Sunday, August 2, 2015

marcus lattimore

With the trade to move back into the first round and select Cordarrelle Patterson sending a hefty number of picks to New England, the Vikings had no picks on Day Two.  Today, however, they are armed with a fourth rounder (120), a fifth rounder (155), and sixth rounder (189), and two seventh rounders (213 & 214).

The Draft seems to be progressing in such a way that some percieved value seems to still be available at the quarterback, running back, defensive line and defensive back positions.  Here are a few names to keep an eye on as the picks start coming in this afternoon:

Matt Barkley, QB, USC:  If Barkley had declared for the 2012 NFL Draft a year ago, it is believed he would have easily been selected in the first round, shortly after Andrew Luck and RGIII.  Now we know he will go no earlier than the fourth round.  Barkley has some issues, but he is accurate enough to get a shot in the NFL, and the Vikings could really start a media storm by putting him on the roster behind Christian Ponder and company.

Ryan Nassib, QB, Syracuse:  A tough pocket passer that was rumored to be drawing first round interest.  That obviously didn’t work out for him as he had hoped, but he could be a nice addition to someone’s depth chart.

Tyler Wilson, QB, Arkansas:  Rick Spielman was impressed with the Arkansas passing game last year, when he selected wide outs Greg Childs and Jarius Wright, so perhaps he also likes their signal caller enough to take a late round flier on him.

Alex Okafor, DE, Texas:  Seems like a great fit at left end for a 4-3 team with the talent to let a young guy sit on the depth chart and slowly grow and gain experience.  The Vikings have had great success in recent years drafting fourth round defensive lineman, and while the depth chart is mighty crowded there, he could fit the bill to be their latest steal.

Last night’s article about my opinion that the Vikings would be a great fit for running back prospect Marcus Lattimore sparked one of the better reader conversations, or debate perhaps, that we have had so far this offseason.

Naturally, I want to give my opinion.

In the discussion, there are two basic schools of thought at play, with one thinking a team should draft for need and the other saying to take the best player available.  Some good arguments have been made, but I think my perspective is a touch different.

In a world where all the stars align, a team’s draft board would align perfectly with their roster needs.  If you desperately need a running back, then you would love to see a running back be the highest ranked player available to you when you are on the clock.

It is the General Manager’s job to try and create that perfect world by moving around during the Draft.  A perfect example of such a move could be from just last year when Rick Spielman, who needed to get his team some safety help, pulled the trigger on a trade that bounced the Vikings back into the first round where they were able to grab Harrison Smith.

It is also possible, last year, that the Vikings had a higher grade on running back Trent Richardson than they did on Matt Kalil which allowed Spielman to move back a spot and let Richardson get picked up by Cleveland, while retaining the ability to still get Kalil.

Sometimes these trades don’t always work out, however, and a team is forced to choose between their best rated player or making a slight reach in the name of filling an immediate need.  I am sure that those decisions are the hardest ones to make when the pressure is on.

If I were in charge of making such decisions (which, of course, I am not) I would see no shame in taking either approach, really, but would have a philosophy that revolves around my roster’s identity.

Let me explain.

There is something to be said for a team that uses free agency and the first round of the Draft to fill immediate needs, while using day two and day three of the Draft to reinforce an already strong part of the roster.  Drafting to get deeper and stronger at an area of your roster that already is a strength, if you will.

For example, the New York Giants in recent history have not been shy about spending early picks on defensive linemen because that was their identity, their pass rush essentially won them a Super Bowl against an undefeated Patriots team, and they didn’t want to take on any risk of losing that identity through injuries.  Their defensive line also played a big part in last year’s Super Bowl run, their second in five years.

The Minnesota Vikings have openly admitted that their offense is “built to win” by running the football.  It is their identity.

Of course, having Adrian Peterson is a huge part of that, and a lot of their future success hinges on his ability to stay healthy and stay productive.  Heck, they even have a decent backup plan in Toby Gerhart, who is a lot better as an every down back than as a player pulling spot duty.

Still, I see absolutely no problem with the Vikings using the NFL Draft to ensure that their identity, being a hard running offense, is maintained and preserved long into the future despite what unpleasant surprises may end up surfacing.

So, to finally get around to the point, that is why I would have absolutely no problem with the Vikings spending a fourth or fifth rounder on a running back.  Or a guard.  Or a center.  It may not immediately improve the running offense, but if it ensures that running game will last for an entire season and well into the postseason then I think it is a pick well spent.

Besides, if we are banking on filling our needs in round four of the NFL Draft, then Rick Spielman has already messed things up pretty bad.

I am a big fan of the Best Player Available approach to the NFL Draft because I just don’t see the downside.  There is no shame in using that player to fill a need or provide depth in an area on your roster that already has a solid starter.

Besides, if the Vikings had always drafted for need, then I don’t think Adrian Peterson ever would have worn a Vikings uniform in the first place.

I mentioned earlier this week that I had my own unique theory on which running back the Vikings should target this offseason.  My answer is a simple one:  The best one available.

South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore is the only first round lock runner in the class, and it just so happens he will probably be selected much, much later.

Lattimore took the college game by storm and is easily the most complete back available this year.  He runs with explosion between the tackles, is dangerous in space, is a fluid pass catcher and capable blocker, and is a smart runner with a patience to follow his blockers that is rarely seen in young backs.  He is also known to be of high character and as a guy that leads by example.

He actually reminds me, at least in part, of our very own Adrian Peterson.

To find Lattimore’s Achilles heal, however, you need not look any farther than his knee.  When the all star runner hit the turf in pain this October, the football watching community collectively expressed their sympathy for a runner they enjoyed watching so much.

Lattimore’s ligament damage in his knee left many wondering if he would ever play football again and his availability for 2013 seemed to be in major doubt, at the very least.  He fell from the top 15 to the fifth round with that one ugly hit.  The snake-bitten running back also suffered ligament damage one year earlier, prematurely ending that season as well.

So why do I think he is such a great fit for the Vikings?  Well, for starters, because I think the Vikings are a great fit for him.

The Vikings are fairly stacked at running back, with Adrian Peterson and Toby Gerhart cemented atop the depth chart for next season, so the Vikings could perhaps be the one NFL team willing to be patient while Lattimore rehabs his knee.

Lattimore would also have a constant source of inspiration and encouragement simply by watching Adrian Peterson, who famously worked his way back from a gruesome knee injury and topped 2,000 yards on the season.  He could be comforted by the fact that Eric Sugarman and the Vikings trainers are the same exact people that helped Peterson not only make his return, but come back even better than he already was.

Even if Lattimore turned out to be facing the worst case scenario, not being able to play in 2013, the Vikings could easily stash him on the injured reserve for a year and get him into the lineup in 2014 after Gerhart presumably becomes a free agent.

At some point I think Adrian Peterson will start to slow down and instead of being a one man show, perhaps a tandem like Peterson and Lattimore could help him elongate his career by being one half of a great backfield duo.

As of right now, with so many worries about the injuries, Lattimore is projected to go no earlier than the fourth round.  The Vikings can’t afford to spend much more money or use too high of a draft pick on the running back position, with other areas in need of help, but the can surely can afford to use a fourth or fifth round pick for a guy that is well known to be a first round talent with Peterson-like problems.

Get Social

2,737FansLike
5,450FollowersFollow