See my entire first 2016 NFL Mock Draft by CLICKING HERE.
Last year, I produced version 1.0 of my mock draft in January and had the Vikings selecting cornerback Trae Waynes 11th overall. I never wavered from that pick, one that would subsequently become very popular and then very unpopular, and repeatedly had the Vikings selecting Waynes in every version of my Mock Draft after that.
Picking 12 spots later, and a much more flexible roster makeup, I am highly unlikely to repeat the boring redundancy that was my 2015 mock drafts.
The pick, of course, ended up being Waynes and it was met with disdain from a healthy portion of Minnesota’s fan base. Many preferred the NFL’s defensive rookie of the year, cornerback Marcus Peters, and others thought that it was a wasted pick. A number of Twitter arguments started with the assertion that Xavier Rhodes, Captain Munnerlyn and Josh Robinson made the first round investment into the cornerback position a waste.
Well, if you’ve been around here for awhile, you know that I care not for your perceived needs when it comes to the NFL Draft and it is equally likely that you’ll care not for my first version of my 2016 NFL Mock Draft.
I’m not sure what about the last decade of Vikings football would have any fans honestly believing the team could ever have too many good cornerbacks on the roster.
All you have to do is fast-forward to the playoff game against the Seahawks to see how the narrative had changed greatly, despite the starters staying relatively healthy in the regular season, with the fans collectively cringing at the idea of Josh Robinson even seeing the field for a few snaps. Terence Newman and Trae Waynes had to exit with injuries, a totally foreseeable occurrence in any NFL season, and Robinson was forced into action.
The Waynes pick did less to shore up the secondary in the short-term than the signing of Newman did, but there is no denying that Rick Spielman and Mike Zimmer did a lot to shore up the secondary in 2015 by investing via the Draft and free agency. Waynes was able to play well enough during his few spot duty snaps throughout the season, contribute on special teams, and presumably prepare for his eventual installation into the Vikings starting rotation.
Another 2015 selection that was widely viewed as unnecessary, as a luxury pick, was that of tight end MyCole Pruitt in the 5th round. After all, the Vikings already seemed rich at the position with Kyle Rudolph, Chase Ford, and Rhett Ellison already on the roster.
Again, fast-forward to the playoff game at TCF Bank Stadium and all complaints about “need” had fully dissipated. Ford was stolen away from the practice squad and Ellison suffered a terrible injury at the end of the regular season. The Vikings were left with Rudolph and Pruitt as their only tight end options, installing lineman Austin Shepherd as their third blocking tight end in their heavy formations.
Again, before the final snap of the following season was played, April’s highly-touted “needs” of this roster had long faded out of view in the rear-view mirror. The intensive analytical and hypothetical debate about roster construction had given way to real life happenings, with depth becoming nearly as important as the quality of the starting lineup, as it so often does by the end of an NFL season.
So, prior to unveiling my first Vikings pick, I want you to know the selection will read more like a “this isn’t impossible” explanation rather than the “this should absolutely happen” arguments that others will try to sell you on. Love it or hate it, that’s my approach to these things, because I see absolutely nothing wrong with using the NFL draft to get better and deeper at positions of strength.
My day job is designing powerlines and we refer to this mentality as having a “critical spare” which I also thinks translates to the design of an NFL roster. For example, if there is a really huge transformer providing power to, say, the scoreboard at an NFL stadium you have to assume that eventually that transformer will have problems.
You could probably plug in a smaller transformer for a period of time without seeing any negative effects. A transformer one or two sizes smaller could do the trick in most instances, but when you really need the robust capacity of the original, such as on game day, you are setting yourself up to have problems.
This is why you have a “critical spare” waiting back in the warehouse. After all, this specialized piece of equipment can’t just be picked up at your local hardware box store. You would have a lead time, probably a significant one, that could keep a crucial part of the stadium off line for far too long.
The “critical spare” can be inserted in place of the original without any negative side effects at all. The utility investing in this spare transformer is wise, because not only do you want to have it on hand when the first one fails, but you have pre-planned yourself into an easy solution when the original just gets so bad that you can no longer rely on it at all. You have pre-purchased a long-term replacement that is expected to perform every bit as well as the original.
Now, I know that dealing with the human aspect of a roster creates far more variables than designing something mechanical like a power grid, but this is my way of saying you will never hear me cry about the Vikings drafting a prospect that doesn’t fill an immediate “need.” Wait for a few preseason injuries to happen, wait for a couple of games to be played, and then talk to me about your pre-Draft needs list.
Forcing a pick to meet an immediate need (Christian Ponder) can have disastrous results. Selecting a player despite what positions the fans think you must target (Anthony Barr) can pay off greatly in the long run. That’s just the mentality I have when putting together my mock drafts and I understand that will not be for everyone.
23rd Pick Overall – Minnesota Vikings Selection
Hunter Henry – Tight End – Arkansas
You can CLICK HERE to see my entire 2016 NFL Mock Draft Version 1.0 to see what picks were made in advance of me giving the Vikings what is certain to be a perplexing selection to many of you. Rest assured, however, my selection is made out of a respect for the prospect and is not a condemnation of anybody currently on the Vikings roster.
I found myself sitting at 23 unable to pull the trigger on any players that would fill an immediate “need” and, since the mock doesn’t include trades, feeling unable to move around to get the value I would like to see while also filling a position that would make the masses happy.
The top name on my board was Arkansas tight end Hunter Henry who also happens to be far and away the best player at his position. I see this pick as a guy that could help the Vikings in areas where they particularly need it, like in the red zone and in the blocking game, while also a contributor in the downfield passing game and on special teams.
While Henry has yet to find his way to our Scouting Reports Page, I know that he will, so I’ll save the in-depth report for another day. In short, however, I see Henry as a well-rounded tight end that could be equally effective as a blocker as a game-changing pass catcher down the seam.
He has the route-running smarts required within this Vikings offense, a fluid release and burst that allows him to gain needed separation, and the big frame and “pluck” ability to make contested catches in traffic. He created mismatches in every college game he played and there is little reason to believe that will not continue at the NFL level.
Henry is a willing and dependable blocker, something the Vikings could certainly benefit from, in both the run and passing game. He would add such a meaningful wrinkle to this offense, one that was too predictable in 2015, while also being another capable safety blanket for Teddy Bridgewater to lean on throughout the season.
Envisioning Rudolph, Pruitt and Henry rotating within Norv Turner’s offense makes me a bit giddy. Of course, Ellison has been a very important swiss army knife at the position, but his pending free agent status and rehabilitation have cast a serious shadow over his future with the team. Adding a player like Henry would give Spielman the ultimate flexibility in how he proceeds with the tight end position for years to come.
So, there you have it. That is Version 1.0 and I am sure the post-Combine update will look considerably different. As I stated, I am much less likely to hitch my wagon to one prospect as I was last year, so check back soon for updates. Also, we’ve got plenty of other writers prepping their own mock drafts which will be released soon enough.