Friday, December 9, 2016

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Will the star linebacker play in 2016?

The NFL Draft is all about risk and reward. Teams selecting early in the first round often pin their franchise’s future to one player, whether that’s a highly-rated quarterback or can’t-miss offensive tackle. The risk isn’t always worth the reward, but prospects like Andrew Luck make the gamble a worthwhile endeavor.

But when the gamble involves injuries, the pitfalls can be disastrous. The San Francisco 49ers took a flier on Marcus Lattimore in the fourth round of the 2013 NFL Draft, and the running back was never able to recover from a gruesome knee injury suffered at South Carolina. He never played a down with the 49ers, retired before the 2015 regular season, and disappeared into obscurity. And this year, another top prospect — Notre Dame linebacker Jaylon Smith — may face a similar fate.

According to reports from Ian Rapoport, Smith’s medical exam revealed “ankle and knee nerve issues” that potentially put his 2016 season in jeopardy. At the Fiesta Bowl in January, Smith landed awkwardly and tore the ACL and LCL in his left knee. Though he underwent successful surgery seven weeks ago, Smith’s knee may be more damaged than originally thought; damage severe enough to send his draft stock plummeting in April.

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We want to buy you one of these sweet shirts designed by Matt Engstrom!

This is just a reminder that at the end of the day tomorrow we will be giving away three Matt Engstrom T-Shirts to some lucky Vikings fans. Don’t forget to enter today!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

The quickest way to get the most entries into our giveaway is to sign up FREE for FanTalk (which is especially awesome if you have an iPhone) and follow the Vikings Territory club on there. If we can get over 100 followers to sign up there this week then we plan another giveaway in the near future and I’ve got my sights set on a Harrison Smith jersey.

Another great way to get some entries is to visit Draft Season and answer the secret question found below. Those guys have been amazing partners for us this offseason as evidenced by the fine collection of Vikings-specific scouting reports that can all be found on our Scouting Reports Page.

That isn’t the only way to win one of these three Vikings shirts, however, so be sure to log into the Rafflecopter widget below and get your name in the drawing! These shirts are slick and we want to buy you one of your choice as a thank you for being the best readership on the internet!

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Loadholt's return to the Vikings
Image courtesy of Vikings.com

The Minnesota Vikings need help along the offensive line. And rather than look to free agency or the NFL Draft, general manager Rick Spielman has his sights set on the current roster.

Phil Loadholt, the team’s former starting right tackle, missed the entire 2015 season with a torn achilles. After a season spent recovering on Injured Reserve, Loadholt’s quietly made enough progress to warrant a return in 2016. Despite the speculation about his contract situation and age, all signs point to Loadholt taking the field as a starter next season:

Wolfson’s report comes as offensive linemen and running backs begin workouts at the NFL Scouting Combine. There’s plenty of talent to be had in this year’s class of prospects, but Loadholt is “right on track” with his recovery and could make a full return to the field by the start of Organized Team Activities (OTAs). And given the question marks surrounding T.J. Clemmings, a healthy, 30 year-old Loadholt is possibly the safest option at right tackle moving forward.

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Photo courtesy of Vikings.com

There were no pads put on this week, but Vikings fans did get to hear from their team’s head coach and general manager for the first time in almost two months. Rick Spielman and Mike Zimmer gave the Minnesota media plenty of topics to explore this week after speaking to the press at the NFL Combine.

Zimmer and Spielman are also at the combine to do a job and find the best players to help their team in the near future. The Vikings and their staff finally get a chance to see potential draft selections up close and in person.

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Vikings NFL Draft Sleepers
Image courtesy of Vikings.com

Every Sunday during Draft Season, Carl and the team at Vikings Territory release scouting reports on sleeper prospects. They’re players many may not recognize, but should get to know as the 2016 NFL Draft approaches. This time of the year, the biggest names dominate the headlines, but other players taken in the later rounds can often have more of an impact than the top-32 picks.

Players like Danielle Hunter (3rd-round) and Stefon Diggs (5th-round) were more important to the Minnesota Vikings in 2015 than Trae Waynes, the team’s 11th-overall selection. Each made significant contributions on defense and offense, while Waynes was relegated to a role as the punt team’s gunner. He played well in spot duty, especially against the Seattle Seahawks, but to say he outperformed his teammates would be lying.

Sometimes, it’s the players we least expect who have the most immediate success in the NFL. That’s why I’ve asked the team here to name their favorite under-the-radar prospects; the players they love that no one’s talking about.

Who is one draft prospect you love that no one is talking about?

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