The 2013 NFL Draft with Brendan Bond

Photo by flickr use mjpeacecorps

Photo by flickr use mjpeacecorps

The long-awaited day is almost upon us, as the 2013 NFL Draft is but nine days away. The draft, which will broadcast on ESPN and NFL Network at 7:00 PM on April 25 from New York City promises to be another good one. Brendan Bond, senior journalism major at Loyola University and long-time contributor to the Loyola Sports Locker program, weighed in on next Thursday’s event.

Purple Horns: Unlike previous drafts, such as last year, where it was pretty much widely known that [quarterback] Andrew Luck would go first overall, there is less certainty this year. Who do you think will end up going first overall to the Kansas City Chiefs.

Brendan Bond: I think there’s a pretty good chance Luke Joeckel, the left tackle from Texas A&M will go first overall.

PH: Despite the fact that Geno Smith has been touted as the top quarterback, do you think that another QB could go before him? This is a historically weak quarterback class after all.

Bond: I don’t think another QB will go before Smith, mostly because all of the top QBs in this draft are all pocket passers and Smith is more mobile than [USC’s Matt] Barkley or [NC State’s Mike] Glennon.

PH: Will a running back be taken in the first round, or will that trend break this year? Historically, running back has been a big target in the first round, with 21 of them going in the past seven years, but the game has shifted towards more of a passing league.

Bond:  And for that reason I don’t see a running back going in the first round this year. I see Eddie Lacy [from Alabama] going in the first few picks of the second round.

PH: Which players have the most upside, even if they are raw right now?

Bond:  I would go with either Barkevious Mingo or Ezekiel Ansah. Both are still very raw, especially Ansah, but both have amazing physical abilities which pay greater dividends on the defensive side of the ball. Players can afford to be more raw on defense than offense.

PH: Which team do you think is the most likely to move up into the top five in a trade?

Bond: I actually don’t see anybody trading into the top 5 but I could see the Jets and Bills flipping picks at 9 and 8 or the Jets and Cardinals at 9 and 7 so the Jets could jump ahead of those two teams and possibly grab a quarterback.

PH: Which player do you anticipate being the biggest reach in the first round?

Bond: I think this draft is too deep and sans star power for there to actually be any reaches, but if a QB is taken in the top 10, whether that is Geno Smith, Matt Barkley, Ryan Nassib or Mike Glennon, I would call that a reach.

PH: What positions do you see the teams in the NFC North targeting?

Bond: The Lions are going to go for O-line help first, hoping that either Joekel or Fisher are still there at 5. I could see the Vikings looking wideout but with Austin off the board, they might go defensive front seven. The Packers will look tight end at some point, and my fear is that they will get Eifert who I see as a Pro Bowl tight end for a long time. Otherwise, they will go secondary. And the Bears need help on the O-line, at middle linebacker, tight end and maybe cornerback too. I see them looking linebacker round one though.

PH: Will the Vikings trade out of the first round with one of their picks, and if so, why?

Bond: Yes, because I think their biggest need is a WR and after Austin, they aren’t many top WRs so they can trade out and still get good value.

PH: Which rookies do you think have the best chance winning offensive and defensive rookie in the year in 2013?

Bond: That’s almost impossible to say because we don’t know yet who will be on which team, which possibly means depth chart or scheme issues. That said, I would like [Alabama cornerback] Dee Milliner for defensive and [Notre Dame tight end] Tyler Eifert for offensive.

By paulcanavati Posted in NFL

The Ten Best Minnesota Vikings

The Minnesota Vikings, a franchise which saw its debut back in the 1961 season, has failed to ever win a Super Bowl despite appearing in four. However, this does not take away from the fact that they have had some of the most talented players in the history of the league at several positions. The following list displays those who have been the most productive in a Vikings uniform over the course of their career.

1. Alan Page- Defensive Tackle (1967-1978)

Alan Page was one of the founding fathers of the infamous Purple People Eaters, one of the greatest defensive lines in history. Behind this defense led by Page, the Vikings went to four super bowls in the 1970’s. Page recorded 148.5 sacks and recovered 23 fumbles over his professional career, and to this day is the only defensive lineman to ever win MVP, which he did in 1971.

2. Carl Eller- Defensive End (1964-1978)

Another member of the Purple People Eaters, Eller is best known as the Vikings’ all-time sack leader with 130.5. One of history’s “iron men,” Eller played in over 200 games as a Viking and joined Page in the Professional Football Hall of Fame in 2004.

Photo by nateog on Flickr

Photo by nateog on Flickr

3. Fran Tarkenton- Quarterback (1961-1966, 1972-1978)

The first Minnesota Viking to be inducted into the Hall of Fame (1986), Tarkenton was to the Vikings’ offense what Page was to the defense. Known widely as one of the best scrambling quarterbacks of all time, Tarkenton’s 47,003 passing yards and 342 touchdown passes were the most ever by a quarterback when he retired. Tarkenton led the Vikings to three super bowls and is still regarded as one of the best quarterbacks of all time.

4. Cris Carter- Wide Receiver (1990-2001)

After years of being denied entry to the Hall of Fame, Carter finally got voted in this year. He is ninth all time in receiving yards (13,899) and fourth in touchdown catches (130) but Carter’s ability to come up big in clutch situations is what Vikings fans remember. Carter was a big reason why the Vikings had success in the late 1990s and early 2000s, despite never getting to a Super Bowl.

5. Chris Doleman- Defensive End (1985-1993, 1999)

Doleman only played nine of his 15 seasons with the Vikings, but in that time he compiled 88.5 sacks, 29 forced fumbles, and 14 fumble recoveries. His 21 sacks in 1989 was the all-time season sack record until Michael Strahan broke it in 2001.

6. Randy Moss- Wide Receiver (1998-2004, 2010)

Moss will go down as the most loved and hated receiver in history. Playing on several different clubs, Moss is ranked third on career receiving yards and second in receiving touchdowns in history. He set the all-time season record with 23 touchdown catches in 2007 and has been on the two highest scoring offenses in history. Despite all these numbers, Moss has never been a part of a super bowl-winning team.

7. John Randle- Defensive Tackle (1990-2000)

Randle is one of the most high-energy players to ever don a Vikings uniform, and the fans shared that energy. Playing 11 seasons with the Vikings, Randle recorded 114 sacks, 25 forced fumbles and nine fumble recoveries. He went undrafted in the 1990 draft, coming from a Division II program, and was a dominant force his entire Vikings career, and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2009.

8. Paul Krause- Safety (1968-1979)

Krause is another Minnesota defensive player who saw much success in the 1970s. To this day, Krause holds the record for interceptions over a career with 81, 53 of which came as a Viking. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1998.

9. Adrian Peterson- Running Back (2007-_)

The only active Viking on this list, Peterson has made it a goal to be the best running back of all time. Running for 2,097 yards last season only helped him, as he is ranked 33 in career rushing yards with 8,849. Already the best running back in Vikings history, Peterson has set his goal for 2013 to be 2,500 yards.

10. Randall McDaniel-Offensive Guard (1988-1999)

McDaniel was the dominant interior lineman of his era, as he paved the way for five 1,000 yard rushers and four 3,000 yard passers. Add to this the fact that he made it to 12 consecutive pro bowls, you undoubtedly have one of the best guards in history, and also, one of the best Vikings.

Adrian Peterson’s 2012 Season Best Ever By A Running Back

No, Adrian Peterson did not break Eric Dickerson’s season record of 2,105 yards, set in 1984. He fell nine yards shy. No, he did not record the highest average yards-per-game in the course of a season. That record is still held by O.J. Simpson from his 1973 season with the Buffalo Bills. Nor did he come within 15 touchdowns of LaDainian Tomlinson’s 2006 record of 28 touchdowns in a season. So with all this said, how then can one justify that Adrian Peterson had the best season ever for a running back in 2012?

Let’s go back to Christmas Eve of 2011. The Minnesota Vikings were playing the Washington Redskins in a meaningless game as both teams were out of playoff contention. It was the third quarter, and the Vikings gave Peterson the ball. It all happened so fast. As soon as Peterson passed the line of scrimmage, Redskins safety DeJon Gomes went low on Peterson’s left leg. He had to be helped off the field after writhing in pain, and it was soon confirmed by team doctors that Peterson had indeed torn both his ACL and MCL. The meaningless 2011 season was over, but the 2012 season was now in jeopardy.

Photo by Mike Morbeck Photography

Photo by Mike Morbeck Photography

Peterson refused to mope around. Days after his injury, he had the surgery, and promised Viking nation and the world of football that he would be ready for the 2012 season opener. Naturally there was much doubt, as players generally take an entire calendar year to get back to where they were prior to injury.

Adrian Peterson was back on the field practicing in under eight months and was ready to start the season opener on September 9.

He started the season slow, as one might expect. He was still gaining back some of the explosiveness that he had come to be known for. In fact, it took him until week four to run for his first 100-yard game, which he did against Detroit.

Then something changed. Week seven against the Arizona Cardinals came along and Peterson exploded for 153 yards. He would go on to run for 100 yards or more in every game for the rest of the season except in Week 16 against Houston, where he was held to 86 yards.

Most impressive was how Peterson ended the season. In the month of December alone, he ran for 861 yards which was more than the starting running backs of 15 teams accomplished throughout the entire season. Most importantly, however, this late effort allowed the Vikings to win their final four games and make it back to the playoffs for the first time since 2009.

So numbers aside, why is Adrian Peterson’s 2012 outing the best ever? Let’s put it this way, he was the Vikings offense. The Vikings’ passing offense was ranked 31 out of 32 teams, and when star receiver Percy Harvin went down, nobody else stepped up. Opposing defenses took advantage and put eight to nine men in the box. In other words, they knew Peterson was getting the ball…and they still couldn’t stop him.

The Vikings’ star player ran for 2,096 yards at the end of the season, and while this wasn’t enough to break Dickerson’s record, he carried the ball 31 less times than Dickerson. And he did all this ten months removed from an ACL and MCL tear.

While records and statistics won’t show it, these are the reasons why Adrian Peterson’s 2012 season is the greatest ever by a running back.

NFC North Q&A

It’s that unfortunate time of the year again, where professional football stories are confined to which players are unhappy about their contracts, speculation of which team will go after which free agent in March, and so on. Since there isn’t going to be much of any interest in the NFL realm until Feb. 20, when rookie hopefuls will be strutting their stuff at the Indianapolis combine, now is a good time to look towards the future of the division.

This week I got a chance to sit down with Nick Amatangelo, the sports editor of the Loyola Phoenix at Loyola University Chicago. Amatangelo is also an avid, but level-headed Green Bay Packers fan (a true rarity!) The interview itself went as follows.

Purple Horns: Nick, thank you so much for taking the time to sit down and talk NFC North football with me.

Nick Amatangelo: No problem, I’m happy to chat.

PH: The Chicago Bears finished last season at 10-6 and missed out on a playoff berth due to losing a tiebreaker against the Minnesota Vikings. Do you think that the Bears will be back in the mix in the 2013 season?

NA: That’s tough to say. [New head coach] Marc Trestman wants to bring a big change to the offensive side of the ball, which will require bringing in pieces for Cutler. You could probably expect them to need two drafts to shore up that offensive line and maybe add a weapon or two, so I’d say they’ll probably be back in the playoffs in either 2014 or 2015.

Photo by Mike Morbeck Photography

Photo by Mike Morbeck Photography

PH: Speaking of the playoffs, the Vikings were one of the surprise teams of the 2012 season. Do you see them replicating their success in 2013?

NA: If [running back] Adrian Peterson does anything like he did this past season and they add a receiver or two, the offense could be a lot more consistent. I do think the Vikings overachieved a little last season, but if they have another good draft, I could definitely see them back in the playoffs in 2013.

Photo by Mike Morbeck Photography

Photo by Mike Morbeck Photography

PH: The Packers won the division as most expected, but they weren’t as explosive as in 2011. Longtime veteran receiver Donald Driver has elected to retire and signs point to receiving star Greg Jennings leaving for free agency. Will the Packers have enough weapons in 2013 to win the division again?

NA: Absolutely. Randall Cobb is one of the up and coming stars in the NFL and Jordy Nelson and James Jones still offer a strong enough receiving corps for this team to be effective. Plus they have arguably the best quarterback in the league throwing them the ball.

Photo by Mike Morbeck Photography

Photo by Mike Morbeck Photography

PH: The Lions took a big step backwards last season despite Calvin Johnson having a historic season as a receiver. What will they have to do to get back into the playoffs in 2013?

NA: I don’t know if they can get back to the playoffs next year, or the year after. They definitely overachieved in 2011. The problem is Calvin Johnson is the whole offense and you can’t have an offense built like that. Even if they add some receivers and a good running game, the defense is still a mess. It’s going to take time to fix that club. You have to figure that the days of Coach Schwartz are also numbered.

PH: With three teams with 10 wins or more, is the NFC North the best division in football?

NA: Absolutely. This season, absolutely. Next season might be different though. The Bears and Lions won’t get 10 wins. The Vikings probably won’t get 10 wins. The Packers should get 10 wins, but who knows. From top to bottom, the NFC North is the best division in the NFL, with the rising NFC West being a close second.

PH: Which team in the NFC North will have the best offense in 2013 and which will feature the best defense?

NA: The offense has to go to the Packers at this point. They have the best quarterback in football. If they fix the line up, you’re looking at a very, very good offense. For defense, I actually think the Vikings have a slight edge over the Bears right now. Lots of up and coming stars in Minnesota.

PH: Finally, the question of big debate. Which team has a worse offensive line, the Bears or the Packers?

NA: They’re the two worst offensive lines in football, hands down. I’d say the Packers have the worst, but it’s masked because Rodgers is so good at scrambling and throwing on the run. They’re both awful though.

By paulcanavati Posted in NFL

Super Bowl XLVII

It’s that time of year again! Whether you be a football fan, sports fan in general, or just someone who shows up at parties for the excess of unhealthy Super Bowl snacks, it is a great day for everyone.

This year’s Super Bowl will take place in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, located in New Orleans, Louisiana. The NFC Champion San Francisco 49ers will face the Baltimore Ravens who rode a hot streak through the playoffs to represent the AFC.

This Super Bowl will differ from those of the past. The story lines for this year’s game are endless, and some of them are historic.

Ray Lewis’ “Last Ride”

1357244403_5202_rayEasily the most covered football story since the Ravens’ middle linebacker gave his speech back on January 2, it is nevertheless worth mentioning this subplot. Lewis has been in the NFL for 17 seasons, all with the Baltimore Ravens, and his last and only appearance in a Super Bowl contest occurred 12 seasons ago. Since informing both team members and the media of his intentions to retire at the end of this season, the Ravens have been playing inspired football. His leadership on and off the field has helped get this team where they are, and his teammates have definitely rallied around him. [NFL]

The “HarBowl”

imagesFor the first time in Super Bowl history, we will see sibling head coaches trying to out-duel each other on the sidelines. Jim Harbaugh of the 49ers and John Harbaugh of the Ravens deserve as much credit as anyone for where their teams are. Jim made the difficult decision to stick with quarterback Colin Kaepernick even after  the 3-year starter, Alex Smith, came back from a concussion. Kaepernick combined his arm strength and unique athleticism to lead the 49ers to the Super Bowl.

The Ravens’ head coach made the decision of firing Offensive Coordinator Cam Cameron in Week 14 of the regular season, promoting Jim Caldwell to the job. Since this decision, the Raven offense has increased in effectiveness, allowing them to outlast the Denver Broncos and New England Patriots on their own home fields. Even Cameron acknowledged it was the right decision. [ESPN]

A Viking Reunion

randyIn the 1998 NFL Draft, both receiver Randy Moss and center Matt Birk were selected by the Vikings. They were two of the reasons why the Vikings offense was so effective in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s. They are also part of the reason why their current teams are where they are.

Birk has put off retirement for years, but one has to imagine that should Baltimore win the Super Bowl, the 4-year Ravens’ center will go off into the sunset.

Moss, considered by many to be one of the greatest receivers ever, has said that he wants to play at least one more year but has also said he’s unhappy with his current role on the 49ers. While not the player he once was, Moss has reportedly taken on the mentor role for fellow receiver Michael Crabtree and has helped him become the player he is today.

These two Vikings greats were never seen as friends, and even butted heads on occasion, but they are two players that are as deserving as any to win their first Super Bowl ring. [ESPN]

By paulcanavati Posted in NFL

The Bye Week and Beyond

Photo by Mike Morbeck Photography

Photo by Mike Morbeck Photography

Coming off a 3-13 season and a top five draft position last year, few critics and fans saw this team making any noise in 2012. Thanks to a phenomenal draft class and the inspired play of Adrian Peterson, the team put together a very impressive start to the season, only to struggle in recent weeks. They kept hopes alive, however, by capping off a division win against the Detroit Lions, which was crucial going into the bye week.

At 6-4 and on the bubble (thanks to a pathetic loss against the Seattle Seahawks), what can be expected from this Vikings team going forward? Before we delve into the details, it must be noted that the Vikings’ last six games are perhaps the most grueling of any team in the NFL. They get the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers twice, a Houston Texans team that looks like the most likely contender as the AFC representative in the Super Bowl, and a game in St. Louis. These four teams combine for a whopping 24-11-1 (yes, the Rams were involved in a tie) record.

Let’s start with the good news. Aside from the New England Patriots and possibly the Indianapolis Colts, who they play twice, the Texans don’t really face any major challenges the rest of the way. Since the Vikings game against the Texans is a Week 16 matchup, there is a possibility that the Texans will have already clinched a first round playoff bye by then. Even as it is, the Vikings match up fairly well against the Texans, with the ability to stop the run, but if Houston’s stars are out, the Vikings have a good shot at winning the game. Same holds true against a Rams team which is still rebuilding under new Head Coach Jeff Fisher.

Now for the bad news. The Packers are getting hot. While their defense is suspect, quarterback Aaron Rodgers is still doing work despite a depleted wide receiver unit. One can expect them to be significantly more healthy by the time this division clash occurs. With cornerback Chris Cook out for the remainder of the season, the Vikings have looked vulnerable against the pass. This can be clearly seen when comparing the Vikings’ two games against the Lions and the impact that Calvin Johnson had. He was practically shut down in the first matchup, but exploded for a 200+ yard game in the second. The Packers don’t have a receiver of Megatron’s ability, but they have a nice stable of weapons on that offense, quite possibly too many for the Vikings to handle. Their one dimensionality will work in Minnesota’s favor, as the Vikings will likely be able to stop the run and get pressure on Aaron Rodgers with just the front four, but having seen what rookie quarterbacks have done to the Vikings secondary this year, why should things be any different from the 2011 MVP?

The Bears, I believe, are a bit more vulnerable. Yes, they have Brandon Marshall who’s third in yards in the NFL, but other than him, the passing game has nothing. Running back Matt Forte will also be a threat, as the Vikings have had difficulty stopping the run in recent weeks.

The defense is a different story. The Bears are a turnover creating machine, and if the Vikings are going to have any chance against them, Christian Ponder is going to need to play the kind of ball that he did early in the season. Eliminate the turnovers, have good first down plays, and being creative on offense will lead to victory. That and playing good defense. In short, if they can play the same kind of hard-nosed ball as they did against the San Francisco 49ers, the Vikings will have a good shot against the division leaders.

The bye week has come at the perfect time. Percy Harvin is banged up, and Adrian Peterson surely needs a little rest after leading the NFL in rushing yards over the first ten weeks. Christian Ponder’s confidence has to be high after his last performance, but the biggest tests are yet to come. Let’s see how offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave fits Percy Harvin back into an offense which looked, well, impressive against Detroit in Week 10.

So what can we expect from this team? Realistically speaking, in order to make the playoffs, they will have to be at LEAST 3-3, giving them a record of 9-7 to end the year. 10-6 would definitely get them in, but that’s a lot to ask for with the schedule at hand. I predict they finish the year 9-7, by beating the Bears and Packers once, and taking care of business in St. Louis. What do YOU think?

Minnesota Vikings 2012 Mock Draft

The first round of the 2012 NFL Draft has been mapped out. Now let’s take a look at what our Minnesota Vikings will be doing in the later rounds as well.

Needs: Offensive Tackle, Wide Receiver, Cornerback, Safety, Inside Linebacker

Round 1 Pick 3: Matt Kalil- Left Tackle USC

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.

By paulcanavati Posted in Vikings

2012 NFL Mock Draft

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.

By paulcanavati Posted in NFL

Adrian Peterson’s Recovery

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!

By paulcanavati Posted in Vikings

Free Agency (or lack thereof)

Greetings Norsemen! I understand that many of you are perplexed as to why the Vikings  were not bigger players in free agency despite the number of holes they have. Rick Spielman, the Vikings GM, has said that he wants to build through the draft rather than sign one or two players to big contracts.

This is a respectable strategy, but the problem is that while the Vikings have had some good drafts, they have failed to find long terms starters at the wide receiver and defensive back positions in the later rounds. As you all know, these two areas are among the three biggest needs that the Vikings currently face along with the offensive line. Hopefully Matt Kalil, the highly acclaimed left tackle out of USC, can help with the latter problem (assuming that they pick him with the 3rd overall pick).

So with 20+ million dollars of cap room (after cutting guards Steve Hutchinson and Anthony Herrera along with cornerback Cedric Griffin) what did the Vikings do?

First, they targeted Minnesota native John Carlson, the former Notre Dame and Seattle Seahawks tight end. Carlson missed all of last season due to injury, but had a very productive first two seasons with 106 receptions for 1200 yards and 12 touchdowns. Not too shabby. However, he had a very lackluster third season with 31 receptions for 318 yards and only one touchdown. Carlson got a 5 year, 25 million dollar deal from the Vikings. While this seems steep, there is also a clause where the Vikings can release him after two seasons if he fails to produce, at which point they would only pay him 11 million dollars. If he can play at the level that he did his first two seasons, he will will be a nice complement to fellow Notre Dame alum Kyle Rudolph who looks to be the Vikings starting tight end next season. Having two good pass catching tight ends will greatly aid second year quarterback Christian Ponder in his development.

Geoff Schwartz is the second player that the Vikings have acquired so far this offseason. Another player who missed the 2011 season (due to a hip injury), the former Carolina Panthers offensive guard/tackle was the starter for the entire 2010 season. Signed to a 1-year deal, Schwartz will be given a chance to start at the right guard position (and hopefully at right tackle as well).

Zach Bowman is a name some Vikings fans might be familiar with as he was previously on the Bears’ roster. Bowman had a very successful 2009 season as a starter in which he was responsible for 66 tackles while picking off six passes and deflecting ten. Bowman was also given a 1-year deal. With Chris Cook coming back and Antoine Winfield returning for a 14th season, Bowman will have a great opportunity to compete for minutes. At this point, second-year Brandon Burton seems to be Bowman’s only competition for that third spot.

So what do all of these signings have in common? Well, it’s giving players the opportunity to not only earn playing time, but a fatter check next season. All of these deals can be considered “good-value” signings as every one of these players could end up being a big contributor to this football team. The Vikings also decided to re-sign Erin Henderson to a one-year deal which will give him the chance to prove himself worthy of a big contract extension after having a very solid 2011 season.

No, we did not get Vincent Jackson or Carl Nicks in free agency. While they would have helped this team by becoming instant starters, they would also have taken up a lot more cap space that will be needed down the road to re-sign guys like Percy Harvin and Chris Cook.

Besides, I honestly believe that other than the right tackle position, the offensive line is in better shape than we think. If they draft Kalil, you instantly have the left tackle and center positions locked up. For the two guard slots, there is a huge number of young players who will be battling for starting jobs.

In terms of wide receiver, there are many options out there in this draft. It would not surprise me to see the Vikings draft two this year, especially with the addition of two conditional 4th round draft picks. The team was reportedly interested in former Colts wideout Pierre Garcon but given the amount of money that he is slated to make, it makes sense why they didn’t pursue him more aggressively.

With free agency almost over now, the Vikings are unlikely to make any more notable moves. The only other fit out there that I can see would be middle linebacker David Hawthorne who has been a very productive player for the Seattle Seahawks for the past three seasons. However, if he wants a contract similar to the one the Cleveland Browns gave D’Qwell Jackson (5 yr/42.5 million) then expect the Vikings to turn the other way. In the case that he would accept a deal that Spielman finds even slightly respectable, I’d expect him to be in purple in no time. He’d be a great fit, and the Vikings desperately need a presence in the middle of their defense.

It is far more likely that they will just continue to bring in players for depth purposes and then look towards the draft in order to find a couple starters as well as players to compete with the aforementioned free agents.

By paulcanavati Posted in Vikings