NFL Draft 2016

MOCK DRAFT: Belisle Version 1.0

See my entire first 2016 NFL Mock Draft by CLICKING HERE.

I recently celebrated my one-year anniversary at Vikings Territory, and one of my first posts happened to be a mock draft. It wasn’t just my first mock draft for the website, but the first mock draft I’d ever done. Admittedly, I was going in blind, researching prospects, and spending hours at a time reading the analysis of much smarter draft minds than myself.

Fortunately, my “in the dark” guess turned into a jackpot, as the Minnesota Vikings selected Trae Waynes with the 11th-overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft. Waynes ran the fastest time among all cornerbacks at the NFL Scouting Combine, and Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller wrote at the time that the Vikings had a first-round grade on the Michigan State corner.

In today’s age of #DraftTwitter, Draft Breakdown, and Draft Season, a fan like me can make educated guesses on what a team will do come the first round. This year, I’ve discovered another tool to help me in the decision-making process — FanSpeak’s Mock Draft Simulator. It’s a fun way to play the role of general manager and pull the trigger on your favorite prospect. In four of the five simulations I ran (using the CBS Big Board), the prospect I wanted was available. And that prospect was…

23rd Pick Overall – Minnesota Vikings Selection
Jaylon Smith, LB — Notre Dame

If the Vikings were to make Smith the 23rd-overall pick, it’d mark general manager Rick Spielman’s third straight year taking a defensive player with the team’s first draft selection. Anthony Barr was the first in 2014, followed by Waynes last year, and possibly, Smith this year.

The general consensus among fans is that the Vikings need to surround Teddy Bridgewater with weapons, and that doing so begins in the first round of the NFL Draft. Many teams, from the New York Giants to the St. Louis Rams, have been fortunate to land players like Odell Beckham Jr. and Todd Gurley. Others, like the Cleveland Browns and Jacksonville Jaguars, haven’t been so lucky with busts like Trent Richardson and Justin Blackmon.

It’s a slippery slope, and one the Vikings have been careful to avoid. Spielman’s biggest mistake was reaching for Christian Ponder in 2011. But since then, he’s orchestrated selections of arguably the league’s deepest, most talented draft classes by sticking to a firm draft strategy. In recent years, that strategy has favored defense, and much of that can be attributed to the arrival of head coach Mike Zimmer.

His presence alone is enough to warrant the possible selection of Smith. Of the five mock drafts I conducted, Smith was available in four. My other selection when Smith wasn’t on the board? Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott, who many consider a surefire selection in this year’s draft. While I’d love the Vikings to add a triple-threat — catching, running, blocking — talent like Elliott, it’s unlikely unless Adrian Peterson is traded before April.

It is likely, however, that Chad Greenway walks away in free agency or is brought back on a cheap deal this offseason. His limited role in the defense will open the door for Smith, a player analyst Bucky Brooks described as such:

[quote_center]”Jaylon Smith is an all-time athlete, a guy you absolutely love. He’s a thumper in the middle, he can run from sideline to sideline. He’s very violent in his play, a guy that I believe is a three-down linebacker, very versatile.”[/quote_center]

The versatility that Brooks describes gives Smith the ability to play any of the three linebacker positions in a 4-3 defense. Minnesota is set with Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks, especially in the Nickel alignment, but Zimmer is still missing one impact player in the linebacking corps. Greenway was fine in 2015, but to take the next step, the Vikings needs to add a third playmaking defender at the second level. Smith can be that player, either as the middle linebacker or as Greenway’s eventual replacement.

Despite tearing his ACL and MCL in Notre Dame’s most recent bowl game, CBS Sports analyst Dane Brugler believes Smith is still a first round prospect. “Smith will present an interesting value in the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft for a long-term thinking franchise,” he said. And right now, the Vikings are fully focused on their long-term future. That’s why it makes sense for the team to invest in a special player if given the opportunity, no matter the injury history. Wide receivers, running backs, and other offensive players will be available in the later rounds. A player like Smith comes once in a draft.

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Austin Belisle

Austin Belisle is the West Coast's biggest Vikings fan, a football diehard cheering on the purple and yellow from sunny California. After graduating from San Jose State University in 2014, he began working full-time in corporate marketing and blogging on various sports websites. Austin's passion for the Vikings led him to Vikings Territory, where he hopes to share his lifelong enthusiasm for the team with readers on a daily basis. You can follow him on Twitter @austincbelisle

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  1. My thoughts exactly. I actually the the fanspeak draft simulator as well and by far my favorite (and most recent) went as follows…
    23: R1P23
    54: R2P23
    86: R3P23
    122: R4P23
    160: R5P21
    183: R6P5
    238: R7P19
    242: R7P23

    1. Seriously if the draft somehow fell this way, and we pick up one or two guys in FA like Marvin Jones and Andre Smith, we would be in line for GREAT things

    2. I don’t mind the Jayson Smith pick @ 23 rd. 1. The Vikings will need a minimum of three OL. I think in F/A they should try to get Kelechi Osemeles for the LG. Allot depends on if Sullivan C and Loadholt RT comeback from there injuries. Also if both will agree to take a pay cut. Kalil is another story its most likely the Vikings will ask Kalil LT to take a pay cut.

      1. I agree with Carl. I have us taking Noah Spence DE in the first, Jeremy Cash SS in the second, Nick Martin C in the third, Joe Haeg OT in the fourth, Dadi Lhomme Nicolas OLB in the fifth, Joe Dahl OG in the sixth, and two more players in the sixth, D J Reader DT and Yannick Ngukoue OLB.

      1. I would agree with you if he had not blown out a knee. He will be limited at the combine as well. This is going to impact his draft stock. He is going to be a very interesting person to watch at the draft as he could go top 10 and he could fall into the 2nd round. His medicals are going to be huge.

  2. Unless you’re reporting something, Greenway isn’t under contract with the team, making a release or restructure somewhat unlikely.

    Since we’re in nickle so much I’m not sure I like seeing so much draft capital being used on LBs.

    1. Not reporting anything, just a wording issue on my end. He’ll be a free agent, and I changed the copy to better fit his situation with the team. I see Greenway either staying on a reduced, veteran minimum-style contract or walking. My guess is the team keeps him one more year.

    2. in nickel packages Jaylon and Erik Kendricks could play LB and Barr would put his hand in the ground as a defensive end across from Griffen? That sounds extremely legit to me. To,be honest, I was watching the game Jaylon Smith was injured in and literally my first thought went to him falling to us in the first round and I have been salivating of the thought of these three playing together! Or Myles Jack from UCLA to complete the trio

      1. Despite Barr’s ability, I don’t think he’s a better rusher than Hunter is/will be next year. If we happen to draft Smith, I actually see Kendricks coming out on passing downs or possibly being one of the rare (only?) teams that play their nick CB less in favor of a LB.

        I think all three are capable 3-down LB’s, and if anything we’d have great trade opportunities in the future if a player felt the need to walk after their initial contract due to playing time. LB is certainly not a top need, but if Smith or Myles Jack fall I’d run to the podium

  3. I whole heartedly support this pick. I have nothing wrong with them drafting a defensive player who should become a star, be it Smith or someone else. Remember when we drafted Moss? We already had CC and Reed, but Moss ushered in a new era of Vikings offensive dominance that has held up quite well over time.

    Now, do I think you draft a guy who could be a solid starter on defense in the first? Not if there’s a better upside offensive guy sitting there. But, if you’ve got a guy who you think is a strong Pro-Bowl (non-injury replacement variety) contender, and he plays defense, you take him and figure out the rest later. There are plenty of snaps to go around, and with the trend towards hybrid TEs/WRs, I say bring on the freakishly sized, athletic ‘backers who wreak havoc on the QB and patrol the middle with equal aplomb.

  4. More and more Im starting to think Spielman may go defense in the first, and not necessarily a safety. Our biggest needs are OL, S, WR. But I don’t think you need to use a first to get good players at OL or WR. And I cannot see Spielman passing on a really talented DT, DE, LB, or even CB in order to take a lesser rated safety. Picking this far back in the first round and not having any huge needs that absolutely must be addressed makes this pick very hard to guess. It will be a fun draft to watch unfold.

    1. I agree with you whole heartedly that there are going to be a ton of very good defensive players taken between picks 20-31 (No Pats this year!). The strength of the draft at #23 is defense, plus several viable OL players (Conklin maybe, Decker + Whitehair), but if we could land LB Smith, a CB like Mackensie Alexander or a DT like Rankins or Dodd, I don’t see how you pass them up. You could trade down and still get a very good defensive player plus score more picks in a deep draft. It’s wide open this year. I don’t see us moving up this year but taking advantage of someone desperate for a particular player or moving back to the end of the round to pickup one of the OL candidates.

  5. Im not understanding all these linebacker projections at 23. We need a linebacker, yes. But the vikings are committed to Eric Kendricks and Anthony Barr being their nickel backers for the next ten years and in Mike Zimmer’s screen they play out of nickel 65% of the time. There is no way a team with as many needs as the team has drafts a player not projected to play more that 35% of the snaps. What we need is a safety and I would take Karl Joseph in a heart beat if he’s there. Kids a football player, and a knee injury isn’t going to stop him from being a dominant safety.
    The sleeper pick for me is Derrick Henry, I’m not calling fluff on the reports the vikings were interested in him. Mike Zimmer loves big football players, he LOVES size. He’s said it many times, he sees a lot of value in size and he’s said he wants a big football team and it gets no bigger than Derrick Henry. I also believe this will be AP’s last season as a Viking and why not draft the best player in college football this year. Derrick Henry is no Trent Richardson. He was the best player in high school and college football and that will not change when e gets to the league. The kid is freaking 6’3 245 pounds and is barely 21 years old, we will not be drafting in the top 10 next year so the leonard fournette dreams can die, draft this kid if he’s available.

      1. Even so, if this just happened seems unlikely he will be ready to go until mid season. Maybe a little sooner but still. Wouldn’t hate the pick, I’m all for making this defense scarier but the injury gives me pause especially after having last years first Rd pick sit most of the year.