Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Anthony Barr

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image courtesy of Vikings.com

Minnesota Vikings general manager Rick Spielman is a restless man during the NFL Draft. When he’s not on the clock, he’s frantically making calls with other teams to improve Minnesota’s draft position. He has operated that way since he took over full reigns as general manager in 2012.

In his first three NFL Drafts, Spielman either moved Minnesota’s place in the draft or added a selection in the first round. He swooped an extra couple of picks from Cleveland in 2012 to move down one spot and was still able to get the guy he wanted in Matt Kalil. In 2013, Spielman selected three times in the first round, making trades with Seattle (before the draft) and New England to acquire picks that turned into Sharrif Floyd, Xavier Rhodes and Cordarrelle Patterson.

Spielman then pulled the trigger on a trade that moved the Vikings back into the last slot of the first round in 2014 to select Teddy Bridgewater.

“Slick Rick” didn’t make any such moves in the previous two drafts, but his track record indicates that type of maneuver is on his mind a week before the draft. It’s important to keep in mind that Spielman would likely need to give up the 48th overall pick and the 79th overall pick to move up into the bottom of the first. Depending on the prospects available, it might require more than that.

With all of this in mind, the question must be asked: If Spielman does pull the trigger on a trade into the first round, which prospects should he target?

The fundamental answer is easy: trade up for a guy with top-tier first round talent who has slipped through the cracks. Several candidates fit that bill in this year’s draft class.

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Xavier Rhodes Set to Host
Image courtesy of Sports International

Before he locked down receivers like Odell Beckham Jr. and DeAndre Hopkins, Xavier Rhodes was just another kid with a dream — he wanted to play in the NFL.

Today, Rhodes is one of the league’s top cornerbacks; a cog in Mike Zimmer’s fearsome Minnesota Vikings defense. Before the 2017 regular season begins, he’ll likely sign a lucrative contract extension, one that keeps his immeasurable talents in Minnesota for the long haul.

But something more important, more meaningful comes first — The Xavier Rhodes Football Camp. In its second year, the overnight camp is Xavier’s chance to give back to the youth of Minnesota and help them realize their dreams of playing high school, collegiate, and even professional football.

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These Opportunities Come Once in a Lifetime

Image courtesy of Vikings.com

Well, not at this exact moment — but very soon.

Teams around the National Football League are scheduling their final handful of meetings and workouts with prospects, as the draft is just a mere three weeks away. The opportunity every team and NFL fans have been waiting for — the chance to fill in glaring roster holes with eager young talent.

The Minnesota Vikings are no different in that they are likely not only as excited about the upcoming draft as fans are, but they also possess multiple roster holes that, if adequately filled in, could take this team to new heights. It is no secret that Minnesota will enter the draft with a rather notable offensive line issue — despite the team’s signings of offensive tackles Riley Reiff and Mike Remmers.

Starting defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd’s career-threatening nerve issue has also caused a buzz within Vikings circles, as 3-technique quickly becomes a question mark if, in fact, Floyd’s career is over. Both Minnesota’s interior offensive line and defensive tackle groups will likely receive an upgrade at some point, but another glaring concern on defense remains — linebacker.

Minnesota Vikings Fanspeak Mock Draft
Image courtesy of Vikings.com

I took to Twitter on Tuesday night to pose a vital question to my followers.

I thought, “Hey, only nine percent said no, so why not give it a shot?”

Fanspeak’s On The Clock feature allows fans to simulate the 2017 NFL Draft by acting as general manager of any team. It brings together several different variables that NFL front offices consider when selecting — and it allows the user to choose which reputable big board to use for the simulation.

For this simulation, I used the Dan Brugler big board from CBS Sports. And, I stuck with Fanspeak’s free On The Clock feature instead of paying for the Premium feature, which allows users to make trades in the draft.

You can view the full results of my simulation HERE.

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Where Do the Vikings Head From Here
Image courtesy of Vikings.com

[In part one of this three-part series, Austin Belisle and Brett Anderson team up to put together an in-depth offseason plan for the Minnesota Vikings.]

Football, more than any other sport, is an unpredictable game. A loose ball, a tipped pass, a broken tackle; the slightest shift in momentum or circumstance can flip competition on its head. Franchises prepare for the random nature of the game, but often fall victim to factors they can’t control.

Such was the case for the Minnesota Vikings in 2016. From Teddy Bridgewater’s knee injury to the merry-go-round at offensive line, the team struggled to bounce back in the face of adversity. Players on the defensive side of the ball underperformed, turmoil forced a turnover on the coaching staff, and Mike Zimmer’s eye blurred Minnesota’s season outlook.

Combined, the weekly distractions and diversions were too much for the Vikings to overcome. They stalled to an 8-8 finish after starting the season 5-0; missing the playoffs just one year removed from winning the NFC North. Like any team in the NFL, the Vikings had one end-goal in mind: the Super Bowl. But dreaming of a Lombardi Trophy and winning the actual game are two different things.

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