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Sunday afternoon, the Minnesota Vikings defeated the Detroit Lions in the final game in Metrodome history. In a game that only meant something in terms of draft positioning and, possibly, the head coaches’ fate, Cordarrelle Patterson stole the show, scoring a pair of touchdowns. Patterson’s first touchdown came after he chose not to throw a wide receiver option pass, instead finding his way through the Detroit Lions’ defense for a 50-yard TD run. Patterson’s other touchdown was the game winner in the fourth quarter. It came on a back shoulder throw from Matt Cassel with just under 10 minutes left in the game.

It was a fitting game for the Metrodome’s finale because the Metrodome wasn’t a great sporting venue. People have great memories of the Metrodome because of the events, not the facility.

What’s memorable about today’s game was that Cordarrelle Patterson’s play today told defensive coordinators across the NFL that they’d better know where he’s at on every play. Simply put, he’s the bigger-and-faster version of Percy Harvin. That and he doesn’t have Percy’s migraines.

Matt Asiata, who started in place of Adrian Peterson and Toby Gerhart, rushed for 115 yards on just 14 carries. Should Gerhart leave after the season as a free agent, Asiata seems like a more-than-adequate back-up for Adrian Peterson.

Another bright spot for the Vikings was TE Chase Ford. Ford’s play might’ve pushed Litchfield’s John Carlson off the Vikings roster. Carlson has battled injuries throughout his career. He signed an expensive contract 2 years ago, coming from Seattle through free agency. The Vikings might just cut him and free up cap space to shore up other positions of need.

Today was likely the last games in a Vikings uniform for Jared Allen, Kevin Williams, Erin Henderson, Charlie Johnson, Chris Cook, Toby Gerhart and possibly Eversen Griffin.

Jay Glazer is reporting that Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier will be fired Monday morning:

Frazier will be fired as the Vikings’ head coach Monday, according to Jay Glazer of FOX Sports. Frazier is in his fourth year as the head man in Minnesota, after taking over on an interim basis in Week 11 in 2010. He led the Vikings to a 3-3 finish that season before receiving the job full time.

That’s bittersweet news. In his 3 full seasons, Frazier’s records have been 5-10-1, 10-6 and 3-13. Winning 18 of 48 games means winning less than 40% of the games he coached. That said, though, razier’s players played hard most of the time. Unfortunately, NFL head coaches aren’t judged by whether they’re men of integrity or whether their players play hard. NFL head coaches are judged on wins and losses.

That’s why the Metrodome’s finale was likely Leslie Frazier’s Vikings finale.

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Today’s Vikings-Cincinnati game wasn’t as much a contest as it was a pummeling. Cincinnati looked like a formidable team capable of making a strong playoff push from the start. Meanwhile, the Vikings looked like a team that can’t wait for the Leslie Frazier era, and the season, to be over.

If there was any doubt that the Vikings need a major overhaul this offseason, this game put that question to rest almost instantly. On the game’s first series, Matt Cassel fumbled. Cincinnati returned the fumble to the Vikings 4 yard line, where the Bengals scored 2 plays later. Cassel is the best of the Vikings QBs, which says everything about the state of the Vikings’ QB situation.

Of the impending free agents on the defensive line, only Eversen Griffin is worth bringing back. Jared Allen will want too much for the production he’s got left. KWill has been a stud but he’s getting to the end of his career. Letroy Guion and Fred Evans never were productive players. That’s why it was a gift to have Sharif Floyd drop into the Vikings’ lap last year.

Of the linebackers, Chad Greenway is the only player on the roster who’s worth bringing back. Erratic is the kindest adjective for Erin Henderson’s play this year. Worthless might be the most accurate adjective for Henderson’s play.

In the secondary, you’ve got 2 players you can absolutely build around. Safety Harrison Smith is someone to build around, as is corner Xavier Rhodes. Josh Robinson needs to be moved outside, which is his natural position. He clearly isn’t a fit as the nickel. He’s fast, athletic and young. It’s too early to give up on a player like that.

As far as who should be the Vikings next coach, Paul Charchian threw out a name during the Vikings’ Postgame Show on Fox9 that I think is worth looking into: Ken Whisenhunt. He’s coached on 2 Super Bowl teams, which is amazing considering one of those teams was the Arizona Cardinals.

Prior to the Whisenhunt era, I’d argue that the Cardinals were the Chicago Cubs of the NFL. The Bidwill family was the cheapest family in the NFL by far. The joke at league meetings was that the way to make copper wire was to try pulling a penny from Bill Bidwill’s fingers.

Despite the Bidwills’ cheapskate ways, Whisenhunt won. The first thing he did in Arizona was resurrect Kurt Warner’s career. After getting fired in Arizona, San Diego hired him. Now Philip Rivers’ once-dead career is showing signs again.

If you want to strengthen the Vikings quickly, one way is to trade a third-round pick to the Redskins in exchange for Kirk Cousins. The Vikings have Seattle’s third rounder so they can afford trading one of their picks. With Cousins in place to become the Vikings’ QB, the Vikings could then use their first round pick to get a linebacker like UCLA’s Anthony Barr or a dominant NT like Notre Dame’s Louis Nix. At least the Vikings will have started rebuilding 2 defensive units that badly need rebuilding.

The Vikings should keep Rick Spielman as GM, though. It’s true that he drafted Christian Ponder, which is a strike against him. That being said, he also drafted Adrian Peterson, Matt Kalil, Harrison Smith, Sharif Floyd, Xavier Rhodes, Cordarrelle Patterson, Kyle Rudolph and DEs Eversen Griffen and Brian Robison. He’s also drafted Pro Bowl placekicker Blair Walsh and punter Jeff Locke. In short, he’s done more than enough to earn his return.

The Vikings offseason unofficially started today. The coaching staff shouldn’t return, with the exception of George Stewart. Rick Spielman and the scouts need another strong draft to turn this team around.

One of my favorite Vikings writers is Mike Wobschall. His Monday Morning Mailbag report is essential reading for all Vikings fanatics. For quite awhile, there’s been a debate raging amongst Vikings fans on whether to win as many games as possible each year or whether to tank and get a franchise QB. This Q & A from this morning’s MMMB tees things up perfectly:

Q: After a rough start to the year, I was hoping to get the best draft picks, which unfortunately means losing. Watching the way we are playing right now, it is impossible to hope for losses. Adrian Peterson’s strong finish last week that willed us to that win set the tone for everyone in the organization. It was also great to see Matt Cassel’s fire and leadership today, as well as improved secondary play. You can’t help but love the team dynamic that is showing up this late in the season, despite a tough year. Skol Vikes. — Zach S.

A: One thing to consider on the topic of losing draft positioning with wins in a “lost season” is that when you win games it means certain and various aspects of your team are performing well. Most likely, and in the Vikings case this season, those aspects that play well and thus help yield wins are going to be core members of the team in future years. You have to balance the value of having slightly higher picks with additional losses against having slightly worse picks with a few extra wins.

I’ll take the wins every time, no questions asked.

This is where I disagree with Mike Wobschall from a theoretical standpoint. After yesterday’s games, the Vikings likely won’t get a Top-3 pick, which is what’s needed to get a franchise QB or South Carolina DE Jadeveon Clowney.

Yesterday, Matt Cassel played ok for the first three quarters before lighting things up in the 4th quarter. He has an opt-out clause in his contract, which would allow him to become a free agent after the end of this season. I have nothing against Cassel. It’s just clear that he isn’t a long-term solution to the Vikings’ QB problems.

There’s nothing wrong with losing lots of games one season so you can get that long-term solution at QB. From a tactical standpoint, it’s saying ‘We won’t win this year but we’re setting ourselves up for Super Bowl runs for a decade.’ That isn’t surrender. It’s a tactical retreat to regroup and restock.

The Vikings did that two seasons ago. Their reward was drafting Matt Kalil with the 4th overall pick, then using the pick they got from Cleveland to trade back into the first round and drafting Harrison Smith. They’re Vikings cornerstones for the next decade, with Kalil anchoring the offensive line and Smith co-anchoring the secondary with Xavier Rhodes for the next 8-10 years.

Getting a franchise QB would be huge, especially in light of Cordarrelle Patterson’s monster game yesterday. CP, as his teammates call him, is a total beast. He’s big, athletic, fast and willing to dish out punishment to defensive backs. With a franchise QB, they could become annual threats to win a Super Bowl championship.

One QB who hasn’t attracted much attention is San Jose State quarterback David Fales. CBSSports’ Rob Rang sang his praises in this article.

The Vikings will surely finish with a top-10 pick. That might be enough to get Fales, a QB that Rang describes as being able to make all the throws, is accurate, has good touch and awarenesss.

One thing that Mr. Wobschall and I agree on is that Rick Spielman is the right man making the draft day decisions. In the last 2 drafts, Spielman has picked 6 Pro Bowl-caliber players in Kalil, Harrison Smith, Blair Walsh, Sharif Floyd, Xavier Rhodes and Cordarrelle Patterson.

Spielman has put some impressive pieces of a championship puzzle together on this team. What they need is a QB who doesn’t just manage games but a QB who wins games by putting the team on his back. That certainly isn’t Christian Ponder. Long-term, that isn’t Matt Cassel. Long-term, the solution might be David Fales.

Finally, the Vikings need a new head coach. As much as I respect Leslie Frazier as a man of integrity, he isn’t the man to put a championship-caliber system together.

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To say that today’s Baltimore-Vikings game was exciting is understatement. For the last 2 minutes and 30 seconds, Baltimore and the Vikings scored at a clip that made the Missouri-Auburn SEC Championship Game look like they were standing still. Here’s the box score…of the final 2 minutes:

2:05 Bal TD Joe Flacco passed to Dennis Pitta to the left for 1 yard gain (2pt attempt converted, Joe Flacco pass to Torrey Smith)MIN 12 – BAL 15
1:27 Min TD Toby Gerhart rushed up the middle for 41 yard gain (Blair Walsh made PAT)MIN 19 – BAL 15
1:16 Bal TD Minnesota kicked off, Jacoby Jones returned kickoff for 77 yards (Justin Tucker made PAT)MIN 19 – BAL 22
0:45 Min TD Matt Cassel passed to Cordarrelle Patterson to the right for 79 yard gain (Blair Walsh made PAT)MIN 26 – BAL 22
0:04 Bal TD Joe Flacco passed to Marlon Brown down the middle for 9 yard gain MIN 26 – BAL 28

Congratulations to the Ravens. They kept their composure throughout the game. Their offense sputtered most of the game. They came alive at the right time.

Congratulations to the Vikings for not throwing in the towel…ever. They could’ve done that but they didn’t. They’re now 3-9-1. Today, the Vikings played with the urgency of a team fighting for home field advantage throughout the playoffs. What’s becoming totally apparent to Vikings fans is that Cordarrelle Patterson is a beast. His toughness, his running ability, his physical play and his ability to either outrun opponents or to make them miss makes it likely that he’ll be the next dominant receiver in the NFL. (Follow this link to watch Patterson’s TD catch and run. CP, as his coaches call him, has now scored twice on pass receptions, twice on kickoff returns and once as a runner lined up in the backfield.

Saying CP is special is understatement by orders of magnitude.

It’s apparent that Xavier Rhodes is turning into a shutdown corner. Today, he took Torrey Smith away from Joe Flacco until he got injured late in the game. It isn’t coincidence that Baltimore’s passing attack took off immediately after that.

Matt Cassel played well considering the field conditions, too. He finished 17-for-38 with 265 yards passing with 2 TD passes and no interceptions thrown or sacks.

The only thing the Vikings are missing is a franchise QB. Their defense needs to be restocked but it’s manageable. Mostly, they need a QB who can take them to the next level. With Adrian Peterson and Cordarrelle Patterson in important skilled positions, the Vikings have some gamechangers.

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Cordarrelle Patterson, aka CP to his coaches and teammates, apparently is off to a fast start with the Vikings. This is the part that stood out for me:

Two days into his first NFL training camp, Patterson has impressed the staff with his ability to retain information and execute pro plays despite his only having one year of Division I college experience.

“It wasn’t like starting from zero like we thought it might be,” said Frazier. “That encourages all of us. Now take that with a grain of salt. We’ve got a lot more football to go, but we like what we see so far.”

This isn’t to say CP is Percy Harvin’s equal. That’d be foolish considering the impact Harvin made while inspired. Apparently, there are some striking similarities between Harvin and CP. Both are dynamic from multiple formations and positions. Both are fast. What’s most impressive about CP is that he’s apparently a fast learner.

When Harvin was drafted, then-Vikings coach Brad Childress threw the playbook at Harvin. Coaches were impressed with Harvin’s ability to learn multiple positions quickly. Based on Brian Murphy’s Pi-Press article, it sounds like CP is a fast study, too.

That isn’t the label he had heading into the draft. If I had a $10 bill for each newspaper article or TV segment that characterized CP as “raw”, I’d be rich.

Harvin was traded to Seattle for Seattle’s first round and seventh round picks in last April’s draft and Seattle’s third rounder in next year’s draft. The Vikings turned Seattle’s first rounder into FSU cornerback Xavier Rhodes, a 6’2″ athlete with a 4.4 time in the forty. Meanwhile, Seattle put Harvin on the PUP (Physically Unable to Perform) list. If Harvin’s hip needs surjery, his season is likely over.

Most experts, including ESPN’s Bill Polian, Mark Schlereth and Tedy Bruschi, said the Vikings got the better of the trade long-term, with Seattle winning in the short-term. If Harvin doesn’t play this year, the Vikings will likely win the trade outright.

But I digress.

CP has some unique abilities:

Frazier said Patterson will get every chance to secure the kickoff return job. Unlike Percy Harvin, whose electrifying returns and the pounding he took on kickoffs sometimes kept him on the sideline during offensive possessions, Patterson’s size (6 feet 2, 220 pounds) should allow him to work double shifts.

CP is the type of dynamic playmaker that frightens defensive coordinators. His running skills are elite level. In fact, Polian said he didn’t consider CP a wideout, that he thought of CP as a running back. Watching some of his highlight videos, I’d wholeheartedly agree with Polian’s run-after-the-catch opinion. Being 6’2″ and 220 pounds and able to run a 4.4 forty is something that must be accounted for by defenses, too.

If CP learns the Vikings playbook quickly, as Brian Murphy’s article suggests, the Vikings offense could be frightening. The Vikings offensive line is solid, with Matt Kalil anchoring the unit. GM Greg Spielman added Greg Jennings and CP to a depleted receiving corps. Kyle Rudolph was last winter’s Pro Bowl MVP. And of course, the offense is built around Adrian Peterson, the seemingly bionic running back. If Christian Ponder continues to improve, the Vikings will challenge the Packers for the NFC North championship.

More on that in another post.

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The 2012 NFL draft is only a day old so I’m only able to give the Vikings a grade based on their picks today. But, oh, what a grade it is.

An hour prior to the official start of the draft, ESPN’s Chris Mortenson and Adam Shefter announced that the Vikings had traded the third overall pick to the Browns for the 4th overall pick, plus Cleveland’s 118th, 139th & 211th picks.

In short, Spielman convinced the Browns to give him the additional ammunition that hey’ll need to expedite the Vikings’ rebuilding job. It didn’t take long to lear that that was a major thing.

With the fourth pick he’d aquired from Cleveland, Spielman got the player he’d wanted all along in USC LT Matt Kalil. After a flurry of trades, the Vikings combined the 35th pick (the third pick in the 2nd round) with the 98th pick (third pick in the 4th round) to trade back into the first round to take Notre Dame safety Harrison Smith with the 29th pick they’d acquired from Baltimore.

Friday night, the Vikings will start the night with the 66th pick, which is the third pick in the third round. Saturday, the Vikings will have a fistful of fourth-rounders, 2 fifth-rounders, a sixth-rounder and 2 seventh-rounders.

It’s possible the Vikings can package the 66th pick with some third day picks and get back into the 2nd round. That might not be necessary, though, because the talent that dropped into the 2nd round was pretty substantial.

It isn’t that the players that dropped fit the Vikings priorities. It’s that some teams made surprising picks that pushed other talented players into the 2nd day of the draft.

It’s likely that the Vikings will focus on getting a cornerback & a wideout before adding depth with the rest of the draft.

Elsewhere in the NFC North, Chicago drafted OLB Shea McClellin of Boise State, Detroit picking Iowa OT Riley Rieff and Green Bay picking USC DE Nick Perry.

It isn’t difficult to make a legitimate case that each of the NFC North teams improved themselves with their picks.

Elsewhere in the draft, the Rams got a solid DT in Michael Brockers after trading out of the sixth pick. Though he’ll help their defense, Jeff Fischer has to be disappointed. They’d hoped that they’d draft Oklahoma State wideout Justin Blackmon with sixth pick.

When Jacksonville swapped picks with Tampa, they picked Blackmon. That led to the Rams trading back to the 14th pick in a trade with the Cowboys. The Rams hoped they’d still get Michael Floyd with the 14th pick. Instead, the Cardinals used their 13th overall pick to take Floyd to pair him with Larry Fitzgerald.

St. Louis should’ve just picked Floyd with the sixth pick, which analysts would’ve said was a little bit of a reach. Still, they would’ve gotten a prime weapon for QB Sam Bradford. Instead, they got a defensive tackle and extra picks that they’ll use to take lesser talents.

Right now, I’d give the Vikings, the Patriots and Cincinnati the highest grades from the first day. The Patriots significantly upgraded their defense with passrushing DE Chandler Jones and ILB Dont’a Hightower. Cincinnati upgraded their secondary by picking Alabama CB Dre Kirkpatrick with the 17th pick. Then they upgraded their offensive line by picking OG Kevin Zeitler from Wisconsin.

Of the teams with just 1 pick in the first round, Green Bay, Pittsburgh and Buffalo really helped themselves alot.

Green Bay got the passrusher they need to take pressure off Clay Matthews when they drafted Nick Perry of USC. Pittsburgh helped themselves immensely in picking Stanford OG David DeCastro. DeCastro is a mauler in the Steelers’ tradition. Buffalo has had a fantastic offseason, first getting DEs Mario Williams and Mark Anderson in free angency, then adding CB Stephon Gilmore of South Carolina with the 10th pick.

Buffalo’s defense took a giant step forward, both in terms of upgrading their defensive line and their secondary.

NFL draftniks like me can’t wait for the full-day coverage of the NFL Entry Draft. That’s especially true for Vikings fans this year. Following a dismal season, the Vikings need a great draft, filling alot of holes at alot of different positions.

After releasing Bryant McKinnie last year, the hole at left tackle is as big a hole as they’ve got. When the Vikings defeated Washington in the next-to-last week of the season, I thought they totally blew it. Had they lost, they would’ve started with the 2nd pick, which would’ve turned into Washington’s first rounders this year, next year and the year after that. Plus Washington’s second rounder this year.

For those keeping score at home, that means the Vikings would’ve had the 6th overall pick, the 35th overall pick and the 38th overall pick this year. That isn’t great news from the standpoint that the Vikings certainly wouldn’t have gotten USC OT Matt Kalil with the 6th overall pick.

This is what Todd McShay recently said about Kalil:

The Vikings just missed out on being able to cash in with the second overall pick, but with Baylor QB Robert Griffin III likely to be the pick there, Minnesota is in a position to finally begin shoring up its offensive line with an elite prospect. Kalil is one of the top left tackles I have evaluated coming out of college, with a skill set equal to Joe Thomas and a mean streak to go with it.

Joe Thomas is an elite LT. Being compared favorably with Thomas speaks volumes. The part about Kalil having “a mean streak to go with it” must make Adrian Peterson, Christian Ponder and Toby Gerhart smile from ear-to-ear.

Scott Wright at Draftcountdown.com has equally complimentary things to say about Kalil:

USC OT Matt Kalil is the reason that his former teammate Tyron Smith, who was the #10 overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft by the Dallas Cowboys, was relegated to playing the right side in college. Kalil, whose brother Ryan plays for the Carolina Panthers and is one of the leagues premier centers, isn’t a finished product but he possesses the physical tools and intangibles to develop into an elite blindside protector.

Having an elite blindside left tackle to protect the QB and open holes for Adrian Peterson would be a positive step forward for the Vikings. In the second round, Wright predicts that the Vikings will pick Zack Brown, an athletic outside linebacker from North Carolina.

If the Vikings get an elite LT with the third overall pick and an athletic outside linebacker in the second round, they will have started filling alot of the holes they’ve got.

As the countdown clock edges toward zeros, check back with DraftCountdown. Scott Wright is one of the most diligent mock draft people in the business. That’s proved by his record and his willingness to be one of the few people who’ll mock the first three rounds.

Other than the guy with Jimmy Johnson hair, Mike Mayock and Pat Kirwan, I can’t think of another guy whose mock drafts I’d trust more than Scott’s.

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For years, the face of NLF ineptitude was the Detroit Lions. With the Lions looking to be on a longterm, dramatic upswing, the new face of NFL franchise ineptitude is the Minnesota Vikings.

Going into Saturday’s game with the Redskins, the Vikings had a realistic shot at getting the top overall pick in the draft. This year, the NFL Entry Draft is subtitled “the Andrew Luck Sweepstakes” because Stanford’s Andrew Luck is considered the best QB prospect to come out of college since Peyton Manning. Some scouts say he’s the best QB prospect to come out of college since John Elway.

Either way, the Vikings would’ve held the rights to the jewel of the draft had they lost out & the Colts won their last game.

Instead, the Vikings screwed up a miserable season by a) defeating the Washington Redskins and b) watching Adrian Peterson, the dominant running back in the NFL, suffer a nasty knee injury.

Initial reports are that AP tore his ACL and that there’s damage to the MCL, too. There’s a distinct possibility that AP won’t regain his dominant form again. It’s more likely, though, that he’ll return to 100% sometime in 2014.

As a result of Saturday’s victory against Washington, there’s a strong possibility that the Vikings will miss out on QB Luck, LT Matt Kalil, WR Justin Blackmon & CB Morris Claiborne.

That means that the Vikings will have lost out on the 4 top-of-the-blue-chip bluechippers in this draft. What’s worst is that each of these players would’ve filled the void at a major position of need at a playmaking position.

That’s on top of playing Peterson in a meaningless game. That’s after thinking about losing a transcendant player like AP in a meaningless game.

Peterson had missed 3 straight games with a high ankle sprain, at minimum a painful injury that left him at less than 80%. What was the wisdom of playing AP in a meaningless game like Washington? Now AP’s career is at a crossroads.

This Vikings fan just hopes they’ll lose to ‘Da Bears this Sunday. At least, then, they’ll still get the third overall pick. At that point, they’d likely have their choice between Matt Kalil and Justin Blackmon.

At that point, too, they’d likely have alot of offers for their pick. When they get those offers, they should let it be known that they’re perfectly content picking a dominant player who’ll be a differencemaker for a decade. They should also let it be known that it’ll take three-fourth’s of a king’s ransom to trade for their pick.

If the Vikings get the third pick, they’d be in a position of relative strength. If they hadn’t won Saturday, they would’ve guaranteed themselves the high draft pick they could parlay into a dominant player or into a trade that would’ve turned this franchise around.

The Minnesota Vikings: the NFL’s new name for franchise ineptitude.

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It isn’t a secret that Sid Hartman doesn’t have a clue. This column, however, proves that he’s willing to play the strawman card without hesitation. Here’s what I’m talking about:

The drafting of Florida State quarterback Christian Ponder in the first round was a big surprise to several draft analysts, so the Vikings weren’t given a high draft grade by some of the so-called experts, most of whom look silly when some of the draftees they make fun of turn into stars.

Rob Rang is CBSSports.com’s is their draft analyst. Here’s his grade for the Vikings and Christian Ponder:

Minnesota Vikings: B+

Full disclosure: I am higher on Christian Ponder than most, so if you’re thinking I’m going to knock them significantly for their perceived “reach” of him at No. 12, you’re wrong. I will certainly admit that the No. 12 overall pick higher is higher than a quarterback coming off two arm surgeries should go, but the Vikings needed a passer who could play right away and Ponder is, in my opinion, the most pro-ready passer in this draft. If, and it’s a big if, he can stay healthy, he’ll prove worthy of this pick. Arm-strength, intelligence and mobility are not questions, in my mind. The Vikings found solid talent throughout the rest of the draft, as well. The selection of Notre Dame tight end Kyle Rudolph was a surprise considering the emergence of Visanthe Shiancoe. Versatile defensive lineman Christian Ballard (4th round), competitive cornerback Brandon Burton (5th) and developmental center Brandon Fusco (6th) highlighted a busy Day Three for the Vikings.

It doesn’t sound like Rang ripped the Vikings too hard, does it?

Here’s ESPN’s Todd McShay’s take on Ponder:

What he brings: Ponder has had problems staying healthy and there are concerns about his durability going forward, but he has had the opportunity to show his toughness and there is a lot to like about his willingness to play through pain. He doesn’t have the strongest arm and will have some trouble driving the ball downfield, but he does an excellent job of anticipating and delivering the ball in stride on short-to-intermediate routes. He is also light on his feet and can buy time within the pocket.
Video analysis: Todd McShay
How he fits: One of the big questions regarding the Vikings was whether they would go the veteran QB route or bite the bullet and start over with a rookie, and we still don’t know the answer, despite this pick. Right now, with Tarvaris Jackson and Brett Favre gone and Joe Webb unproven this is an offense that simply can’t line up at QB. Is Ponder the immediate answer? Will the Vikings still go out and try to get a veteran to bridge the gap? Bill Musgrave is the new coordinator and he will run a West Coast offense that emphasizes the run with Adrian Peterson and his philosophy will emphasize rollouts, bootlegs, half reads and play-action, all things Ponder can do well.

Here’s McShay’s take on Kyle Rudolph:

What he brings: Rudolph has an excellent combination of size and athleticism to become an every-down tight end in the NFL. His strength is catching passes. Rudolph has the speed and route-running ability to separate and he shows above-average ball skills to bring in balls outside his frame. He is an effective run blocker but could get better in that area. Durability issues kept him out of the first round.

How he fits: This is a pure value pick because on paper it is not a glaring need for the Vikings. Backup Jimmy Kleinsasser is primarily a blocker and Visanthe Shiancoe is an excellent pass catcher but his production dropped last year to two touchdowns in 2010. Rudolph is the most versatile TE coming into the draft and would have gone much higher, if not for injury. In an offense that loves to use the TE in the passing game it becomes even more important to give rookie QB Christian Ponder another target. Watch the Vikings use a lot more two tight end sets this year, much like the Patriots.

Finally, CBS Senior NFL Draft expert had this to say about Christian Ponder:

I love this pick. I think he will be the best in this class. Smart. Tough. Sees the field. Great move, Vikings.

PS- Prisco gave the Vikings an A for this pick. He also gave the Vikings a B+ for drafting Rudolph.

In other words, the “the so-called experts, most of whom look silly when some of the draftees they make fun of turn into stars” are mostly a figment of Sid’s imagination. The national media, for the most part, gave the Vikings solid grades. The lone exception that I found was SI’s Peter King.

It’s time for Mr. Hartman to hang up his electric typewriter. It’s time for smarter, more energetic people to start writing Sid’s beat.

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Until this afternoon, I’ve stayed silent about the NFL labor strife but it’s time to end that silence. First, let’s get these things straight:

1) I don’t like either the NFLPA or the NFL owners as a group. There are a number of great owners and some honorable union members but, as a group, they don’t impress me.

2) David Doty should be removed from the case because he’s proven that he isn’t a neutral arbiter. He’s a players judge at a time when an impartial judge is needed. Better yet, it’d be better if this thing just stayed out of the judicial system.

There are some principles that I think shouldn’t be negotiated, starting with the 18 game schedule. Because of the speed of the game, the size of the athletes, etc., 18 games is like begging for a league where linemen, fullbacks, special teamers and linebackers would have a career of 3-4 years.

The reason this shouldn’t be part of the negotiations is because this isn’t just a league issue. It’s a safety burden on society issue.

How many players would be a burden on society because of their chronic ailments, their issues with concussions and other things that would rob them of their youth and their career?

Make no mistake about this: Changing the season from 16 to 18 games will increase the number of concussions suffered. As a result, that will create greater stress on the nation’s neurological system resources.

The NFL is attempting to buy off the players by saying that the longer schedule will give more players an opportunity. As a fan, I couldn’t care less about giving more players an opportunity. I don’t watch the NFL to see second-stringers make a play or two. I watch to see the spectacular plays from Drew Brees, Adrian Peterson and Larry Fitzgerald.

If the NFL goes to an 18 game schedule, the quality of their product will shrink with time. No thanks.

Get this resolved. The owners & the NFLPA are making out like bandits already. If they leave the basic structure intact, they’ll continue making out like bandits.

Is it that difficult to figure out? Let’s hope not.

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