VikesCentric is written by Twin Cities football writers Bo Mitchell of SportsData, Arif Hasan of Vikings Territory, Aj Mansour, who hosts Minnesota Vikings Overtime on KFAN, and Joe Oberle a long-time Minnesota based writer. The VikesCentric crew crunches numbers, watches video and isn't shy about saying what's on their minds.

VikesCentric: A tall order--Vikings grab Waynes in the first round

Posted by: Joe Oberle Updated: May 1, 2015 - 9:57 AM

Trader Rick Spielman pulled off another surprise at the 2015 NFL Draft—he hung onto his pick at Number 11, and the Vikings drafted Michigan State cornerback Trae Waynes. A Waynes pick was not unexpected, but the fact that Spielman didn’t trade back in the draft caught some observers off guard.

 “As we saw the draft unfold, there wasn’t a lot of movement or a lot of trades,” Spielman told the Star Tribune. “We did have a lot of activity that came up to us, but as you sit there and went through it, we had Trae Waynes very high on our draft board, and some of the offers that we had to trade down, we didn’t feel the value was there.”

In addition to that, head coach Mike Zimmer was in the war room. Zimmer is a former longtime defensive coordinator and a defensive back specialist, and Waynes was “in his wheel house,” according to Spielman.

“We did a whole lot of work on Trae Waynes,” Zimmer told the Star Tribune. “And, to me, it’s extremely important that you have guys with great character, great leadership, they’re great competitors and obviously the athletic ability that he has—that’s always been big to me. Everybody says I love corners, but I love good football players more than I love corners, and I felt like he can help us in a lot of different ways.”

Zimmer improved the Vikings defense last season with the first round pick of linebacker Anthony Barr. And now Waynes comes to Zimmer’s defense and will have a chance to learn it from former Zimmer disciple Terence Newman, who the Vikings picked up in free agency. Newman is 36 years old, but he will serve as a great mentor and teacher of Zimmer’s defense, and Waynes will be the beneficiary.

Waynes has a lot going for him. He’s a very good cover corner, he prefers man-to-man and he has the speed to handle it. Waynes clocked in as the fastest cornerback at the NFL Combine and was rated by many as the top cornerback in the draft.

“He’s got great speed, he’s 6-1, and it’s hard to find six foot corners (although there are a few in this year’s draft),” Zimmer said. “But to get a big corner that can run and have good change of direction, they’re hard to find.”

In 2014, Waynes was named second-team All American by Walter Camp Football Foundation, Sporting News and Athlon Sports and he earned third team honors from the Associate Press. Waynes was also one of 15 semi-finalists for the Jim Thorpe award—given to the nation’s top defensive back. He had 101 tackles, six interceptions and 13 pass break ups in 36 career games.

And while Waynes at 6-1 is the tall corner that the Vikings were looking for, he is only 182 pounds. But Zimmer doesn’t appear to be bothered by his weight.

“The natural prototype for corners is 185--for the starters in the league,” Zimmer said. “He’s got good height, good speed. I don’t worry about the [weight], I worry about if they can cover.”

Waynes is not yet a complete NFL ready player. Although he is tough in coverage, he has a reputation of grabbing receivers that he covers, which is something that will get him flagged on Sunday afternoons.

“Trae has a little bit of grabby up the field, which we will have to correct,” Zimmer said. “He does a good job in press, but there are some things I see on tape that I want to address with him. He’s got the great size and length, and Michigan State has done a great job teaching these corners—they’ve done it for a long time.”

Waynes comes in after playing a lot of man defense, but he said that he considers himself able to play whatever schemes Zimmer has in mind. Waynes is excited to play for Zimmer, who he calls a defensive guru.

“[I like] the way he plays his corners,” Waynes told the Star Tribune. “I like to press, but I feel like I can play [other schemes] if I have to. I am pretty diverse and will be able to play however he wants me to.”

When Waynes gets up to speed in the Vikings’ defense, he will eventually be paired with another tall cornerback in Xavier Rhodes, who excelled in Zimmer’s defense last season. For Zimmer, the addition of another tall cornerback with speed is going to allow him to put his trademark aggressive defense on the field--even more aggressive than last season.

“Depending on how fast this guy matures and how fast this guy gets into the NFL and all that stuff, when you don’t have to really worry too much about the corners, you don’t have to give them much help, you don’t have to cheat the coverages, you can do numerous things that allow you to attack offenses,” Zimmer said. “When you have to help a guy and protect a guy or use more of your guys than you would like to, it makes it more difficult.”

Suffice it to say, the Vikings drafted Waynes and aren’t planning to worry about their cornerbacks for a while. And the same can be said for Vikings fans, as Waynes, who comes from Kenosha, Wisconsin, did not grow up a Packers fan.

“No, I was a player’s fan, I didn’t really have a favorite team,” Waynes said. “I always watched players. I liked players on the Vikings, but I just watched players.”

Head over to Vikings Journal for more coverage of the NFL Draft and then join in the conversation on the Vikings Journal forums, where everything Purple is dissected and discussed. 

Joe Oberle is a senior writer at VikingsJournal.comcovers the NFL for The Sports Post and is managing editor of Minnesota Golfer magazine. He is an author and longtime Minnesota-based writer.

VikesCentric: Final Mock Draft

Posted by: Bo Mitchell Updated: April 28, 2015 - 9:24 AM

It’s time for one last mock draft before the real thing begins on Thursday night. I am going on record one more time with my NFL Draft predictions along with analysis of every pick through the Vikings at 11. For the other 21 first-round picks, please visit VikingsJournal.com.

Once you’ve compared and contrasted your mock draft with mine (assuming you did one... doesn't everybody?) be prepared to crumple up both of them because a half-dozen first-round trades (including one by the Vikings) could render all our mocks meaningless. Mel Kiper and Todd McShay and all the other famous draft experts are destined to have inaccurate mocks as well so we’re all in good company at least. Seriously, I anticipate another draft full of wheeling and dealing, beginning in Round 1 -- possibly with the second overall pick. You thought your March Madness bracket was ruined early? As many as five, six or seven trades in the first round could destroy the draft order listed below. But our role as NFL observers and journalists obligates us to produce mocks nonetheless. Here we go…

1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State
I’m feeling good about my mock draft so far. I’m 95 percent certain that Winston will go No. 1 overall so I will at least have one pick correct. I’m not saying that I’m sold on Jameis as a franchise quarterback, but he possesses the best quarterback skill set in this draft class and the Bucs need a quarterback so it adds up quite nicely. I have difficulty getting past all the off-field red flags and the ugly SPARQ score so in my mind the potential for him becoming a bust is very real. That said, once he goes first overall he can afford to buy all the crab legs he wants. That should at least eliminate shoplifting as a potential problem again.

2. Tennessee Titans – Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon
The fun will begin early on draft night. I have Mariota pegged to go second overall but it might not be to the Titans. If he does go to Music City, he might wind up playing second fiddle to Zach Mettenberger for a period of time, perhaps his entire rookie season. However, with trade winds swirling faster than a supercell thunderstorm in region with a TOR:CON value of 6, it could just as easily be the Chargers, Eagles or Browns picking Mariota here. In other words, I think Mariota goes second, but I put the chances of the Titans being the team that selects him as 50/50 at best. Also, I watch too much of the Weather Channel.

3. Jacksonville Jaguars – Dante Fowler Jr., DE, Florida
I’ll stick with Fowler to the Jaguars at three as I had in my previous mock. Honestly, I’m 75 percent sold on Fowler being the pick here, but the Jaguars will be awfully tempted to grab a wide receiver – namely, the next guy on this list.

4. Oakland Raiders – Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama
I’m still going with Cooper to the Raiders at four. No, the signing of Michael Crabtree doesn’t change the fact that the Raiders still need wide receiver help. Cooper was the best, most polished wide receiver I watched play college last season so I’ve had him ahead of Kevin White and Devante Parker in all my mocks. It’s interesting that the Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie said last week that he is happy to take offers for this pick. They could certainly use help in a number of areas, so a trade down is not out of the question.

5. Washington Redskins – Leonard Williams, DE, USC
A lot of folks consider Williams the best overall player in the draft. Others deem him safe, talented and versatile but with a limited ceiling. Either way, getting him fifth overall would constitute a bit of a bargain for Washington – if such a thing exists this early in a draft -- and addresses one of several areas of need.

6. New York Jets – Vic Beasley, OLB/DE, Clemson
Neither Kevin White nor Todd Gurley would be shocking here, but the Jets need edge-rushing help in Todd Bowles’ 3-4 defense. There are some whispers that Beasley could slide, but I just don’t see it. He helped his stock at the combine and I don’t think he falls out of the top 10.

7. Chicago Bears – Kevin White, WR, West Virginia
The Bears could use help at every level of the defense, but the last I checked the draft has seven rounds. It will be darn near impossible for them to pass up a unique size/speed receiver like White as a replacement for Brandon Marshall. They need to give Jay Cutler all the weapons they can.

8. Atlanta Falcons – Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia
If Gurley doesn’t go to the Jets at six, the Falcons are going to have a big decision to make. Do they address their need for a pass rusher, add much-needed offensive line help… or do they nab the most talented running back in the draft? I can’t see the Falcons entering the season with Devonta Freeman as their starter at running back. Obviously, they could opt to wait and take a running back later on in this deep running back draft class, but when the kid from Georgia is sitting right there how can they pass up the chance at keeping him in town? Regardless, someone will take Gurley in the top 10 now that his surgically repaired knee has passed all the tests and he is on track to play by Week 1.

9. New York Giants – Brandon Scherff, OT, Iowa
Here’s where we start buzz-killing a certain segment of the Vikings’ fan base. I have had Scherff falling to the Vikings in my last two mock drafts. However, that scenario was admittedly tinged with wishful thinking for a Vikings team that finished dead last in pass blocking efficiency last season according to the stat maestros at Pro Football Focus. The Giants could definitely use offensive line help as well, and Scherff would step in and start immediately for them.

10. St. Louis Rams – Devante Parker, WR, Louisville
Offensive line and wide receiver are arguably the Rams’ two biggest areas of need. They were just sniped on Scherff in this scenario but there are still some very good offensive line options available. Tough call, but I see them opting for the third best wideout on the board, thereby removing Parker as an option for the Vikings as well. I had Parker to the Vikings in my very first mock back in January. Now that both of the players I had falling to the Vikings in my previous mock drafts are off the board, what will the Vikings do?

11. Minnesota Vikings – Trae Waynes, CB, Michigan State
I’m defaulting to Waynes for the Vikings. The majority of mock drafts I have seen elsewhere in recent weeks have Waynes to the Vikings at 11 so this shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. Waynes was the fastest defensive back at the combine and has good length and cover skills. He’s not big, nor is he an accomplished tackler. But he doesn’t shy away from contact either, and Mike Zimmer can allegedly coach up any defensive back on the planet to improve his tackling. In that regard this is a perfect fit. I list cornerback as either No. 1 or 1A among the Vikings’ areas of need, with offensive line being the other. Here’s the deal, though: there are several other quality corners that the Vikings could choose from in Round 1. Heck, they could trade down and still get Waynes as long as they don’t move too far. I firmly believe the Vikings will be doing whatever they can to trade out of the 11 spot, move down and accumulate additional picks. That’s what Rick Spielman does. I think there is a better than 50/50 chance they don’t wind up picking at 11. Moving down and still getting Waynes would be ideal, obviously. Marcus Peters, Byron Jones and Kevin Johnson are among the other quality corner options the Vikings could move back and still get. There will be a number of offensive linemen with first-round grades left on the board if the Vikings move down as well. Were you hoping for a wide receiver? There are still a bunch of good ones left and the Vikes could easily get one in the second of third round, especially if they accumulate extra picks. For the purposes of this trade-free mock draft, however, I’ll go with Waynes as the third cornerback to ever be drafted in the first round by the Vikings.

Go to VikingsJournal.com for the rest of my mock draft as well as all kinds of NFL Draft Coverage plus early fantasy football rankings.

Bo Mitchell is the Vice President of Content at Sportradar US, head writer at VikingsJournal.com, co-host of the Fantasy Football Pants Party at 1500ESPN.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America.

You can follow Bo on Twitter at @Bo_Mitchell

VikesCentric: Best Vikings draft ever

Posted by: Bo Mitchell Updated: April 21, 2015 - 9:43 AM

We’re just one year removed, but the Vikings’ 2014 draft is shaping up to be one of the best in franchise history. It’s obviously way too early to jump to such a conclusion, but the trajectories of Teddy Bridgewater and Anthony Barr are awfully promising. It got me wondering… exactly what is the best draft the Vikings have ever had?

I thought it might be easy to decide this one. I figured if I looked back through the years of picks that one or two drafts would jump off the page at me. Given all the Vikings greats over the past 50-something years I assumed there had to be a draft that produced two Hall of Famers or one HOFer and one near-miss. It didn’t work out that way, so I’m enlisting the help of Vikings Journal readers to determine a winner.

It should go without saying that this endeavor is highly subjective – much like my attempt last week at determining the best draft values in Vikings history. Nevertheless, it’s a fun topic to muse. Thus, I combed through all the Vikings drafts and surfaced my top contenders below, arranged by year, for the title of “Best Vikings Draft Ever.”

2007
This will be forever known as the Adrian Peterson draft. Having a generational talent of that magnitude slip to the Vikings at the seventh pick altered the course of the franchise. Peterson has lost some of that luster the past seven months for all the obvious reasons, but one can’t deny the impact he’s had on the Vikings. Strip away the controversy, drama, frustration (call it what you will) of 2014 and we were looking at a player who was on pace to go down as (one of) the best in team history. That alone makes the 2007 draft worthy of considering among the best in Vikings history. However, the Vikings also grabbed Sidney Rice in the second round and Brian Robison in the fourth round in 2007.

2003
Traveling backwards in time, I had to stop at 2003. This draft will be remembered as the one in which the Vikings were forced to pass on the seventh overall pick because time ran out on them as they were allegedly talking trade with the Baltimore Ravens. The Jaguars and Panthers quickly made their picks (Byron Leftwich and Jordan Gross) while the NFL world pointed and laughed at the bumbling Vikings. Then the Vikings selected Kevin Williams at nine, silencing the critics. All would soon be forgiven as Williams turned into one of the best defensive tackles in the game, making six Pro Bowls and five All-Pro teams. You can bet he will garner Hall of Fame consideration when his playing days are over. The Vikings followed up the Williams pick with EJ Henderson and Nate Burleson in the second and third rounds respectively – both of whom went on to successful NFL careers. To cap it off they came away with the self-proclaimed “Steal of the Draft” in round four when they pilfered Onterrio Smith. Okay, maybe that last pick didn’t work out so well. #Whizzinater

1998
This was the Randy Moss draft. First round, 21st overall. Not much more needs to be said. He was a paradigm-shifting lightning rod of ability – the most talented wide receiver I have ever seen. (Note: I said “talented,” not “best”). H/t Jerry Rice. However, adding Matt Birk in the sixth round makes the case for this being the best draft in Vikings history even stronger. As I noted in my piece on all-time draft day values for the Vikings, Birk ranks at or near the top of the best bargain list. It’s possible that this could someday be the first draft in Vikings history that produced two Hall of Famers.

1985
Speaking of Hall of Famers, the Vikings selected Chris Doleman with the fourth-overall pick in 1985 and he went on to appear in eight Pro Bowls and be enshrined in Canton. The Vikings followed up their Hall of Fame first-rounder with Isaac Holt in the second round, Kirk Lowdermilk with one of their three third-round picks and Tim Newton in the sixth round. Lowdermilk was a starting NFL center for a decade between Minnesota and Indianapolis, Holt went on to a nine-year career and had 23 interceptions for the Vikings and Cowboys and Newton wound up playing in 108 NFL games with the Vikings, Buccaneers and Chiefs. This is also the draft that produced Buster Rhymes, whose legacy would be to influence Chuck D of Public Enemy to bestow Trevor Tahiem Smith Jr. with the moniker “Busta Rhymes.” #TheMoreYouKnow

1977
This is the draft that produced “Two-Minute” Tommy Kramer in the first round out of perennial college football powerhouse Rice. The second round gave the Vikings their starting center for the better part of a decade in the form of Dennis Swilley. What really put this particular draft over the top, however, was landing the player who would go on to be the team’s all-time leading tackler in the ninth round: Scott Studwell. Two seven-year starters and a member of the Vikings Ring of Honor in one draft class. Not too shabby.

1967
The 1967 draft is tied with the next draft on this list (1963) in producing seven All-Pro honors and 14 Pro Bowl appearances – that’s the second-most of each in franchise history. This of course is the draft that gave the Vikings Alan Page as the third of three first-round picks. Page was a starter for 15 years, was the first defensive player to be named MVP and was named All-Pro six times. He’s an “inner-circle” Hall of Famer – maybe the best player to ever wear a Vikings uniform. Like the Moss and Peterson drafts listed above, one player alone was enough to make this draft one of the team’s best-ever; however, the Vikings didn’t stop there. Gene Washington, Bob Grim and Bobby Bryant were also selected in 1967 and the three would go on to combine for five Pro Bowl appearances. This draft has to be strongly considered as one of the Vikings’ best.

1963
As mentioned above, this particular draft resulted in 14 Pro Bowls and seven All-Pro honors. However, linebacker Bobby Bell accounted for nine of those Pro Bowls and six of those All-Pros. He played his entire career with the Chiefs, which kind of sabotages any case for this being the best Vikings draft. Nonetheless, it’s a draft worth highlighting as it also included Jim Dunaway and Paul Flatley.

1961
I’m including 1961 on this list for a few reasons. It was the first draft in Vikings history so that makes it important. It was also the draft that gave Vikings Fran Tarkenton, which is undeniably huge, and the players in this draft combined to appear in 21 Pro Bowls – more than any other Vikings draft. Of course, not all those Pro Bowls were as members of the Vikings. Furthermore, the Vikings had a team-record 20 picks in 1961 (tied with 1965 for most in team history) so they wound up selecting five players who never played in the NFL.


So those are the candidates. Which of these drafts was the best draft in Vikings history? Or would you go off the board and nominate one that I didn’t include above? Perhaps the 1983 draft with Joey Browner and Carl Lee? The 1982 draft with Darrin Nelson and Steve Jordan? The 1974 draft with Fred McNeil and Matt Blair? There are many draft classes worthy of your consideration.

Go to VikingsJournal.com for all kinds of NFL Draft Coverage as well as early fantasy football rankings.

Bo Mitchell is the Vice President of Content at SportsData, head writer at VikingsJournal.com, co-host of the Fantasy Football Pants Party at 1500ESPN.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America.

You can follow Bo on Twitter at @Bo_Mitchell

VikesCentric: Report: Vikes are high with their trade value for Peterson

Posted by: Joe Oberle Updated: April 20, 2015 - 8:40 AM

Vikings running back Adrian Peterson was reinstated to the league on Friday. He’s under contract to the Vikings—so he’s a Viking. Now begins the period of time up to the draft when we will hear all kinds of AP trade rumors. One came out on Saturday, and it just might trump them all.

Adam Caplan of ESPN reported that “the thought around the league” is that the Vikings want a “first round draft pick and more compensation” in a trade for Peterson.

"The more compensation would be this, they want a starting cornerback,” Caplan said. “From what I've heard, they've really identified their number one need right now is cornerback," Caplan said.

Caplan also speculated that the Vikings might take a first and a second as compensation for Peterson, but neither “trade offer” is going to get many takers. Clearly the Vikings aren’t very serious about trading Peterson. If this report actually were more than general speculation or a consensus from other teams around the league, than it would appear that the Vikings don’t want to trade Peterson—as they have said for months.

Of course, like any good general manager would do, Vikings GM Rick Spielman would certainly listen to any trade offer for any player (whether he wants to trade him or not)--as you never know when a Herschel Walker-like offer will come along (never again). But according Caplan, Spielman is setting the bar pretty high.

Furthermore, to me the language in this report seems somewhat erroneous. To set the market with a 1st rounder and a starting cornerback is the kind of language that puts prospective trade partners right out of the running from the get-go. I just don’t think many GM’s say, “I want a first and a starting cornerback or else don’t come calling” when putting one of their players on the market--unless they don’t want to make a trade.

So it’s hard to believe that Spielman just threw something out there. But if he did it was designed to limit the chances that any other team would respond to it. Perhaps Spielman told Peterson that he would try to trade him (as it was rumored that Peterson wanted but has never stated on the record), but Spielman likely told him he is not going to take peanuts for him in return. The Vikings have stated over and over that they want Peterson on their team, and if this report is true, they have clearly put a high value on him—the value that they feel he brings to the Vikings.

In other words, if you want to trade for a 30-year old running back with the highest contract in the league at his position, you are going to have to pay dearly for him. Then again, Spielman doesn’t want to ruin his credibility with the other teams in the league by throwing out outrageous trade offers. Ultimately, I think it is just more people speculating on the fact that the Vikings don’t want to trade Peterson (which Caplan said). And for me, it just fortifies my belief that the Vikings have never been interested in trading Peterson.

But that won’t stop me from taking (and running with) one other point out of the report: the Vikings’ desire to get a cornerback. Caplan said that they “identified their number one need right now is cornerback.” And that could be another dubious assumption.

To begin with, it is a pretty specific request for a player. Certainly the Vikings have a need for a cornerback, but they have plenty of other needs also, so why just limit yourself to asking for a starting cornerback? If someone offered the Vikings a starting left guard or middle linebacker and a first round pick, wouldn’t the Vikings jump at that and then select a cornerback with their own first round draft choice?

Even more to the point, when has Spielman ever been in the business of identifying his team’s greatest need in the weeks running up to the draft? To begin with, I don’t think he would do that, and secondly it would serve him no good purpose come draft day—that’s how you get other teams jumping in front of you and taking the players you want. If he has indeed identified his greatest team need as cornerback, it’s very possible it is just another Spielman pre-draft smokescreen.

“I talk to a lot of people, but I’ll be frank,” draft analyst Charles Davis told the Star Tribune. “I don’t know that I trust anybody right now. I don’t mean that they’re lying, but no one wants to tip their hand. So we shall see what happens.”

In the final analysis, while what Caplan is reporting is vague, but accurate—that is, it’s what he is hearing around the league—it’s hard to fathom those specifics coming from the Vikings. I do agree that the Vikings don’t want to trade Peterson unless someone made them an offer they couldn’t refuse, so they are setting the price pretty high.

And if that is where they set the market, it is going to dry up very quickly. We thought we’d start hearing a lot of trade rumors regarding Peterson once he was re-instated. But if this one is true, it will surely put all others to rest.

Head over to Vikings Journal to check out Bo Mitchell's story on the Vikings draft picks with the most value in team history and then join in the conversation on the Vikings Journal forums, where everything Purple is dissected and discussed. 

Joe Oberle is a senior writer at VikingsJournal.comcovers the NFL for The Sports Post and is managing editor of Minnesota Golfer magazine. He is an author and longtime Minnesota-based writer.

VikesCentric: Yet another NFL Draft approach--needs analysis

Posted by: Joe Oberle Updated: April 17, 2015 - 8:31 AM

It’s mid-April with less than two weeks remaining until the NFL Draft. Here and elsewhere countless hours have been spent analyzing just what the Vikings might do with the 11th overall pick in the draft—and we are no closer to knowing. But that doesn’t stop us from looking for one more way to predict the future.

We all have our wishes and hopes for who we want to see the Vikings select. We all figure that filling a certain need could make the most immediate impact to the team, and we have an idea who we like to see taken. But all that could go out the window when the Vikings take the best player available or trade out of their pick or a player drops to them that they can’t pass up—wild card moves that alter reasoned plans.

So, here’s my attempt to look at this in a purely analytical way. I’m saying take those wild card variables out of the equation and analyze it on solely a basis of need (I’ve already done the best player available approach). Try to figure out the biggest hole in the Vikings roster and suggest that they fill it. I am not saying general manager Rick Spielman will follow this suggestion, I am just proposing a simple mathematical solution: A—Vikings’ greatest need + B—a player fills that need = C—the Vikings pick. Easy peasy, right?

As has been discussed, the Vikings have a number of needs going into the draft. Focusing on just starting needs and forgetting about depth for the moment, the Vikings need a cornerback, a safety, a left guard and a middle linebacker. (A defensive end to add into the rotation would be nice, and a wide receiver to grow with young quarterback Teddy Bridgewater would bolster that unit—but those are more best player available picks.)

So, we take each position, determine what’s needed, analyze who’s out there and try to match up a selection. We’ll grade the need on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the greatest need.

Left guard

The Need: The Vikings released former left guard Charlie Johnson this offseason, creating a gaping hole in the spot between center John Sullivan and left tackle Matt Kalil (who is coming off his worst season as a pro). Backup guard Vladimir Ducasse also defected to the Bears via free agency.

Actions taken: Ideally you would like another veteran to slide into that spot, but the Vikings weren’t able to convince Cincinnati guard Clint Boling to come aboard. They did re-sign versatile backup lineman Joe Berger, who currently has to be the default starter.

The player: Iowa guard Brandon Scherff, seen by many as the top guard in the draft. Scherff is big at 6-5, 319 pounds and can apparently lift a house. He would make for a nice compliment next to Kalil. If Scherff makes it to 11 (some mock drafts say yes, others no), he is just what the Vikings need to solidify the line for their young, developing quarterback and aging running back. Another possibility is tackle/guard La’El Collins from LSU.

Need analysis grade: 4--Berger can do the job, but his value was highest when he came off the bench at several positions (particularly at center) last season. Draft Scherff, let him learn behind Berger for a short time and then start him.

Cornerback

The Need: The Vikings have been lacking at corner for years, and now appear to have a decent one in Xavier Rhodes. The roster includes Josh Robinson and Captain Munnerlyn as either starters or nickel and dime players (and the Vikings are hopeful for the development of Jabari Price who they drafted last season). But the unit could use another corner who could develop in Mike Zimmer’s system as Rhodes showed to do last season.

Actions taken: The Vikings signed 36-year-old Terence Newman, who might have had a foot out the door toward retirement. Newman is familiar with Zimmer’s system, has plenty of experience and will be a good teacher/mentor for the younger players, but he is stop-gap at best. If the Vikings can find a player of Rhodes caliber, they will be well on their way to turning a former team weakness into a strength.

The Player: Michigan State cornerback Trae Waynes is considered to be the first corner off the board and is the current fashionable pick for the Vikings in many mock drafts. At 6-0 and 186 pounds, Waynes is not a monster but clocked in as the fastest corner at the NFL combine. He prefers man coverage and can run deep with wideouts, but needs to improve his techniques (he tends to grab receivers a lot, according to NFL.com). Another possibility is Washington cornerback Marcus Peters.

Need analysis grade: 3--Munnerlyn had a down season last year (by his own admission) and took the acquisition of Newman as a personal challenge to do better. Corner is an important position—especially in the NFC North--and if the Vikings feel they can develop Waynes into a shutdown corner they should take him at 11. If not, they may have to grab Peters later or put off moving forward at corner another year.

Safety

The Need: Free safety Harrison Smith is a stud and is in the final year of his contract (the Vikings have a fifth-year option). Before the Vikings do anything else, they need to lock him up, as he will only get better in Zimmer’s defense. But he needs a stronger player alongside him at the strong safety position.

Actions taken: The Vikings went back to the well (Cincinnati) again and grabbed former Zimmer disciple Taylor Mays in free agency. Mays is big (6-3, 225 pounds), loves to hit and should thrive once again in Zimmer’s defense, given his versatility—but he will have to prove himself to be the long-term answer at free safety.

The player: Alabama strong safety Landon Collins is rated as the top strong safety in the draft, but he doesn’t show up in many mock drafters until the 20 spot. Collins is good in run support but is said to have just average hands. He can work with Smith on the Jugs machine.

Need analysis grade: 3--If the Vikings miss on someone else they want at 11, they might be able to trade down for a couple shots at the first round and land Landon and another player. That is a nice move, but a risky one, as Collins has slipped a bit and there are a couple teams that may just bite on him before the gambling Vikings.

Middle Linebacker

The Need: After a one-year return to Minnesota, mike linebacker Jasper Brinkley left via free agency again, signing with the Dallas Cowboys. The Vikings starting linebackers look to be Anthony Barr, Gerald Hodges and Chad Greenway—not terrible, but there isn’t much middle linebacker experience there. Will the Vikings try once again to move Greenway inside like they did during training camp last year, or is he becoming relegated to backup duty? I’m not sure I want to see Barr in the middle after his great season in 2014 outside. Perhaps it becomes Hodges spot to lose. Regardless, the Vikings must address this position.

Actions taken: The Vikings signed two free agent linebackers, Brian Peters of the CFL and Casey Matthews from the Philadelphia Eagles. They are depth signings at best and neither should be seen as a starter (Matthews had 22 tackles starting 11 games last season while Barr had 55 in 12 games).

The Player: There are several linebackers slated as first-round material. Dante Fowler, Jr. and Vic Beasley are expected to go in the top 10, and Randy Gregory a little later. All are outside linebackers in 3-4 schemes, and the Vikings can teach them the 4-3 scheme but they already have Barr who didn’t play a lot of linebacker in college. Plus Gregory has a failed drug test at the Combine on his resume, and therefore has slipped a bit.

Need analysis grade: 3—The Vikings need a mike linebacker, but with the way offenses are passing the ball these days, that position gets less and less time on the field. So I think they may end up passing on linebacker at No. 11. But the linebacking unit as a whole, needs another decent starter, so if one fell in their lap such as Fowler or Beasley, it might be hard to pass up.

In the final analysis, when broken down with number grades (very scientifically, of course), it’s easy to see whom I believe the Vikings should select. In my opinion, the Vikings have the biggest need at left guard, and Brandon Scherff is the player to fill it. If he is available when the Vikings are on the clock, I hope they take him.

Head over to Vikings Journal to check out Bo Mitchell's story on Adrian Peterson being reinstated and then join in the conversation on the Vikings Journal forums, where everything Purple is dissected and discussed. 

Joe Oberle is a senior writer at VikingsJournal.comcovers the NFL for The Sports Post and is managing editor of Minnesota Golfer magazine. He is an author and longtime Minnesota-based writer.

VikesCentric: Vikings first-round draft history

Posted by: Bo Mitchell Updated: April 1, 2015 - 11:32 AM

The NFL Draft begins in four weeks, and given the makeup of the Vikings’ current roster, the offseason moves and the players who might be available when they pick at 11 in the first round, they could go any number of directions. I thought it might be interesting to take a historical look back at the positions the Vikings have addressed with their first-round picks.

We’ve discussed the Vikings’ positions of need here at Vikings Journal ad nauseam all offseason. In short, they seem to be set at quarterback, tight end and kicker. Beyond that it’s pretty wide open (especially if Adrian Peterson is traded). The top needs depend on whom you ask and when you ask them. Thus, I decided to take the temperature of Vikings fans with a little crowdsourcing on Twitter and Facebook yesterday. I threw out the simple question, “What position should the Vikings address with the 11th pick in the NFL Draft?”

This highly unscientific method revealed that the two most coveted positions, by far, among Vikings fans and observers are cornerback and offensive line. There were some calls for wide receiver, linebacker, defensive line and the proverbial “best player available,” but about three-fourths of the responses received in my incredibly air-tight scientific poll have been corner or offensive line. The responses are still trickling in and the next most popular response has been wide receiver.

These results didn’t surprise me too much given where we are at this offseason. I will say that I expected more wide receiver answers since it’s a sexier position and since there should be some good wideouts available when they pick. However, folks must think the Vikings are set now that Mike “No really, I’m happy to be here” Wallace is in the fold. Additionally, it seems few people are sold on the Vikings’ cornerback depth chart as being a finished product with the addition of 36-year-old Terence Newman. Either that or people didn’t realize the Vikings had signed Newman given the news has been literally and figuratively overshadowed by the signing of 6-9, 351-pound tackle Babatunde Aiyegbusi.

When it comes right down to it on draft day, not much would surprise me with the Vikings’ pick at 11 – a cornerback, wide receiver, offensive lineman, linebacker or even trading down to accumulate more picks.

The discussion got me wondering: which positions have the Vikings drafted the most with their first-round picks in the past? Which have they drafted the least? So I did a little digging and found out.

Here are some Vikings’ first-round facts and figures.

  • The Vikings have had 56 first-round picks in 54 drafts, beginning in 1961 with the selection of running back Tommy Mason with the No. 1 overall pick.
  • They have not had any first-round picks in nine drafts, including zero first-rounders from 1989-1992 (thanks, Herschel Walker).  
  • The Vikings have also had multiple first-round picks in nine drafts, including a whopping seven first-rounders over the past three years.
  • The Vikings have drafted five Hall of Famers in the first round: Carl Eller, Alan Page, Ron Yary, Chris Doleman and Randall McDaniel. Oh and one future Hall of Famer: Randy Moss.

Now for the positional breakdown. Here are how many players at each position the Vikings have used their 56 first-round picks on -- 28 each on offense and defense:

Quarterback: 4

Running back: 10

Wide Receiver: 6

Offensive line: 8

Defensive tackle: 9

Defensive end: 10

Linebacker: 5

Cornerback: 2

Safety: 2

Those positions not listed (tight end, kicker, punter, long-snapper, etc.) have not been addressed in the first round by the Vikings.

What stands out to me is the fact the Vikings have used just over one-third of their first-round draft picks on defensive linemen (19 out of 56). There have been some major hits (Eller, Page, Doleman, Keith Millard, Kevin Williams) as well as a bunch of misses (Derrick Alexander, Duane Clemons, Erasmus James and of course Dimitrius Underwood).

Another big takeaway: running back is tied with defensive end as the most popular position for a first-round draft pick in franchise history. How times have changed! There have been zero first-round running backs selected by any teams in the last two NFL Drafts. That streak will most likely end this year because of Melvin Gordon and/or Todd Gurley. Vikings fans shouldn’t be expecting either one unless of course Peterson is dealt before Draft Day.

The Vikings have used first-round picks on the three most popular positions among Vikings fans this season (cornerback, offensive line and wide receiver) 19 times combined – or equal to the number of times they have picked a defensive lineman.

If the Vikings select a cornerback in round one, as many people think and/or hope they will, it will only be the third corner taken in round one in team history. The others are Xavier Rhodes (2013) and Dewayne Washington (1994). That’s it. Using that first-rounder at the end of the month on a corner like Trae Waynes, Marcus Peters, Kevin Johnson or Byron Jones would indeed be a rare move for the Vikings. Moreover, given where most of those corners are projected to be drafted, the Vikes will trade down in the draft and still be able to get one of them.

What position do you think the Vikings will adress this season? No, I’m not suggesting Rick Spielman and his crew will draft based solely on position, plugging a hole at the expense of leaving a better player at a different position on the board. I’m just interested in where Vikings fans view them going as we sit here one month away from the draft. Give me a prediction.

Knowing Spielman, he will probably figure out a way to get two or three first-round picks again this year and make most of our prognostications correct.

Go to VikingsJournal.com for all kinds of NFL Draft Coverage as well as early fantasy football rankings.

Bo Mitchell is the Vice President of Content at SportsData, head writer at VikingsJournal.com, co-host of the Fantasy Football Pants Party at 1500ESPN.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America.

You can follow Bo on Twitter at @Bo_Mitchell

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