Saturday, March 28, 2015
Blog Page 206

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The NFL is allowing a three day window in which team’s can legally tamper with pending free agency prior to free agency officially beginning.  That means very late on Friday all phone lines will be open, rumors will be flying, text message services will be working overtime, and tentative deals will be struck.

That is why it is interesting to point out that the Vikings have done incredibly little this offseason so far.  Since the season ended they have added one player, CFL cornerback Rod Williams, and released veteran receiver Michael Jenkins.

That’t it.

Tomorrow night the agents for all 14 pending free agents are free to talk to other teams.  This includes right tackle Phil Loadholt, Pro Bowl fullback Jerome Felton, and safety Jamarca Sanford.  They haven’t tendered any of their restricted free agents like some teams have done.  They also haven’t restructured any veteran contracts like so many teams have done over the last few weeks.

Minnesota has always seemed to frustrate fans by waiting until the last minute to show their cards, which is the smart thing to do, but they are allowing some fairly important items on their to-do list wait until the last minute.  It is safe to assume that there is a plan in place, but I just can’t help but wonder just how much risk is built into this plan when it comes to retaining their own players.

For everyone’s sake, I hope the Vikings make the transaction report on Friday, and show a sign of life in an offseason where they have done little other than play possum.

[NOTE FROM ADAM:  The ever-valuable website DraftSeason.com recently ran out of options, or made a big mistake somehow, and invited me to take part in their All-Bloggers Mock Draft where I was able to grab defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson on behalf of the Vikings.  Whatever led them to generously include me will hopefully prove to be the beginning of a good relationship with one of the top Draft resources available.  I asked Matt Falk, Draftnik Extraordinaire  to bestow us with some knowledge.  He opted to do the ever-popular seven round mock draft that highlights some of the players he thinks the Vikings will draft.  Enjoy, and don’t forget to check out Draft Season for even more information on this year’s prospects.  Besides, Matt lives in Minnesota, so we know he must be a good guy.]

Full 7 Round Projection for the Minnesota Vikings
Matt Falk | DraftSeason.com @matt_falk

The Minnesota Vikings will be one of the more intriguing teams to watch come draft weekend. With a handful of needs Minnesota could go in a handful of directions in the early rounds. While many peg the Vikings to go either wide receiver or defensive line, never count out the wildcard of them going for flat out the best player available. Below is a full mock draft for each of the Vikings picks in the upcoming 2013 NFL Draft.

The theme of this 7 round mock is simple for the Vikings. Fill some glaring needs at wide receiver and add some players on the defensive side of the ball that compete day 1 for a starting job.

While the 2013 NFL Draft might not be top heavy with superstars it is full of depth at many positions and will allow teams like the Vikings to fill some holes, not only in the early rounds, but also in the mid to late rounds.

On the offensive side of the ball it will be very surprising to watch the Vikings not grab at least 2 receivers throughout the draft weekend. Along with receiver I would be mildly surprised if they didn’t nab a quarterback even if it is in round 5 or later, not to necessarily compete, but to at least have in their back pocket for future use or even be a possible future number 2.

Defensively Minnesota needs to add some depth throughout the entire defense. I see free agency helping with this issue, but getting younger at a few positions will almost be a must. Depending on what free agency brings, we could see more than 1 linebacker and or defensive lineman go to Minnesota.

Soak up the full 7 round projection below, noting that all could change once free agency gets into full swing. For more NFL Mock Drafts and analysis hit up DraftSeason.com or follow us @matt_falk

1. Keenan Allen WR, CAL
If Keenan Allen manages to stick on the board until pick 23 it might be too tempting for the Vikings to pass on the possible number 1 receiver. Allen isn’t a burner but the type of receiver that can make big plays and move the sticks. Has the mold of an Anquan Boldin and depending on Harvin’s status, could instantly become the Vikings number 1 receiver. Allen is one of the big wildcards in the 2013 NFL Draft, he is a player that could end up going top 10, OR be a guy who ends up falling into the 20’s due to other team’s needs.

[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!]

It is no secret that the Vikings could use some help at defensive tackle.  Kevin Williams seems to be slumping and, at age 32, one can’t help but wonder if it is all downhill from here.  Letroy Guion and Christian Ballard have yet to establish themselves as reliable starters, and Fred Evans is nothing more than a suitable stopgap.

The Vikings could likely get by for another season with this group, but the popular theory is that they will use the NFL Draft to try and get a jump start on upgrading.  Todd McShay of ESPN recently mocked North Carolina tackle Sylvester Williams to the Vikings, a suddenly trendy pick, so I figured now was as good of a time as any to profile Williams for you all.

At 6′ 3″ and 313 pounds, Williams was impressive at the NFL Scouting Combine, including a 5.03 forty time and 27 reps on the bench press, confirming what we already knew:  Williams is the perfect combination of speed and strength that teams look for in a defensive tackle.

Williams is a prospect that comes with a story, having personal troubles during his high school years, but managed to catch on with a small school before making himself known under the bright lights at North Carolina.  He is known as a raw and emotional player, for better and worse, that plays with a nastiness that sometimes spills over into the realm of undisciplined.

He is known for his swim move, which gets him into the backfield on a fairly regular basis, but it is also a worry that you seldom see him use any other moves to bet beyond his blocker.  He plays with an enormous amount of strength and a reach that casts a wide net for taking down running backs or making plays on the ball.  His strength and burst could allow him to play either tackle position for the Vikings, and maybe even defensive end on running downs, but he should probably be assigned learning the three-technique from day one as his primary responsibility.

Williams has been knocked for inconsistencies, especially against more elite blockers, and it is certainly a concern to see any player disappear for long stretches.  Both his work ethic and conditioning has been alluded to as a possible worry by a number of experts and draftniks, but I have yet to hear anything solid to suggest this is really concern.  Hopefully someone from the Vikings had the presence of mind to do some digging on this matter when former North Carolina defensive lineman Tydreke Powell spent some time with the Vikings in 2012.

What I really love about Williams, and I think is being overlooked, is the fact that he improved in 2012 despite the fact that star lineman Quinton Coples left for the NFL.  One would think that Coples leaving would have an adverse impact on Williams, but he nearly tripled his stats for tackles for a loss and sacks from 2011 to 2012.  Williams is still growing and improving as a football player, and the fact that he could become even better and more refined is going to be very intriguing to front offices around the league.

In a normal year there might be more buzz surrounding Williams, but this is a very deep class at defensive end, and there are certainly a handful of tackles the Vikings will have higher on their board than Williams.  Picking at #23, however, puts them in a position to consider the scenario in which Williams is the best defensive tackle available to them when they are on the clock.

I’m not certain he will even be one of their top 23 ranked players in this draft, but that doesn’t discount the idea that he would be an attractive option, especially given that they could conceivably allow him a season or two to learn and grow behind their current veterans at the position.  I think that the Vikings will have to trade back from #23, or Williams will have to fall to their second round pick, if McShay’s prediction is to come true but it certainly isn’t impossible to envision them making this selection at some point.

 

The Vikings desperately need a receiver capable of taking the top of a defense if for know other reason than to give Christian Ponder a no-excuses 2013 season in which he will be expected to make major strides as an NFL quarterback.

Minnesota is expected to make a run at receivers via free agency and also invest heavily in the position during April’s NFL Draft.  Percy Harvin remains a giant question mark right now, so that leaves only Jarius Wright as a receiver on the roster with any notable experience in the NFL, and that isn’t saying much.

Greg Jennings has been tossed around as an option for the Vikings, and he still might be, but as opening day of free agency draws nearer it appears Steelers free agent receiver Mike Wallace is going to be the focus of “reports.”

Jeff Darlington of NFL.com penned an item on Wednesday all about the Miami Dolphins and their need to provide Ryan Tannehill with more weapons.  Buried in the article, however, is a line about how Miami’s General Manager Jeff Ireland fully expects to be in a bidding war with Minnesota for Wallace’s services.

I can’t say that I am overly surprised.  Wallace is only 26 years old, has some of the best speed in the NFL, and has made some great catches over his career.  At 6′ 0″ and 199 pounds he has adequate size to be a top receiver capable of keeping defenses honest, and hopefully opening up the ground game for Adrian Peterson.

On the other hand, Wallace has proven to be somewhat inconsistent and has had trouble with drops of late.  If Christian Ponder is unable to take advantage of Wallace’s deep threat skill set, and Wallace struggles running shorter routes and making tough catches, I worry that we could be seeing another version of Bernard Berrian.

I also worry that, in a league where teams really don’t harbor two high-priced wide outs on one roster, that signing Wallace to an inevitably large contract would simultaneously be signing Percy Harvin’s pink slip.  Wallace could very well command a five year deal worth in excess of $40 million, if not much more.

Still, the Vikings must eventually take a chance on somebody if they want to make a genuine effort at creating a whole offense, and Wallace appears to meet the criteria to be a key piece in that puzzle.

I have said many times over the last few months that Percy Harvin is not in the drivers seat when it comes to this game of chicken he is supposedly playing with Minnesota’s front office.

Harvin has one more year on his contract.  Any sort of holdout would almost certainly end 10 weeks into the 2013 season, which would give the Vikings a healthy Harvin heading down the stretch towards the playoffs, and his pay would be decreased with every passing week that he isn’t in uniform.  After that he could, if the Vikings so desired, be retained via the franchise tag for two more years.

Still, the Vikings would surely prefer to sign their talented young receiver to a reasonable long-term contract and put this whole situation to bed.  Dwayne Bowe’s recent contract with the Chiefs, however, could widen the gap between what Harvin think is reasonable and what the team thinks is reasonable.

Bowe signed a five year deal worth up to $56 million, which included a $15 million signing bonus.  The deal includes a total of $26 million and places Bowe into the top three highest paid receivers in the NFL.  Harvin and his agent, however, would almost certainly like to knock Bowe into fourth place very soon.

Harvin has never had a 1,000 yard receiving year, while Bowe has had three, and unlike Bowe he has never caught double-digit touchdowns in a season.  Harvin, however, provides multiple dimensions to his game via taking snaps as a running back and being one of the NFL’s best kick returners.  There is little arguing that both are game changers, but there is also little arguing that Harvin is prone to change a game a hell of a lot faster.

Harvin is four years younger than Bowe, as well, so it is safe to assume that he will be expecting his second contract to be one that pays him in excess of what Bowe is now going to be earning.

Back in December I speculated that Harvin would command a five year deal somewhere in the neighborhood of $55 million, with $25 million in guarantees.

Now, after seeing Bowe’s new deal, I am guessing it is going to have to be somewhere closer to $60 million with $30 million guaranteed.

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