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I first heard of Ben Watson when he was drafted by the New England Patriots with the last pick in the first round of the 2004 NFL draft. Thanks to this interview with FNC’s Megyn Kelly, I’m seeing him in a different, more positive light than ever before:

Here’s the text of Ben Watson’s Facebook post:

At some point while I was playing or preparing to play Monday Night Football, the news broke about the Ferguson Decision. After trying to figure out how I felt, I decided to write it down. Here are my thoughts:

I’M ANGRY because the stories of injustice that have been passed down for generations seem to be continuing before our very eyes.

I’M FRUSTRATED, because pop culture, music and movies glorify these types of police citizen altercations and promote an invincible attitude that continues to get young men killed in real life, away from safety movie sets and music studios.

I’M FEARFUL because in the back of my mind I know that although I’m a law abiding citizen I could still be looked upon as a “threat” to those who don’t know me. So I will continue to have to go the extra mile to earn the benefit of the doubt.

I’M EMBARRASSED because the looting, violent protests, and law breaking only confirm, and in the minds of many, validate, the stereotypes and thus the inferior treatment.

I’M SAD, because another young life was lost from his family, the racial divide has widened, a community is in shambles, accusations, insensitivity hurt and hatred are boiling over, and we may never know the truth about what happened that day.

I’M SYMPATHETIC, because I wasn’t there so I don’t know exactly what happened. Maybe Darren Wilson acted within his rights and duty as an officer of the law and killed Michael Brown in self defense like any of us would in the circumstance. Now he has to fear the backlash against himself and his loved ones when he was only doing his job. What a horrible thing to endure. OR maybe he provoked Michael and ignited the series of events that led to him eventually murdering the young man to prove a point.

I’M OFFENDED, because of the insulting comments I’ve seen that are not only insensitive but dismissive to the painful experiences of others.

I’M CONFUSED, because I don’t know why it’s so hard to obey a policeman. You will not win!!! And I don’t know why some policeman abuse their power. Power is a responsibility, not a weapon to brandish and lord over the populace.

I’M INTROSPECTIVE, because sometimes I want to take “our” side without looking at the facts in situations like these. Sometimes I feel like it’s us against them. Sometimes I’m just as prejudiced as people I point fingers at. And that’s not right. How can I look at white skin and make assumptions but not want assumptions made about me? That’s not right.

I’M HOPELESS, because I’ve lived long enough to expect things like this to continue to happen. I’m not surprised and at some point my little children are going to inherit the weight of being a minority and all that it entails.

I’M HOPEFUL, because I know that while we still have race issues in America, we enjoy a much different normal than those of our parents and grandparents. I see it in my personal relationships with teammates, friends and mentors. And it’s a beautiful thing.

I’M ENCOURAGED, because ultimately the problem is not a SKIN problem, it is a SIN problem. SIN is the reason we rebel against authority. SIN is the reason we abuse our authority. SIN is the reason we are racist, prejudiced and lie to cover for our own. SIN is the reason we riot, loot and burn. BUT I’M ENCOURAGED because God has provided a solution for sin through the his son Jesus and with it, a transformed heart and mind. One that’s capable of looking past the outward and seeing what’s truly important in every human being. The cure for the Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice and Eric Garner tragedies is not education or exposure. It’s the Gospel. So, finally, I’M ENCOURAGED because the Gospel gives mankind hope.

That’s the message of a true 21st Century civil rights leader. Thank you, Mr. Watson, for speaking honestly about your thoughts. Most importantly, thank you for working overtime to be an inspiration to your family and your community.

After reading this article, and after looking over their recent few drafts, it’s time to question whether the Patriots are heading towards being the AFC’s version of the Dallas Cowboys.

Let’s look at the Patriots’ last few drafts, excluding this year’s. The Patriots’ 2013 draft yielded LB Jamie Collins and Aaron Dobson in the second round, then Logan Ryan and Duron Harmon in the third. Dobson has been inactive 3 of this season’s 4 games. According to Bill Belichick, he’s been inactive because he isn’t playing well.

That’s astonishing considering the fact that a) Dobson is a wide receiver and b) wide receiver is one of the weakest positions on the team. What’s really got to sting is the fact that they traded the 29th pick in the 2013 draft to the Vikings. The Vikings used that pick to take Cordarrelle Patterson. The Vikings traded their second, third and fourth round picks to New England. The Patriots used the Vikings’ second round pick to take Collins.

No disrespect to Collins but can you imagine Brady’s stats if he could stretch the field with Patterson?

In 2012, the Patriots had 4 of the top 90 picks. They struck it rich with Chandler Jones with their first pick. They got a reliable started in Dont’a Hightower with their other first round pick. Their picks in the second and third rounds are forgettable.

In 2011, the Patriots had 5 of the top 74 picks. Nate Solder, their first pick, is a starting tackle. Shane Vereen, the second of their second round picks, is a nice change-of-pace back. Stevan Ridley, their first pick in the third round, is a hard-running running back who starts. Ryan Mallett, their other third round pick, was traded to the Texans just before this season.

With tons of picks, the Patriots have failed to strengthen their offensive line, their defense or their wide receivers.

What’s really sick is the Patriots failed draft of 2009. That year, they had 13 total picks, including 4 picks in the second round. Sebastian Vollmer is the only starter from those picks. Their only other starters from that draft were Patrick Chung and Julian Edelman.

The bad news for the Patriots is that their drafts prior to 2009 were mediocre at best. Most of their picks in the three previous drafts were either outright failures or they contributed as role players for a couple of years. The exception to that is Vince Wilfork, a true All-Pro nose tackle.

There’s no question that Belichick is a coaching genius and that he’ll join Brady in Canton. Similarly, there’s no question that he’s overrated as a talent evaluator. These drafts testify as to how incompetent he is at drafting impact players and longtime starters.

If he wasn’t a Hall of Fame coach, Belichick would’ve gotten fired as the Patriots’ unofficial GM. It’s that simple.

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When it comes to public embarassments, Mark Dayton wrote the book on the subject. Now he’s calling Adrian Peterson’s behavior embarassing:

It is an awful situation. Yes, Mr. Peterson is entitled to due process and should be “innocent until proven guilty.” However, he is a public figure; and his actions, as described, are a public embarrassment to the Vikings organization and the State of Minnesota. Whipping a child to the extent of visible wounds, as has been alleged, should not be tolerated in our state. Therefore, I believe the team should suspend Mr. Peterson, until the accusations of child abuse have been resolved by the criminal justice system.

However, I will not turn my back on the Vikings and their fans, as some have suggested. The Vikings belong to Minnesota – and in Minnesota. This has been the team’s only home; and our citizens, including myself, have been its most dedicated fans.

Like many of his worst moments, Gov. Dayton’s statement will give thoughtful people intellectual whiplash. First, he says that Adrian Peterson is entitled to due process and “should be ‘innocent until proven guilty.'” Next, Gov. Dayton said that the Vikings should suspend him until he’s had his day in court.

That doesn’t make sense. What happens if Peterson is found guilty? At that point, the NFL has the right, under its personal conduct policy, to tack on an additional suspension. That additional suspension might be indefinite, meaning Adrian Peterson will have been suspended twice for a single offense.

Actually, that might not be legal because of the collective bargaining agreement between the NFL and the NFL Players’ Association. If that’s the case, Gov. Dayton might’ve just told the Vikings to ignore the collective bargaining agreement between the players and the owners.

I don’t doubt that Mark Dayton will react by saying that he didn’t know about the particulars of the NFL-NFLPA collective bargaining agreement. That’s shameful. This was a prepared statement. His staff should’ve done their research. They should’ve known about this provision in the NFL-NFLPA CBA.

The governor of a state should known what he’s talking about. Unfortunately, Gov. Dayton hasn’t done what smart governors have done. He’s shot his mouth off for political purposes, only to have to walk his statements back.

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This afternoon, as with most afternoons, I DVRed NFL Live on ESPN. This time, I was disappointed with the demagoguery of Trey Wingo, the host of the show, and Jeff Saturday, one of the panelists on the show. As expected, their lede was the Vikings’ reactivation of star running back Adrian Peterson in the aftermath of Peterson’s indictment in Texas on charges that he abused his 4-year-old son.

During the Vikings’ press conference this afternoon, Vikings GM Rick Spielman faced a barrage of questions questioning how the Vikings could reactivate Peterson. During his press availability, Spielman explained that the Vikings had taken the weekend to gather additional information about Adrian Peterson and the indictment.

Despite that information, Trey Wingo declared that the Vikings reactivated Adrian Peterson even though they have the same information they have today that they had Friday. I might be missing something but I’m pretty certain Mr. Wingo couldn’t possibly know what information the Vikings had Friday, making it impossible for him to know if the information they have today is the same information they had Friday.

I’m more than a little skeptical about Wingo’s statement considering the fact that each NFL team has a sizable security staff. The joke within the NFL is that they have more contacts than the CIA. I’m unwilling to dispute that.

As bad as Wingo’s statement was, Jeff Saturday’s statements were infinitely worse. He said that the Vikings shouldn’t have reactivated Peterson because it was clear to him that Peterson needed to learn how to be a better man, a better husband and a better parent to his son.

It’s unacceptable for Mr. Saturday to not know what Adrian Peterson did long before the indictment was voted on. Had Mr. Saturday read Adrian Peterson’s statement, he wouldn’t have made such an assinine statement:

My attorney has asked me not to discuss the facts of my pending case. I hope you can respect that request and help me honor it. I very much want the public to hear from me but I understand that it is not appropriate to talk about the facts in detail at this time. Nevertheless, I want everyone to understand how sorry I feel about the hurt I have brought to my child.

I never wanted to be a distraction to the Vikings organization, the Minnesota community or to my teammates. I never imagined being in a position where the world is judging my parenting skills or calling me a child abuser because of the discipline I administered to my son.

I voluntarily appeared before the grand jury several weeks ago to answer any and all questions they had. Before my grand jury appearance, I was interviewed by two different police agencies without an attorney. In each of these interviews, I have said the same thing, and that is that I never ever intended to harm my son. I will say the same thing once I have my day in court.

I have to live with the fact that when I disciplined my son the way I was disciplined as a child, I caused an injury that I never intended or thought would happen. I know that many people disagree with the way I disciplined my child. I also understand after meeting with a psychologist that there are other alternative ways of disciplining a child that may be more appropriate.

I have learned a lot and have had to reevaluate how I discipline my son going forward. But, deep in my heart, I have always believed I could have been one of those kids that was lost in the streets without the discipline instilled in me by my parents and other relatives. I have always believed that the way my parents disciplined me has a great deal to do with the success I have enjoyed as a man. I love my son and I will continue to become a better parent and learn from any mistakes I ever make.

I am not a perfect son. I am not a perfect husband. I am not a perfect parent, but I am, without a doubt, not a child abuser. I am someone that disciplined his child and did not intend to cause him any injury. No one can understand the hurt that I feel for my son and for the harm I caused him. My goal is always to teach my son right from wrong and that’s what I tried to do that day.

I accept the fact that people feel very strongly about this issue and what they think about my conduct. Regardless of what others think, however, I love my son very much and I will continue to try to become a better father and person.

The panelists did their best to paint Adrian Peterson as just another Ray Rice. I take offense with that comparison. When video surfaced showing Ray Rice dragging his then-fiancee out of the elevator, he ran immediately to a diversion program in an attempt to avoid prison time.

That isn’t what a repentent man sounds like.

When Rice held his first press conference at the Ravens’ headquarters, he read off of cue cards. He did what his attorneys told him to do. People watching that theater knew that he didn’t mean a thing he said that afternoon.

Compare that with what Adrian Peterson did. Long before the spotlight shined on him, he sought help to correct behavior that he isn’t defending. He’s admitted, on his first attempt, that he hurt his son. He’s told us that he’s learned from his bad behavior and that he hopes to be a better man and better father going forward.

That’s what a man who’s repentent sounds like.

It’s time for Mssrs. Wingo and Saturday to take a deep breath and collect their thoughts, then think things through. They didn’t look good this afternoon.

I’m not defending Adrian Peterson’s actions. As I just said, Adrian Peterson isn’t defending his actions. I’m perfectly willing to let the legal process play out to determine criminal guilt. That’s fine for the legal process.

As for whether Adrian Peterson should sit for another 3-7 games, I’d just ask a simple question. Would suspending Adrian help him learn the lessons these blowhards think he should learn that they think he hasn’t learned? Finally, I’d ask Mssrs. Wingo and Saturday whether they thought a) Ray Rice showed even a tiny bit of repentence and b) Adrian Peterson showed true repentence.

The difference, in my opinion, is night and day.

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Roger Goodell’s time as the commissioner of the NFL is all but officially history. Today, league owners like Jerry Jones, Robert Kraft and John Mara had voiced their support of him. This AP article will force these owners to withdraw their support of Commissioner Goodell:

A law enforcement official says he sent a video of Ray Rice punching his then-fiancee to an NFL executive three months ago, while league officers have insisted they didn’t see the violent images until this week.

If this is verified, which I suspect it will, then Goodell will have made a less-than-truthful statement to CBS host Norah O’Donnell on national TV. At that point, Goodell’s ability to mete out discipline on players and executives will be demolished. At this point, he doesn’t have any credibility left.

Here’s the NFL’s reaction to the AP’s story:

“We have no knowledge of this,” the NFL said in a statement Wednesday. “We are not aware of anyone in our office who possessed or saw the video before it was made public on Monday. We will look into it.”

It isn’t likely that the AP would’ve published this article if they couldn’t verify this information multiple ways. I can’t imagine the AP publishing that article that tarnishes the NFL’s reputation without extensive verification.

There’s no way the AP would publish that article if it wasn’t completely verified. Publishing an inaccurate article that tarnishes the NFL’s reputation would trigger a lawsuit by th NFL.

That’s the last thing the AP would want because the NFL has a fleet of the best lawyers in the United States on retainer. Running a story against the NFL that’s based on gossip is financial suicide. That isn’t a risk the AP is willing to take.

What that means is that Roger Goodell’s credibility is pretty much tarnished for at least a decade. That won’t sit well with NFL owners.

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Predictably, the Ray Rice/Roger Goodell disaster isn’t going away anytime soon. Thankfully, outsiders are forcing the NFL to do the right thing. Jonathan Capehart’s post provides a sensible solution to the NFL’s lack of integrity problem:

Condoleezza Rice made a startling admission to the New York Times in 2002. The then-national security adviser to President George W. Bush said it was “absolutely right” that she wanted to be commissioner of the National Football League. This was no joke. Rice was serious, but she wanted it to be known that she wouldn’t want to do it “before Paul Tagliabue is ready to step down.”

Well, Tagliabue is long gone and his successor Roger Goodell has made a mess of it. Time for the former secretary of state with an intense love of the game to step in and save the NFL.

Despite the NFL’s statement that they hadn’t seen the in-the-elevator video before TMZ published it Monday morning, despite the Ravens’ insistence that they didn’t know, essentially, that Rice was a monster, the reality is that Roger Goodell and the Ravens got this sickeningly wrong.

These are phony excuses made by people who think they can do whatever they want. The reality is that TMZ’s video should’ve been irrelevant. When the NFL and the Ravens saw Ray Rice dragging his unconcious then-fiancee out of that elevator, they should’ve ended his career. The Ravens should’ve said that they were releasing Rice that morning. The NFL should’ve said that they wouldn’t tolerate that type of violence. Period.

Players, coaches and executives who committed such heinous acts of violence don’t have the right to wear an NFL jersey. Period.

If there’s anything that Condi Rice would bring to the commissioner’s job, it’s integrity and gravitas. Goodell essentially did what the owners wanted him to do. Since he’s employed by them, that isn’t unreasonable. What’s unreasonable, though, is turning a blind eye when a thug pummels a woman.

At that point, Goodell had an affirmative obligation to step forward and say ‘This isn’t about promoting the NFL. It’s about doing what’s right.’

On that count, Goodell and the Ravens failed miserably.

It’s apparent that Goodell tried his best to protect a star player from a recent Super Bowl champion. Suspending Ray Rice for 2 games isn’t getting it wrong, like Goodell claims. He’s making an alleged $44,000,000 a year as commissioner. People who aren’t bright don’t get hire into $44,000,000-a-year jobs.

The Ravens are complicit in this, too. They accepted the suspension without complaint, figuring they’d gotten a gift from the NFL. They even posted this tweet on their website:

The Ravens should be criticized mercilessly for their role in this humanitarian disaster. Yesterday on ESPN’s NFL Live, SportsNation Ravens beat reporter Jamison Hensley reported that the Ravens’ initial reaction yesterday morning after TMZ published the video, the Raven’s initial reaction was to not terminate Rice’s contract. It wasn’t until they saw the public’s outrage that they decided to terminate Ray Rice’s contract.

If the NFL fires Goodell and replaces him with Condi Rice, they won’t have to worry about doing the right thing when it’s the only option left. Under Condi Rice’s leadership and integrity, they’ll do the right thing the first time.

That’s why Goodell must go. ASAP.

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The Baltimore Ravens have terminated Ray Rice’s contract:

DEVELOPING: The Baltimore Ravens fired running back Ray Rice after new video emerged showing the vicious punch he used to drop his then-fiancée in the elevator of an Atlantic City hotel.

The team confirmed the move in a tweet that came hours after video obtained by TMZ showed the 5-foot, 8-inch, 220-pound athlete delivering a left-handed blow to the face of Janay Palmer, appearing to knock her unconscious. The video was shot from inside the Revel Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City, and is the footage shot before the previously circulated video that showed Rice dragging his unconscious wife-to-be out of the elevator on Feb. 15.

I just saw the unedited video of Rice punching his then-fiance. Saying that it’s a disturbing, emotion-jarring video is understatement.

This afternoon on ESPN, the entire crew of analysts (Louis Riddick, Adam Schefter and Chris Mortenson) expressed outrage at everyone involved in this disaster. Schefter said that law enforcement messed up by not getting the video to the NFL. He said that the prosecutors screwed up by not charging Rice with a felony, instead letting him off the hook with a slap on the wrist. He criticized the Ravens for letting Rice use their facilities to hold a press conference after the incident.

That press conference included testimonial after testimonial about Rice being “a good man.” It included Janay Palmer, now Rice’s wife, apologizing for the part she played in Rice’s violence. (That, by the way, is still the most bizarre part of this horrific incident.)

Riddick said that the league needs to do a better job of doing what’s right rather than doing what it needs to do to promote the sport.

Finally, Mortenson got after Goodell, hinting that it isn’t good enough to say that he “got it wrong.” He said that, while the NFL didn’t have the video, they certainly had the report of what Rice did.

Goodell should be suspended for getting this horrific incident woefully wrong. He should lose a hefty chunk of his alleged $50,000,000 a year salary, too. It looks like he isn’t the impartial arbiter that his job requires him to be. Honestly, I wouldn’t feel bad if he lost his job over this.

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Now that this video has been released, it’s hard to justify Roger Goodell’s 2-game suspension of Ravens running back Ray Rice:

ProFootballTalk is reporting of players’ reactions to the newly published video:

NFL players and prominent former players are beginning to speak out, with the same kind of outrage others have.

“That man should be thrown out the the nfl and thrown into jail,” Broncos defensive tackle Terrance Knighton tweeted a few moments ago. “Shame on those deciding his punishment. Smh.” Knighton continued, calling his fellow players to action.
“As players we must speak up,” he wrote. “Stand up for what’s right. I don’t give a damn who u are or how much money you make. No place for this.

Longtime linebacker Scott Fujita, a former vice president of the NFLPA’s executive committee, had equally harsh words. “I’m glad no one this morning seems to care about yesterday’s games,” Fujita wrote. “This piece of s— needs to be out of the league. Period.”

It’s impossible to support Commissioner Goodell’s 2-game suspension of Ray Rice. From the outside, it looks like he was protecting a star player from a recent Super Bowl championship franchise. The NFL is nothing if not the most PR-concious pro sports league in history.

It’s insulting that the NFL claims that they didn’t see this new video until this morning:

“We requested from law enforcement any and all information about the incident, including the video from inside the elevator. That video was not made available to us and no one in our office has seen it until today,” the league said in its statement.

The NFL’s statement won’t help them. In that statement, the NFL admitted that they knew about the video. Further, they apparently didn’t put pressure on law enforcement or the hotel for the footage. Finally, it says that they didn’t wait to see all of the damning evidence before slapping Ray Rice’s hand.

First, Commissioner Goodell should be suspended for his misconduct in the matter. He’s suspending players for smoking pot or using performance enhancing drugs, aka PEDs, or suspending owners for getting DWI tickets to clean up the NFL’s beahvior. Should Commissioner Goodell be immune from suspension without pay when he harms the NFL? I don’t think so.

Next, after Goodell is suspended, the acting commissioner should re-open the Rice assault case. The acting commissioner should then suspend Rice indefinitely.

If that ruins Ray Rice’s life, I’m ok with that. This winter, he demolished another person’s life. In this instance, he destroyed the life of the woman he claims to love.

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Going into this season, lots of experts thought of them as one known quantity (Adrian Peterson) and lots of unknowns. While it’s foolish to make bold predications based on just one game, there are some things that’ve clearly changed for the Vikings, starting with their defense.

Everson Griffen replaced Jared Allen at right defensive end. Anthony Barr starts at the strongside linebacker, which allowed rookie head coach to move Chad Greenway to middle linebacker. Perhaps the most glaring difference compared with last year’s defense is the secondary.

Captain Munnerlyn was all over the field. Most impressive was his sure-handed tackling in the open field, although his coverage was pretty impressive, too. Josh Robinson had a difficult pre-season, missing time with injuries. Today, he got the Vikings’ first takeaway just before the half. Norv Turner’s offense quickly turned that interception into a spirit-killing touchdown with seconds left in the first half.

With a 13-0 halftime lead, the Vikings defense pinned their ears back and pressured the QB. For the game, the Vikings finished with 5 sacks, with Griffen leading the way with 2, and 2 interceptions. Harrison Smith picked off a pass that never should’ve been thrown, returning it for an 81-yard pick-six touchdown.

It’s hard telling whether the Vikings shut down a great offense of if St. Louis is mediocre offensively. I suspect it’s a little of both.

The Rams offense hasn’t produced during the Jeff Fisher era. Still, the Vikings did a bunch of things right today that they have a right to feel good about. They essentially shut down Tavon Austin, the 8th overall pick in the 2013 draft.

Speaking of the 2013 draft, the Vikings got major contributions from 2 of their picks from that draft. Cordarrelle Patterson broke the game open with an electric 67-yard broken-field run. Turner lined CP up in the backfield on the play. After taking a pitch, he cut up field, breaking free 10 yards down the field. Once in the open field, he deployed the skills that make him the most feared kickoff returner in the game.

Going into the 2013 draft, the buzz was all about Tavon Austin. Cordarrelle Patterson was essentially an afterthought. Today, Patterson showed why that was a huge mistake.

Sharrif Floyd, the 23rd pick in the draft that year, also played well. He was an integral part of the Vikings dominating the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball.

Matt Cassel was an efficient 17-for-25 for 170 yards with 2 touchdown passes, the first to Greg Jennings, the other to Kyle Rudolph.

It’d be a mistake not to credit the Vikings offensive line for playing a solid game. The Rams entered the game with one of the best defensive lines in football. Still, they weren’t much of a factor. When a journeyman QB finishes with a QB rating of 113.8 and the Rams give up 180+ yards rushing, that’s getting manhandled.

One last thing to talk about is how fundamentally sound the Vikings defense played. The Vikings’ tackling was solid. They pressured the Rams’ QBs all day. The Vikings secondary was opportunistic at times, but solid throughout.

Today’s game is a great start to Mike Zimmer’s head coaching career. Next week, though, they get to face the Patriots, who are coming off a stunning 33-20 defeat in Miami. Brady and the Patriots aren’t likely to be in a good mood so that’ll be a good test for the Vikings.

UPDATE: I went back to the Vikings-Rams stat sheet because I got to thinking about how little I noticed Robert Quinn. My memory served me well this time. Quinn finished with just 2 tackles and no sacks. This ties into how well the Vikings O-line played. Jeff Davidson, the Vikings’ O-line coach, must be pleased with their play.

For the game, the Rams much-celebrated defensive line got a grand total of 1 sack while giving up over 180 yards rushing.

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Blogging has been light the last few days because I watched (obsessed over?) the NFL Draft. I’ll admit that I’m a homer. That doesn’t mean I’ll just blindly trust that GM Rick Spielman and Coach Zimmer picked players that they couldn’t believe were still there. Still, Spielman has built some trust with his last 3 drafts.

Let’s see what others are saying about the Vikings picks, starting with LB Anthony Barr:

“He’s only been a defensive end for two years. He needs experience. When you watch the tape, does he look like Jason Taylor or what? There’s a lot of upside, and (new head coach) Mike Zimmer and his staff will get it out of him.” — Mike Mayock

Barr started his time at UCLA as a running back. The fact that he was a feared pass rusher the last 2 years tells me he’s got great natural talent but that he’ll become a great player with Zimmer’s coaching. NOTEWORTHY: Anyone that’s 6’5″ and runs a 4.6 forty is a freakish athlete.

Teddy Bridgewater:

“That (pro day) workout is something I’ve been fighting for a couple months now. His pro day didn’t confirm what I saw on the game tape. But he needs to get stronger. Bridgewater has the intangibles; he’s smart.” — Mike Mayock

Bill Polian, the guy who drafted Peyton Manning said that Bridgewater a) was excellent at manipulating safeties with his eyes” and that he was excellent with his pre-snap reads. Those statements tell me that Bridgewater a) is willing to work hard to be the leader of the offense and b) has the smarts to be a top quality QB. Finally, Bridgwater’s character is off the charts outstanding.

David Yankey:

“This is a great fit for the Vikings. They believe in physical players and Yankey is a phone booth brawler. Trust me, I know (Vikings general manager) Rick Spielman and (head coach) Mike Zimmer, and this is the kind of player they bang the table for.” — Mike Mayock

Simply put, Yankey, barring injury, will be the starting left guard for the Vikings by midseason. He’s a Stanford kid so he’s smart. He’s physical and he’s played every position on the line except center. That they got him in the fifth round screams exceptional value.

Antone Exum:

“Exum is a well-built individual, and showed good fluidity in pass coverage and also an ability to track the ball well. Exum was a highly regarded player two years ago, but suffered a knee injury playing basketball in January of 2013. Exum came back to play in the 2013 season, but only played in three games and did not play at the same level as the previous season.” — Gil Brandt

Exum played the side opposite Chicago first round pick Kyle Fuller when healthy. He’s considered to have great versatility because he can play in the slot in nickel packages or play safety. The other thing that’s worth noting is that he isn’t afraid to hit people in run support.

The Vikings did a great job the last day of the draft. Exum and Yankey are excellent examples of that but they aren’t the only examples of how Spielman worked the draft for maximum value:

Shamar Stephen:

Analysis

Terrific size. Very athletic for a big man. Generally plays on his feet. Occupies blocks. Flashes the ability to lock out and reestablish the line of scrimmage. Has raw tools to work with. Scheme versatile. Solid personal and football character.
Draft Projection: Round 3

Anytime a team picks up a third round talent at a position needing depth in the 7th round, that’s an outstanding value pick. While it’s impossible seeing him beating out Vikings NT Linval Joseph, it’s easy to see him providing much-needed quality depth at the position.

Brandon Watts, OLB Georgia Tech:

Rare timed speed. Very quick to the perimeter and covers a lot of ground. Easily keeps stride with tight ends in the slot and offers solid man-coverage ability on backs. Can carry receivers vertically and buzz the flats. Lines up on the edge and offers some pass-rush potential. Is fluid and loose-hipped dropping into coverage.

If Watts makes the Vikings, it’ll be because he impressed on special teams. Still, this is a worthwhile pick because it’s a last round pick spent on a player who has the physical tools to work with.

Various websites have given the Vikings high grades for this draft class. They certainly sent a message to the NFC North QBs that they’d better prepare to get hit often under Mike Zimmer. They also solved their QB problems with Bridgewater. Finally, they stockpiled talent for their secondary in the 6th and 7th rounds, thanks in large part to the outstanding depth in this draft.

Let’s remember that Kam Chancellor and Richard Sherman were fifth round picks for Seattle in years that weren’t half as deep as this year’s draft.

This draft, combined with the players the Vikings have picked in the first round in 2012 and 2013, will help the Vikings compete for the NFC North championship within 2 years. Let’s remember that Spielman picked franchise left tackle Matt Kalil and cornerstone safety Harrison Smith in the first round in 2012 before picking DT Sharrif Floyd, CB Xavier Rhodes and WR/KR extraordinaire Cordarrelle Patterson in the first round last year.