Hartman: Pressure is on Vikings draft picks to produce

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 22, 2013 - 8:54 PM
hide

The Vikings hope this year’s draft class — led by their three first-round picks, defensive lineman Sharrif Floyd, defensive back Xavier Rhodes and receiver Cordarrelle Patterson — can perform as well as last year’s group did. The team’s 2012 draft class included standouts such as Matt Kalil, Harrison Smith and Blair Walsh, among others.

Photo: ELIZABETH FLORES, Star Tribune file

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

Without a doubt, the Vikings’ excellent 2012 draft had a lot to do with the team finishing 10-6 and advancing to the NFC playoffs.

They grabbed left tackle Matt Kalil with the No. 4 overall pick, a move that enabled them to move Charlie Johnson back to his more natural position at left guard, then grabbed Kalil’s Southern California teammate, running back Rhett Ellison, in the fourth round.

Those two players effectively helped to counteract any major negative effects from the retirement of Jim Kleinsasser, who had been so instrumental in the blocking schemes for more than a decade.

Then the surprise pick came in the sixth round when they selected Georgia kicker Blair Walsh, which effectively ended Ryan Longwell’s tenure with the squad. Special teams coach Mike Priefer had looked extensively at Walsh’s technique and saw that a few minor changes could turn him into the All-Pro he was in his rookie season.

But last season saw just a few major pieces that needed to be replaced: Kleinsasser retired, and the team chose to release or not re-sign veterans such as Longwell, Steve Hutchinson, E.J. Henderson and Cedric Griffin, all of whom were not as effective as they were earlier in their careers.

When it comes to replacements this year, it will be a different story.

At the top of the list, the Vikings have to replace Percy Harvin, a great wide receiver, kick returner and running back who was traded to Seattle. Their top defensive back for years has been Antoine Winfield, who was released and also ended up with the Seahawks. Linebacker Jasper Brinkley, who started every game, signed with Arizona. And then eight-year punter Chris Kluwe was released and signed with Oakland.

The Vikings drafted punter Jeff Locke of UCLA to replace Kluwe, but he doesn’t have the NFL experience that Kluwe had, not only punting in crucial situations but also as an outstanding holder.

At this point they don’t have a middle linebacker to replace Brinkley, although Erin Henderson has a chance to do that job. But if that happens, they need to find somebody who can replace Henderson at outside linebacker.

The plan is for free agent Greg Jennings and first-round draft choice Cordarrelle Patterson to replace some of the offense Harvin produced and hope that Locke can match Kluwe in punting and as a holder.

And last but not least, the Vikings don’t have somebody with the experience and production that Winfield provided in his long career here.

Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman, director of college scouting Scott Studwell and others in the team’s front office should be able to provide the replacements just as they have in the past. But the team needs this year’s draft class to perform as well as last year’s did.

Peterson praises Spielman

Adrian Peterson was on SiriusXM NFL Radio on Friday and talked about where he sees the team going, and also about the big departure of Harvin.

“You know, I feel like the pieces are coming,” Peterson said. “Our GM, Rick Spielman, has done a great job in the first two years of bringing in guys who have been productive and helped this offense flourish, and defensively as well.

“Greg Jennings is a guy I have played against and watched several times on the sidelines, I’m always asking myself, ‘How is he getting so open?’ Now being in OTAs and being around that guy, I see why.”

Regarding quarterback Christian Ponder, he said: “The biggest piece, he is definitely getting more comfortable and that confidence is showing through, that’s something I’ve been able to see the past month. We have the right pieces and we’re headed in the right direction.”

Peterson was also asked if he thought the departure of Harvin was necessary to move the team forward if the star receiver truly wasn’t happy here.

“I don’t know, it’s kind of hard because it’s hard to replace a guy like Percy, to be honest with you,” he said. “But if you have a guy that really doesn’t want to be there, if that’s the case, then yes, it’s better off for the team. For whatever reason he wasn’t happy where he was, and now he’s in Seattle and I wish him the best.”

Buxton could be moving

Twins 2012 first-round pick Byron Buxton continues to dominate at Class A Cedar Rapids. He entered Saturday second in the Midwest League in hitting with a .338 average, is first in on-base percentage at .428, fourth in RBI with 52 and first by a lot in runs scored with 66.

Twins General Manager Terry Ryan likes what he sees from Buxton and believes he will be moved up soon.

“He has a chance to be real good,” Ryan said. “He’s got all the skills, the makeup, he’s athletic, a pure center fielder, can run, throw, field, hit, power, steal a base and makeup. That’s why we took him. He’s off to a good start at Cedar Rapids, and that’s just as important. We’re looking for guys not only with those ceiling tools but also guys that perform, and he’s doing all the above.”

Jottings

• Look for Timberwolves President Flip Saunders to make every effort to draft Indiana shooting guard Victor Oladipo, who would give the Wolves just what they need in the backcourt.

• The top three Vikings draft picks should receive signing bonuses in this order: Sharrif Floyd, $4.2 million; Xavier Rhodes, $4.1 million; and Cordarrelle Patterson, $3.6 million, according to the 2013 estimates of NFL teams’ rookie pool. The Vikings have signed all their draft picks except those three.

• During the past two Final Fours, the Wall Street Journal has published the values of top college basketball programs as figured by Ryan Brewer of Indiana University-Purdue University-Columbus. Last year’s report placed the Gophers 10th in the nation and third in the Big Ten with a worth of $87.9 million. The Gophers didn’t make the top 10 this year, but Brewer said in an e-mail that the Gophers came in at No. 12 this year with a valuation of $114.76 million.

• Minnesota native Tom Lehman has played in eight events this year on the Champions Tour and has earned $390,590. Lehman also toured the Children’s of Alabama hospital earlier this month before the Regions Tradition tournament with former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

• Connor Mayes, a center from Van Alstyne, Texas, who recently committed to the Gophers, has been selected to play in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, which will be played on Jan. 4 in San Antonio.

• Twins President David St. Peter reported the club and Major League Baseball expect to unveil the 2014 All Star Game logo sometime in August. Tickets will be sold in three-event strips, including the Futures Game, the workout day/Home Run Derby and the All-Star Game itself. Twins season-ticket holders will be given priority.



 

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Baltimore 2 FINAL
Detroit 15
NY Yankees 5 FINAL
Philadelphia 5
Northeastern 1 FINAL
Boston 2
Miami-Fla 1 FINAL
Miami 7
Pittsburgh 8 FINAL
Toronto 7
San Francisco 4 FINAL
Oakland 9
Cleveland 0 FINAL
Cincinnati 10
Boston College 0 FINAL
Boston 1
Arizona State 0 FINAL
Arizona 4
Boston 79 FINAL
Cleveland 110
LA Lakers 103 FINAL
Charlotte 104
Sacramento 124 FINAL
New York 86
Houston 96 FINAL
Atlanta 104
Utah 93 FINAL
Memphis 82
Washington 92 FINAL
Chicago 97
Milwaukee 95 FINAL
Denver 106
Nashville 1 FINAL
New Jersey 3
Calgary 3 FINAL(OT)
Philadelphia 2
Washington 5 FINAL
Columbus 3
Buffalo 0 FINAL
Tampa Bay 3
Toronto 3 FINAL
Florida 2
Ottawa 2 FINAL(SO)
Minnesota 3
NY Islanders 2 FINAL(OT)
Dallas 3
Anaheim 4 FINAL
Arizona 1
Los Angeles 5 FINAL
Edmonton 2
San Jose 6 FINAL
Vancouver 2
Ole Miss 82 FINAL
Alabama 74
Eastern Mich 67 FINAL
Ball State 60
Kent State 81 FINAL
Bowling Green 80
Ohio 66 FINAL
Buffalo 93
Georgetown 60 FINAL
Butler 54
Toledo 77 FINAL
Central Mich 85
Rhode Island 59 FINAL
Dayton 75
Youngstown St 67 FINAL
Detroit 77
North Carolina 81 FINAL
Georgia Tech 49
Loyola-Maryland 45 FINAL
Holy Cross 62
Iowa 77 FINAL
Indiana 63
Akron 63 FINAL
Miami-Ohio 70
Army 52 FINAL
Navy 56
Maryland 60 FINAL
Rutgers 50
Kennesaw St 54 FINAL
USC Upstate 90
Jacksonville 63 FINAL
Fla Gulf Coast 81
Lipscomb 76 FINAL
Northern Ky 73
Stetson 67 FINAL
North Florida 81
Wright State 57 FINAL
Ill-Chicago 60
Western Mich 63 FINAL
Northern Ill 65
Nebraska Omaha 80 FINAL
North Dakota 78
Houston Baptist 71 FINAL
Abilene Christian 83
NC State 66 FINAL
Clemson 61
Texas A&M 62 FINAL
Florida 66
Kentucky 72 FINAL
Georgia 64
West Virginia 69 FINAL
Kansas 76
Auburn 61 FINAL
Missouri 63
Michigan 78 FINAL
Northwestern 82
Villanova 76 FINAL
Creighton 72
Longwood 55 FINAL
Gardner-Webb 63
Charleston Southern 39 FINAL
Presbyterian 47
Coastal Carolina 54 FINAL
UNC-Asheville 68
NJIT 51 FINAL
UMass Lowell 60
West Virginia 55 FINAL
Kansas State 59
TCU 45 FINAL
Texas 79
Fresno State 61 FINAL
Air Force 41
San Jose St 76 FINAL
Boise State 91
Nevada 61 FINAL
Colorado State 68
UNLV 61 FINAL
San Diego State 76
Wyoming 61 FINAL
Utah State 57

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: How will the Wild finish out the season?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close