Notre Dame And The Vikings

While perusing the internet, I came across this article written by Charley Walters of the Pioneer Press.  In it, Walters offers up very little reason outside of the obvious needs of this roster to surmise that there is “little doubt” the Vikings front office will “pounce” on Notre Dame safety Harrison Smith if he is available when they are on the clock in the second round.

One thing Walters wrote did jump out to me, however, of something that might actually have some meat behind it.  He noted that Rick Spielman seems to have a thing for Notre Dame players.  Considering that within less than a year he drafted tight end Kyle Rudolph, gave a hefty contract to center John Sullivan, and signed tight end John Carlson it seems that Walters might be on to something.

In fact, a quick scan of the Vikings roster indeed showed that the only other college to occupy three roster spots on this team is Iowa.  Then, Brett passed along the news that Notre Dame receiver Michael Floyd seems to have caught the eye of the Vikings, and I decided we should take a look at what all Notre Dame is offering up this year and examine their prospects a little closer.  Soon, I will take a look at Iowa, too.

Here are the major prospects that could be selected in a couple of weeks and some information on each:

Robert Blanton, CB/S (6’ 1” – 208 pounds):  This guy kind of reminds me of a poor man’s Cedric Griffin.  He is big and physical, plenty capable of tackling and defending the run, and will be at his best when he is allowed to jam bigger receivers at the line of scrimmage.  On the flip side, his lack of speed and inconstancies will leave him as an unintimidating threat from a ballhawking standpoint.  Blanton projects as a late round flier or undrafted free agent target that could compete for a roster spot at cornerback, safety, or as a special teams player.

Darius Fleming, DE/OLB (6’ 2” – 255 pounds):  There is a fine line between being versatile and being a tweener.  In this case, I believe we have a tweener.  Fleming doesn’t have the pass rushing skills to be a stud end and doesn’t have the range to be a productive outside linebacker, and he isn’t a very physical run stopper.  His value will only present itself to teams employing a 3-4 defense looking for depth in the later draft rounds.

Michael Floyd, WR (6’ 3” – 220 pounds):  Widely regarded as the second or third best receiver in this class, Floyd seems to be solidifying himself as a top 15 prospect.  The Vikings would be reaching if they took him third overall, but he could be an option should they choose to trade backwards.  The Minnesota native has had troubles with the law which could hurt his draft stock substantially.  Outside of those issues, however, Floyd has all the makings of a true #1 receiver which makes him quite the conundrum.

Gary Gray, CB (5’ 11” – 195 pounds):  Gray possesses some natural athleticism that has helped mask his inability to play with sound fundamentals.  A decent tackler, good speed and nice size makes him worth an undrafted contract, but using a pick on him would be stretching it simply because he doesn’t seem to have “it.”

Ethan Johnson, DE/DT (6’ 4” – 300 pounds):  I have to be honest, I didn’t know who Ethan Johnson was prior to doing research for this segment.  Scouting reports across the internet (or the lack thereof) indicate I will probably soon forget him.  Johnson is said to be a decent run defender with limited pass rushing skills.  He is projected as a defensive end in a 3-4 defense, but will probably amount to little more than a practice squad player with some potential to develop.  I’d be shocked to see the Vikings use a pick on him.

David Ruffer, K (6’ 1” – 176 pounds):  The Vikings could use a potential replacement for Ryan Longwell, but I doubt Ruffer is that guy.  After a very impressive 2010 season, Ruffer went just 10 of 16 in 2011.  He has a strong leg and would be worth grabbing as an undrafted free agent and bringing to training camp for a closer look.

Harrison Smith, S (6’ 2” – 213 pounds):  Last but not least, we have the guy that sparked my desire to write this article.  Charley Walters is often wrong, but he may be correct in thinking the Vikings “pounce” on Harrison Smith if he is available in the second round.  Smith is an aggressive player capable of holding down the fort at either safety spot, and even has experience at outside linebacker.  The team that drafts him, however, are likely to envision him as a strong safety because of his size and straight line speed.  He was the leader of Notre Dame’s defense and plays football with the type of confidence coaches love to see.  He can cover a lot of space and has natural instincts that give him an uncanny ability to react to everything going on in front of him.  He is just stiff enough, however, that he will struggle if assigned to man up against a tight end or wide out and has been known to miss the occasional tackle.  The Vikings have an incredible need at safety, especially with Husain Abdullah still not re-signed, so it stands to reason that he will be a name to keep an eye on come Day Two of this year’s Draft… if he is still on the board.