but the ideal scenario is to trade down. Just like my last gimmick draft, there’s a small reach here, especially as Mosley has injury concerns that make him a big risk. Otherwise, there aren’t many players that fit both the profile of a Minnesota need and an Alabama-type player.

For the second time in a decade, Minnesota drafts a player named C.J. Mosley (this time in the first round) and it will turn out to be a great pick if his knees hold up. Mosley is an extremely intelligent and instinctive linebacker who complements his nose for the ball with length and athleticism.

He’s fluid in coverage, can play in a complex pattern-matching scheme and keeps up with tight ends and running backs with ease, in part due to his excellent route recognition skills. He also does a great job recognizing the development of the run, takes on blockers well and can get to the ballcarrier with ease, sometimes through heavy traffic.

Mosley isn’t necessarily the strongest player nor is he a fundamentally sound tackler, but he gets the job done and can make an impact right away. He’s clearly the best ILB in the draft, and can play OLB just as well.

 

Pick 40: Bashaud Breeland, CB Clemson

Long, tough and smart, Breeland perfectly fits the mold of an Alabama CB, especially because he’s really good at the things he’s asked to do a lot and fairly bad at the things he hasn’t done much of.

He’s good with his feet and hips, and plays with both agility and smart technique. He has an excellent click-and-close, using his burst to cut underneath routes or hit the receiver in the air. This comes from a combination of acceleration and recognition, and that same set of skills allows him to be a ballhawk as well.

He’s also an asset in the run game, with good instincts, discipline and physicality. That physicality is there in nearly every aspect of his game, actually, and sometimes causes trouble with the officials.

His top-end speed isn’t very good and he can get burned deep. He’s also limited in bail technique and a lot of other skills that rely on a good backpedal despite his fluidity. A lot of his play at Clemson came in off-man, and he’ll need more experience elsewhere in order to shore up technique issues. He’s another player who could work on tackling technique, but makes up for it by getting to the ballcarrier early and with force.

 

Pick 72: Brandon Thomas, OG Clemson

Say what you will, but Spielman loves drafting players from the same school. This time, it’s Brandon Thomas—who actually plays a lot like Alabama tackle Cyrus Kouandjio, but with less quickness. Thomas is a tackle who often uses his physical gifts to make up for his technical problems—and may have been the only tackle last year to take on Jadeveon Clowney well without help. His long arms (34 3/4″) allow him to play with less lateral agility and choppy kick-slide. In the NFL, it may be better to put him at guard to hide those problems.

Thomas is an incredibly strong player with big hands, decent hand placement and great punch. His mobility in space is better than you’d guess from his combine scores, though it’s not elite by any means. He performs combination blocks well and can get to the second level and find his assignment with ease, playing with excellent awareness in the run game, though he needs a little more in the passing game.

An excellent run blocker and a pass blocker whose results exceed his technique, Thomas won’t likely last this far. But with two different mocks making him available, he was too good to pass up. Most of his weaknesses will be hidden at the guard position and his strengths will be on full display.

 

Pick 96: Brandon Coleman, WR Rutgers

In some ways, picking a Rutgers player is by default picking an Alabama player given how close the coaches at the programs are and their similar philosophies. Here, Coleman can provide the Vikings with a long-term option to replace Jerome Simpson. He’s an enormous receiver who plays faster than he looks because of his sheer size, and is underrated as a route runner.

While he doesn’t have Simpson’s speed, he’ll find ways to get open even playing deep. His suddenness allows him to play the full route tree and he even has some of the more subtle moves down. If need be, he can play a possession role and allow the other receivers to shine while creating space or be the fulcrum of an offense.

With a natural ability to box out other players and a matchup headache, Coleman will always be ready to find a job in the NFL, especially as a willing and effective blocker.

The issues that drop Coleman to the bottom of the third are fair because they create serious evaluation problems: with four different offensive coordinators and some of the worst quarterbacks in college football throwing to him, it’s tough to tell whether or not Coleman genuinely has poor chemistry and timing or if he has been hampered by his environment. Moreover, his drop rate is higher than most players in the draft, but he has also had to deal with some of the worst ball positioning a receiver can ask for.

Given that he doesn’t fight for the ball at the catch point quite like he should, there’s a question about his real use value as a red zone threat, but he was at the very least effective there as a college player and that should be a transferrable skill.

 

Pick 108: Aaron Murray, QB Georgia

A game manager with a knee problem seems quintessential Tuscaloosa. Murray’s efficiency and game smarts should make him an appealing pick for the Vikings, and he fits the mold of a rhythm passer.

In an ideal situation, Murray looks like a top quarterback, with clean mechanics, excellent accuracy, and solid anticipation. Murray can throw on the move, and has room to improve his arm strength, which is adequate as it stands right now.

He can’t throw the “deep out” or challenge the tight windows as they close, but certainly he can function in an NFL offense without too much trouble with the throws.

Like A.J. McCarron and Greg McElroy, the issues with his arm strength won’t go away. The same can be said with his issues under pressure. He reacts too early to pressure he sees and his mechanics deteriorate over the course of a game as a result. If he can maintain his rhythm, however, he’s an excellent passer that can work in a complex offense against complicated defenses.

 

Pick 148: Arthur Lynch, TE Georgia

Another school pair that fits the model, Lynch is a jack-of-all-trades receiver who has sufficient talent and tools to be a pass-catcher, but excels at nothing in particular. As a blocker, however, Lynch is one of the best tight ends in the class.

He has quick feet and good technique as a pass blocker and can hold his own when attacked with a variety of moves. He usually makes contact first and has excellent leverage as well. As a run blocker, he’s even better because he can move with agility and power, finding his assignment and demolishing it. He opens up wide lanes and finishes defenders, whether they’re defensive ends, linebackers or defensive backs. Good awareness as a blocker and solid hand placement, it’s difficult to beat Lynch for blocking.

As a receiver, he really needs to have more speed and explosiveness. His routes are run fairly slow, but he has good hands and on occasion will get separation. He has a good intuition against coverage, but for the most part will be taken out of plays by quicker linebackers and safeties.

 

Pick 184: Marion Grice, RB Arizona State

There’s not a lot of room on a Tide roster for “scat backs” or running backs with character flags like Isaiah Crowell or James Wilder, Jr (both of whom would be excellent value here for teams more willing to take a risk in the sixth round). Despite looking lean, Grice is a powerful back that can perform a backup role for the Vikings or a starting role elsewhere.

In all honesty, I’m not sure why Grice is available here in both mocks. Obviously, it’s an incredibly deep running back class and it can be difficult to distinguish the feature backs from each other in terms of their individual skills, but Grice is a third-round talent, if not better.

Grice is good not just because he’s powerful (and not just for his size) or has plus acceleration hitting the line, but also because he has good vision to see blocks developing and almost always makes the right decision. He’s excellent at lowering his pad level and can either dish out punishment or sidestep contact as the situation dictates.

Despite not playing greedy, Grice gets big plays without a lot of speed. It’s difficult to tackle him with one defender and he displays excellent balance. In addition to all of that, he’s a phenomenal pass-catcher. Very few running backs catch passes or run routes like Grice does, and ASU used him well. He attacks the ball, adjusts in the air extremely well, has glue for hands and can run receiver routes.

I don’t expect him to be here. But he was, so I took him.

 

Pick 223: Vinnie Sunseri, S Alabama

This pick was easy to make for a couple of reasons—it fulfills the desire of Spielman to continue drafting players from the same schools, a team can never have too many defensive backs and his knee problems will force him to fall much more than he should.

The first thing nearly every scouting report says about Sunseri is that he’s a coach on the field. He ran the complex defense at Alabama, where Kirby Smart forced Alabama to innovate far beyond even his NFL counterparts. He consistently corrects his teammates while also finding himself in the right spot despite below-average athleticism.

He shouldn’t be put in too many coverage situations against speedy receivers; he’s more of an in-the-box safety. But he knows where to be, is usually there before the ball and plays with aggression, instinct and skill.

Mock drafts are nonsense, so I think it makes more sense to create new challenges every time. This time, I attempted to answer the question of how the Vikings could draft if they liked the mold of players produced at Alabama. Next time, who knows?

26 COMMENTS

  1. How is this for a draft. Miami and NYJ are looking to trade up. I think Evans will be gone by #8, but a solid OT will be there for Miami(Matthews/Lewan).
    #8=(1400 points) +#108(78 points)=1478 points

    #19(875 points) + #50(400)+ #81(185)=1460 points

    #19-CJ Mosely (MLB)
    TRADE #40 and #72=#24(Cincy is looking to trade down) Teddy Bridgewater(looks like he will drop)
    #50-Lamarcus Joyner(S/CB)
    TRADE #81 AND #143=#74-Brandon Thomas(OG)
    #96-Telvin Smith(WLB)
    #184-Marion Grice(RB)
    #223-Colt Lyerla(TE)

    How do you like this draft?

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    • I actually really do like this draft, though I think you should switch Bridgewater and Mosley, because I’m not sure Bridge gets past Arizona, but Mosley will.

      Lyerla, if he matures (that’s what Zimmer is supposed to be good at, right?), could end up better than healthy Gronkowski.

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      • I don’t know much(anything) about Lyerla, but better than Gronk and he’s going in the 7th? That’s an easy decision

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        • Well, he was arrested for cocaine possession and has been a consistent thorn in the sides of his coaches at Oregon and high school. Left the program in a fit before he got arrested, and refused to do certain practices or workouts.

          So…

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          • Well that could do it altho I’d prefer him in the 4th(we’re lucky with our 4th rounders it’s our lucky round)

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  2. So let me get this straight, a “Alabama-Style” mock draft drafts players whose first names start with letters early in the alphabet (heavy on the B’s) and then go deeper in the alphabet in the later rounds

    1st C.J Mosely
    2nd Bashaud Breeland
    3rd Brandon Thomas
    3rd Brandon Coleman
    4th Aaron Murray
    5th Arthur Lynch
    6th Marion Grice
    7th Vinnie Sunseri

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  3. Arif, could you tell me how our two unproven linebackers in Hodges, Mauti and even Cole rate compared to this years linebacking crop.

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    • This is a really bad linebacking corps, which is in stark contrast to almost every other position in the draft besides safety, where the positions are very deep.

      A healthy Mauti would likely be a late-first round grade but would be pushed to the end of the second because of all this talent. I would not be surprised if you inserted a hypothetical healthy Mauti into the draft he goes in the late first just because of need.

      As for Hodges, he’d likely be a fifth-round player while Cole would go undrafted because of all the talent at other positions.

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  4. The reason I ask about our current young linebackers, is because of my fantasy draft hopes. I hope the rams take a offensive lineman with the 2nd pick. If that happens I think there is more than a slight possibility that Watkins could fall to us at eight. We then have trade bait for the Ram’s getting pick # 13, and either their 2nd or 3rd round pick for Watkins. Now onto the Vikings draft, with pick number 13, we take Evans – WR with our two picks in the 2nd we take Garapollo or Carr and the best available linebacker. Hopefully Borland, Shazier, or Van noy. In the Third we use our two picks to take Buccannon – SS and Stanly Jean Baptiste – CB with our 4, 5, 6, and 7 picks we could easily add depth to OL, DL, RB and LB positions. Now I realize that passing on Watkins to take Evans seems like taking the lessor talent, but the gap is not that great and we get at least one extra pick. If Evans is gone then we would take Mosley who would be a great value at 13 and hopefully draft Benjamin in the second. It just seems like the linebackers, cornerbacks and even quarterbacks are a deep group in this draft and by trading down we could fill holes with very good players and still get an impact wide receiver and a stud linebacker. Build our team back up and give Norv the chance to craft a QB from the second round. In addition any QB’s life would be so much easier with Patterson, Jennings, Evans, Rudolph and Adrian the cyborg. It seems like the O would be unstoppable and our D much improved. How far fetched is this scenario and does it make any sense.

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    • I’m not a huge fan of taking Evans and I wouldn’t be surprised if the Vikings could trade down again and use Evans as trade bait, mostly because I don’t think he gives as much value to the Vikings as he does to other teams, and is therefore worth more to them than to us. Same is true of Benjamin. If the Vikings are trading down, drafting for need is even more palatable.

      That is quite the draft, though and I’m not entirely sure it’s far-fetched. I also would not be surprised if Bucannon went earlier than people expect, though, because of how thin the safety group is this year.

      Given that receivers are extremely deep, you may want to hold off on those and grab linebackers if only because I think those are not as deep as you say, so long as you separate off-ball LBs from edge rushers.

      The O is nearly unstoppable with a good QB as it is, so focusing on adding weapons comes at the expense of getting elite and good players on defense.

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  5. I guess my point is that after we draft Evans or Mosley with the 13th pick the rest of the names could change and we would still be getting great players through the 3rd round at that would also fill positions of need.

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  6. Take Evans and dont look back. In the NFL for wide receivers SIZE DOES MATTER,a big man with great hands whats not to like about him.Having Patterson,Jennings and Evans has me thinking of reincarnation of Moss,CC AND Reed.I dont se many 8-9 men in the box especially with Cassel and experienced veteran. we then only would need to focus on finding a competent running back….Oh wait we alrteady have one of the best…But I understand our younger Viking fans are not accustomed to constantly winning or being dominiate..but trust me on this winning consistently is easy to get used to.

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  7. I would expect our linebacking needs to be filled in the 2nd stage of free agency after the draft and june 1 deadline.Rick saved us cap space for this.We already have young linebackers and it would be best to bring in experience as the Vikings do have lots potential for 2014..the future is now

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  8. Not sure why all this cj Mosley love. I’d prefer Manziel/Bortles & Audie Cole to Cassell & Mosley.

    I believe Cole & Mauti are strong enough at MLB(You all forget Mauti is a top ten talent when healthy). With 20 months rehabbing the knee I want to give him the job. Obviously if Sammy Watkins or Clowney or Mack drop I want them but Manziel is right behind them on my draft board. I don’t see CJ as a top 20 value(mlb drops it a lot)

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    • Read some of my other comments on this article. I didn’t forget that at all. The issue is not that I don’t believe Mauti can be something, but that I am suspect of Cole and Hodges. I really think we’re overrating Cole.

      At any rate, Mauti can play both MLB and SLB. Mosley has a great skill set for both MLB and WLB. Cole can play MLB and SLB. Hodges is a WLB-type that in some systems (not this one) has MLB potential.

      But because I’m suspect of both Cole and Hodges, grabbing a player like Mosley would help immensely.

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      • You truly believe it’s worth reaching for Mosley at 8 is worth it when we have Greenway, Mauti, and either Cole(whom I really like and believe is the most underrated player on thus team) or Hodges. One of the superb talents should fall to us and they are all easily upgrades where I am not sure Mosley is.
        Ill admit I’ve got an Alabama LB bias just like my USC quarterback bias or OSU DB bias, they produce too many busts.

        Let’s say the draft goes like this:
        Houston – Mack
        St Louis- Robinson
        Jax- Clowney
        Cleveland- Sammy Watkins
        Oakland- Jake Matthews
        Atlanta- Taylor Lewan(reaching due to extreme need)
        Tampa- Mike Evans
        Minnesota- ???
        This scenario was on KFan yesterday, all 4 quarterbacks on the board is there any way we could do anything other than quarterback(where I want Manziel BAD) ?

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        • A) Greenway is bad
          B) I think everyone OVERrates Cole. His play on the field was hesitant and stiff.
          C) I don’t “think” that reaching for Mosley is a good idea; I think the Vikings should select a quarterback. But I’ve already indicated at the top of the article that this mock doesn’t represent my ideas, but what it would be like to draft players in the “Alabama” mold. That means a game manager that allows others to shine at QB, hardly the kind of guy you would draft in the first round.

          Also, Alabama LB bias? Courtney Johnson and Dont’a Hightower both look good and DeMeco Ryans was a Pro Bowl-caliber player with Houston. There’s only been eight Alabama LBs drafted in the last 14 years, so that seems odd to me.

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          • Oops, that was supposed to read “Courtney Upshaw”

            Also, I think school history is a really, really poor way to evaluate players. They are bad until they are good. Look at Rodgers or Manning.

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            • School history is a great way to evaluate players, as long as the coach is the same. Many college coaches can elevate one position and make a player look much better than they actually are(see Pete Carroll)

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