Thursday, February 26, 2015
Blog Page 173

[Note:  Want to see a list of every player featured in our “Draft Target” segment?  Click here to visit the Offseason Tracker where there will be a list of all these players.  Check back often as there are plenty more to come!]

After losing Geoff Schwartz, and even though they signed Seth Olsen, the Vikings would still benefit from finding a high quality swing guard.  The preference would surely be to find a guy that could not only be a quality backup to numerous positions on the line, but a guy that might push Brandon Fusco and Charlie Johnson for a starting position.

One possibility, Kyle Long out of Oregon, comes with an interesting past that includes an interesting path to the NFL.  He comes from a football family, being the son of Howie Long and the brother of Chris Long, but it originally looked like Kyle’s future was going to be in baseball.  After being drafted by the Chicago White Sox coming out of high school, Long decided to accept a scholarship at Florida State.  That didn’t go too well, and only lasted one semester, as Long couldn’t make his grades and ended up getting nabbed for a DUI.  He went home and eventually enrolled at Saddleback Junior College where he played on the defensive line with only mild success.  He moved to offensive line in his second season at Saddleback and really seemed to find his niche.

After entertaining a number of bigger school suitors, Long signed on with the Oregon program and they kept him on the offensive line, which saw him instantly become one of the most athletic linemen in football.  Despite being so raw to the position, Oregon started Long in 10 of their 12 games last season, and he made a good impression.

Long’s career path meant that he had to apply for a sixth year of eligibility, but he was denied and had little choice but to enter the 2013 Draft pool, and he presents an interesting case for teams to evaluate.

Long is 6′ 6″ and 313 pounds.  He ran the third fastest forty yard dash (4.94) of all the offensive linemen at the Scouting Combine.  That quickness and athleticism shows up on tape, too, as he is a very proficient pulling guard and seems to find himself making blocks at the second level more often than most guards do.  He has an intensity to his game, like his brother does for the Rams, that cannot be taught and will certainly be attractive to every NFL team.  He plays hard through the whistle on every snap.

You can tell that Long has only played the offensive line for a short amount of time.  He sometimes has mental lapses and can freeze his feet on occasion  and he also has a tendency to play too upright without enough flexibility, which allows defenders to get him off balance.  He could stand to add some strength and bulk to his frame, but he has a powerful initial burst and uses his 11″ hands to deliver some nasty punches.

I would say that Long has first round athleticism, Day Two game tape, but question marks that could keep him from being drafted until the third round or later.  His rerouted college career not only brings up character concerns, but it also mans he will already turn 25 years old during the 2013 season, and he enters the NFL with a lack of experience.

On the other hand, he hasn’t been in trouble for a number of years, and if he can combine some added bulk while refining his skills and flexibility, he could end up being one of the more gifted guards in the NFL for years to come.  His father and brother have stated that he’s the best athlete in the family, which is saying something, and he certainly passes the eye test of an NFL offensive lineman.

For the Vikings, Long might be a good fit, as his athleticism and dominance in the run game are a combination they seem to seek out.  Meanwhile, they don’t seem overly concerned with either Fusco or Johnson as starting options, and Long wouldn’t have to be forced into action right away if he isn’t ready.  Although, he might provide serious competition for a starting job sooner rather than later if the work ethic he displayed on Saturdays has been a part of his pre-Draft preparation.

Long could be a serious consideration with the 22nd pick in the second round, and would be hard to resist if he is still available when they are on the clock in the third round.  Although, it might be telling if Long’s former coach, Chip Kelly of the Eagles, passes on him enough times to let him fall this far.

 

As we prepare for the 2013 NFL Draft in these parts I came to the realization that the very first Draft I covered as a blogger, the 2009 Draft class, have all completed their rookie contracts, and I can now be held accountable for the grades I assigned the Vikings back in my first days of blogging at VikingsGab.com.

Every year we dismiss draft grades as useless opinions that couldn’t possibly be accurate prior to these guys even stepping on an NFL field.  With the career paths of the 2009 class now taking shape, however, I thought it’d be fun to go back and see just how useless my grades were exactly.  The entire post of my 2009 draft grades an analysis can be read right here.

WR Percy Harvin (First Round, Pick 22)

What I said then:

GRADE:  “C”          There is no denying that Harvin could become a premier player with his game changing abilities, but he also runs the risk of doing more damage than good if his character flaws come out again.  For now a “C” until he earns the respect of Minnesota fans.  The fact that he was chosen over offensive tackle Michael Oher is another reason why I didn’t give the Vikings a higher grade here.

What I say now:

The Vikings ended up getting an elite talent out of Harvin, but health and character issues did indeed taint his time in Minnesota, which ended up seeing him shipped to Seattle for three picks including the 25th overall selection this year.  Harvin was that year’s Offensive Rookie of the Year and made multiple Pro Bowls as a return man.  I was wrong about Michael Oher being the superior player here, but only one of those two guys is still with the team that drafted him.

[Note:  Want to see a list of every player featured in our “Draft Target” segment?  Click here to visit the Offseason Tracker where there will be a list of all these players.  Check back often as there are plenty more to come!]

If the Vikings were hoping to bring back Antoine Winfield after releasing him, as Leslie Frazier has indicated as a possibility, they have yet to succeed on that front.  That was part of the reason I assigned Washington cornerback Desmond Trufant to the Vikings in my most recent version of my 2013 Mock Draft.

So, who is Desmond Trufant, and why do I think Minnesota is a potential landing spot for him in April?

The younger brother of former Pro Bowl corner Marcus Trufant is entering the NFL Draft with a lot of momentum after an excellent showing in both the Senior Bowl and the NFL Scouting Combine.  At 6′ 0″ and 190 pounds, Trufant has the size you look for in an NFL cornerback, and his 4.38 seconds in the forty time was among the best at the Combine.

A lot of scouts seem to think Trufant could be the next version of Revis Island because of his ability to hang with the best receivers in man coverage.  I don’t know that I would go that far, but the guy certainly has some skills in that area, and he is no slouch playing in zone schemes either.  Having options at the corner position, whether a man assignment or not, is a must for the Vikings who have the likes of Calvin Johnson and Brandon Marshall in their division.

Trufant has NFL speed and athleticism, while showing the ability to be physical when needed, and displays natural instincts and timing which allows him to always be in a position to high-point or battle for the ball while it is in the air.  His numbers haven’t been overly consistent throughout his four-year college career, but some of that has to do with teams (such as LSU this last season) avoiding him completely for entire games.

Like many Vikings observers, I am hesitant to call Trufant a perfect match in the Vikings Tampa-2 defense, however.  He isn’t the world’s most consistent tackler and he may not be strong enough to give NFL caliber receivers the business at the line of scrimmage.  Despite the scheme questions and the Vikings emphasis on having high-quality tacklers playing corner, I think the Vikings could benefit from grabbing themselves a top-notch cover corner this year.  At some point talent just has to trump scheme, especially when it is potentially elite talent like I suspect Trufant possesses.

The Vikings must continue to improve their secondary like they did last offseason, especially with the passing games they face during divisional games, and they are already off to a poor start thanks to Winfield’s departure.  Trufant is the type of guy they could stick on any number of talented receivers in the NFC North and have confidence that he is as capable as anybody on the roster currently.

I would also like to point out that Trufant has only ever missed one game of football through his four seasons.  Over those same four years, the Vikings have been plagued by injuries at the position, and it seems like every one of their corners are an injury risk.  It would be really nice to have a guy on the roster that you aren’t constantly going to be worrying baout whether or not he can suit up next week.

 

Well, the first wave of free agency has come and gone, and there were some fireworks involving our favorite team.  Percy Harvin was traded, Antoine Winfield was released, Greg Jennings and Matt Cassel were signed, and a lot of Vikings were retained.  Now it is time to put a nice exclamation point on this first wave as we wade closer into the second, and else edge towards the Draft.

 

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The free agency news for Vikings fans has mostly consisted of them bringing back their own players, with MAtt Cassel and Greg Jennings being the only exceptions.

Today, they continued to bring back their own players by agreeing to terms with backup safety Andrew Sendejo.

Sendejo announced the move on Twitter:  “Extremely blessed to re-sign with the @Vikings for another season! #Skol #Vikes.”

Sendejo was an exclusive rights free agent and the Vikings tendered him the offer prior to free agency beginning, and today’s signing makes his return official.

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