Tuesday, April 28, 2015
Blog Page 141

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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.


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I had debated even posting this, but because the offseason is already slow there was no reason not to.

In speaking with Chris Tomasson, one of the better Vikings reporters on the beat these days, Kyle Rudolph called himself the best tight end in the NFL.

Kyle Rudolph was asked Wednesday to name the NFL’s best tight end. He didn’t hesitate with his response.

“Me,” he said.

. . .

“There’s a ton of talented tight ends in our game,” Rudolph said after an event promoting Second Harvest Heartland launch and its Great American Milk Drive in St. Paul. “You have guys that play at a high level, like Jimmy Graham, Rob Gronkowski, Jason Witten and Vernon Davis. But I would put myself up there with them.”

There’s not really much to say about this. He isn’t, but I don’t really care to contest the point too much. For me, the most interesting thing about this statement was how willing he was to be harsh about himself when I talked to him at training camp last year. He was very critical of his blocking, which had improved significantly at that point, and was very unhappy about his production between the twenties.

It is difficult to compare Rudolph to other top-tier tight ends from a receiving standpoint, given that Brees, Brady, Romo and Kaepernick were all significant parts of their productive capability, but it’s not too much of a stretch to say that he’s not in that tier by any means.

To me, Rudolph’s limited 2013 film (I only looked at the Pittsburgh and Cleveland games for him with any particular scrutiny) doesn’t look as impressive as he would want from a technical perspective. He’s a very deliberate route-runner and he hides his true speed by trying to sharpen up other route-running skills, which means he can’t quite maintain deceptiveness and speed as he goes through the route tree. He slows up at the break and can’t explode out of his route like Davis and Graham can.

His hands are very good, but a little overrated by Vikings fans. He has made some spectacular circus catches and has done more than his fair share of bailing out bad throws, but he’s also dropped easy passes and doesn’t catch the ball with his fingertips as often as he should.

As a blocker, he’s better than both Davis and Graham but that’s not saying much. He is probably better than Witten as well, but he has a long way to go before he can match Gronkowski’s blocking ability. While he has improved a lot as a blocker, he’s still trying to win consistently at the point of attack and usually hits second (less hammer, more nail). He understand leverage, though, and despite his 6’6″ frame has been able to use his strength and footwork to move some players around. That said, he didn’t quite have a feel for the running game and would sometimes miss assignments or block in unfavorable directions without correcting.

As both a route-runner and blocker, he’s late off the snap, sometimes incredibly late. It puts him at a massive disadvantage and should probably be the first thing to correct.

Of course, he’s a natural red zone threat, and not just because of his height or ability to climb the ladder. He locates the ball easily, has great positioning, good timing and attacks the ball at the catch point. His strength allows him to fight for contested balls in traffic and like any good tight end, knows how to use his length like a basketball player.

But if he wants to be the best, there’s more to it than that. I strongly suspect Norv will better use him than Musgrave and attack the seam with more consistency, perhaps even using the shake routes that have made Vernon Davis’ career. This should hide some of his weaknesses and highlight some of his hidden strengths.

Fans generally have an odd reaction when players call themselves elite. People derided Eli Manning and Joe Flacco for calling themselves elite (and they did so with the best timing on the planet), but praise players like Robert Griffin III and Derek Carr for saying similar things.

When Erin Henderson argued that he was the best fit for the middle linebacker position and was “pissed” about the disrespect at the beginning of the preseason, fans castigated him for what is a fairly normal and even desirable quality in a player. Here, Rudolph wants to be the best tight end league and will play to prove it. Fine by me, but he’s not there.

This isn’t to say Rudolph is a bad tight end. He’s very good, but he also happened to compare himself to the best tight ends in the NFL and invited the comparisons. Rudolph’s growth as tight end, both as a blocker and receiver has been extraordinary, and one of the most underrated things about him: he’s managed to improve nearly every facet of his game without stopping, which is rarer than you might think.

It’s not a bland compliment or a platitude about hard work; Rudolph is unique in his ability to consistently improve in every area of his game and I don’t think there is another player on the roster that shows this universal ability to absorb new techniques. Fans, analysts and personnel executives consistently talk about “upside” as if it were a purely physical thing. It isn’t. Rudolph’s nearly unlimited potential comes from his ability to learn new concepts and techniques and integrate them into his muscle memory faster than almost anyone I’ve seen. If he continues, he could very well end up in the class he put himself in.

But not yet.

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While it may seem boring to start with the preseason favorite, I’ll be working on a scouting report for every quarterback worth scouting in the NFL draft and it makes sense to use one that has seemingly been falling mock after mock.

It’s difficult to write about Bridgewater without repeating everything that has already been said about the until-recently top prospect. Regardless, it’s important to lay it all out on the table. For the most part, I think it’s useful to break down each skill by skill set, and I hope to do this for every quarterback to make the comparisons easy. Hopefully, this can provide some context for every quarterback when I continue to discuss them.

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Near the deadline, Minnesota has submitted it’s official preliminary bid for consideration to host the 2018 Super Bowl in the new stadium.

Minneapolis is well-suited to host large events and their ability to successfully host the Republican National Convention and dozens of smaller conventions and conferences speaks well to their ability to handle the influx of attention that a city receives as a result of the Super Bowl.

Per the Star Tribune, the bid highlighted the 180 hotels that can offer 19,000 rooms, 48 venue options and practice sites.

The ability to host a Super Bowl (as well as other events of varying impact, including the Final Four) was a significant argument in favor of building a new stadium, and just like stadium construction, has a small controversy in regards to its economic impact.

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According to a recent post by Star Tribune, new Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer saw some “flags” in conjunction with Johnny Manziel.

The Texas A&M quarterback had his Pro Day on Thursday, and it was definitely one of a kind. More than one critic has described Manziel’s performance as more of a performance than an evaluation, and the event proved that the QB is more than readyat least in his own opinion—to transition into the pro lifestyle. Manziel’s Pro Day “routine” was complete with music and pre-arranged plays to showcase the QB’s talent.

Glitter aside, Manziel did perform well from a football standpoint. Jackson head coach Gus Bradley said, “it was good. It was a really competitive atmosphere. They had different drills set up for him, and that showcases what Johnny is all about. You knew it was going to be spirited, you knew it was going to be competitive-type throws that he had to make. And he really did a nice job.”

So what were the stats?

Manziel completed 61-of-64 passes.

He threw several deep passes of 40 yards and more to his targets… including a 55-yard deep post touchdown to fellow prospect Mike Evans.

Solid numbers or not, though, Zimmer didn’t seem impressed. In fact, he quickly called the performance a “sideshow.”  “This [workout] was a little different in how it was choreographed. People like that or they don’t like that, I don’t know,” Zimmer commented.

On Friday, Zimmer and the Vikings had a meeting with Manziel, their second of the offseason.

In a radio interview in Austin Monday morning, Zimmer said the following:

“I guess it maybe brings a few questions marks in. Is he going to conform to typically what the NFL is or what everyone else has done before him including what the great players in the game have done before him, or is he going to try to be the celebrity man guy that he was maybe a year-and-a-half ago?

[…] The position of quarterback in the NFL is such an important position and the reason these guys need to be a totally football-minded guy is the pressure of the position and being the face of an NFL team and doing everything right. That’s the thing you want to know about him: Will he be into work early every single day? Will be the last to leave? Will he be the guy that is working the hardest to get better?”

Whoever drafts Manziel will certainly draft the limelight right along with him.

Johnny Football may very well be off the table by the time the Vikings pick at No. 8. But if he’s not, will Zimmer want to take the leap?


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