Thursday, April 25, 2013

What should the Vikings Do in the NFL Draft?

The NFL draft begins Thursday night with the first round starting at 7pm on ESPN.  If you're an idiot like me, you still tune in to KFAN from time to time and you're hearing the bottom of the barrel when it comes to baseless speculation regarding who the Vikings may take in the first round.  Let's look at what local knobs are saying and maybe a couple of mock drafts and then talk about what the Vikings should do in the first.

Heard on KFAN and on USA Today Mock draft:  The Vikings should trade up for Tavon Austin

What is it with everyone's desire to immediately replace a piece they just lost?  We went through this before when the Vikings traded away Randy Moss to the Raiders and then drafted Troy Williamson because he was fast.  Even the wikipedia language indicates they needed to do this: "The Vikings needed a receiver with deep speed after trading Randy Moss to Oakland, drafting Williamson with the 7th overall pick in the 2005 NFL Draft."  Speaking of which, Troy is a free agent!

So, now since we traded away a shifty slot guy that can return kicks well so now we need to trade up and immediately fill that hole with Tavon Austin.  The USA Today mock has the Vikings jumping all of the way up to 6 noting that "the buzz has been growing for months" and that he's "not as thick as Harvin but offers a similar skill set".  Mel Kiper has Austin going #16 to the Rams and says he's "versatile" and can replace the loss of Danny Amendola.  The thing is, not every small guy that's a great returner turns into MVP-type-when-he-tries Percy Harvin.  Austin could end up being much more Dexter McCluster than Harvin.  In fact, that's what people should probably expect.  Not that McCluster is bad, he's a useful player that can do a lot of things and was taken #36 overall by the Chiefs.  I just don't think you should sell out your draft/future drafts by making a huge leap to get this guy.  The Vikings just have too many holes to fill to give up multiple picks to get Austin.  There are also a number of WR prospects that will be there that could be a fit anyway.  If he falls to the late teens and the price is right; sure, try and move up.  I mean, he did run a 4.34 and played every game at West Virginia despite his size.  Here's Todd McShay fawning over him (has him going #13):

Heard on KFAN, USA Today, Kiper and from everyone you talk to:  The Vikings should draft Manti Te'o

Everyone knows the Vikings need a MLB and despite it not being a super strong class for MLBs, many insist the Vikings will take Te'o in the first round with their #25 pick.  Manti would be most notable for being a Heisman trophy finalist if it wasn't for getting catfished by some dude.  Instead he's known for falling in love with a guy on the interwebs. 

In some ways this is understandable as MLB is a need and the Vikings have had some success with drafting Irish in Harrison Smith and Kyle Rudolph.  However, I'm unconvinced this is the right choice for a couple of reasons that go beyond him getting punked on the internet by some dude.  By most accounts Te'o is a run stopper in the middle and will rack up tackles, but isn't much of a playmaker.  He did make plays at Notre Dame including a whopping 7 INTs, but also has looked poor in big moments including the nationla championship and spraining his knee in the Sun Bowl in 2010.  As mentioned before, the Vikings have a ton of needs and in my opinion MLB is much easier to fill later or outside of the draft.  Players like Rey Malauga (Cincy), Michael Boley (Giants) and Nick Barnett (Bills) are free agency candidates.

Also, there are a bunch of decent, but not elite MLB options and Te'o is just one of them.  Kevin Minter (LSU), Alec Ogletree (GA) and Nico Johnson (Bama) are all possibilities.  Why not wait on MLB and get a lineman or secondary player as that seems to be the deeper?  Then there's the dreaded "Manti is only a two down player" argument.  I don't care about that as much if he's elite for those two downs, but with his speed and other problems, he doesn't seem to project to elite status.  Go to the 2:20 mark on this vid for Manti talk:

So what should they do?

First, I like grabbing a WR at either 23 or 25 assuming you're getting one of the top guys.  Landing Jennings was expensive, but somewhat necessary to stay competitive in the division.  Adding to Jennings with a quality prospect would be great.  Jarius Wright showed some flashes of being useful last year as well and could be a slot-type if necessary so you don't have to pigeon-hole yourself into getting the new slot guy.

Kiper has the Vikings taking Cordarrelle Patterson of Tennessee.  He was another multi-tool type of player as he had 300 yards rushing, nearly 800 receiving and was a return guy.  He has more size than Austin (nearly 6'2"), but is not as fast (4.48 vs 4.34).  However, he's quick and strong and seems to have some big upside. 

Cal Junior Keenan Allen is also 6'2" and runs in the 4.5 range.  He can get up and battle for balls downfield, but doesn't blow you away with raw speed. 

Justin Hunter is another Tennessee WR.  He's big (6'4") and he's a leaper. 

Roberts Woods of USC and Deandre Hopkins of Clemson are also considerations.

There are several options and hopefully the Vikings have a couple of these guys that they like.  I'd go Cordarrelle if I could though.  Check out this kick-ass sports science on all of the cool stuff he can do:

For the other pick I'd like to see them take the best available player...especially if it's a defensive lineman or someone in the secondary.  Generally, I have some faith in the current regime based on some of their recent selections.  Maybe they think taking a MLB in the first is a bad idea too.  Some players I'm interested in that may be there in the mid-20s are:

Sylvester Williams, DT UNC - Sly is going to be 25 during the season, which kind of sucks but he looks like a beast inside and has shown good ability to get into the backfield.  He's a guy that I've seen kind of all over from the teens to the end of the first round in mocks and I think that's at least partially due to the depth at the position.  Plus he has big thighs:

Geno Smith, QB WVU - JUST HEAR ME OUT!  It's a LOT cheaper these days to sign a QB in the first round thanks to the new salary slotting, so it's less of a blown gambit than say drafting Christian Ponder looks like it may have been.  The Vikings have Cassell in the fold now, so I doubt they go here, but if Geno is available at 23, they have to take a hard look at him.  Something called Anthony Sulla-Heffinger at the NYPost has the Vikings taking him at 23 and here's what he says in his blog-thing:

Smith has the tools to be successful in the NFL, but I think everyone is getting a little ahead of themselves on the West Virginia signal caller because of the success of Robert Griffin III and Cam Newton over the past two seasons. Smith has a tendency to shy away from the pocket when faced with pressure and while it is not as big of a deal as it once was, he played almost exclusively out of the shotgun while with the Mountaineers. Minnesota, which drafted Christian Ponder in the first round two years ago, certainly do not seem married to the idea of Ponder as their franchise QB, so if Smith is here, Minnesota will give him a long look. -Anthony Sulla-Heffinger

Bjoern Werner, DE FSU - 6'3", 266lb speed/power rusher that runs a 40 at the same speed as Manti Te'o.  A boatload of defensive lineman are free agents at the end of the year and could be out the door.

 Desmond Trufant, DB Washington - Trufant has two brothers in the NFL and he'll be the third.  At just hair under 6', he's got good size and great speed with a 4.38 40 time.  He'd be a great fit in the secondary.

Good luck to our Vikings tomorrow!

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