I went into this draft understanding that Minnesota had some very specific needs and that most of those needs could be filled by decent talent in the middle rounds.
Offensively, the Vikings were 20th in the NFL in total offense. 2nd in the League in Rushing 31st in passing. They were 14th in scoring at 23.7 Pts per game. The Vikings have a very young QB who will, no doubt, improve as he gets more experience but, the Vikings also need to give him better weapons on the Offensive side of the field. This starts at WR and OL. They must improve their passing game. They have a fine running game but in order to take advantage of that, they must be able to stretch the field and pass protect. Vikings have good OTs but they need to improve their Guard Play.
Defensively, the Vikings were 17th over all in the NFL last seasons. 9th against the pass and 11th against the run so how do they get to 17th? They are reasonably good in both areas but not great. Against the run, they are tied for 7th in the league in average yard per carry given up 4.0 and they also rank 4th in the league in 1st down percentage vs the run. They are reasonably good against the run but against the pass, they are 24th in the league in total yards passing and also in yards per game passing. What's interesting about that is that they rank 11th in the NFL in YPA defensively. They are tied for 8th, in the NFL in Rushing TDs given up. They are tied for 23rd in the NFL in Passing TDs given up. They are ranked 5th in the league in defensive Sacks. All of this indicates to me that they don't give up huge plays in the passing game but they don't play very good against the short passing teams. They get nickle and dimed to death. This is on the LBs and the Safeties. They aren't covering the short to intermediate zones.
Vikings Team Needs:
1. WR - This is probably the biggest weakness on the Vikings team as of the end of the 2012 Season. They have Harvin, who they must resign and they have Michael Jenkins through FA but they need a #1 WR. Harvin is a big play slot WR and Jenkins is the Big Down Field receiver who should be able to stretch the field and be the Red Zone Target you look for. They have several very young WRs they are trying to develop now but they need a guy that can be a real #1 WR threat.
2. LB - Vikings will likely lose an OLB to FA this year or next. Perhaps both just depending on team decisions. The current starting LBs are OK against the run but they do not cover in space well at all. Erin Henderson has recorded 4 PD and 0 INTs in 3 seasons. Chad Greenway recoreded 9 PD and 1 INT in 3 seasons. Jasper Brinkley their starting MLB is worse then both in pass coverage and not a real great tackling MLB. The Vikings need help at LB in any of the three starting spots.
3. DT - Vikings rely heavily on the DTs in their defensive scheme. With the LBing talent they currently have, they must be sure to continue to cover them up with strong DT play. They must also insure that this rotation allows the DEs to stay free and make sacks. For years, the Vikings dominated with Pat and Kevin Williams along their defensive front but with the retirement of Pat and the slowing down of Kevin Williams, the Vikings DT rotation needs some upgrades. They drafted Latroy Guion a few years ago but he has not really done the job. They still have Kevin Williams and they have Christian Ballard, who they like very much and they have Fred Evans who is a nice rotational guy but they need a strong DT who can come in and start for them as a 0, 1 or 2 Gap DT.
4. OG - Vikings hit a home run when they drafted Matt Kalil and they need to extend Phil Loadholt at the RT spot but the Vikings really do have a nice complement at OT. They have a good young Center in John Sullivan. What they don't have is a lot of talent at OG. Brandon Fusco may turn into a nice player but he is still very young and needs to continue to develop. Jeff Swarts is a player that the Vikings like at RG and may develop into a starter. The problem is Charlie Johnson at LG. He is terrible. This has to get fixed for the Vikings. Bottom line, Vikings need to upgrade their OL. To a lessor extent OT because the plan is to resign Loadholt and they have a young RT, Demarcus Love (1st Team all SEC 2011) whom they are developing but big time at LG. You can't afford not to protect their young QB and their best player AD.
5. S - Vikings again did a great job of drafting when they took Smith at SS last year. He came through with 111 tackles, 80 Solo, 3 INTs, 1 Sack, 12 Successful pass defenses and 2 TDs. If he continues to develop, he's going to be a real good player for a long time with the Vikings. Unfortunately, as good as Smith has been at SS, Jamarca Sanford at FS has been just that bad. 2 INTs in 4 Seasons as the starting FS. He seems to me like he's more of a SS being forced to play at Free. Vikings have drafted two young FS in Robert Blanton and Andrew Sendajo but each needs to step up and show that they can play the position. There is time for each but as of now, the jury is still very much out on both of those players.
5. CB - Antoine Winfield has been a decent CB in the NFL for a very long time, 14 Seasons, in fact. Winfield had a very good year last season with 100 tackles, 71 solo, 3 INTs, 12 PDs and half a sack but the guy is very long in the tooth and he is 5'9" 180 lbs. He can't go forever and it's probably time to consider moving him to the slot where the game is much less physical and much more about being able to zone or shadow, two things Winfield can still do. Chris Cook is the other Starting CB for the Vikings. Often injured and some legal issues off the field early on in his young career but the talent is there. He's a 6'2" 200+ CB who can play and can match up with the big Receivers in the NFC North. Vikings have some young CBs they are trying to develop but clearly, they need to bring in more talent there. Somebody who can step in and be a starter for Winfield.
6. QB - Vikings actually like their situation with Chris Ponder. They think he's the future of the franchise at the position. To be fair, he improved dramatically from his Rookie Year in all areas. Completed twice as many passes, improved his Comp% from 54 to 62, threw for over a 1000 more yards, threw 5 more TDs and 1 less INT. Unfortunately, 12 from 13 is still too many. Also fumbled 5 times. Now, everybody knows that QBs must protect the ball and Ponder needs to get better at this but the Vikings must also help him. They have to improve on the OL and they have to get better at WR. They have a fine young TE in Rudolph but they must give him target to throw at. Guys who can run routes and get open as well as catch the ball. After Ponder, they have Bethal Thompson and Joe Webb. They really could use more talent at QB but that's probably a developmental guy and not a Franchise type QB. Vikings will probably need to go to FA and find a backup because neither one of the guys behind Ponder look like they can get the job done to me.
Vikings Previous Drafts
Vikings 2013 Kiper Invite Mock Draft
1. Trade Down from 1st Rd
2011 Viking Draft:
1. Christian Ponder QB
2. Rudolph Kyle TE
4. Christian Ballard DT
5. Burton Brandon CB
6. Demarcus Love OT
6. Raymond Mustral S
6. Brandon Fusco OL
7. D'Aundre Reed DE
7. Stephen Burton WR
2012 Viking Draft:
1. Matt Kalil OT
1. Harrison Smith S
3. Josh Robinson CB
4. Jurius Wright WR
4. Rhett Ellison TE/FB
4. Greg Childs WR
5. Robert Blanton CB
6. Blair Walsh K
7. Audie Cole LB
7. Trevor Guyton DE
. Traded 1st (23) and 4th (117) for 2nd (35), 3rd (67) and 4th (99) plus a 3rd in 2013.
Almost never a popular idea but in this case, I felt as if it was the best course of action. Allowed me to move up to the top of each round, acquiring extra 2nd and 3rd and 2014 pick.
The top players on my board:
Bjoern Werner - DE
Jonathan Cooper - LG
Keenan Allen - WR
Alec Ogletree - OLB/SS
Dion Jordan - DE/OLB
Cordarrelle Patterson - WR
Star Lotulelei - DT
Chance Warmack - RG
Damontre Moore DE Texas A&M
Sharrif Floyd - DT
Sheldon Richardson - DT
Jesse Williams - DT
Johnthan Banks - CB
Manti Te'o - MLB/OLB
Dee Milliner - CB
Ezekiel Ansah DE BYU
Except for Te'o, Banks and Williams. All players who carried 1st Round Grades but not can't miss grades were gone. Once Cooper went off the board, my last can't miss prospect, I felt as if it was better to trade down.
2. (35) Jesse Williams DT Alabama 6'4" 325 lbs
- Williams played DE in 2011 and moved inside to play DT in 2012. Two NC teams, he's a 2 Gap DT that is big enough to take on Double Teams and crash the pocket. Excellent work ethic, no off the field issues, has practiced against the very best in college football every day for the past two years. He's just learning the game. Sky is the limit for him. Smart, good motor and strong. Plays with very good leverage and balance. Exactly what the Vikings need to bring in and put in their DT rotation.
2. (52) Chase Thomas OLB Stanford 6'4" 245 lbs.
- Thomas is as flexible a LB as there is in this draft. Can play every position in a 43 has football intellect to burn. Smart, instinctive player that did nothing but produce at Stanford. 228 tackles in his career, 50 TFL, 27 sks, 2 INTs. He is a sure tackler, he covers well he's smart, stays out of trouble and he has the frame to get even bigger. The Vikings need help at every LB position and day one, he is the best player they have at W, M or S.
3(67) Jamar Taylor CB Boise St. 6'0" 195 lbs
- I saw a lot of this player in college. As a CB, he has sound skills. Can play physical, has good speed, is a great tackler, smart good feet, good speed, will make a good CB in the NFL IMO but I think it's very possible that he might be an even better FS. The Vikings could use both. No off the field issues and he understands situations on the field at all times. Taylor might be the best DB Boise has produced in recent memory. Not kidding. This kid can play.
3(83) Brian Winters G Kent St. 6'5" 310 lbs
- The first thing people are going to say about Winters is that he played at Kent St. Don't let that fool you. Winters had offers to play at some big time programs including OSU, Michigan and Ill. He stayed home. Winters is a 4 year starter, has played every position but Center. Played LT the large majority of his college career, he has the athletic ability and size to player RT in the NFL but his ability to pull and reach are probably key factors in why he will end up at LG. He can pull and finish, has good punch and pop off the line. He's quick out of his stance and he's smart. Sets up well and drives well. He will need to get stronger but his ability to hit moving targets and his ability to play all across the line is what will make him valuable. For the Vikings, he's the much needed natural replacement to Charlie Johnson.
4(99) Chris Harper WR Kansas St. 6'1" 230 lbs
- You wonder how good Harper could have been had he started as a WR instead of a QB and if he had a good QB to work with at KSt.? Harper is a powerful WR with thick lower body. He's fast, like 4.4 fast, he's quick in and out of his cuts, he goes up for the ball with a "mine" mentality and he's strong. He catches the ball with very strong hands. He runs good routes and he's an improving blocker. Harper originally signed with Oregon but, like many others, transfer was in his future. This kid could be very good. He has the talent to be a #1 WR. It's not attitude or intelligence or hands or speed or size that have prevented him from being a great College WR. He just hasn't worked enough with good talent on his team. At the next level, he's going to need reps and somebody to teach him the Pro game but if that happens, I think he's going to be one heck of a WR and for Minnesota, he's exactly what they need. He will help them immediately by playing on STs and fill a role for them in their WR Group. This kid is going to be a player IMO.