Archive for the ‘NFL’ Category
One pattern that’s emerged about Vikings GM Rick Spielman is that he’s fearless when it comes to trading up or down in the NFL draft.
For instance, last year, Spielman figured out a way to Cleveland into trading up a spot to get Trent Richardson. Then Spielman got Matt Kalil, the player he’d planned on taking all along with Cleveland’s pick. Then he paired one of the picks he got from Cleveland with the Vikings’ second round pick to take Notre Dame safety Harrison Smith. Kalil played in the Pro Bowl after his first season. Smith played great all season, pulling the secondary together all season.
This past year, Percy Harvin wore out his welcome in Minnesota by telling the world that he couldn’t work with Leslie Frazier. Frazier’s reputation is that of being a player’s coach with tons of integrity. It wasn’t surprising to hear that Spielman traded Harvin as soon as he was able to. What was surprising was that he got Seattle’s first round pick this year and third round pick in 2014 in exchange for Harvin.
Thursday night, the Vikings used their pick, the 23rd overall, to pick Florida DT Sharrif Floyd. Of all the mock drafts I went through, none had Floyd dropping past the Titans with the 10th pick. (Frankly, Ed, I was stunned that Pittsburgh passed on Floyd to take Georgia LB Jarvis Jones.) Most mocks I read had Floyd going to the Raiders with the third overall pick. Most scouts had him rated the top DT in the draft.
With the 25th pick overal, the pick they got from Seattle, the Vikings picked FSU CB Xavier Rhodes. Rhodes is a great fit for the Vikings because of who’s in the NFC North. The Vikings will face Calvin Johnson and Brandon Marshall twice per season for the forseeable future. Having a 6’2″ CB with 4.4 speed to match up against Johnson and Marshall is a big plus.
The shock for the Vikings came while Spielman was conducting an interview after what was supposed to be the Vikings’ final pick of the first round. While doing the interview, the Patriots called, asking if Minnesota was interested in trading back into the first round.
After Spielman and Belicheck worked out the details, the Vikings used the Patriots’ pick, 29th overall, to pick Tennessee WR Cordarrelle Patterson. While Patterson is a raw talent that will need some coaching both from Vikings WR Coach George Stewart and WR Greg Jennings, there’s no question about Patterson’s talent.
In my opinion, the Vikings are the perfect fit for Patterson. First, let’s talk about what he brings to the Vikings’ offense. He’s big (6’2″, 217 lbs.), fast (4.39 in the forty) and dynamic in run after the catch situations. Next, he’ll be coached by George Stewart, the guy who coached up Jerry Rice and John Taylor. Rice thinks that Stewart is one of the best WR coaches in the league. That’s good enough for me.
Finally, Greg Jennings is a consummate professional. He’ll teach Patterson the importance of putting time in studying film of his opponents. He’ll teach him how to hone his skills, especially his route-running and catching abilities. As a rookie, Patterson’s biggest contributions might be returning kickoffs and lifting the lid off of defenses.
In 2010 and 2012, defenses tried stacking 8 and 9 men in the box to stop Adrian Peterson, daring the Vikings to beat them with their wideouts. With Patterson running past defenders, stacking the box to stop Adrian will come with a steep, steep price.
The price for getting Patterson is steep but worth it. The Vikings gave up their picks in the 2nd, third, their first pick in the fourth and their last pick in the 7th round. Still, it’s definitely worth it. From Spielman’s perspective, he replaced Harvin with Jennings, then got the top DT in the draft, the second best CB in this draft and an explosive WR/KR with what essentially are the equivalent of a first round pick, a second round pick and a third round pick.
Simply put, Rick Spielman swung for the fences Thursday night. While he didn’t hit a grand slam, he certainly hit one off the base of the fence in deep right-center.
While it’s true that the Super Bowl and the start of the regular season get intensely promoted, no NFL attracts a better NFL fanatic than the NFL Entry Draft. Held each year in New York City, the league rolls out the red carpet for top-ranked draft prospects, ESPN and NFL Network draft analysts and personalities and a hefty contingent of Jets, Giants and Eagles fans.
Never before will there be this big of Twitter followers following the NFL. Every draft show on ESPN and the NFL Network features Twitter poll questions and the popular “You’ve got Mel & McShay” segments.
There’s never been a bigger contingent of Adam Shefter wannabes for any NFL draft. Never before has there been a higher ratio of fanatics to casual fans than tomorrow’s draft.
And what a draft it will be. Football fanatics, repeat after me (We know the mantra for this draft): What this draft lacks in star power, it makes up for with depth. Now that we’ve gotten that out of our system, it’s time for important questions to be asked and answered.
For instance, if I got $10 for each time I’ve heard a fan ask whether Vikings GM Rick Spielman would draft Notre Dame middle linebacker Manti Te’o, I could afford a nice Hawaiian vacation. If I got another $10 bill for each time I heard an NFL analyst talk about how much Spielman likes Golden Domers, I could afford to live a year in Hawaii.
In other words, I’m a typical NFL fanatic who can’ wait for this all to get started and for the teams to start making their picks.
Before the draft starts, though, make sure to check out Scott Wright’s final mock draft.
Last night, as with most nights for the past month, I watched the NFL Network’s Path to the Draft. I watch because they usually have some pretty decent talent evaluators, including former Redskins GM Charlie Casserly, former Vikings broadcaster Brian Baldinger, former Baltimore Ravens chief scout Daniel Jeremiah & Mike Mayock.
Last night’s program included a segment in which they played out possible draft day scenarios. One of the first scenarios they presented was whether the Vikings would trade the 23rd overall pick in the draft and the 52nd overall pick in the draft to the Jets for Tayvon Austin.
I was stunned to hear Casserly say that he thought that’d be a great deal for the Vikings. In my opinion, that’d be highway robbery, with the Jets being the looters. That specific trade won’t happen because the Vikings would do better just staying put.
If the Vikings stay put, they’ll almost certainly have their pick of WRs Cordarelle Patterson, Robert Woods, Justin Hunter, DeAndre Hopkins and Keenan Allen. They’d likely have their pick of MLB Manti Te’o, DT Sylvester Williams, S Johnathan Cyprien or CB Desmond Trufant.
Those are players that will likely be available into the 2nd round. Why would the Vikings trade up for Tayvon Austin when the cost is a third starter from this draft. This isn’t a criticism of Austin, who is a genuinely talented WR. Rather, it’s showing the opportunity cost of trading up 10 spots in the first round.
Simply put, would the Vikings rather have Tayvon Austin and Manti Te’o or would they rather have Desmond Trufant, Sylvester Williams & DeAndre Hopkins? Frankly, I don’t think that’s that difficult of a decision.
I’ve been visiting Scott Wright’s DraftCountdown website for at least 4 years now. Suffice it to say that I think highly of Scott’s insights into the draft and player talent evaluations. If you didn’t have Scott’s website bookmarked before today, I strongly recommend you bookmark it today.
When the Vikings traded Percy Harvin for a bunch of draft picks, I sought Scott’s opinion on the trade. Scott thought that the Vikings got quite a nice bunch of picks for a player everyone knew was going to get traded. When the Vikings signed Greg Jennings, I posed some questions to Scott. Here are the questions with Scott’s answers:
Q1: The Vikings signed Greg Jennings to a 5-year contract days after trading Percy Harvin to the Seattle Seahawks for Seattle’s first & seventh round picks in this year’s draft and Seattle’s third round pick in the 2014 draft. Considering the draft picks they got from Seattle and the Jennings signing, what do you think are the Vikings’ most likely options in the April NFL Entry Draft?
Scott: Despite the addition of Jennings, I still believe wide receiver will be high on the Vikings priority list on Draft Day. After all, Jennings is going to be 30-years-old and battled some injuries last season. Even if Jennings lives up to expectations, Minnesota will need at least one more weapon at the position. Cordarrelle Patterson of Tennessee will most likely be long gone and, while the diminuative Tavon Austin of West Virginia would be a great fit, his stock has risen to the point that he may not be there at #23. Other possibilities would be Keenan Allen of Cal, Justin Hunter of Tennessee or DeAndre Hopkins of Clemson. Allen and Hopkins would be safe choices as they’d both be ideal fits in the West Coast Offense; however, neither is necessarily a dynamic gamechanger. Hunter, on the other hand, may be the most talented wideout prospect in this class, at least from a size/speed perspective, and possesses the tools to be a true impact, go-to target at the next level. At this point I would say Austin or Allen are the most likely possibilities for the Vikings in Round 1.
As for the other first rounder, I think Notre Dame ILB Manti Te’o would make a ton of sense for Minnesota. With Jasper Brinkley signing with the Cardinals as a free agent, the Vikings have a big hole in the middle of their defense and the organization has shown a clear preference for Fighting Irish prospects in recent years. Te’o will most likely have to endure some razzing from new teammates during the offseason team activities and training camp but ultimately, his play and those top-notch intangibles will win everyone over.
Q2: Which players should the Vikings target with their picks in the first, second and third rounds?
Scott: In rounds two and three the Vikings may keep their focus on the defense. Of particular concern is defensive tackle, where Kevin Williams is getting up there in years and there really isn’t another clear-cut starting-caliber talent. Fortunately, this is one of the deepest defensive tackle crops in recent memory and a borderline first round talent like Kawann Short of Purdue could fall into their laps in round two. Other second round options could include Brandon Williams of Missouri Southern St. or Bennie Logan of L.S.U. while Montori Hughes of UT-Martin or Akeem Spence of Illinois could be in the mix in round three. The Vikings could also use more help in the secondary. There should be plenty of quality cornerback prospects available beyond the first round but some potential fits for their zone coverage scheme would be Logan Ryan of Rutgers, David Amerson of North Carolina St., Jordan Poyer of Oregon St. and Jamar Taylor of Boise St. At safety, keep an eye on Johnathan Cyprien of Florida International in round two, T.J. McDonald of USC in round three or perhaps Zeke Motta of Notre Dame in the middle rounds.
The Vikings will have to bring in some help along the offensive line at some point as well. At the very least, a versatile backup is needed to build quality depth and it wouldn’t hurt to have someone challenge Brandon Fusco at right guard.
Scott’s answers make tons of sense to me. Te’o has a couple of things that make him appealing. He’s got middle linebacker instincts and he’s a great cover guy. Hunter makes sense as well, though my wish is that Tayvon Martin would drop into the Vikings lap in the first round.
It’s important to remember that the draft is still taking shape. That means everyone’s mock drafts, whether it’s Scott’s mock draft or that guy with wind-tunnel-tested hair, is still very much fluid.
Finally, I’ll use this opportunity to say I trust Rick Spielman running the draft. Simply put, he’s gotten pretty strong grades for his picks. In my opinion, last year’s draft crop was the best in Vikings history. Getting 2 instant Pro Bowlers (Matt Kalil and Blair Walsh) and a future Pro Bowl safety in Harrison Smith from one draft would get an A- grade or better just on those picks alone.
Getting Josh Robinson to bolster the secondary in the third round was a solid pick. Getting Jarius Wright and Rhett Ellison in the fourth round to help the passing game was impressive, too.
Tags: Greg Jennings, Percy Harvin, Minnesota Vikings, Rick Spielman, Manti Te’o, Notre Dame, Justin Hunter, University of Tennessee, Tayvon Martin, University of West Virginia, Matt Kalil, USC, Harrison Smith, Scott Wright, DraftCountdown.com
The Minnesota Vikings made a great decision when they signed ex-Packer wide receiver Greg Jennings to a 5-year, $47.5 million contract Friday afternoon. Jennings’ signing is a net plus for the Vikings. Earlier this week, the Vikings traded Percy Harvin to the Seattle Seahawks for a kings’ ransom.
There’s no questioning the fact that Harvin is a talented playmaker, a difference maker. That said, there’s no disputing that he’s a handful off the field.
In Greg Jennings, the Vikings get a veteran, a player known for his leadership in the locker room and the film room, a player known for his involvement in the community and for being a gifted receiver. This video interview with Vikings.com blogger Mike Wobschall says everything about Jennings’ character and personality.
Towards the end of Jennings’ interview with Wobschall, Jennings talked about playing with Adrian Peterson was the biggest attraction for him signing with the Vikings. It’s pretty certain that Jennings won’t see as many nickel and dime packages with Adrian in the backfield as he saw with Aaron Rodgers as QB.
Another thing that flashed through is that Jennings is excited to join the Vikings. He can’t wait to start digging into the Vikings playbook, citing his desire to learn Bill Musgrave’s offensive philosophy so he can play wherever he’s needed. Whether it’s lining up in the slot or outside the numbers, Jennings sounds like he’d like to line up wherever the biggest mismatch is.
When Harvin was traded, Adrian Peterson tweeted that he felt like he’d been kicked in the gut several times. I’m betting he’s feeling much better tonight. He’s got a gifted wide receiver on the outside who will take defenders out of the box to defend against Adrian’s runs.
It’s obvious that the Vikings hope Jennings’ signing will help Christian Ponder’s development. That said, one of the guys that will be helped by Jennings’ signing is Pro Bowl MVP Kyle Rudolph. During the second half of the season, Rudolph was pretty much the only guy who got open for Ponder’s passes.
Adding Greg Jennings through free agency and hopefully a wideout in the draft will take pressure off Rudolph, Ponder and Adrian Peterson.
This has been a productive week for the Vikings. They traded Percy Harvin for a first round pick and a seventh round pick in this April’s draft and a third round pick in the 2014 draft. They signed Greg Jennings and QB Matt Cassel, then resigned OT Phil Loadholt and FB Jerome Felton to four- and three-year extensions respectively.
The Vikings now have the 23rd and 25th picks in the first round to go along with picks in each of the seven rounds, including 2 picks in the fourth and seventh rounds.
When the dust settles after the draft, I’d bet that the Vikings will have had the most productive offseason of all the teams. Yes, other teams will have made big splashes. The Dolphins fit into that category. Ditto with Seattle and Denver.
Quietly, though, the Vikings will have kept a talented offensive line together, kept Jerome Felton around as Adrian Peterson’s lead blocker while likely adding some options for Christian Ponder. Finally, they’ll likely address their needs in the front seven, too.
That’s how smart GMs quietly build strong teams for years to come.
Tags: Minnesota Vikings, Rick Spielman, Greg Jennings, Adrian Peterson, Christian Ponder, Kyle Rudolph, Free Agency, Percy Harvin, NFL Draft, Seattle Seahawks, Denver Broncos, Miami Dolphins, Green Bay Packers
The Pi-Press’ Tom Powers is an annoying columnist that I read only when the title of his column sounds interesting. In the aftermath of the Vikings trade of Percy Harvin to the Seattle Seahawks, Powers wrote a column titled Vikings trading Percy Harvin is logical – and wrong. That piqued my curiosity. Here’s part of Powers’ illogic:
Whether they had no choice but to trade him is up for debate. What we know for sure is that they 1) wouldn’t pay him; and 2) couldn’t get along with him. So they are sending him to Seattle for draft choices.
Actually, the debate over whether the Vikings should keep Harvin ended when the Strib’s Vikings beat writers broke the story that Harvin contemplated walking out on his teammates at midseason last year.
While it would be unfair to call him the Vikings version of J.R. Rider, it isn’t unfair to say that he’s a temperamental, talented football player. Anyone that’s willing to stage a walkout on his teammates while they’re making a playoff run is cancer.
In this case, Harvin was a cancer with an expiring contract.
This might be Rick Spielman’s best trade yet. First, he essentially told Harvin to not let the door hit him where the Good Lord split him, thereby ridding the Vikings of a talent-filled cancer. Next, he essentially extorted a king’s ransom from Pete Carroll and the Seattle Seahawks. Now Harvin is their problem on a short contract.
Here’s what the Vikings got in exchange for an oft-injured, though talented, playmaker:
Vikings get: First- and seventh-round selections in next month’s draft, plus a third-round pick in 2014. That first-rounder is the 25th overall pick (the Vikings already own the 23rd pick).
Seahawks get: Percy Harvin, the moody but multitalented wide receiver who scored 29 touchdowns in four seasons (54 games) with the Vikings (20 receiving, four rushing, five on kick returns).
This gets better when you put this in context. The Vikings own the 23rd and 25th picks in this year’s draft. According to Scout.com, they’ll have their own picks in the second, third, fifth and sixth rounds in addition to having 2 picks in the fourth round and 3 picks in the 7th round.
To put that in perspective, here’s a little of Spielman’s draft history in the later rounds: Spielman paired his second round pick last year with a fourth round pick to trade back into the first round. That pick turned into Harrison Smith. Smith looks like he’ll be in the Vikings secondary for the next 8-10 years. The fourth round has been especially productive for Spielman. That’s where he drafted USC DE Everson Griffen and Texas DE Brian Robison. It’s also where he drafted WR Jarius Wright in last year’s draft.
It’s best not to overlook the fact that the Vikings used a sixth round pick in last year’s draft to pick All Pro placekicker Blair Walsh. All Walsh did as a rookie was make the All Pro team while setting an NFL record by hitting all 10 of his kicks beyond 50 yards.
Now that the Vikings have two first round picks, they can take a run at NY Giants WR Victor Cruz. The Giants tendered him as a first round pick, meaning a team signing Cruz would have to give the Giants a first round pick if the Giants don’t match the offer sheet.
If that’s what happens, the Vikings will have traded Harvin for Cruz, a Pro Bowl WR, a third round pick in next year’s draft and a seventh round pick. That isn’t just a good deal. That’s close to highway robbery.
If the Vikings can’t sign Cruz, they can take a shot at Mike Wallace or Greg Jennnings, then console themselves knowing that they’ve got the 23rd and 25th picks to strengthen their wide receivers, their defensive line, their secondary or a combination thereof.
According to Scott Wright’s mock draft, the Vikings will have their choice of WRs Deandre Hopkins and Keenan Allen, defensive linemen like Sylvester Williams or a corner like Desmond Trufant. Each of these players wouild help the Vikings immediately.
Those are some pretty positive options created by a trade that makes sense but that shouldn’t have happened.
Tags: Percy Harvin, Seattle Seahawks, NFL Free Agency, Minnesota Vikings, Greg Jennings, Mike Wallace, Unrestricted Free Agents, Victor Cruz, Restricted Free Agents, NFL Draft, Draft Countdown, Mock Drafts
With all kinds of events happening this week, whether we’re talking about the annual gathering of world leaders for the opening of the UN General Assembly or the scandal that President Obama’s administration knew within the first 24 hours that al-Qa’ida was behind the assassination of Ambassador Christopher Stevens, one of the most-watched stories was whether the NFL could reach agreement with the referees on a new collective bargaining agreement.
According to CBSSports.com’s Mike Freeman, a deal is imminent:
CBSSports.com’s Mike Freeman reported earlier on Wednesday that the NFL and NFL Referees Association (NFLRA) agreed on a mentoring/training program that would create a larger pool of potential referees to replace struggling guys on the field.
Hopefully, they’ll get this resolved before supper tonight. The ‘replacement’ refs were terrible. This weekend, two high profile games, the Sunday night tilt between Baltimore and the Patriots and the Monday night tilt between Green Bay and Seattle, were wrongly decided.
It was so bad that Hall of Fame QB Fran Tarkenton wrote this scathing op-ed in the WSJ.
Thankfully, it appears as though our brief, but altogether too long, National Football League nightmare will be over.
Prior to this weekend, the NFL’s ‘replacement’ refs were merely an embarrassment to the NFL and Roger Goodell. This weekend, they cost the Green Bay Packers and the New England Patriots victories.
I won’t call these refs names. I’ll simply say that they’re terrible and they’ve got to go. This week. By tomorrow. Anything less is shameful for a sports league whose teams are essentially guaranteed to make money simply by existing.
If Roger Godell wants to be embarrassed when the Packers and Patriots don’t make the playoffs because replacement referees blew calls that high school refs would’ve gotten right 99% of the time, he’s staring at a golden opportunity right now.
If, however, he wants to be the best commissioner of the best pro sports league in sports history, which is slipping away, he’d better straighten this mess out. ASAP.
Anything less would severely tarnish the NFL’s reputation.
This afternoon’s upset of the Super Bowl-bound 49ers gave Vikings fans some things to cheer. The final score of 24-13 was a pretty accurate score for the game. This wasn’t that tight of a game. I didn’t think the 49ers were that impressive of a team today.
Their offensive line just didn’t get the job done. The offense in general didn’t get things figured out. The vaunted 49ers defense looked off-balance and ineffective, too.
Vikings fans shouldn’t think of this as proof that this year’s team is a .500 team. It was a fun game but they’re still an awfully young team that’s bound to have more downs than ups this season.
Still, Vikings learned 3 things today that has Rick Spielman smiling. First, it’s time to write Christian Ponder’s name in at QB in ink for the next decade. Three games into the season, Ponder’s hitting 70.5% of his passes. He still hasn’t thrown an INT, which is huge.
Second, the reason he’s had such a strong season thus far is because Matt Kalil is the real deal. I watched a ton of tape on this guy after they drafted him last spring. It was clear that he had the tools to be dominant. I didn’t think he’d be this good this quick. The 49ers have a pretty good pass rush.
Thanks to Kalil neutralizing each team’s top passrusher, other linemen are getting more help with their opponent. Today, the telling stat is that the 49ers didn’t record a sack. Kalil is the biggest factor for that. It’s time to write Kalil’s name in at LT in ink for the next decade.
Third, it’s apparent that Ponder and TE Kyle Rudolph has a pretty good chemistry. Part of that is because Ponder’s playing so well. Part of that is because Rudolph is turning into a beast at TE. Rudolph’s second TD of the day was special. He caught it with a defender draped all over him on a ball Ponder shouldn’t have thrown.
Percy Harvin continues to amaze with his production, versatility and toughness. He’s the most dominant little receiver in the NFL by far.
The House passed a Vikings stadium bill Monday night:
The Minnesota House has approved a plan to build a $975 million stadium for the Vikings, but with a big boost in what the team would pay.
The amended plan that passed 73-58 Monday night would raise the Vikings’ share to $532 million, or about 55 percent of construction costs. That knocks about $105 million off the state’s contribution. The team has said it wouldn’t pay more than $427 million.
The House bill won’t make it out of the conference committee intact. People that think the Vikings will willingly agree to paying $105,000,000 more than the price they negotiated with Gov. Dayton and legislative leaders isn’t realistic.
That said, it’s a worthwhile amendment to the stadium bill because the worst that can happen is that it’s dropped in conference committee deliberations. Legislators that pushed the amendment can simply reply that they were just attempting to get the best deal possible for taxpayers.
The NFL reacted quickly to the contribution change:
Eric Grubman, the league’s executive vice president of venture and business operations, cautioned Monday that amending the bill to require the Vikings to pay more to help finance the state’s contribution are deal breakers as far as the NFL is concerned.
“After months of negotiation and compromise and the building of a legislative coalition, albeit a fragile one, any meaningful change of the bill drastically changes the probability of success,” Grubman told the Pioneer Press. “You can’t change the deal at the last minute.”
Rep. Steve Gottwalt posted these notes on Facebook after the bill passed the House:
Tough vote. Some good points made about financing, revenue and priorities, but this needs to move forward. Made the bill better by adopting an amendment increasing the Vikings share of the cost by capturing naming rights revenues for the state. Senate takes up the bill next.
Vikings stadium bill is now in the hands of the Senate. If they concur with the House version and pass it, it goes to the Governor for signing. If not, there will be a conference committee to hash out differences between the House and Senate versions, and then it will go back to both bodies for final passage, and then (if it passes both) it would go to the Governor for his signature.
I’m still not a huge fan of the bill but I’d be lying if I didn’t say that the bill hasn’t improved in favor of the taxpayers over the past 2-3 weeks. Like I said before, the bill will get changed in conference committee negotiations. The final bill will look quite different than the bill that the House passed tonight.