AnalysisNFL Draft 2019

Possible Draft Strategies for The Vikings Following Free Agency

With free agency winding down, The Minnesota Vikings have made some moves; cutting Safety Andrew Sendejo and guard Mike Remmers to free cap space, placing tenders on a couple of important young players in offensive tackle Rashod Hill and safety Anthony Harris, signing Shamar Stephen to add another 3 technique defensive tackle. Finally, and most importantly, keeping linebacker Anthony Barr in Minnesota for the foreseeable future. All these moves have implications with how The Vikings will handle the remaining days of free agency and how they will be picking in the NFL Draft.

Anthony Barr staying gives the vikings flexibility in the first round

Anthony Barr made Vikings fan’s lives much more interesting yesterday. It appeared that he was packing his bags to head to New York to join the Jets. At the last moment though, Barr decided that he wanted to remain with Mike Zimmer and the team that drafted him. Barr’s contract is incredibly team friendly, at least in 2019.

With being able to lock up the 27-year-old Barr, the Vikings still have just enough cap space to sign rookies to contracts. Barr’s return also means that the Vikings don’t have a glaring hole at linebacker after losing one of the main cogs of their defense. This means that Rick Spielman will have more flexibility, and hopefully feel less pressure from Mike Zimmer to go defense in the First round. If the Vikings don’t have their guy available at 18, they could take the best player available and make it work or trade back and try to get even more draft picks. If the Vikings get to 18 and a bunch of offensive linemen are still available, they can still move back a few spots, get a guy they want, and accumulate more picks.

With Barr staying, and keeping Zimmer’s defense intact, Rick Spielman has given himself the freedom to pick the best player available or bolster the offensive line, instead of drafting to replace a pro bowl linebacker, although he might not want to take another cornerback for fear of the fan’s reaction.

Moves to get younger, and cheaper, are going to pay off

With the cutting of Mike Remmers and declining of Andrew Sendejo’s option, it  appears that the Vikings are ready to roll with some younger options.

Mike Remmers was a disaster since his move to guard, and his being cut wasn’t surprising. Remmers would have cost the $4.5 million, and is going to be 30 this coming year. There’s no actual replacement for Remmers on the roster, but it indicates that Vikings are ready to go guard heavy in the draft.

The 31-year-old Sendejo will be immediately replaced by Anthony Harris, who received a 2nd round tender of $3 million. It’s highly unlikely that a team will give up a second round pick to lure away Harris, but not out of the realm of possibility. Sendejo would have cost the Vikings an additional $5.5 million in cap space. Harris, who is 27, played admirably while Sendejo was injured last season. Harris collected 46 tackles, 3 interceptions, and 6 passes defended in 2018. Certainly he has earned the starting job next to Harrison Smith, and will hopefully continue to improve.

The move to like Sendejo walk does lead to a bit of a problem of depth at the safety position. The Vikings website currently only lists Harrison Smith, Anthony Harris, and Jayron Kearse as the safeties on Minnesota’s roster. This leads me to believe that the Vikings will be looking at defensive backs at some point in the draft. I don’t expect them to pursue it in the first, but if there are good safeties available in the 2nd round onward, look for Spielman to pull the trigger on some of Zim’s favorite picks.

Questions Remain at WR, K, and RB

Wide Receiver

Although the Vikings have one of the best receiver duos in Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs, the team still has a need at wideout. The NFL is a league where teams often run 3 wide receiver sets, and Minnesota is no exception.

Last season, time at the third wide receiver position was split by Laquon Treadwell and Aldrick Robinson. Robinson proved that he still has gas in the tank by catching 5 touchdowns and gaining 231 yards on only 17 receptions, but is almost certainly leaving in Free Agency.

Treadwell has been inconsistent as a true receiver. Although he does possess great blocking ability, he has yet to live up to his reputation as a big-bodied red zone receiver. Treadwell has just 517 yards and 1 touchdown on his 56 career receptions. This is disappointing to say the least considering Treadwell was the 23rd overall selection in the 2016 NFL Draft. Although he might have been able to use that 1st round pick status to keep his spot on the team before, but Treadwell should be pushed by extra competition this season.

Chad Beebe was the Vikings preseason darling last year. Catching 9 passes for 95 yards and 2 touchdowns, while also taking a punt return back for 34 yards. The 5’10” Beebe showed that his stature was not going to keep him down. Beebe looked to be a polished route runner with fine hands and quickness to boot. A hamstring injury kept him from stretching his legs too much in the regular season where Beebe only collected 4 receptions for 49 yards while active, but he should be around to compete for time in camp. His return ability may also make him invaluable, but being an unproven product in real NFL action leaves him a question mark. Look for the Vikings to make a late round pick up of a receiver to crowd the room.

 

 

Kicker

Dan Bailey is gone, and the Vikings have no cap space to make a play to bring him back, or any other free agent kicker for that matter. The Vikings will likely be drafting a kicker in the later rounds and then pushing them with extra competition in camp. This solution leaves me uneasy, as we all know you can’t rely on a rookie kicker, and any kickers who are still around when camp starts might not be any better.

Running Back

The Vikings looked deep at the running back position coming off of last year’s preseason. Dalvin Cook, when healthy, looks to be the real deal for an elusive back, and Latavius Murray was ready to bowl people over with his power. Throw in excellent preseason showings from Mike Boone and Roc Thomas, and it looked like it was going to be a hard decision who to keep.

Well, the Tay Train has left the station with Murray heading to the Saints. Roc Thomas will likely not be on the team after being busted with marijuana. That leaves the Vikings with Mike Boone, an undrafted free agent who wasn’t really tested last season as second on the depth chart behind Dalvin Cook. Boone isn’t built to lug the rock 25 times a game.

The Vikings will need to find a third back via the draft or wait and snag some undrafted free agents. Right now, the Vikings should be looking at a power back to spell Cook and hopefully give a change of pace. Those kind of players should fall, and I foresee the team picking up another back in the mid to late rounds, or possibly waiting and seeing who falls out of the draft to be snapped up as a free agent.

There are many moves left to be made this offseason. Everson Griffen is expected to either restructure or be cut tomorrow, it’s still unclear if Kyle Rudolph has been asked to restructure, and there is apparent league wide interest in Trae Waynes. These moves could all heavily affect the Vikings draft strategy and I’m sure we will talk about them at length. At least we have the linebacker position figured out. SKOL!

 

 

 

 

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Kirby O'Connor

Kirby O'Connor is a graduate of Saint Mary's University of Minnesota, where he studied Electronic Publishing and minored in Art. Kirby is a lifelong, die-hard Vikings fan thanks to his father. You can find him on Twitter @kjocon14.

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4 Comments

  1. Good article. But what’s the basis for saying Robinson is “almost certainly leaving in free agency?” He’s got chemistry with Cousins and it’s not like teams are beating down the doors of 30-year old receivers who manage only 17 receptions a year.

    1. You make a fair point, but I think we see Robinson leave after showing teams that he has the ability to score at such a high rate. Granted that high rate comes with Diggs and Thielen taking coverage off him. Robinson’s contract hit last season was just a touch under $700k, So if the Vikings want to sign all their draft picks, they almost certainly need to let him walk. I am also assuming that nobody else is restructured or moved, which we can speculate won’t be the case, Everson Griffen should be restructured or cut this morning. Still, if Robinson wants too much money, the team could let him walk and get a younger guy of the same speedster type.

  2. Assuming Ian Rapoport’s report that Griffen is restructuring his deal is true, I could see the team bringing back Robinson to compete for the WR4 job, not WR3, a job he has never been able to win in all his years journeying around the league.

    I wouldn’t mind bringing back Ameer Abdullah to compete for the RB2 job and to hold down the KO returner spot, and Nick Easton and Tom Compton to fill out the team’s OL bench and, in Easton’s case, hopefully compete for a starting job at center or guard. Tom Johnson would be a nice addition to the DT rotation, too.

    I don’t see the team drafting a safety before Day 3, so the 4th round at the earliest. Harris will probably get a long-term deal this off-season or next, and if not him, it could be Kearse, but we haven’t drafted a safety on the first or second day of the draft since trading back into the first round to take Harrison Smith in 2012, and I don’t see that changing with a couple of young’ish guys like Harris (28 in three months) and Kearse (25) on the roster.

    On Days 1 and 2 of the draft, I’d be prioritizing interior OL and WR3, while on Day 3 I’d want to pick up competitors for bench positions at QB and RB, on the OL and maybe at DT/NT, at safety, LB and maybe CB. CB might end up being a higher priority, a Day 2 one, if Waynes or, less likely, Rhodes is traded.

  3. Spielman is in a box when it comes to the draft. Offensive line is a must with 2 of the first 3 picks at a minimum or possibly all 3 picks if it falls that way. That is how putrid the offensive line is. Compton and Isadora are not good. If any of the practice squad guys were good they would have been on the active roster last season. The window of opportunity is not going to stay open long. Fix the offensive line and other problems will fixed also.

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