Thursday, September 3, 2015

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The Vikings selected Oregon State’s Scott Crichton with their third pick, 72nd player selected overall. By going back to the defensive front seven so quickly, Vikings brass provided a glimpse into how the defense will be built.

Crichton has an interesting story for how he got where he is today. He declared for the draft in January despite having a year of eligibility remaining. Crichton did so without seeking an evaluation from the NFL Draft Advisory Board, having already planned to make the NFL jump in order to help his family, letting his parents retire specifically.

At 6’2⅞” 273 pounds according to, Crichton is an end on the shorter and thicker end of the size spectrum as a defensive end. His arm measures 32¾ inches at length, which is rather short for ends. He’s not a spectacular athlete either.

Crichton looks like an average player on the surface. His production tells a different story. He totaled 165 tackles, 51 tackles for loss, 22.5 sacks, 9 pass deflections, and 10 forced fumbles over his three seasons with the Beavers.

Let’s go beyond box score statistics and size measurements to find the real meat of Scott Crichton as a prospect and as a schematic fit for the Vikings.

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Brandon Fusco has earned Pro Football Focus’ “Secret Superstar” designation, meaning he’s flown under the radar as a top performer for the Minnesota Vikings:

When the season came to a close, Fusco’s +14.5 overall grade was bested only by Louis Vasquez and Larry Warford at right guard, and Fusco’s +11.6 run block grade ranked fifth among all guards. He was an average pass blocker (+0.9), but he showed significant growth from 2012. His Pass Blocking Efficiency jumped to 15th out of 59 guards and he gave up one or zero pressures in ten of the 15 games. Fusco may not have had many big blocks that stood out, but his solid play was quite consistent throughout the year.

Indeed, Fusco may have been the best performing lineman on the roster despite improvement from Phil Loadholt and big names like Matt Kalil and John Sullivan playing alongside him. He is Pro Football Focus’ 9th-ranked guard overall, and as Matt Claassen at PFF indicates, the third-best right guard in the league.


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Jermichael Finley is in the Twin Cities, per a tweet of his, but is not visiting the Vikings, according to Darren Wolfson of ESPN1500. We’re late to the story, but as a result haven’t jumped to any interesting conclusions because the whole thing has been (seemingly) sorted out. He tweeted out the following:

Which set off fair speculation by those paying attention. Unfortunately, before VT could jump on the bandwagon, Darren Wolfson tweeted out what he knew about the situation:

Which is boring, if responsible.

Recovering from a spinal bruise, Jermichael Finley would be an interesting, though potentially redundant, add to the Vikings. He suffers from a slightly overblown reputation for drops but was clearly one of the most productive tight ends in the league when healthy.

If the Vikings were particularly interested in matchup opportunities or sets with three tight ends on the field (Kyle Rudolph, Rhett Ellison and Jermichael Finley) in order to create confusion and matchup opportunities (run against nickel, pass against base, etc.) Finley could have provided a different dimension to the offense. As it is, either the roster spot is more valuable to a player that provides a different kind of depth or Finley’s injury is not something the Vikings want to deal with.

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Chris Wesseling of set out to find the to post-draft, and identified Christian Ponder as the top candidate (h/t to the Daily Norseman for finding this story):

Christian Ponder, QB, Vikings: The Vikings have brought back Matt Cassel, drafted Teddy Bridgewater as thequarterback of the future and declined Ponder’s 2015 option. So why are they prepared to waste first-team reps on a quarterback who has fallen out of their plans? The logical inference is an attempt to rebuild some semblance of trade value. Ponder still offers higher upside than the average NFL backup. Former offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave is now the Eagles quarterbacks coach. Former quarterbacks coach Craig Johnson is now the Giants running backs coach.

As Wesseling points out, summertime trades are rare but the Vikings are no stranger to late-round summer trades—indeed, A.J. Jefferson was traded after training camp and roster cutdowns, and Minnesota waived former Chicago Bears corner (and current Giants corner) Zack Bowman to do it. With the pick the Vikings traded to the Cardinals (originally acquired from Tennessee for Minnesota’s 2012 7th-round pick), Arizona acquired Carson Palmer form Oakland (sending a 2014 pick as well).

Using that, Oakland traded down with Houston to grab two more picks later in the draft. Houston drafted David Quessenberry and Oakland drafted Mychal Rivera and David Bass.


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As Chris Wesseling from Around the League and Albert Breer report, Christian Ponder—along with Matt Cassel and Teddy Bridgewater—will take some first-team snaps in offseason training activities. Wesseling’s interpretation: Ponder’s on the trade block.

Ponder has evidently dropped some body fat and gained more muscle, which should add to the weight he put on in the 2012 offseason. If he maintained that 2012 weight and simply added on to it, he should be at 238 pounds.

There is honestly nothing too surprising about all of this. It would hardly make sense to preach a “true competition” at quarterback without letting every quarterback get an opportunity to work with the “first team” offense, which will likely not be the same offense by the end of training camp anyway (looking at you, Charlie).

Yes, the Vikings are unlikely to install Christian Ponder as the Day One starter, but it’s not as if he was the worst quarterback in the NFL over his tenure. That was probably Blaine Gabbert.

Speaking of Blaine Gabbert, general manager of the Jaguars Dave Caldwell was able to trade him for a sixth-round pick.

Vikings: “Ponder has proven his drive, in great shape, can compete for #1.” Translation: “We’d love a 2015 fifth round pick.”

— Darren Page (@DarrenPage15) May 25, 2014

Indeed we would, Darren! On my podcast, I speculated that Ponder would be worth a conditional fifth-round pick that could turn into a seventh (or sixth, to be fair) based on things like playing time, making the roster, etc.

Despite the fact that Ponder outperformed Blaine Gabbert, I wouldn’t be surprised if his market was depressed in comparison. Most general managers trade for young players because they remember the college tape and overlook the NFL tape, assuming their coaches can tap into what was there when coming out of college. That’s important, because Gabbert was a better quarterback by the consensus coming out of college than Ponder.

This competition isn’t likely just for trade bait or for competition’s sake—Mike Zimmer has probably always wanted to make sure there was competition at every spot on the roster from the day he arrived. The situations are not very analogous, but it does recall the Seahawks’ three-person quarterback competition with two long-shots (Russell Wilson and Tarvaris Jackson) and a presumed starter (Matt Flynn). Staying true to what they saw, instead of presumption, the Seahawks chose to make Wilson the Day One quarterback and it worked out.

In the spirit of true competition, we may want others to take a snap or two with the first team offense! Gerald Hodges was a quarterback in high school, and rushed for 13 touchdowns while passing for ten more. Though perhaps 81 passing attempts in high school isn’t enough.

81 passing attempts, interestingly, is also the same number of attempts Jerick McKinnon had in his college career. He averaged 10.2 yards per attempt (Hodges fell behind, with a high school YPA of 8.6).

Kain Colter, an undrafted free agent trying out for the Vikings as a receiver, had slightly more than 81 passing attempts his senior year (he had 82). Unlike McKinnon, however, Colter’s YPA was a paltry 7.1. In fairness, Colter also had 240 other passing attempts in college as well.

Maybe not, though.

At any rate, don’t read too much into this one way or the other; it’s just a way for the staff to shake the cobwebs and get a “truer” evaluation of what they have. Do not be surprised if other players at other positions get the same treatment throughout OTAs.

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