Blog Page 174

[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!]

Sheldon Richardson, Manti Te’o, and Keenan Allen seem to be popular first round picks for the Minnesota Vikings in the first round of mock drafts across the internet.  For those mocks that are now including second rounds, however, one name seems to really be dominating the short list of guys that make sense for the Vikings to target.

That guy is Tennessee wide receiver Justin Hunter… and for good reason.

At 6′ 4″ and 196 pounds Hunter possesses the prototypical size front offices in need of a #1 receiver, like the Vikings, will be looking for.  He possesses the speed necessary to stretch the field and is capable of out jumping most cornerbacks if it comes to that.  He has shown the ability to make the seemingly impossible grab and also change a game with his quickness and moves after the catch.

Still, there are reasons that a guy of Hunter’s stature isn’t expected to be a first round pick, and they are not to be overlooked.  First and foremost, Hunter has struggled with injury.  After blowing up the college game in 2010, Hunter suffered a 2011 ACL injury in week three that ended his season, and caused Tennessee to spiral downward.  He was able to play for all of 2012, but he never quite looked like his 2010 self and was overshadowed by teammate Cordarrelle Patterson during most games.

It isn’t readily known for certain if Hunter’s problems were a result of his injury still affecting him, or if they were more mental, but I can tell you that I saw the kid drop more passes in 2012 than what I would prefer in a high round pick.  Hunter seems like he might be one of those “moody” receivers that doesn’t have a short memory and may let an early-game mistake bother him for the rest of the day.

I don’t mean to pile on here and make it seem like I don’t like Hunter as a prospect, I do, but I also worry that he isn’t strong and physical enough to be a consistent deep threat.  If you watch his highlight reel you will see a guy blowing by defenders with no mercy, but the other 98% of the game tape will show a receiver that struggles getting off jams and is tentative going across the middle of the field.  This will also need to be addressed at the next level.

Hunter has his risks, but he seems just as capable of shredding a defense as any receiver in this class, and certainly has some major upside.  I think some of his game tape downgrades him to the second round or lower, unlike his teammate Cordarrelle Patterson who I have as a first round target for the Vikings, but he sure seems like a guy that is quickly becoming popular among Vikings fans.

A full quarter of the NFL teams placed their franchise tag on a player by Monday’s deadline and the Vikings were not one of them, as expected.  Their only real candidate for the tag was right tackle Phil Loadholt, but it wasn’t too surprising that the Vikings were not willing to invest nearly $10 million into one year of service from Loadholt.  Instead, they will probably try to negotiate a more financially feasible contract that keeps him in purple for years to come, or move on and begin the search for his replacement.

Two offensive tackles did receive the franchise tag this year, however, as Branden Albert of the Chiefs and Ryan Clady of the Broncos both were too valuable to their respective teams to let them just walk away.  In my free agent rankings for tackles I had Clady at #2 and Albert at #5, with Loadholt between them at #4.  These two are left tackles, however, and being taken off the free market shouldn’t provide Loadholt with too much leverage over the Vikings.

The Chiefs tagging Albert is interesting for two reasons.  First, they were able to pull the trigger on the tag because they reached a last minute agreement with receiver Dwayne Bowe in the form of a five year agreement.  I listed Bowe as my #1 ranked free agent wide receiver, so it is disappointing to see those options begin to dwindle.  Second, keeping Albert in the fold provides an added sense of mystery when it comes to how the Chiefs will use their first overall draft pick.

Defensive tackle is also a major need for the Vikings and two top options were taken away via the franchise tag there, as well.  Bears defensive tackle Henry Melton was my top overall defensive tackle, with Randy Starks of Miami coming in 5th, but now both have been tagged and are essentially unavailable.

Safety Jairus Byrd of the Bills ranked atop his position, as well, but the Bills placing the franchise tag on him means some other interesting options may be available including guard Andy Levitre and cornerback Leodis McKelvin.

Defensive end Michael Johnson of the Bengals, defensive end Anthony Spencer of the Cowboys, and Colts punter Pat McAfee were the remaining three players to be tagged.

 

 

One month ago today the Vikings signed a CFL cornerback and they haven’t made a single roster move since.

Monday, however, the team predictably started the retooling process with their receiver group by cutting veteran Michael Jenkins, according to Adam Schefter.  Jenkins, 30, played two seasons with the Vikings where he accounted for 78 catches, 915 yards, and five scores.

A $2.425 million roster bonus was due to Jenkins this month so the Vikings were forced to decide between cutting him or investing heavily in an aging receiver that has never topped 800 yards in a season.  The decision to part ways with Jenkins provides the Vikings with a cap savings of $3.25 million, putting them at about $17.5 million in space, so it is obvious why they made the decision they did.

The Vikings receiver group was suspect even before Jenkins was cut, but now they are left with a group with more question marks than a suit worn by a Jim Carrey character.  Percy Harvin seems troubled, a Greg Childs return from injury would be unprecedented, and Jerome Simpson and Devin Aromashodu are pending free agents.  If Harvin’s circumstances don’t have him on the field opening weekend, that leaves Jarius Wright and Stephen Burton as the team’s only receivers with notable NFL experience on the roster, and that isn’t saying much.

This is just the latest sign in a long row of them that Rick Spielman and his staff are gearing up to load the receiver depth chart with new faces in an effort to improve Christian Ponder’s 31st ranked passing offense.

If the team finds themselves in a bind down the road, and he is still available, I wouldn’t be too surprised to see Jenkins back with a reduced price tag.

Free agency hasn’t even opened up yet, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t draft season on the blogosphere.

Brett is preparing to be the General Manager of a war room at the famous Mock One site and I was recently invited to represent the Vikings in an all-bloggers mock draft at DraftSeason.com.

The DraftSeason.com was pretty simple:  One round with no trades.

I’m not going to lie… I was feeling a little anxious about having to make a choice at #23 as I weighed options carefully and played out scenarios in my head.

As it turns out, my choice was every bit as simple as the rules.

Missouri defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson was still available when I was on the clock and I considered it to be a no-brainer to make him my choice.  Richardson was my choice for the Vikings in my very first mock draft, and we know the Vikings seem to have interest in him, but the way things played out in this mock made it difficult not just consider him the best player available.

I have my doubts about Richardson actually being available when the Vikings are on the clock, but this exercise illustrates that the Vikings could be in prime position to get a steal on day one, as there are enough blue chip defensive line prospects that one of them could very well fall.  If it isn’t a defensive lineman that falls then it could very well be a receiver, defensive back, or guard which would also be positions of need.

To view the full results of the DraftSeason.com blogger mock please click right here.  I hope I represented the Vikings in good fashion.

 

 

The deadline for teams to place their franchise tag on a pending free agent is Monday at 4:00 p.m. and only five tags have been placed so far.

The Vikings are not expected to use their tag this offseason despite Phil Loadholt, Jamarca Sanford, and Jerome Felton all currently unsigned.  Felton would be way overpaid because there is no difference between a fullback and running back as far as the franchise tag is concerned, while Sanford has yet to prove himself as being anywhere close to worthy of the tag.

Loadholt is not somebody the Vikings would want to lose easily, but he also isn’t likely to see them hand over $9.8 million for one year of service, particularly with so many other right tackle possibilities available via free agency and the Draft.

What will be of interest to the Vikings tomorrow, however, is keeping track of who gets tagged and who doesn’t.  They may have to cross some potential free agency targets off their list, but it will also provide some clarity as to which players are likely to hit the open market.

For instance, the Buffalo Bills already placed their tag on playmaking safety Jairus Byrd, but that means guard Andy Levitre is soon going to be allowed to sign with another team.  Defensive end Michael Johnson of the Bengals was franchised and so right tackle Andre Smith could also be available.

The other three players to be tagged so far are punter Pat McAfee of the Colts, left tackle Ryan Clady of the Broncos, and defensive tackle Henry Melton of the Bears.

We’ll keep an eye on Monday’s action all day long and be sure to update you on how, if at all, the Vikings might be impacted by all of this.

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