Friday, February 24, 2017

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More than just Jim Kleinsasser 2.0

Minnesota Vikings tight end Rhett Ellison is a key contributor
Image courtesy of Vikings.com

Rhett Ellison tries to stand up, but his right knee won’t let him. One step, and the leg gives out. Something’s wrong. Seriously wrong.

There’s a little over 11 minutes left in the fourth quarter of the NFC Championship Game, and Teddy Bridgewater throws a pass to Ellison out of the backfield. The tight end turns upfield, but Green Bay Packers linebacker Nick Perry pulls him down from behind. His right leg gets stuck in the ground and suddenly “pops.” It’s a torn patellar tendon, an injury that’ll keep him down for at least six months.

Down, but not out. That’s because Ellison represents every cliché in the football book; tough, gritty, hardworking, reliable. An injury is just another obstacle, much like the defenders he meets in the trenches or safeties swarming to tackle him down the field. It’s Ellison’s job to recover and make it back onto the field this offseason, and it’s a job he’ll gladly accept.

No matter what the Vikings have asked of Ellison, he’s done so without hesitation. Line up in front of Adrian Peterson as a fullback? Check. Spilt out as a slot wide receiver? Check? Contribute on every special teams unit? Check. He’s the Swiss Army Knife in Mike Zimmer’s pocket, and the tool these Vikings will need in 2016. Set to become a free agent this March, Ellison deserves one more shot in Minnesota, whether fully healthy or not. Without him, the Vikings are another crucial piece away from the Super Bowl.

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The Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama is one of the biggest events of the NFL draft season showcasing the best senior NFL draft prospects. This week’s practice and preparation leading to Saturday’s 2:30 pm ET kickoff was well represented by hundreds of scouts from across the country. While splashy skill position players like North Dakota State QB Carson Wentz and Ohio State WR Braxton Miller grabbed headlines for the North squad, it was Eastern Kentucky DE Noah Spence and Louisville DT Sheldon Rankins on the other side of the ball who created a buzz for the South.

A great week of practice in front of scouts is the best way for a player to boost their stock, but making plays in the game is also a good way to get notice and move up draft boards.

Based on the Vikings three primary positional needs, here is a list (in no particular order) of prospects to watch in todays all-star game.

Ranking the Vikings first round selections

[Note: This reflection on the Vikings’ success in the first round of the most recent decade’s worth of drafts is provided courtesy of Matt Falk from Draft Season. We highly recommend checking out their site for scouting reports of this year’s top prospects with a Vikings slant.]

Over the past 10 years, the Vikings have done a decent job finding talent in the first round of the NFL Draft. While they’ve have had their share of big misses, they’ve also hit on some stars along the way.

Let’s take a quick look back and attempt to rank them from worst to best.

#12 – 2011 – Christian Ponder QB, Florida St. (12th overall)

It’s hard to not feel bad for Ponder. He really never should of have been the 12th overall pick. Due to where he was selected, fans had some unrealistic expectations. Unsurprisingly, Ponder never panned out and struggled through a rocky four years in Minnesota. You’ve, gotta give the guy credit though; he acted like a true professional during his time in Minnesota.

#11 – 2013 – Cordarrelle Patterson WR, Tennessee (29th overall)

Patterson toyed with our emotions during his big rookie season, but has been in a nose dive ever since. While he’s still one of the most dangerous return men in the league, he adds absolutely nothing to the team as a wide receiver. Unless he has a huge turnaround, we won’t be seeing him on the field with the offense, except in August. For now, we’ll just have to get excited when he gets the chance to return a kick.

#10 – 2015 – Trae Waynes (11th overall)

The only reason Waynes is so low on the list is because it’s much too soon to know what we really have in the Michigan State cornerback. He barely saw the field as a rookie, but did show some flashes (along with some growing pains). I would feel confident saying that in a few years, we could see him bumping up at least a few spots on this same list.

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Image courtesy of Vikings.com

Only two more weeks left of the 2015 NFL season and then begins almost five months of sadness before Training Camps start in July. The Vikings have been off for the past two weeks, but that has not prevented anyone from writing about them.

Even without actual football being played in Minnesota there have been plenty of headlines created by the organization. From coaching hires to Pro Bowl invites, the Vikings gave people an array of topics to write about.

defensive unrestricted free agents
Image courtesy of Vikings.com

If anyone knows about winning, it’s legendary Alabama Crimson Tide coach Bear Bryant. In 25 seasons at the head of the football program, Bryant won 232 games and hoisted six national championship trophies. It’s no surprise, then, that Bryant is credited with the famous quote: “Offense sells tickets, but defense wins championships.”

And in Minnesota, Mike Zimmer’s following that same formula. The Vikings may not have won the Super Bowl this year, but they rode a top-five defense to an 11-5 record and the NFC North division title. They’re set up for long-term success, especially on defense, where a number of key players are in their first or second year with the team. A few of those contributors, though, are set to become unrestricted free agents in March.

Playing the role of general manager Rick Spielman, the Vikings Territory team analyzed the players and picked one as their highest priority to re-sign this offseason.

Which defensive unrestricted free agent should be the highest priority for the Vikings to re-sign?

  • Chad Greenway
  • Terence Newman
  • Josh Robinson
  • Robert Blanton
  • Marcus Sherels
  • Andrew Sendejo

  • Audie Cole
  • Casey Matthews
  • Kenrick Ellis
  • Jason Trusnik
  • Justin Trattou

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