As I said before, this will be the pick. It seems almost too obvious. Kalil is the third best player in the draft, and the Vikings are picking third. It also happens to be their biggest need. Morris Claiborne would help the secondary, but seeing as how the Vikings already added two cornerbacks in free agency, it doesn’t seem likely that they will go in that direction at #3. Kalil is about as sure a bet as you’re going to get in the draft. He has great footwork and technique as well as long arms. He’s also very athletic which will benefit the run game and screen passes. By having a potential All-Pro at LT, it will give second year quarterback Christian Ponder more time to find his targets as well as open up gaps for Adrian Peterson to burst through.
Round 2 Pick 35: Harrison Smith- Strong Safety Notre Dame
When looking at the positions of need, Smith would give the Vikings the best value at 35.He is extremely talented and has very good instincts. He will be an elite run-stopper and is good at defending the pass. Smith might start out struggling against covering the quicker players, but he has the athleticism and smarts to be able to get around that eventually. Along with Mistral Raymond, Smith should be a starting safety in 2012 and will be a much need addition to arguably the Vikings’ weakest position.
Round 3 Pick 66
Option 1: Brian Quick- Wide Receiver Appalachian State
I know, I know, it’s Appalachian State, but Quick is a very intriguing talent. He is more fast than quick, despite what his last name might indicate. He also has nice long arms and great hands. He has a HUGE 80 inch wingspan and with good secondary speed and jumping ability, the 6’4″ WR can be a threat downfield or in the end zone. Given the need at WR, Quick probably won’t be the last receiver the Vikings pick up (heck he might not be the first) and he’d be a great addition to a corps that needs more talent. Only time will tell if he’ll be a true #1 receiver in the NFL, but after setting records in receptions, receiving yards, and touchdowns at App. State, Quick can hopefully bring similar production to the Vikings.
Option 2: Mychal Hendricks- Inside Linebacker California
This is a guy that isn’t getting much attention but whom I think can make an impact. He is small at 5’11” but ran a 4.47, benched 225 pounds 24 times. This along with an explosive 10-7 broad jump makes him an intriguing option at 66, IF he makes it that far. Hendricks was also Pac 12 Defensive Player of the Year. He could easily compete with Jasper Brinkley for the starting MLB gig.
Round 4 Pick 98: Tommy Streeter- Wide Receiver Miami (Fla.)
First, it should be noted that Streeter went to Miami because he wanted to stay close tohome. He could have gone to Oregon or South Carolina. That being said, Streeter only had one good season of football where he caught 46 balls for 811 yards and 8 TDs. He definitely would have helped himself by staying one more year to improve his route running, which is really the only glaring weakness in his game. He’s 6’5” and is also very fast, running a 4.40 at the combine. Because of his height and vertical, he is very capable of make catches in traffic. If wide receivers coach George Stewart can help Streeter work on his routes, he could be a very good option for this team.
Round 4 Pick 128: Chris Rainey- Running Back Florida
Rainey is a fast little devil, running a 4.45 at the combine as well as leading all running backs in the cone and shuttle drills. He also showed his explosiveness with a 120 inch broad jump. Rainey is by no means an every down back in the NFL, but with Minnesota’s group of running backs he wouldn’t need to be. He can come in and contribute on third down passing plays and let his short, quick legs make things happen. Having him and Percy Harvin on the field at the same time could give defensive coordinators trouble, and that’s always a good thing. In the fourth round, Rainey would be an excellent role pickup that would almost certainly earn that 3rd running back slot on the depth chart. He could also be a potential stud in the punt return game, something the Vikings have been looking for for a little while.
Round 4 Pick 134: Chase Minnifield- Cornerback Virginia
I like bloodlines. A lot. Chase Minnifield has good bloodlines, being the son of Frank Minnifield, the former pro bowl-caliber CB for the Browns. This being said, Chase had an awful combine. He ran a 4.65 40 yard dash and only did 7 reps of 225. Strength can be improved with an NFL weight schedule but the speed is a big concern. Before the combine, Minnifield was seen by many as a 3rd round pick. That obviously changed, but it isn’t all bad. Minnifield was #2 in the country with interceptions over his college career (13) and is a very solid tackler, something that has, aside from Antoine Winfield, been completely absent in the Vikings secondary. He has very good instincts, seeming to always be aware of where the ball is whether it’s zone or man coverage, and obviously has solid hands. The Vikings secondary is pretty bad, so with a good strength and conditioning program, he could find himself on the 53-man roster in the fall.
Round 5 Pick 138: Tank Carder- Inside Linebacker TCU
Tank Carder is going to need to bulk up a bit if he wants to be a starting linebacker in the NFL, but he has the speed and quickness to be a great linebacker. He can make plays in coverage and is good at attacking the gaps, two traits that the Vikings are going to need in rebuilding their defense. He takes good angles and is a very aggressive player. I’m not convinced he has the strength and toughness to get through NFL linemen, but again, bulking up could help with that problem. The Vikings will probably have him start with special teams and go from there. Carder is truly an intriguing talent and will make an impact for whatever team that drafts him, whether it be on special teams or in the middle of a defense. Again, he could compete with Jaspar Brinkley for that MLB spot. Competition is always good.
Round 6 Pick 175: Miles Burris- Outside Linebacker San Diego State
Burris is a hard hitter who is always around the ball. A very smart man as well, Burris was the 2010 SDSU Student Athlete of the Year. He is a relentless pass rusher, tallying 8 sacks in 2011, and has said that he can play any scheme. The Vikings could definitely use some improvement in the pass rush department, so expect him to challenge Erin Henderson for the LOLB position.
Round 7 Pick 210: Robert Blanton- Cornerback Notre Dame
At this point in the draft, it’s not likely that a starter is to be found. However, Blanton could eventually turn into a role player against an offense such as Green Bay where 4-5 receivers can be on the field at a time. Blanton has good fundamentals and has the size, speed, and toughness to beat blocks and make tackles in the backfield. His pass coverage could use some work as he seems to get called for pass interference a decent amount, but again he has the talent to become a role player and, hopefully one day, a starter.
Round 7 Pick 223: Carson Wiggs- Kicker Purdue
Ryan Longwell had one of his worst seasons last year and is going to be 38 in August. Carson Wiggs is a very solid kicker, converting nearly 74% of his attempts while at Purdue. He knocked through five 52+ field goals including a 59 yarder, and actually hit a 67 yard field goal in a spring game.
The 2012 NFL Draft is a week away. For those of you who, like myself, get crazy about the draft, this particular version will probably look similar to many you’ve seen. It seems to me that, barring any draft day trades, that the first six picks are pretty much a lock. So let’s take a look at what will happen on draft day.
1.) Indianapolis Colts- Andrew Luck QB, Stanford. For the past two years, Luck hasbeen the consensus #1 pick. After deciding to stay another year in 2011, he turned in another solid season at Stanford to cap off a very impressive college career. While Heisman Award Winner Robert Griffin III is also an option, Luck’s ability to see the entire field as well as possessing a very accurate arm and surprising athletic ability will get him the nod as the #1 overall pick in this year’s draft. Word on the street is that this pick is already decided,
2.) Washington Redskins (From St. Louis)- Robert Griffin III QB, Baylor. This kid has game, and I have no doubt that he would be the #1 pick if Luck decided to stay at Stanford one more year. His combine was good, and his pro day was phenomenal. He has a big arm, and his accuracy and football smarts are underrated as well. He’s going to be a very good player for the Redskins who have been looking for a long term answer at quarterback for years. Whether or not he’s worth two 1st round picks and a 2nd has yet to be determined.
3.) Minnesota Vikings- Matt Kalil Left Tackle, USC. There has been rumors about that the Vikings are interested in Morris Claiborne to help them with their pass D. Some would argue that Justin Blackmon would be a good pick to help out Percy Harvin in the wide receiver department. The fact is, in order to succeed in the NFL, you have to have a good quarterback. As of now, the Vikings can’t be 100% sure of what they have in Christian Ponder, but a good way to evaluate that (aside from him having a full offseason of work) is to draft the best left tackle prospect since Jake Long and give the second year QB better protection. He’s a great pass blocker and possesses athleticism to help on the outside run plays as well.
4.) Cleveland Browns- Trent Richardson RB, Alabama. Simply put, they lost Peyton Hillis. They need a running back to replace him, and Richardson is looking like a very special player whose big and quick. Blackmon is a possibility, but this draft is deep at receiver. Look for Cleveland to target that position at 22.
5.) Tampa Bay Buccaneers- Morris Claiborne CB, LSU. The Bucs added former Lion Eric Wright in free agency (along with a ship full of others) but that doesn’t change the need at the cornerback position. Ronde Barber is getting older and Aqib Talib can’t stay out of trouble. Don’t mind his 4 score on the Wonderlic, because Claiborne has made quite the highlight reel of big plays and was awarded the Jim Thorpe Award (for best defensive back) this past season. As well as being a great cover guy, Claiborne also isn’t afraid to lay the wood on bigger players.
6.) St. Louis Rams (From Washington)- Justin Blackmon WR, Oklahoma State. It seems almost unfair that after trading down four spots and acquiring three extra picks that St. Louis will still be able to get the guy they would have drafted at pick #2. Justin Blackmon is regarded as the best receiver in this draft, although Notre Dame’s Michael Floyd has been making a case for that honor.
Blackmon does not have elite speed, but is still able to make catches at any area on the football field. Personally, I think he’s a bit overrated and is only the #1 WR because there isn’t talent like last year’s first round. However, he does have great hands and route running ability and guys like Larry Fitzgerald have shown that a lot can be done with those tools. Regardless, the Rams have a big need for receiver and Blackmon is the best available.
7.) Jacksonville Jaguars- Melvin Ingram DE, South Carolina. This is a bit of a tricky one, because the Jaguars have a HUGE need at receiver, so it wouldn’t be a shock to see them take Floyd here. They could also go offensive line to help out second year QB Blaine Gabbert. However, Ingram gives the Jags a great player who comes hard off the edge and can also go into coverage if need be. He’s also very fast for his position. Ingram gives Defensive Coordinator Mel Tucker a player to use in a myriad of ways.
8.) Miami Dolphins- Ryan Tannehill QB, Texas A&M. There have been rumors for weeks now that Miami has been trying to move up and get Tannehill. Whether these rumors are true or not, you have to figure that the Dolphins would love the third best QB in this draft. Tannehill has a gun of an arm and can throw moving to the left as well as the right. The Dolphins currently have Matt Moore who did well last season, but Tannehill could help them reach the next level.
9.) Carolina Panthers- Quinton Coples DE, UNC. There have been questions about Coples’ motor and effort level but if the coaches do their job, this kid could be a stud. He is an explosive player who will dominate if he can go one on one with the offensive tackle in open space. He’s very fast and will have no problem getting to the quarterback at the next level.
10.) Buffalo Bills- Riley Reiff LT, Iowa. The Bills need a left tackle. They have Demetrius Bell who is a very talented player but who can’t stay healthy. They need a run-blocking machine like Reiff to pave open holes for Fred Jackson. Reiff is also a good pass blocker as well, but he’s known for his ability to blast open that left side for the running back. This way, they can move Bell over to RT and if he can stay healthy, this offensive line should be in good shape.
11.) Kansas City Chiefs- Luke Kuechly ILB, Boston College. The era is gone where middle linebackers are a high commodity in the NFL. Now it’s all about the athletic, pass rushing OLB/DE highbred. This being said, Kuechly is a unique player with great instincts. He can tackle with the best of them and has hands and speed where if he gets the ball in his possession, he has a good shot at taking it back. Kuechly will instantly help this front seven and will make a good defense reach the next level.
12.) Seattle Seahawks- David DeCastro OG, Stanford. DeCastro is the second best offensive lineman in this draft, and the Seahawks would be thrilled it they can land him at 12.Eleven years ago, the Seahawks signed another guard in the first round. His name was Steve Hutchinson and for a decade, he was a top guard in the NFL. The Seahawks are hoping DeCastro will be their next Hutchinson and indeed he could be. Easily the best guard in this draft, DeCastro blows up the middle and opens HUGE holes for running backs to get through.
13.) Arizona Cardinals- Jonathan Martin OT, Stanford. I honestly think Martin excelled because he played along with the aforementioned DeCastro. The Cardinals could definitely use defensive help, but they need to give Kolb more time to throw and Martin is a good pass protector. Kolb is running out of excuses, so better pass protection should give the opportunity to excel, or be replaced.
14.) Dallas Cowboys- Mark Barron S, Alabama. The chances are that the Cowboys will either make a pick to bolster up the secondary or the offensive line. I think in this case it will be the former.The Cowboys had an awful secondary last season and they are looking to change that in 2012. Along with their recent pick up, cornerback Brandon Carr, Barron could turn around the Cowboys defensive woes by becoming an immediate starter.
15.) Philadelphia Eagles- Fletcher Cox DT, Mississippi State. The Eagles won’t waste any time to turn in their draft card this year if the dominant Miss. St. product falls to them. I honestly believe this is who they are hoping for and for good reason. Cox is a very talented defensive tackle who can help a very average run-stopping unit. He can also be moved to the edge and get after the quarterback as well.
16.) New York Jets- Michael Brockers DT, LSU. Brockers could end up being the defensive lineman that everyone wish they would have grabbed in the top 10. He consistently finds himself behind the offensive line making tackles in the backfield, no matter how many blocks he needs to shed to get there. He has a good jump at the snap and will be a definite upgrade at the position for the Jets.
They could also look to Michael Floyd here, but I don’t think adding a kid with a shady past to a WR core that is similarly troubled would be a great recipe for success.
17.) Cincinnati Bengals-Stephon Gilmore CB, South Carolina. Aside from Claiborne, Gilmore is my favorite CB in this draft. He has excellent cover skills and is a fun guy to watch tackle receivers. He also has a nose for the ball and has made a number of great interceptions. Gilmore should give the Bengals the CB that they haven’t had for a couple years since losing Jonathan Joseph.
18.) San Diego Chargers- Courtney Upshaw OLB, Alabama. The Chargers need help in stopping the run game. Upshaw is the guy to turn to. He can stop the run as well as any linebacker in this draft and has good instincts for how the play is developing. Another product of an elite Alabama system, Upshaw will not disappoint in San Diego. He is the perfect fit as a 3-4 OLB.
19.) Chicago Bears- Michael Floyd WR, Notre Dame. The smart thing to do here would be to take an offensive lineman but the Bears won’t let Floyd fall further than he already has. Floyd is an interesting prospect. He is a big receiver who is also very fast. He has all the tools needed to be successful in the NFL. Plus, he would compliment recent pickup Brandon Marshall very well. If he can stay out of trouble off the field, he’ll make a lot of teams regret passing on him in the first half of this draft.
20.) Tennessee Titans- Dre Kirkpatrick CB, Alabama. I’m not sold on Kirkpatrick. I feel like he got beat quite a few times last year. However, the Titans just lost veteran CB Cortland Finnegan in free agency so the position needs to be addressed. Janoris Jenkins is also an option here, but the guy’s past might scare the Titans off.
21.) Cincinnati Bengals- Cordy Glenn OG/OT, Georgia. Glenn is a very respectable player who played tackle in 2011. That being said, his skill set might be better suited in the NFL as a guard. The Bengals already have a solid left tackle, so plugging him in at either guard spot would be a good option. Either way, the Bengals can’t lose with this pick.
22.) Cleveland Browns- Kendall Wright WR, Baylor. The Browns are going to overload on offense in the first round this year. After seeing what they could have had in Julio Jones last year before trading the pick, they’re going to want to pick up a receiver of their own. Kendall Wright is the surest bet available at 22. He had a somewhat disappointing combine, but his skills are undeniable. He plays fast and can get separation. The young combination or Richardson and Wright should be enough to get quarterback Colt McCoy ready to lead this team.
23.) Detroit Lions- Mike Adams OT, Ohio State. The Lions would have loved to get their hands on either Gilmore or Kirkpatrick, but they’re going to have to go o-line with this pick. Mike Adams could add a HUGE body to an aging Lions line. Longtime left tackle Jeff Backus isn’t getting any younger despite having never missed a game in his career and Mike Adams, at this point, would be a worthy replacement.
24.) Pittsburgh Steelers- Jerel Worthy DT, Michigan State. The Steelers would have loved to have grabbed one of the top offensive linemen (and perhaps they still will reach for one like Wisconsin’s Kevin Zeitler) but they won’t pass up on Worthy. Worthy, in my opinion, is the surest bet at defensive tackle in the entire draft. He has shown consistency in penetrating the line to stop the run and that alone is very Steelers-esque.
25.) Denver Broncos- Dontari Poe DT, Memphis. I confess I’d never heard of Poe before his pro day. Some people got a little crazy projecting him to go in the top ten after that (and some people still do have him in the top 10). The fact is, this guy has a very underwhelming tape to go along with his overwhelming pro day. Athletic freaks who don’t produce much in college rarely workout in the NFL. There are definitely exceptions, but I don’t think Poe is one of them. Regardless, Denver will take him at 25 to try and help bolster their run defense.
26.) Houston Texans- Stephen Hill WR, Georgia Tech. Andre Johnson has been doing it all himself for the past couple season. The #2 receivers on the Texans over the years would be 3’s and 4’s on most other teams. Stephen Hill is the offensive equivalent of Dontari Poe. Underwhelming production in college (28 receptions last year) but a great pro day. However, Hill averaged nearly 30 yards per reception in GT’s run first system. That’s pretty impressive. GT has produced a few good receivers over the years such as Calvin Johnson and Demaryius Thomas, so perhaps Hill can be the next great from this school. He’s definitely raw right now, but he has one of the best in the game to mentor him.
27.) New England Patriots- Nick Perry DE, USC. Year in and year out it seems like the Patriots have a top three offense and a bottom three defense. People will eagerly point fingers at the pass defense but the problem has been that they haven’t had a great pass rusher since Richard Seymour. Nick Perry can change that. By putting more pressure on the QB, some pressure will be alleviated from the secondary, creating a more balanced unit.
28.) Green Bay Packers- Chandler Jones DE, Syracuse. The Packers want Perry badly, and they might even trade up to get him although that would be very “un-Packerly.” They’ll take the next best thing in Syracuse’s Chandler Jones, who is himself a very good pass rusher. Aside from losing Nick Collins last season, the Packers’ main problem was the lack of a pass rush opposite of Clay Matthews. They had lost Cullen Jenkins and nobody else stepped up. Jones will be that guy in 2012.
29.) Baltimore Ravens- Peter Konz C, Wisconsin. Matt Birk has been a great center for the Ravens for a long time, but it’s time to look for his imminent replacement. Peter Konz, the latest product of great offensive linemen from the University of Wisconsin, would be a great replacement. Konz isn’t the biggest or fastest at his position but he has smarts and technique which will help him excel in the NFL.
30.) San Francisco 49ers- Devon Still DT, Penn State. What else would the league’s best defense do besides adding another talented player to their defense? Before free agency I would have had them taking a WR here, but after picking up Mario Manningham and signing Randy Moss, they will likely wait to get a receiver later. Devon Still is the best defensive lineman available and due to the talent around him, he will likely have an impact as well as he will never be the focus of offensive coordinators.
31.) New England Patriots- Janoris Jenkins CB, North Alabama.Bit of a risk here. Many weed rumors as well as a baby per lady have dropped this kid far down the board. He could have been a top ten pick if he would have gotten his life together, and it’s no sure thing that he’ll be picked here. However, I truly believe if anyone is going to get him in line, it’s Bill Belichick and crew. The truth is, Jenkins is a very good talent. For that reason alone, he could go absolutely anywhere in this draft.
32.) New York Giants- Coby Fleener TE, Stanford. The Giants could potentially take a linebacker here, but after the injuries that their starting tight ends suffered in the Super Bowl, I think it’s safe to say they’ll go with the best tight end in the draft. Fleener was Andrew Luck’s favorite target all season and is as reliable as they come. He has good hands and can block pretty well too. His speed is also underestimated. He will be another great weapon to add to Eli Manning’s arsenal.
Every Vikings fan remembers Christmas Eve of 2011 for two reasons. First, a missed opportunity to bring in three extra draft picks, as a loss to the Washington Redskins would have given Minnesota the second overall pick. The St. Louis Rams ended up getting two extra first round picks over the next two years as well as a second round selection this year after trading the number two pick to the Redskins.
Secondly, and more seriously, the horrific injury that star running back Adrian Peterson suffered at the hands (or helmet) of safety DeJon Gomes. The draft picks would have helped the rebuilding process, but Peterson is the heart and soul of this football team, as well as the focal point of the offense. Watching him go down was one of the worst sports injuries I’ve witnessed.
Miraculously, it has recently been reported by Vikings GM Rick Spielman that Peterson is running on solid ground again roughly three months after tearing his ACL and MCL. ARE YOU KIDDING ME?! No one will say that he’s football ready, because he’s not, but the fact that he’s running this soon after his injury is an impressive feat and just shows what a little determination and a lot of hard work can do.
After having surgery on a torn ACL, athletes are often told to rehab and wait 7-9 months before resuming athletic activities. Peterson has said that he hopes to be ready for the start of the 2012 season, and others in the organization have repeated this hope. However, in the current state of this franchise, the Vikings’ star player should feel no rush whatsoever in returning to the field.
The Vikings have a perfectly capable backup running back in Toby Gerhart who averaged 4.9 yards per carry last season. Furthermore, with Peterson out, the coaches can focus on Christian Ponder as the focal point of the offense and monitor and adjust his development. With an improved offensive line (it is widely assumed the Vikings will take USC left tackle Matt Kalil with their first round pick) Ponder will have more time to find his targets and we can see if 2011’s 12th overall pick is the player we need him to be going forward.
The team is in rebuilding mode folks. There’s no reason to expect the Vikes to be a contender this year, especially in the fierce NFC North. If Peterson can come back the player he was before his injury by week six or so, that would be a phenomenal accomplishment. It would be a pity to seem him come back before he is ready and re-injure himself (think Jerry Rice in 1997). In the meantime, let’s see what CP7 (yeah that’s my nickname for Christian Ponder) can do with a full offseason and move forward from there. Skol Vikings!