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I’ll admit it.  I’m viewing things through purple-colored sunglasses these days, with Mike Zimmer making me an optimistic fan yet again, and finding five things I loved about our first preseason victory was much easier than this post.

Afterall, “hate” is a mighty strong word.

So, it might be best to consider this more of a list of things that annoy me.

5.  Kluwe Shadow Still Looms Large

As I stated, I’m loving this new regime and all of the excitement that comes with it. Paul Allen, a homeristic homer, navigated away from the harsh truths of the Chris Kluwe versus Mike Priefer saga during his broadcast, but the national guys will not be so kind to the Vikings organization.  During those first few weeks, when Priefer is serving his suspension, the new coaching staff will have their debut games tainted by this distracting drama and the talking points that are sure to follow.

16 games of football, and maybe even a post-season appearance, can change the way we look at the makeup of a roster and the value of an individual player.  With that being said, as I glance towards what drama might be in store for next offseason, Rick Spielman doesn’t appear to have many paramount decisions waiting for him on the horizon.

Most of the current players that are set to see their contracts expire after this season were signed (or re-signed) this offseason to one year deals.  The hope is that they will produce quite nicely and be worthy of another contract next offseason, but they really won’t be priorities until that production actually happens.

[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!]

After losing Geoff Schwartz, and even though they signed Seth Olsen, the Vikings would still benefit from finding a high quality swing guard.  The preference would surely be to find a guy that could not only be a quality backup to numerous positions on the line, but a guy that might push Brandon Fusco and Charlie Johnson for a starting position.

One possibility, Kyle Long out of Oregon, comes with an interesting past that includes an interesting path to the NFL.  He comes from a football family, being the son of Howie Long and the brother of Chris Long, but it originally looked like Kyle’s future was going to be in baseball.  After being drafted by the Chicago White Sox coming out of high school, Long decided to accept a scholarship at Florida State.  That didn’t go too well, and only lasted one semester, as Long couldn’t make his grades and ended up getting nabbed for a DUI.  He went home and eventually enrolled at Saddleback Junior College where he played on the defensive line with only mild success.  He moved to offensive line in his second season at Saddleback and really seemed to find his niche.

After entertaining a number of bigger school suitors, Long signed on with the Oregon program and they kept him on the offensive line, which saw him instantly become one of the most athletic linemen in football.  Despite being so raw to the position, Oregon started Long in 10 of their 12 games last season, and he made a good impression.

Long’s career path meant that he had to apply for a sixth year of eligibility, but he was denied and had little choice but to enter the 2013 Draft pool, and he presents an interesting case for teams to evaluate.

Long is 6′ 6″ and 313 pounds.  He ran the third fastest forty yard dash (4.94) of all the offensive linemen at the Scouting Combine.  That quickness and athleticism shows up on tape, too, as he is a very proficient pulling guard and seems to find himself making blocks at the second level more often than most guards do.  He has an intensity to his game, like his brother does for the Rams, that cannot be taught and will certainly be attractive to every NFL team.  He plays hard through the whistle on every snap.

You can tell that Long has only played the offensive line for a short amount of time.  He sometimes has mental lapses and can freeze his feet on occasion  and he also has a tendency to play too upright without enough flexibility, which allows defenders to get him off balance.  He could stand to add some strength and bulk to his frame, but he has a powerful initial burst and uses his 11″ hands to deliver some nasty punches.

I would say that Long has first round athleticism, Day Two game tape, but question marks that could keep him from being drafted until the third round or later.  His rerouted college career not only brings up character concerns, but it also mans he will already turn 25 years old during the 2013 season, and he enters the NFL with a lack of experience.

On the other hand, he hasn’t been in trouble for a number of years, and if he can combine some added bulk while refining his skills and flexibility, he could end up being one of the more gifted guards in the NFL for years to come.  His father and brother have stated that he’s the best athlete in the family, which is saying something, and he certainly passes the eye test of an NFL offensive lineman.

For the Vikings, Long might be a good fit, as his athleticism and dominance in the run game are a combination they seem to seek out.  Meanwhile, they don’t seem overly concerned with either Fusco or Johnson as starting options, and Long wouldn’t have to be forced into action right away if he isn’t ready.  Although, he might provide serious competition for a starting job sooner rather than later if the work ethic he displayed on Saturdays has been a part of his pre-Draft preparation.

Long could be a serious consideration with the 22nd pick in the second round, and would be hard to resist if he is still available when they are on the clock in the third round.  Although, it might be telling if Long’s former coach, Chip Kelly of the Eagles, passes on him enough times to let him fall this far.

 

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Yesterday, the Vikings signed former Chief Matt Cassel as their backup plan at quarterback.

Today, former Vikings offensive lineman signed a one year deal with Kansas City, according to The Kansas City Star.

Schwartz played well for the Vikings during his one season with the team, occasionally taking some snaps from right guard Brandon Fusco, and has the versatility to play both guard and tackle.  He could end up having some opportunity to prove himself at right tackle or guard with the Chiefs, but all of that hinges on whether or now they use their first overall pick on offensive tackle Luke Joeckle or not.

Once again, for those keeping track at home for the purposes of trying to predict the 2014 compensatory draft pick distribution, the Vikings have seen two of their own free agents sign elsewhere, but have yet to sign one themselves.

There seems to be a perception out there that the Vikings would be best served by addressing their biggest need, wide receiver, later on in the 2013 NFL Draft.  The reasoning seems to be that the value will be better at the position in rounds two and three.

I’m not certain that I agree that there aren’t a number of receivers deserving of being selected at #23 by the Vikings, but one has to wonder what direction the Vikings could go if there isn’t a receiver available that they deem worthy of the selection.

Linebacker, safety, defensive tackle, and cornerback could all make sense without a doubt.  However, I also think that an instant-starter guard could do a lot to bolster an already formidable offensive line.  Charlie Johnson and Brandon Fusco aren’t scaring any defensive coordinators and could be considered a weakness.

So, with all of that being said, who could possibly be considered when the Vikings are on the clock.  I think we have to start with the guy that seems to be the consensus top guard in this year’s class, Chris Warmack.

Coming out of Alabama, Warmack weighs in at about 6’ 3” and 320 pounds, and appears to be a surefire first rounder that may not even be available to the Vikings at #23.  In fact, as of this posting, my mock draft has Warmack being selected by the Rams at #16.  Brett’s mock draft has him as a top ten pick going to the Jets.

Most mock drafts, in fact, have Warmack being selected before the Vikings get to pick and that alone should be a good indicator that he would be heavily considered should he somehow fall to them.

Going up against some of the toughest competition in the nation, Warmack has been a dominant force that capped a decorated college career by helping to power his offense over Notre Dame for a national championship.

Warmack plays with an impressive amount of strength and explosiveness, and plays in which he run blocks immediately jump off the screen because of how well he clears a path for his running backs.  Like current left tackle Matt Kalil, however, Warmack also displays very sound fundamentals and technique in pass protection.  He plays a very well rounded game and possesses all the attributes that should be attractive to every NFL team.

It is often stated on the comments page of this site that the Vikings should always look for the biggest, meanest, nastiest offensive lineman they can find.  Warmack is exactly that, but also has the athleticism to succeed in a zone blocking scheme, and it would be incredible to watch him play between Kalil and current center John Sullivan.

There really are very few things about Warmack that a scout is going to point out as a negative, and when they do find something it will probably be pretty minor.  He is a tad shorter than the prototypical NFL guard and will need to continue building on his strength at the next level.  He has been the occasional victim of powerful bull rushes (See:  SEC Championship against Georgia’s John Jenkins), but almost every NFL guard has those same issues from time to time.

In the end, if those little faults are enough to cause Warmack to fall to #23, then that might be a very good thing for the Vikings because they would be getting a heck of a football player out of the deal.

The following video is a little different than the normal highlight reel because it features commentary, but it is smart stuff and worth a watch.

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