Here’s your chance to officially cast a vote regarding the Manti Te’o drama:
Ian Rapoport of NFL Network set the rumormill on fire this morning when he indicated that the Chicago bears like linebacker Manti Te’o so much that the Vikings will have to leapfrog them in the first round if they really covet him, and then Rapoport said that’s what the Vikings plan on doing.
Now, we haven’t seen a whole ton of “smoke” coming out of Winter Park leading up to the Draft thus far, but I have a feeling that some games are being played here and Rapoport is simply a pawn.
We’ve been saying all offseason that Manti Te’o makes sense for the Vikings, and the Vikings make even more sense for Manti Te’o, but I am not sure this is the type of year the Vikings should be sacrificing multiple picks to trade upwards in the first round. This wouldn’t be the first time these two teams have engaged in some gamesmanship this offseason, as evidenced by the inflated contract Phil Loadholt signed during the opening days of free agency.
We’re only a few hours from speculation becoming reality (or fiction), but the Manti Te’o situation is certainly the one to keep a close eye on as the evening progresses.
Here we are less than 48 hours away from the greatest stretch of three days throughout the entire offseason and I can’t sleep. Obviously, I’m referring to the 2013 NFL Draft which takes place this Thursday evening. And unfortunately, the absence of sleep isn’t due to excitement regarding our two first round picks… It’s due to a nasty case of bronchitis and a sinus infection that leaves me coughing throughout the night. So, bear with me as I walk you through my third and final mock draft of the offseason and attempt to explain some of the decisions I’ve made (of which are bound to make at least a few Vikings fans squirm).
First, yes, I still do have Geno Smith going in the top 5. In fact, I have two quarterbacks being taken in the top 10. Here’s why and I’ve said it before: People can say anything they want about the lack of talent and a true franchise QB in this year’s draft but the truth is that teams over and over again have showed us that, on draft day, they are more than willing to reach on a quarterback that they think even has a remote chance of righting the ship (regardless of how delusional that thought may be).
Geno Smith to the Eagles isn’t that crazy. Their is a new head coach there who is going to be looking for someone that can run his new, fast-pace offense. Michael Vick is past his prime and has become a turnover machine. The Eagles selecting Smith and having the two face off in camp seems to make sense to me (and a few other people).
The next quarterback I have being taken (by the Buffalo Bills) also makes sense. The obvious connection with Nassib and coach Doug Marone is there from their time together at Syracuse. But, more than that, the Bills need to create competition at the quarterback position and it’s not a guarantee their guy (assumedly Nassib) will be there when they select in the second round. It’s possible, yes. But, unless they can somehow trade down, would not be surprised at all with this pick.
Alright, let’s get on to the important part, shall we? Our selections.
The NFL Draft has the same allure as a record Powerball jackpot.
Men (and some women) from around the globe converge onto the internet for about 11 and a half months to try an predict, analyze, and grade the next year of fresh prospects. We follow their every move, chart their plays, scour police blotters, and argue about their potential all the way up until their names are called… and then some more.
I’m not going to say that analysts, bloggers, or fans know nothing about these prospects. They know quite a bit, actually, and it really is impressive how much more the common man knows about Tyrann Mathieu’s pee than he knows about… oh, we’ll go with Darfur here in order to maintain my long and proud tradition of being completely cliche.
While we know quite a bit about these prospects, and know even more about the rosters that make up our favorite teams, the truth is that the ultimate reality show that is the NFL Draft process gets it’s appeal from the fact that it is almost completely, utterly, 100 percent unpredictable. Outside of some obvious top three picks, the only thing that is predictable about the NFL Draft is that it will be unpredictable (see, cliche after cliche, I can’t help myself).
Now, I have been predicting all offseason long that the Vikings would aim to select Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o in the first round of this week’s Draft, and wavered on that prediction only momentarily between Percy Harvin’s departure from Minnesota and Greg Jennings’ arrival.
That is why I was shocked to see someone much older, much more experienced, and someone that is supposed to be much wiser than me make a bold and perhaps foolish statement.
Much is being made about a recent report from Peter King noting that Vikings G.M. Rick Spielman dined with Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o on the eve of the college’s pro day. The Vikings also reportedly interviewed Te’o at the Scouting Combine and invited him to their “Top 30″ event at Winter Park.
Some are going to take the seemingly excessive vetting process as a sign of the Vikings level of interest in Te’o, but it may be a better indication of the level of concern teams have with Te’o's plentiful question marks. I have been spouting off all offseason about how much sense a marriage between the Vikings and Te’o makes, and I don’t mean to send mixed signals here, but I would caution the readers of VT to not read too much into these visits.
The truth is that the Vikings probably have some level of interest in the players they have interviewed, including Te’o, but are trying to dig as deep as they can into some of these red flags to try and find out which ones are worth the investment of a high draft pick. The list of attendees that visited Winter Park, or at least the ones we know about, should be all the evidence you need to consider these visits as the Vikings simply doing their due diligence with guys carrying some baggage.
Manti Te’o: The whole fake girlfriend thing.
Alec Ogletree: Injuries and arrests in the past.
Keenan Allen: Worrisome knee injury.
Tyrann Mathieu: Dismissed from LSU, history of drug issues.
We have profiled each of these prospects as we view them as potential targets for the Vikings later this month, and their visits make sense, but how the visits went is far more important (and secretive) than the fact that these guys visited.
The linebacker is largely considered to be the most glaring need for the Minnesota Vikings as April’s Draft edges closer, but their decision to bring back veteran Marvin Mitchell on Tuesday helps provide them with an insurance plan in case the instant-starter they surely covet in the first two rounds next month doesn’t pan out.
Mitchell signed a one year deal with the Vikings after spending 2012 with the team as a special teams contributor and a two-week starter in place of the injured Erin Henderson. In those two weeks Mitchell made four tackles, and added five tackles plus a forced fumble on special teams over the course of the year.
Chad Greenway and Erin Henderson are expected to return as starters at their respective outside linebacker spots, but the drama lies in the middle after previous starter Jasper Brinkley was allowed to leave via free agency this offseason. Mitchell joins a depth chart that includes Audie Cole, Tyrone McKenzie, and Larry Dean.
According to Dan Wiederer of Access Vikings, the team “has not closed the door” on the possibility of Cole competing for the remaining starting spot. Cole, a seventh round selection last year out of North Carolina State, made his biggest splash last season when he returned interceptions for touchdowns on back-to-back plays against the Buffalo Bills. He was inactive for 11 games in 2012 and registered no stats, but you have to remember that receiver Jarius Wright was also kept inactive as a rookie until Percy Harvin’s injury forced the Vikings to play him, and he now figures to be a key part of the offense.
The Vikings have reportedly flirted with the idea of bring in Brian Urlacher, which I thought made no sense, but have otherwise not let word leak about any interest in other possible linebackers. Larry Grant and Karlos Dansby are a few free agents still available that might make sense, but it otherwise looks like the Vikings will be looking to the Draft for that guy capable of leading their defense.
I currently have the Vikings drafting Manti Te’o in the first round of my Mock Draft.
In free agency, the Vikings have really only made moves on the offensive side of the football, other than their decision to dump Antoine Winfield. This suggests to me, combined with Rick Spielman’s praise for the defensive talent in this class, that the Vikings plan to address their needs on defense early and often.
For the first time since the Percy Harvin trade, where the Vikings acquired a second first round selection from Seattle, I have updated my 2013 Mock Draft and you can take a look at it by clicking here.
I’ll leave the discussion portion up to you all, for now. Just know this: I was torn on both picks but decided to try and predict what the Vikings will do, not necessarily what I think they should do.