Wednesday, October 7, 2015

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Georgia Tech’s triple-option attack breeds success on the ground — in 2014, the Yellow Jackets averaged 342.1 rushing yards per game, second-best in all of FBS. Pre-snap motion, backfield deception, and misdirection open a multitude of running lanes, but also open up opportunities in the passing game.

In stark contrast to its prolific rushing numbers, Georgia Tech averaged just 134.4 passing yards per game, ranking 123rd in the FBS last season. Wide receivers aren’t usually the team’s playmakers, but the transition from collegiate football to the NFL has been wildly successful for two Yellow Jackets — Demaryius Thomas and Calvin Johnson.

Considered two of the league’s best receivers, both players were first-round draft picks and quickly proved doubters wrong, showing the ability to run more than just skinny posts and comebacks in the NFL. Another Georgia Tech product, Stephen Hill, was a second-round draft pick with the Jets in 2012, but quickly flamed out when he couldn’t combine his athleticism with the game’s fundamentals.

This year, senior wide receiver Darren Waller will look to follow in the footsteps of players like Thomas and Johnson. In a deep draft class, he’ll fall to the lower rounds, where the Minnesota Vikings could take a chance on the 6’6″, 238-pound prospect. One question remains — will he be able to connect the dots in the NFL, or fall by the wayside like Stephen Hill?

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The cornerback class is quietly one of the deeper and more talented groups in this year’s NFL draft. At the top of the pack is Trae Waynes from Michigan State and Marcus Peters from Washington. From purely a talent standpoint, many people believe Peters is the better CB prospect yet red flag issues have hurt his draft stock. Waynes is a lanky press cover specialist who is consistently being projected and mocked in the neighborhood of the Vikings’ 11th over all pick.

Cornerback is widely believed to be an area of need for the Vikings, and I certainly suspect Rick Spielman and Mike Zimmer might look to draft more than one versatile defensive back again this year. Even if the Vikings select a corner in the first round, they could look to target a “sleeper” cornerback in the later rounds, who can also play safety.

My Sleeper Sunday pick this week goes to USC’s Josh Shaw. Shaw is a talented cornerback on the football field, but unfortunately he’s been overshadowed by his tall tale lie off the field which has turned his life upside down.

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On this Easter Sunday, a group of us here at VT are continuing to highlight our favorite “sleepers” to keep an eye on as Draft Weekend plays out next month. Thus far, we have pointed out OLB Edmond Robinson, OG Josue Matias, P Trevor Pardula, CB JaCorey Shepherd, QB Brandon Bridge, and S Sam Carter.

Today, I’m kicking things off by discussing a running back prospect that has piqued my interest. The Vikings, of course, have a turbulent situation on their hands at running back right now, but adding talent and depth in later rounds is likely to occur regardless of how the Adrian Peterson saga plays out over the next month.

I don’t view North Dakota State’s John Crockett as a full-time starter in the NFL, but I also don’t see him as a strict reserve option like I consider Matt Asiata to be. Instead, I see Crockett as the type of guy that could be an essential part of a two or three running back committee.

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Note: This is the last installment of a three part series detailing my personal, complicated feelings about Randy Moss. I love him for the player he was, but hate him for what could have been. Hit it here for Part I and Part II.

Hate is a strong word.

As I’ve grown older, I’ve realized that a person should never truly hate anything. It simply takes up too much time and mental energy to actively hold disdain for something or someone. But as a younger, less mature man, I can honestly say that I hated Randy Moss. I’m not proud of it. It was the sort of irrational feelings that a fan projects on a player who wasn’t as great as he could have been (despite being a future first ballot Hall of Famer) while sulking his way out of town. Twice.

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Kyle Rudolph is broken.

He’s missed 16 games in four seasons with the Minnesota Vikings, and before that, 9 in three seasons at Notre Dame. In 2013, it was a broken left foot. In 2014, it was a combination of freak injuries, from torn abdominal muscles to an MCL strain.

In a March phone interview with Brian Murphy of the Pioneer Press, Rudolph expressed his frustration with the nagging injuries:

“I’d like to think no one in the league works harder than I do to stay healthy and take care of my body, but the bottom line is I haven’t been, and the only way to get rid of those questions is to play 16 games.”

After signing a five-year contract extension worth up to $40 million in the 2014 offseason, Rudolph failed to live up to expensive expectations — his $19.4 million in guaranteed money made him the second-highest paid tight end in the league behind Jimmy Graham. Even after shedding 16 pounds and getting faster in preparation for Norv Turner’s Air Coryell offense, Rudolph spent more time on the sidelines than in the end zone, missing almost half of the Vikings’ games last season.

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