Mark Craig has covered the NFL for 23 years, and the Vikings since 2003 for the Star Tribune. He is one of 44 Pro Football Hall of Fame selectors. Follow him at @markcraignfl.
Master Tesfatsion is the Star Tribune’s digital Vikings writer. He is a 2013 graduate of Arizona State and worked for mlb.com before arriving in Minneapolis. Follow him at @masterstrib.
Vikings coach Leslie Frazier did not announce a starting quarterback during his press conference Monday, but he eliminated one of the three quarterbacks from the running. Frazier said the decision has come down to either Josh Freeman or Christian Ponder, which leaves Matt Cassel out of the mix.
The Vikings play at Dallas on Sunday.
“[We're] just trying to look at the whole picture and who will gives us the best chance to win from our standpoint as coaches for this Dallas ballgame,” Frazier said. “That’s what it’ll be based on. The other factors will be what the health of the other guys are, but primarily who do you think will give you the best chance in this ballgame against Dallas.”
Frazier will make the decision over the next few days as he evaluates the situation with his staff. Freeman dealt with concussion-like symptoms last week, but was cleared on Friday. Frazier said the staff will be conscious of the injury and it could still play into the decision.
Frazier will also look at Ponder’s performance against the Packers on Sunday night at the Metrodome, and said he felt Ponder looked more relaxed Sunday than he did in his previous three starts. Ponder went 14-for-21 for 145 passing yards and rushed for 38 yards with a late touchdown in the final minutes of a 44-31 loss.
“I don’t want to discount Matt, but Christian did some good things in that ballgame yesterday,” Frazier said. “Obviously there are things he could do better, but that has something to do with it. He has led us to some wins in the past. Josh, we brought him in to evaluate and if he could be a guy that could be a potential player for us in the future.”
Cassel started in the Vikings’ only victory through seven games, against the Steelers in London. He also started after the bye week against the Panthers before he was inactive against the Giants. Cassel was Ponder’s backup in the loss Sunday.
“He’s done everything we’ve asked him to,” Frazier said of Cassel. "He’s practiced well, prepared well. He was ready yesterday if needed be, and he’ll continue to work as hard he can. I don’t know if there’s any one thing I can point to and say why it’s Christian and Josh in this determination.”
Frazier said cornerback Chris Cook suffered a hip muscle strain and safety Jamarca Sanford a groin strain against the Packers. Both players will be listed as day-to-day. Frazier hopes to get tight end Rhett Ellison back this week. He was sidelined because of an ankle injury.
MANKATO -- Vikings receiver Greg Jennings met with reporters after practice today. He talked about "the talk" he had with coach Leslie Frazier, apologized via the media to former teammate and current Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers and even mentioned Rodgers by name, something he hadn't been doing since switching sides in this NFC North rivalry.
Here are the highlights:
About Frazier talking to him about the comments to the Star Tribune implying that Rodgers considers himself bigger than the team:
"I was on the field. I was wondering where everybody was coming up with that. I was on the field and [Frazier] ran over to me and asked me what I said. That was really the gist of it. He said, `Keep it about our guys.' Literally, that was it. I don't really recall saying anything negative about Aaron or anyone over there, but, hey, I apologize."
About whether he called Rodgers to apologize:
"No. For what? I'm apologizing right now. If it got to him with [the media] right now, I feel if I apologize right here, he'll hear that, too. Will you make sure he hears that?"
About his relationship with the Packers:
"Seriously, those guys across that state line, I had an outstanding time with those guys. Everything I say, I'm joking. I'm messing. I'm pulling Aaron's arm. I mean if he doesn't know that or you guys don't know that, I played with the guy for seven years. I think he knows that.
"Mike [McCarthy], great coach. Again, these were guys who established my career. Guys I went to work with every single day and loved every single minute of it. But it was time. They made a business decision. I made a business decision. I wish them the best, except two games out of the year. I'll still watch those guys. A piece of me is still there. There is still some Greg over there. I put a lot of time in with those guys and no one can take that away, no matter what's done or what's said."
More about Rodgers:
"Aaron's a phenomenal quarterback. He knows that. No one needs to tell him that. What he's done over the course of the last five years? Phenomenal. He set the bar high for quarterbacks in this league. He set the bar high for offenses in this league. Everything I say is all out of fun. I'm just saying something just to say it. They know that's not me."
Understand this much: The Access Vikings team never put a whole lot of stock in mock drafts. Especially mock drafts that are formed and updated before free agency begins. As we all know, when the free agent market opens next week, the needs of many teams will change as they add new pieces and reconfigure their depth charts.
But we at Access Vikings also understand the incredible popularity of mock drafts. So we see it as our obligation to share with you the latest projections of ESPN's Todd McShay.
McShay has updated his 2013 mock draft for a third time. And this time he has the Vikings scooping up North Carolina defensive tackle Sylvester Williams with the 23rd overall pick in the first round.
Defensive tackle isn't a top need, and the Vikings have bigger needs at wide receiver, outside linebacker and offensive tackle. But Williams is a good fit in defensive coordinator Alan Williams' Tampa 2 defense. Williams is quick and active and has very good football character, too.
McShay's previous mock, posted last month, had the Vikings selecting Connecticut cornerback Blidi Wreh-Wilson at No. 23. In that version of the draft, McShay pegged St. Louis to select Williams one pick earlier. Which left the Vikings to add firepower to their secondary with Wreh-Wilson.
Said McShay then:
Minnesota has options here, and a big receiver like California's Keenan Allen might make sense. However, Wreh-Wilson is a value pick at a key position and the Vikings need another talented young corner to go with Chris Cook and Josh Robinson. Wreh-Wilson is one of the most underrated prospects in the class. He plays under control, has good speed and excellent balance, and also supports the run well.
Back in December, before the draft order was set and before either the NFL or college seasons were complete, McShay also projected a Williams-Vikings union. So, hey, it's at least something to keep an eye on. But just to be clear, mock drafts are mostly designed for blogs like these to help you kill of a little free time during your work day boredom spells. So don't go rushing to order your purple Sylvester Williams jersey just yet.
Although it is worth mentioning that McShay's colleague Mel Kiper also currently has the Vikings selecting Williams at No. 23 in his most recent mock draft.
Before that, Kiper projected Baylor receiver Terrance Williams to come off the board when the Vikings go on the clock for the first time.
And if you need more of a mock frenzy, here are a handful of other projections for who the Vikings could scoop up in Round 1:
Yep, mock drafts are everywhere. And while they mean so very little, at least you can daydream about any of those seven aforementioned players for a while. Until a newer mock is posted. With some newer projections and new names to think about.
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