Thursday, May 5, 2016

jeff locke

VT QOTW

2016 NFL Draft is Finally Here
Image courtesy of Vikings.com

The long hiatus from football is finally over, and in a little under five hours, Roger Goodell will take the stage in Chicago to kick off the 2016 NFL Draft. Fans have waited months for this night, when the 32 NFL franchises jostle, negotiate, and maneuver their way through the first round. Trades will be made, teams will reach for players, and picks will shock the football world — it’s just the cyclical nature of the draft.

Some general managers will surprise, but others, like the Minnesota Vikings’ Rick Spielman, will likely make the most of their limited draft picks. Spielman has an opportunity to make a splash — like drafting a top-tier wide receiver — with the 23rd-overall selection, but he also has seven other picks at his disposal.

At Vikings Territory, we’ve focused on the pick he’ll make tonight, not the players Spielman could draft on Friday and Saturday. So today, we’re each looking ahead and picking one player we believe the Vikings will select at some point this weekend.

Who is one player the Vikings will select in the 2016 draft?

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Vikings NFL Draft Sleepers
Image courtesy of Vikings.com

Every Sunday during Draft Season, Carl and the team at Vikings Territory release scouting reports on sleeper prospects. They’re players many may not recognize, but should get to know as the 2016 NFL Draft approaches. This time of the year, the biggest names dominate the headlines, but other players taken in the later rounds can often have more of an impact than the top-32 picks.

Players like Danielle Hunter (3rd-round) and Stefon Diggs (5th-round) were more important to the Minnesota Vikings in 2015 than Trae Waynes, the team’s 11th-overall selection. Each made significant contributions on defense and offense, while Waynes was relegated to a role as the punt team’s gunner. He played well in spot duty, especially against the Seattle Seahawks, but to say he outperformed his teammates would be lying.

Sometimes, it’s the players we least expect who have the most immediate success in the NFL. That’s why I’ve asked the team here to name their favorite under-the-radar prospects; the players they love that no one’s talking about.

Who is one draft prospect you love that no one is talking about?

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Vikings 2016 Offseason Plan Part 1

[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.]

Blair Walsh lined up to kick a 27-yard field goal, a routine chip shot that would’ve won the Minnesota Vikings their first playoff game in nearly seven years. But the ball didn’t sail through the uprights; it veered left, and just like that, the team’s promising 2015 season was over. Visions of Mike Zimmer hoisting the Lombardi Trophy faded from memory as an exasperated fan base watched in disbelief. “How could he miss that kick?”

Lost in the heartbreak was the fact that the Vikings didn’t just exceed expectations in 2015 — they shattered them. Minnesota entered the year as a darkhorse playoff contender, a young team that flashed promise in 2014 and would only get better with the return of Adrian Peterson. They did, winning 11 games and snatching the NFC North title from the Green Bay Packers for the first time since 2009. With a mix of young talent and veteran leadership, the Vikings emerged as one of the league’s surprise teams last year.

Their success started in the offseason, where general manager Rick Spielman assembled one of the NFL’s deepest, most talented rosters. Rookies like Eric Kendricks and Stefon Diggs became immediate contributors, while second-year free agent acquisitions like Captain Munnerlyn and Linval Joseph elevated their respective games to new levels. In order to take the next step in 2016, the franchise will need to continue its steadfast approach in free agency and the annual NFL Draft.

But in order to do that, it’s critical the team establishes a clear vision. Every organization’s ultimate goal is the same — to claim a Super Bowl victory. Some, like the Vikings, may be closer than others like the Cleveland Browns or Tennessee Titans. Regardless, each begins a new season with a 0-0 record. It’s the path they take that separates them.

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Image courtesy of Vikings.com

Second only to the NFL Draft, the first week of the league’s free agency period is one of the most exciting parts of the NFL offseason each and every year. Sometimes it works out and other times it does not for a team and their expensive new player or players.

It is always fun for fans to hope that their team goes out and signs the top available free agents, but that is not always the best strategy for their favorite team. Some fans need to be more realistic when it comes to who they think their team could sign.

When the free agency period for this upcoming NFL year begins on March 9th, there will be a few players that could land with the Vikings. Who are some of the more realistic options in free agency that could fit with the team in Minnesota?

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That’s right, the “Sleeper Sunday” segment is back! Every Sunday between now and the 2016 NFL Draft we plan to add to our Scouting Report list by strictly focusing on lesser-known prospects that the Vikings might target in 2016.

Sound a little but like we’re taking long shots? Probably so. Last year, however, our own Austin Belisle nailed a Day Three selection of linebacker Edmond Robinson. This year we’re hoping to at least double that success!

For Vikings fans that happened to catch the East-West Shrine Game on Saturday, I’m hoping this first “Sunday Sleeper” is now a somewhat familiar name, because the Vikings could certainly use an upgrade at punter and Drew Kaser fits the bill.

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