Wednesday, May 25, 2016

harrison smith

Ranking the Vikings first round selections

[Note: This reflection on the Vikings’ success in the first round of the most recent decade’s worth of drafts is provided courtesy of Matt Falk from Draft Season. We highly recommend checking out their site for scouting reports of this year’s top prospects with a Vikings slant.]

Over the past 10 years, the Vikings have done a decent job finding talent in the first round of the NFL Draft. While they’ve have had their share of big misses, they’ve also hit on some stars along the way.

Let’s take a quick look back and attempt to rank them from worst to best.

#12 – 2011 – Christian Ponder QB, Florida St. (12th overall)

It’s hard to not feel bad for Ponder. He really never should of have been the 12th overall pick. Due to where he was selected, fans had some unrealistic expectations. Unsurprisingly, Ponder never panned out and struggled through a rocky four years in Minnesota. You’ve, gotta give the guy credit though; he acted like a true professional during his time in Minnesota.

#11 – 2013 – Cordarrelle Patterson WR, Tennessee (29th overall)

Patterson toyed with our emotions during his big rookie season, but has been in a nose dive ever since. While he’s still one of the most dangerous return men in the league, he adds absolutely nothing to the team as a wide receiver. Unless he has a huge turnaround, we won’t be seeing him on the field with the offense, except in August. For now, we’ll just have to get excited when he gets the chance to return a kick.

#10 – 2015 – Trae Waynes (11th overall)

The only reason Waynes is so low on the list is because it’s much too soon to know what we really have in the Michigan State cornerback. He barely saw the field as a rookie, but did show some flashes (along with some growing pains). I would feel confident saying that in a few years, we could see him bumping up at least a few spots on this same list.

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Harrison Smith would be an impact player
Image courtesy of Vikings.com

Vikings Territory asked, and the readers spoke; in this series of articles, the team will announce the winners of our fan-voted awards, from the Minnesota Vikings’ MVP of 2015 to the Rookie of the Year. Today, a look at the Defensive Player of the Year as voted by you, the fans.

Harrison Smith, FS — Minnesota Vikings

First a trip to the 2016 Pro Bowl in Hawaii, and now, a title as the Vikings Territory Defensive Player of the Year. Though not as grand, the award is important because it comes from the fans of the Minnesota Vikings. Since he was drafted in 2012, Vikings fans have known that Harrison Smith would be an impact player in Minnesota. The award, just like his Pro Bowl invitation, is long overdue, but no less deserved.

He jetted closer to stardom in 2014, the best statistical season of his four-year career. It was Smith’s five interceptions and three sacks that earned him a first-team nod on Pro Football Focus’s All-NFL team, and one could argue he improved his play in 2015. Despite missing nearly four games this year, Smith was a force against the pass and run in Mike Zimmer’s aggressive scheme. “I’m fortunate enough to be in a system where [coach Mike Zimmer] wants us to do all of those things,” he said, per Matt Vensel. “I’m just lucky to be here and happy to be here because of that.”

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Anthony Barr and Teddy Bridgewater to the 2016 Pro Bowl
Image courtesy of Vikings.com

The first round of the 2014 NFL Draft is looking golden for Minnesota Vikings general manager Rick Spielman. His two picks, Anthony Barr and Teddy Bridgewater, have been selected to play in the 2016 Pro Bowl. The news, announced on the team’s official website Monday, gives the Vikings five representatives in this year’s game.

The two will play this Sunday in Honolulu, Hawaii as injury replacements. Bridgewater will take over the spot vacated by Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer and Barr will fill in for New England Patriots linebacker Jamie Collins. This is the first Pro Bowl selection for either player.

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Harrison Smith named to 2016 Pro Bowl
Image courtesy of Vikings.com

This is a post that should’ve been written after the 2014 regular season. And though it’s overdue, it’s no less deserved. As first reported by Darren Wolfson, Harrison Smith is expected to be named to his first Pro Bowl this week. ESPN’s Ben Goessling confirmed the report, making Smith the third Minnesota Vikings player represented in this year’s all-star contest. He’ll join Adrian Peterson and Everson Griffen in Hawaii next Sunday.

Goessling reports that two league sources confirmed Smith’s selection will be made official after tonight’s NFC Championship Game. Smith finished the season with 66 tackles, 1.5 sacks, one forced fumble, and two interceptions in 13 total games. Though he missed nearly four games with a knee injury, Smith proved invaluable to Mike Zimmer’s defense. And even if his stats weren’t as eye-popping in 2015 as they were in 2014, Smith’s greatness didn’t go unrecognized by the NFL.

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Top Vikings Plays of 2015
Image courtesy of Vikings.com

The beauty of football is that it’s a subjective sport. Two people may watch the same exact play and find two completely different things they enjoyed about it. On a long punt return, one person may notice the devastating block that sprung the returner free. Another may cheer for the returner’s quick feet and dizzying jukes.

Think of everything that happens from the snap to the whistle; a period of time that lasts just four seconds. Linemen crash into each other, creating a violent collision of helmets and facemasks. Wide receivers sprint, cut, plant, and fly through their breaks down the field. Shoulder pads pop, footballs whistle out of quarterbacks’ hands, and fans cheer wildly from the stands. It’s an explosion for the senses and a spectacle to behold each Sunday.

Now think back on the Vikings’ 2015 campaign. They ran 973 offensive plays, defended another 1,076, and used their special teams units on 439 more. That’s 2,488 total plays, per Sporting Charts. It’d be nearly impossible to narrow down the best play of the season, but that’s exactly what the poll of the week is for. Many of you will share your own choices in the comments, but I’ve tried to narrow down five of the most memorable, noteworthy plays from a wild 2015. After the jump, we’ll run through my choices.

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