Tuesday, March 3, 2015
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john sullivan

[Note From Adam:  One of my favorite sources of Vikings analysis and opinion comes from the “Kick Ass Blog” run by Darren Campbell.  Check them out often (they are on our blogroll forever)!  Darren was kind enough to provide us with a guest post outlining the successes and failures experienced in the NFL Draft since Rick Spielman has been with the Vikings.  Enjoy!]

Rick Spielman is in his eighth season with the Minnesota Vikings. He first joined the team as the club’s vice-president of player personnel. One of his jobs was preparing for the NFL’s college draft, which is something he continued to oversee after being named the Vikings general manager in 2012.

Up until he became GM last year, Spielman didn’t have full control over who made the Vikings roster. However, it’s fair to say he still had considerable influence on the process and over whom the team did and didn’t pick in each of the six drafts he’s been a part of.

This April’s draft will be Spielman’s seventh with the Vikings. And as it is April 1, I wanted to drill down and take a closer look at the players Minnesota has picked since 2007 and when they’ve picked them. Here is what I found.

1st round (#23 and 25th overall in 2013 draft)

Draft picks: Adrian Peterson (2007); Percy Harvin (2009); Christian Ponder (2011); Matt Kalil and Harrison Smith (2012)

Commentary: Your first round picks should be the ones you get right the majority of the time and that’s been true under Spielman. The Peterson and Harvin picks (even though things turned sour with Percy) were masterstrokes and though it’s still early, Kalil and Smith look like exceptional selections also. And let’s not forget the Vikings used their 2008 first round selection to help take defensive end Jared Allen (74 sacks in 80 games with Minnesota) off Kansas City’s hands. The only first rounder during Spielman’s tenure who looks iffy is Ponder- and this would be a huge whiff that could set the franchise back several seasons if CP7 can’t cut it as a starter. Still, given Spielman and the Vikings track record since 2007, there’s an excellent chance they will get some good players if the team keeps both the #23 and #25 overall selections. Spielman has chosen well in this round regardless of whether he’s had a top 10 pick – Peterson (#7) and Kalil (#4)  -or a late first rounder like Harvin (#22) or Smith (#29).

I think we here at VT have done a pretty good job of beating this roster to death from an analysis standpoint since the season ended, and if we missed something we are sure to club it over the head prior to April’s Draft.  So, instead of being incredibly redundant and boring with some sort of Pre-Free Agency guide, I wanted to just run through each position and give you a quick thought.  A little something to chew on while you wait for the bell to toll midnight on Tuesday, if you will.

QB:  I am one of the remaining few that thinks Joe Webb still has value to this team as a scout team quarterback since they have struggled with mobile quarterbacks recently and have a bunch of them on the 2013 schedule.  Still, the Vikings need to find someone with a little more poise to be the primary backup to Christian Ponder (and maybe give him a little competition) and early indications are that the best option available via free agency might be Drew Stanton.  Stanton being the best available is not saying much, though.

RB:  If the Vikings are going to deal Percy Harvin away then why not chase a guy like Reggie Bush to be a backup to Adrian Peterson, step in on key passing downs, contribute on special teams, and occasionally run routes out of the slot?  He might have been a little disappointing after being so heralded in college, but he is still a heck of a player and seems to be holding up pretty well.  Oh, and if we don’t get him, the Lions just might.

FB:  The Vikings are trying to be conservative (i.e. cheap) by letting all of their free agents talk to other interested teams instead of just getting deals done.  This might save them some cap space here and there, but I think it will also bite them in the ass at least once.  I hope the risk doesn’t end up with Jerome Felton cashing in on his big year with any other team.

[NOTE:  Click the links to see our free agency rankings for quarterbacksrunning backs, fullbacks, and tight ends.  We’ll continue our way through all of the positions this week.]

The Vikings are pretty set when it comes to the starting center position, despite John Sullivan’s recent knee surgery, and that is a very good thing.  Why?  Because the free agent class leaves a whole lot to be desired.

If the Vikings want to find a better backup for Sullivan, then they should probably be looking to the NFL Draft, not free agency.

Top Tier

There are none that belong here.

Second Tier

Nope, none here either.

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Chris Kluwe and Jared Allen now have a new rehab partner.

Reports surfaced on Wednesday that Vikings Pro Bowl center (yeah, I said it) John Sullivan had microfracture surgery on his knee and will be out for the next three to four months.  Of course, if one is going to miss four months as an NFL player, these upcoming four are the ones to miss.

That timeline puts Sullivan back into action by the time training camp rolls around, and all indications are that he should be fine by then.

A month ago, Vikings fans would have salivated over the idea of Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o falling into their laps at the #23 spot of the upcoming NFL Draft.

Now, however, Te’o has found himself in the middle of one of the most bizarre stories to hit the sports world since… well, possibly ever.  The story of Te’o being a part of one of the biggest hoaxes of all time has led most to wonder about his character, and also doubt his ability to be a leader in the NFL which was one of his best attributes in college.

One thing that has become explicitly clear over the last few weeks are that the special connection that Te’o had with football lovers around the nation was every bit as fictional as his online girlfriend.

Weirdness and intangibles aside, Te’o still possesses first round caliber abilities and one can’t help but wonder what the Vikings might do if he is available when they are on the clock.  After all, the Vikings could clearly use some help at the linebacker position and G.M. Rick Spielman has an affinity for players coming out of Notre Dame.

Te’o has four years of experience, with progressive production coming from each season, as the heart of Notre Dame’s front season.  He is a very strong and sound tackler that does a good job of getting around or through blocks to make a play.  He plays the run with great instincts and discipline, which seems to rub off on the rest of the defense.

Te’o also possesses a range and fluidity in pass coverage that the Vikings defense could desperately use.  Over his career he has displayed an ability to play smart zone coverage (17 passes defended) and has a knack for heads-up plays (7 interceptions).

There are questions about Te’o’s speed and athleticism, and his forty time will be highly anticipated at the Scouting Combine, but I felt like he already answered a lot of those questions by dropping into coverage a lot more during his senior year with great success.  11 of his defended passes (and all seven picks) came in his senior year.

With all of that said, there is no doubt that Te’o isn’t the fastest linebacker in the world, and isn’t going to wow any scouts with his blitz abilities.  For the Vikings defense under Alan Williams, who seldom asks his linebackers to blitz, Te’o could be a great addition to a defense that places a lot of emphasis on stopping the run.

The whole hoax thing could make the Vikings a good fit for Te’o.  He would be surrounded by former teammates and other Notre Dame greats, which Rick Spielman has loaded up on recently.  Safety Harrison Smith would be playing right behind Te’o.  He could line up on special teams with Robert Blanton.  Kyle Rudolph and John Carlson are on the offensive side of the ball along with center John Sullivan.  There also may not be a head coach better equipped to deal with Te’o’s unique situation than Leslie Frazier is.

I have little doubt that Te’o could step into the regular season as a starter on this defense, besting either Jasper Brinkley or Erin Henderson.  I’m not convinced that he would be the guy we want to be selected at #23, but I am also not convinced that he isn’t, as it would depend greatly on what other options exist when they are on the clock.

Here are some of his highlights from college:

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