Wednesday, July 29, 2015

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In an unsurprising and unremarkable move, the Vikings are set on cutting tight end John Carlson, formerly of the Seattle Seahawks (and before that, Notre Dame).

Minnesota had already restructured Carlson’s contract once in order to reduce the cap hit he took up (he was due a base salary of $2.9 million and had it reduced to $1.5 million), but still was going to consume $5 million in cap space in 2014, and $6 million in the two subsequent years. In his two years with the Vikings, he caught 40 passes for 387 yards, most of which came on the back end of 2013 after Kyle Rudolph was injured.

From a talent perspective, John Carlson was an OK backup tight end, but commanded too much salary to be worth keeping on the roster for the production he could provide. Despite a promising rookie and sophomore showing in Seattle was sidelined by injury and never gained it back.

The move to grab him as he was visiting the Kansas City Chiefs didn’t make much sense, and time didn’t prove Spielman right. It was a surprising amount of money to throw at an oft-injured tight end with no recent history of production, but that’s what happened and the Vikings paid for it.

The dead space incurred by this move is $3 million, according to Spotrac, which means the Vikings will either save $2 million this year and $6 million the next two years, or $3.5 million this year, $4.5 million next year and $6 million the year after that, depending on how they want to prorate his cap hit.

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Free agency is sneaking up on us and the Vikings have been quiet, as usual, regarding their plans to re-sign their own free agents.  Almost certainly, there will be some of our own guys signing new contracts prior to the March 11th opening of the market, but this is as good of a time as any to participate in some good old fashioned speculation.

I tend to view the NFL Draft as a time to amass talent, with less regard for immediate need than is displayed in the opening days of free agency, so I have narrowed in on five guys that I think could help make an immediate impact on the opening day roster.  Of course, free agency is highly unpredictable and we fans seldom get what we want, but this slow time in the offseason is the perfect time for us dreamers to dream.

The Houston Texans are unofficially on the clock with the first overall pick of the 2014 NFL draft. Before the Texans took a single snap this season, the entire football world had Jadeveon Clowney earmarked as the top football player in the country. Clowney’s monster hit in the Outback Bowl on January 1st, 2013 sparked the Gamecocks to a bowl win and ignited a nation of believers. Yet, over the past 12 months Clowney’s flame has flickered just enough to draw questions whether or not he is truly college football’s top prospect.

Clowney failed to live up to the lofty hype and expectations last season at South Carolina. His 11.5 tackles for loss and 3 sacks were down from the his previous two years when he averaged 17 tackles for loss and 10.5 sacks.

Did he really need to prove anything more on the football field anyway?

Was the thought of Marcus Lattimore’s season ending knee injury in 2012 still etched in the back of his mind? Was Clowney just playing tentative, or does he have red flags concerning his work ethic?

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Through 27 games, I was able to track the passing of the “Big Four” quarterbacks: Teddy Bridgewater, Johnny Manziel, Blake Bortles and Derek Carr—the presumed top four quarterbacks that have a reasonable chance of going in the first round.

Games tracked for Bridgewater: Ohio, Eastern Kentucky, Kentucky, Rutgers, South Florida, Houston, Miami (Bowl)

Games tracked for Manziel: Alabama, Arkansas, Missouri, Louisiana State, Auburn, Vanderbilt, Ole Miss

Games tracked for Bortles: Akron, Penn State, South Carolina, Louisville, Connecticut and Baylor (Bowl)

Games tracked for Carr: Rutgers, Boise State, Cal Poly, San Diego State, Utah State, San Jose State, Southern California (Bowl)

For this game tracking, I chose not to look at completion percentage, “true touchdowns,” or “true interceptions” but simply an evaluation of the ball placement. If the quarterback reasonably puts the ball in place for the receiver to get it, regardless of the actual catch, it’s counted as an accurate throw.

This will mean there are no penalties for drops, but there are penalties for spectacular catches where the receiver bails out the quarterback for poor ball placement. It also penalizes all dropped interceptions and touchdowns, while eliminating throws that could not reasonably be blamed on the quarterback in those situations.

Any drive resulting in a touchdown did not get any additional touchdown credit, even if a receiver dropped the ball in the end zone earlier in the drive. All distances are “true” insofar as they are recorded where the ball was thrown, not the final yardage gained on the play, which also means all throws in the end zone have additional yards tacked on based on where in the end zone the ball was thrown (a throw from the 15-yard line eight yards into the end zone would be recorded as a 23-yard pass).

Only passes that were “aimed” were included, which means no throwaways or receiver/quarterback miscommunications. A few penalties that made it impossible to determine ball placement were excluded as well (usually egregious holding).

Each box of four includes “completions,” aimed passes, “true touchdowns,” and “true interceptions” based on ball placement as indicated:

Acc Chart Key

There are a number of ways to track the data, all of which provide different contexts. I’ll attempt to walk through a few of them and see if there are any useful conclusions to draw.

It seems like the NFL Draft should be just a week or two away. At the very most a month… But May 8th? The agony! It feels like it’s a lifetime away. So, to pass the time, we speculate. We try and predict the decisions of32 NFL franchises when they are on the clock. Of course, we’re always far, far off from what actually transpires. In fact, I went back and looked at my mock from last year… Want to know how many selections I got correct?

Not a single one.

That’s okay, though. I was in good company… Well known draft expert Mel Kiper didn’t have one correct pick in the first round either. (Technically, Kiper did mock Patterson to the Vikings, just at the wrong spot. He also mocked Eddie Lacy to the Packers but, again, at the wrong spot.)

Mike Mayock? We all know Mayock is one of the best in the biz. How many picks did he get right? Well, he hit on like five or six. But, I mean… This is what this guy dedicates his entire year to.

Truth is, there are just far too many variables to consider, things that change, trades, smoke screens, etc. to get anywhere near accurate with these kind of draft predictions. Nevertheless, they are incredibly entertaining because they simulate the possibilities of what could be come May 8th. The young stars who could potentially take your favorite team to the next level.

I have the honor of getting things started this offseason here at VT with my first mock of the year. While it was fun, I’m sure there will be a bunch of changes in the following months. As you’ll see, I have the Houston Texans selecting quarterback Blake Bortles with the first overall pick. This may come as a disappointment to some as it seems Bortles has become a favorite amongst Vikings fans at the eighth overall pick. Bortles to the Texans just seems like a good possibility, though. Although raw, I think Bortles athleticism, size and raw talent is probably intriguing to Texans Head Coach Bill O’Brien. O’Brien also got to see what Bortles is capable of first hand when Penn State was beat at home by the Bortles-lead UCF Knights 34-31. Bortles has the potential to be the prototypical quarterback quite a few franchises will be looking for. Franchises that are drafting ahead of the Minnesota Vikings.

Continue on for the rest of the picks in the draft along with some analysis of how and why selections were made. Of course, would love to hear your thoughts on the Vikings selection and your own predictions on how everything will transpire. Enjoy!

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