Wednesday, May 27, 2015
Blog Page 153

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[NOTE FROM ARIF: We’ve got another guest post, this time from Alex Rotenberger, who argues that the Vikings have the capability to be safe at quarterback if they skip grabbing one in round one, and should therefore grab a different player. For the record, I strongly disagree, but it’s good to see multiple perspectives.

This comes at a particularly good time, as both Twin Cities newspapers—and Peter King—have reported that Rick Spielman won’t necessarily take a quarterback in the first round.

If YOU have a guest post you’d like submitted, be sure to email me at arifmhasan (at) gmail DOT com. We’d really appreciate it!]

By Alex Rotenberger

There is no doubt that the face of this year’s NFL draft is the Heisman Trophy winning quarterback from Texas A & M, Johnny Manziel. He is the most talked about and polarizing players by far in this deep, talented pool of prospects. In this era of the NFL, we all know that in order to compete for consistent championships, you need stability at the quarterback position. For the Minnesota Vikings, this seems to have been the missing piece for years.

Conventional logic says to grab your quarterback with the 8th selection of this year’s draft, possibly Johnny Manziel, Blake Bortles, Teddy Bridgewater, or even Derek Carr. The other school of thought is to continue building a stout defense while Norv Turner develops a quarterback from the later rounds.

Looking at successful teams over the last couple of years such as the Seahawks and 49ers, this has been their formula for success. If the Vikings want to follow suit with defensive guru Mike Zimmer as head coach, they would be well suited to continue the defensive minded offseason.

The Vikings have done a great job so far adding defensive line help by adding players such as Linval Joseph, Corey Wootton, and Tom Johnson. Also the secondary has been a focus, adding Captain Munneryln and Mike Zimmer’s project Derek Cox. Still, there is an opportunity through the draft to add to the young core already in place.

One of the more appealing options for the Vikings in the first round is to trade down from the 8th selection to the mid-teens. From here, the Vikings can acquire some extra picks, probably in the middle rounds, to add depth to the roster. We all know Rick Spielman likes to move around in the draft, and this year shouldn’t be an exception. With a trade down, the Vikings would be in prime territory to address their glaring need at linebacker, by taking the top middle linebacker prospect, CJ Mosley out of Alabama. He would bring much needed stability and versatility to the linebacker corps, while also contributing in nickel situations with Chad Greenway.

NFL defenses are spending most of their time in nickel and dime packages, so the need for multiple linebackers is not as great as it once was. This gives the Vikings the flexibility to take a player like Mosley who can be a three down linebacker alongside Chad Greenway. Suddenly, a glaring weakness turns into a position of strength.

While the Vikings certainly need help at the outside linebacker position, the top prospect Khalil Mack will be long gone by the 8th selection. Anthony Barr out of UCLA could be another option, but is more of a 3-4 rush outside linebacker and wouldn’t necessarily fit the Vikings hybrid 4-3 scheme. Another option is the athletic Ryan Shazier out of Ohio State, who could be an option in the late first/early second round.

Another way the Vikings could turn with a trade back to the mid teens is in the secondary. At this juncture of the draft, the Vikings would more than likely have their choice of the top cornerbacks and safeties. Some of the top options that could still be on the board are safeties, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix of Alabama, Calvin Pryor out of Louisville and cornerbacks Justin Gilbert out of Oklahoma State, and Darqueze Dennard of Michigan State. Any of these four prospects would be a welcome addition to the Vikings secondary, which struggled mightily last season.

However, with the additions of Captain Munnerlyn and maturation of Harrison Smith and Xavier Rhodes, an addition to this group could really solidify the position. Facing prolific offenses such as Green Bay, Chicago, and Detroit twice a year, the best approach to the draft may be to build a rock solid defense, so our offense has a chance to compete.

As far as the offense, the Vikings are actually in decent shape. With a plethora of playmakers on the outside, led by Cordarelle Patterson, Greg Jennings, Kyle Rudolph, and of course Adrian Peterson, whichever quarterback is under center week one will be walking into a favorable situation.

The Vikings really did themselves a favor by bringing back Matt Cassel to be a bridge to the future franchise quarterback. In the meantime, Matt Cassel can manage the offense and allow the Vikings to be competitive in 2014. He is by no means a game changing quarterback, but he is also no slouch. In the games he started in 2013, the Vikings put up over 24 points a game and had a record of 4-3.

Matt Cassel is more than capable of handling this talented offense and thriving under the Norv Turner system, which yielded decent play from Jason Campbell, Brandon Weeden, and Brian Hoyer last season.

This is not to say the Vikings shouldn’t address their quarterback needs in the draft, they absolutely should. But there is no need to reach for one at the top of the first round. The Vikings are fortunate, this year’s crop of signal callers is incredibly deep, and they will have their choice unlike in 2011 when they were forced into reaching for Christian Ponder at 12.

Some intriguing prospects later in the draft that could fit the mold of what Turner is looking for are: Zach Mettenberger, AJ McCarron, Aaron Murray, and Tom Savage. All of these prospects could benefit from sitting for a couple of years and learning from Turner and Cassel. They also would not experience the immense pressure that Christian Ponder faced a couple of years ago. Also from a front office standpoint, Mike Zimmer (first time head coach) and Rick Spielman (Fresh off the Ponder disaster) probably are not confident handing the keys to the franchise over to any of the top quarterbacks in this years draft for different reasons.

This aspect combined with the fact that Matt Cassel is coming back, point towards a defensive draft in the first couple of round, to build a rock solid foundation and use the Seahawks as a template for how to win. Defense does win championships Vikings fans, that’s what Mike Zimmer is here to do.

Aaron Murray has been developing a lot of momentum lately, especially among Vikings fans—should an elite prospect like Khalil Mack or even Sammy Watkins be available at pick eight, perhaps the Vikings could take that talent and then take a prospect later in the draft who could fill the same position.

If it were the case that the quarterbacks in the third or fourth round are not significantly different than the ones in the first round, this would be a pretty awesome strategy—and Aaron Murray is central to a lot of plans Vikings fans have envisioned. He has been a statistical maven (the SEC passing yards and touchdown leader and the 2012 yards per attempt and adjusted yards per attempt leader in all of the FBS), and with a merely “OK” supporting cast, to boot—the undraftable Rantavious Wooten, mid-round prospect Arthur Lynch and a number of receivers who don’t look promising for next year’s draft—not to mention countless injuries at skill positions, including the loss of Todd Gurley, one of the nation’s premier running backs.

Reputed to be a smart, accurate quarterback who’s played in college’s “toughest” division, what’s not to like?

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Three part update for today as workouts start and some new signings come in. Nothing big has happened in Vikings news for a while, and this likely won’t change that.

First, the early workout period has already claimed its first victim in Josh Samuda, who earlier signed a reserve/futures contract with the Vikings. Josh Samuda signed with the Miami Dolphins in 2012 as an undrafted free agent from the University of Massachusetts, where he played on the same offensive line as another Vikings offensive guard, Vladimir Ducasse.

Samuda suffered from a dislocated ankle at Winter Park and will undergo surgery on Wednesday.

The second piece of news regards a player that Vikings fans may be familiar with: tight end Allen Reisner. Reisner was with the Vikings in the 2011 and 2012 seasons after signing on as an undrafted free agent out of Iowa. Reisner danced along the line of eligibility for the practice squad with the Vikings, and played in ten games, making two catches for 28 yards before the Jacksonville Jaguars signed him off the practice squad late in 2012.

Last year, he played in five games and caught five passes for 40 yards.

Among the Vikings faithful, Reisner always seems to get positive attention. Indeed, his preseason appearances and limited game time always seemed to speak of more than simply a “practice squad body,” and the fact that the Jaguars were willing to sign him certainly spoke to that perception.

Pro Football Focus was not particularly impressed with his blocking this past year, and graded him with a -3.2 run block grade to go along with a -4.4 passing game grade (5 catches came on 9 targets with one drop). His one positively graded game, curiously enough, was against Seattle.

The Vikings were unable to keep Reisner in 2012 in part due to depth at the TE position. With Carlson gone, it certainly seems like he’ll have another chance to get on the roster. Competing with Chase Ford for a similar role, it should be a fun camp battle to watch.

The final bit of news comes on the linebacker front, where Audie Cole’s former Wolfpack teammate Terrell Manning was claimed off of waivers by Minnesota. Manning previously played for the Chargers and the Packers, who drafted him in 2012.

In the last two years, Manning has not seen regular-scrimmage snaps and has served as a special teams player for both the Packers and Chargers. A 2012 scouting report speaks to on-field athleticism to go along with a natural ability to rush the passer, but big issues in terms of reading plays, taking the right angles and a missing ability to navigate traffic. Maybe pairing with Audie Cole once more will help him out.

UPDATE: Samuda evidently suffered a pretty severe injury, and didn’t just dislocate his ankle, but fractured his tibia and could have suffered ligament damage. The team will know more tomorrow, but it looks like it will be a long-lasting injury.

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In my re-review of Derek Carr, I was fairly positive I would change my mind on him. A lot of the things I thought about him were definitely wrong, but for the most part I’m OK with him as a Vikings fit. I think he requires a lot more caution than Bridgewater or Bortles in terms of evaluation, and as you’ll see, there are a lot of pitfalls.

Carr is best known for being an extremely productive, statistics-friendly passer with over 5000 yards this season, and a 50:8 TD/INT ratio. He has one of the strongest arms in the draft and a brother who was a previous flame-out in the NFL. The statistics won’t matter, but he’s certainly an intriguing prospect.

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The Minnesota Vikings are rounding out their depth chart for veteran competition before the draft, and have signed former Philadelphia Eagles safety Kurt Coleman.

To go along with potential Pro Bowl-level talent Harrison Smith, the Vikings have Jamarca Sanford, Andrew Sendejo, Mistral Raymond, Robert Blanton and Brandan Bishop.

Sanford has played at an above-average level for the past two years, and Sendejo looks to be a rising talent. Mistral Raymond, for a short period of time, was expected to be the starter but lost out due to injury and Sanford’s higher level of play. From a depth perspective, the Vikings are in a fantastic place, a complete turnaround from three years ago.

Coleman, unfortunately, hasn’t shown the kind of talent with the Eagles (and three defensive coordinators) to leapfrog Sendejo or Sanford for a starting role, but is definitely in the mix as a depth player and special teams standout.

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