Wednesday, January 28, 2015
Tags Posts tagged with "harrison smith"

harrison smith

[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!]

Last year, the Vikings traded up to near the end of the first round and took safety Harrison Smith, and that move improved the secondary in such a way that I wish we could clone him.  We can’t clone him, but there is one player in this Draft I think plays a very similar game and would make one of the most feared safety duos in the NFL should he be drafted to start next to Smith.

The prospect I am talking about is Florida’s Matt Elam who measures a little short at 5′ 10″ but plays the game of football in a way that will put fear into the hearts of ball carriers or route runners.

At 208 pounds, Elam has an intimidating frame and hits as hard, if not harder, than any defensive player in this class.  He may even be more feared for his “big hits” than Smith is.  Like Smith, he may occasionally whiff on a tackle by being too aggressive or draw too many penalties but, lets face it, it is worth it.

In high school, Elam played multiple positions on both sides of the football, and made safety his full time role after playing mostly on special teams during his freshman season at Florida.  While he saw some time on defense too, Elam’s 22 tackles as a freshman came mostly from excelling in kickoff coverage.

In 2011, Elam became a full time starter as a strong safety, and did so in every game of the season.  He made an immediate impact by putting up 78 tackles, led the team with 11 tackles for a loss, two interceptions, seven defended passes, and two forced fumbles.  2012 was even better as he once again was durable enough to play every game, notched 76 total tackles, 11 tackles for a loss, two sacks, a forced fumble, and four interceptions.

Elam had a solid Combine week where he posted a 4.54 second forty time, 17 bench press reps, a 35.5″ vertical, and 118″ broad jump.  Elam chose to stand on those results and didn’t participate in timed drills at the Florida pro day, but he did receive high praise from those in attendance during the drills he took part in.

Where Elam fits into a defense is the best is where he is allowed to play in the box, close to the line of scrimmage, and make a play on the ball.  He shows incredible instincts and football smarts, seemingly always playing a step faster than anyone else on the field, and uses his strength and tenacity to impose his will on opponents.  He is just simply violent.

His big hits and run stopping ability will gain him the most praise, but he also has very good range and is no slouch in the passing game.  He might tend to be overly aggressive at times, gambling to make the big play, but otherwise is solid in covering ground sideline-to-sideline and matching up against most pass catchers.  You may not want him to man up against Brandon Marshall or Calvin Johnson, but he is going to be plenty capable of covering most slot receivers and even being effective against bigger tight ends.  His smarts certainly aren’t limited to diagnosing run plays, and often makes the reads quick enough to be in the right position to defend a pass.  One my favorite things about his coverage ability is that even when he gets turned around and out of position, he has the athleticism to catch up and the smarts to watch the receiver’s eyes, understand when the football is coming and where, and get his arm up to disrupt the pass.

Elam isn’t a perfect prospect, but he is well rounded and (as you will see in the video below) certainly has that “wow factor” you want to see in a first round prospect… his big hits.  The Vikings retained Jamarca Sanford and still have Mistral Raymond so the situation at safety isn’t as dire as it once was, but I firmly believe that Elam would be a big enough upgrade at the starting spot across from Smith that he would be a great selection for the Vikings at the end of the first round.  He would be of great value as a special teams gunner, as well, and I’ve been saying all offseason that the positions in the middle of our defense has to be a high priority after what we saw last season.

In my opinion, Elam is no doubt a top 25 prospect, and the Vikings currently hold #23 and #25.  He is a guy worthy of either spot.

[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!]

Last season the Vikings put Letory Guion in front of a relatively untested Jasper Brinkley, who played in front of young group of safeties.  As a result, the defense experienced their fair share of struggles in the middle of the defense.  The safety position was upgraded greatly when the Vikings selected Harrison Smith in the first round last year and it is widely believed the Vikings will find their starting middle linebacker in the Draft this year.

Still, with Kevin Williams getting older and carrying a large cap hit, the Vikings should be considered to be in the market for some help at the defensive tackle position, as well.  A large run stuffer that can conjure up memories of Pat Williams would be a nice addition and Georgia’s John Jenkins could be a nice fit.

At 6′ 4″ and 346 pounds, Jenkins is a huge and athletically gifted run stopping nose tackle that commanded double teams at Georgia.  His broad frame and good arm length provides opposing runners with a large obstacle to try and surpass, and he is not going to be moved off of the line of scrimmage, so they have to go around.  He also has the size and brute strength to disrupt the pocket on occasion,  but is unlikely to be a dependable pass rusher at the next level despite an intimidating bull rush.

Similar to Pat Williams, Jenkins is occasionally going to take offensive linemen by surprise with his agility and quickness.  Not only is he quick at the point of attack, but he can move around pretty well between the tackles for a guy of his size.

After transferring out of Gulf Coast Community College, the senior played two years in Georgia.  In 2011, he had 28 tackles, seven for a loss, and 10 quarterback pressures.  In 2012, he notched 50 tackles, 2 for a loss, and a sack.  He has played against elite talent with varying results.  He had a nice performance matching up against this year’s top guard Chance Warmack, but struggled greatly against D.J. Fluker in the SEC Championship Game.

I know that teams running a 3-4 defense will value a guy like Jenkins more than 4-3 teams (or the hack bloggers that cover them), but I honestly view Jenkins as more of a second round talent instead of the first rounder many believe him to be.  Part of that, at least for 4-3 teams like the Vikings, is because he has to be an assumed two-down player.

His positional value may indeed cause him to be drafted in the first round, but if teams aren’t overly impressed with his game tape then he could fall further than expected.  Combine stretches of being invisible on tape with questions about his work ethic and conditioning, not to mention a two game suspension for academic reasons, and he might actually slip to the middle of the second round or later.  At that point, and not really any earlier, I would consider Jenkins to be a great target for the Vikings to pursue.

UPDATE:  As soon as I posted this I came across this recent noteworthy article about Jenkins.  He is apparently working hard and has dropped his weight all the way down to 332 pounds.

 

I had safety Jamarca Sanford pegged as the Vikings top priority as far as retaining their own pending free agents go, and Sanford recently announced via Twitter that he is “coming back home.

It isn’t impossible that the Vikings will still look to upgrade the starting safety spot across from Harrison Smith, but Sanford provides them with experience, depth, and special teams value.  Harrison Smith, Jamarca Sanford, and Mistral Raymond are the current safeties atop the depth chart which provides continuity from last season to the upcoming one.

Details are not yet known on the deal, but we’ll let you know as soon as we do.  Fullback Jerome Felton is now the only major free agent of the Vikings that remains to be signed.

Adam has been absolutely killing it with his ‘Draft Target’ posts. Come April 25th, there will likely be no one the readers here at VT haven’t heard of the way he’s been rolling these things out. But I can’t let him have all the fun, right? Plus, I need to get my studying on as in a few days I will be representing Vikings Territory for the second time in #MockOne (Don’t know what #MockOne is? Check it out here.)

Xavier Rhodes. This is a name you may want to get familiar with in the next couple months headed up to the draft. The lengthy Cornerback from Florida St. has definitely began to catch the eyes of draftniks out there. And with a stellar performance today at the final day of the 2013 NFL Combine, he is likely to attract even more attention.

Rhodes (22) graduated from Norland High School in his hometown of Miami, Florida. In 2009, Xavier only played in two games, one for Boston College and the other for Georgia Tech, due to a hand injury that kept him from participating the majority of the season. In 2010, he moved to FSU where he impressed “as a promising young star” and won various rookie and freshman awards. In his next two years at Florida State, Rhodes solidified his role as one of the best corners in the nation and was on watch lists for both the Bednarik and Thorpe Awards.

Read any scouting report for Xavier Rhodes and I promise you’ll find the word ‘big’ within the first thirty words. Rhodes measured in at the combine at a whopping 6’1″ tall and 210 lbs. His size and large frame allow him to be an excellent press corner who is always pressuring the receiver. Don’t be mislead by his size, though. Rhodes ran a 4.43 40 at the combine today. He also had the highest vertical jump and broad jump of any defensive backs at the combine showing great leg strength and explosion. This ability to get off the ground coupled with his lengthy stature allows him to compete for balls with receivers. Rhodes is also well-known as being one of the best (if not the best) cover corners in the nation.The only real, consistent knock on Rhodes is that he isn’t amazing in run support and could work on his tackling.

There are bigger needs for the Vikings than Cornerback, no doubt about it. But, there are a few reasons why I think this pick would be really good for the Vikings.

First and foremost, I’m not completely sold on taking a wide receiver late in the first round (yet…). To me, the value just isn’t there and you could likely find someone comparable to the receivers who will be first off the board in the second and third rounds. Secondly, I really like what our secondary would look like with a guy like Rhodes added to the squad. Picture it – a physical, big-framed giant on each side, Cook and Rhodes (if Cook can stay healthy…), Antoine Winfield and Josh Robinson in the mix on occassion and the bruiser Harrison Smith lurking around in the backfield waiting to destroy someone. Doesn’t that sound awesome?! I just think the value is there at Cornerback with a guy like Rhodes, especially when this year’s draft is so deep at other defensive positions.

Xavier Rhodes could be a player who makes the Vikings secondary one to be feared for years to come in the NFC North – a division that is ripe with good quarterback play and big receivers.

If Xavier Rhodes is available when the Vikings are on the clock come April 25th (and that’s a big ‘if’ considering his stellar performance at the combine) it will be very interesting to see if the Vikings surprise people and go with the Florida State DB.

Check out the video below for some good tape on Rhodes. And feel free to leave some comments with some guys that you think would be worth looking at in our “Draft Target” series.

[NOTE:  Click the links to see our free agency rankings for quarterbacksrunning backsfullbacks,tight endscentersguardsoffensive tackles, and wide receivers.  We’ll continue our way through all of the positions this week.]

The Vikings operated under the whole “safeties don’t really have a huge impact in our defensive scheme” mentality for a long time, but Harrison Smith blew the lid off that theory in his rookie year.  Seeing what Smith could do has Vikings fans salivating for another top notch safety to play next to him.

Mistral Raymond and Robert Blanton would provide some decent depth at the position if the Vikings decided to bring in a new starting safety, and it is still possible that they could re-sign Jamarca Sanford to compete and provide added depth.

Here is who might be available next month:

Top Tier

I really only put one player in this category, and that player is Jairus Byrd from the Bills, who might hit the open market with the Bills having a lot of offseason issues to attend to.  Of all the free agents in all of the positions, Byrd has to be in my top three favorite targets for Minnesota.  With decent run support skills, some of the best coverage skills in the league, and a nose for the football it is no wonder that Byrd grades out as an elite safety in this league.

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