VikesCentric is written by Twin Cities football writers Bo Mitchell of SportsData and Patrick Donnelly, who has written on a variety of Minnesota sports topics. Mitchell and Donnelly are Twin Cities-based Vikings and NFL experts who crunch numbers, watch video and tell you what's on their minds.

Posts about Adrian Peterson

VikesCentric: Vikings’ draft earns passing mark (but not a letter grade)

Posted by: Bo Mitchell Updated: May 10, 2014 - 10:03 PM

Immediately handing out letter grades to measure how well teams did in the NFL Draft can be a trite waste of time. Let’s be honest, nobody knows specifically how well the drafted players will pan out. Thus, assigning letter grades before any of them have suited up for their new teams – or even signed their contracts -- is presumptuous. It presumes the author or blogger has detailed insight on exactly how talented each player is, how hard they’ll work and how well they will fit the systems into which they’ve been drafted. More significantly, it presumes an ability to, you know, foretell the future. Coaching changes, roster changes, scheme changes, luck, suspensions, injuries, etc. are impossible to forecast.

However, my guess is that if you make your way around the Internet the next 48 hours looking for draft analysis you’ll see a lot of letter grades. They make for effective headlines. That’s about it. Show me a draft from five years ago and then maybe we can talk letter grades.

So what can we adequately ascertain in the immediate aftermath of the biggest weekend of the NFL offseason? We can gauge how well a team like the Vikings addressed their perceived needs… and not much more. We don’t know what their big board looked like. We don’t know what trades were offered or turned down. We can only surmise they followed their plan. In light of that, I’d give the Vikings a passing grade on the pass/fail system. Or maybe just a big thumbs up.

Going into the draft the Vikings appeared to have needs at every level of their defense as well as quarterback, backup running back and offensive line depth. To that end, the Vikings successfully checked every box. On defense, they wound up with two linemen, two linebackers and three defensive backs (two corners, and a corner being converted to safety). On offense, they landed a possible long-term answer at quarterback, a versatile guard and an interesting running back.

As draft day approached general manager Rick Spielman was very open about his desire to accumulate more picks – to turn his eight picks into 10 picks. That’s precisely what they did. Again, to that end, the Vikings succeeded.

Prior to the draft, I went on the record in this space predicting (like many others did) that the Vikes would trade back and go defense with their first pick and then hope one of their top-three quarterbacks would still be available when it was their turn to pick again. I also suggested on radio airwaves (and really to anyone who asked) that the Vikings might look for a pass-catching type of tailback to complement Adrian Peterson – someone like a Darren Sproles, who thrived under Norv Turner in San Diego.

We have a bingo on all of the above.

Yes, the Vikings executed their stated plan of stockpiling picks, drafted players at positions of apparent need and even fulfilled some of my educated guesses. That’s a trifecta or something.

Anthony Barr gives them a raw athlete at linebacker, the likes of which the Vikings have never had. Barr will provide immediate help rushing the passer and should develop quickly into a versatile, three-down impact defender. Watching him on tape is reminiscent of watching Jason Taylor. The ceiling is extremely high. Did the Vikings take him too early? Who knows? Again, we’re not assigning letter grades. What we know is that the Vikings really wanted him and had to take him when they did. What we’ve heard is that the Lions (11th pick) coveted him, the Titans (12th pick) really liked him and the Cowboys (16th pick) were prepared to take him. Head coach Mike Zimmer told KFAN that he heard from two other teams who picked soon after the Vikings that they would have taken Barr if he had still been on the board.

Anyone familiar with this VikesCentric space or my Twitter account (@Bo_Mitchell) knows I was beating the drum loudly for Johnny Manziel to be the quarterback the Vikings drafted. It would have been a lot of fun if they had done so. I’m a Manziel believer and love to watch him play. I think his skills will translate well enough to the NFL and his highlight reel plays will be on ESPN for years. Finding a replacement in Cleveland for rumored-to-be-suspended All-Pro wide receiver Josh Gordon will be tough to do so that hurts his immediate outlook, but I won’t back away from my overall Manziel assessment.

Having said all of that, I also really like Teddy Bridgewater. He won’t be as fun to watch as Manziel, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Bridgewater has great mechanics and footwork; he’s calm under pressure, is as tough as they come and has football smarts. His arm is plenty strong enough and the metrics suggest clearly he was the most accurate passer in the nation last season. His work in a pro-style offense in college will definitely help – as will working with coach Turner. He might never be as fun to watch as Manziel, but few will be. Bridgewater might turn out to be better than Manziel for all I know. If I had to loosely compare him to a current NFL quarterback, it would be Russell Wilson… and he’s turned out okay so far.

In third-round pick Scott Crichton and the first of their three seventh-round picks Shamar Stephen, the Vikings added more depth for coach Zimmer’s blueprint of rotating defensive linemen. The trio of sixth and seventh-round picks they made to bolster their defensive secondary should help. None appear destined to start anytime soon, but depth is crucial in this pass-happy league. The more bites of the apple you take, the better chance one pans out, so for the Vikings’ sake hopefully at least one of the three – Antone Exum, Kendall James or Jabari Price – sticks around and has an impact.

Back on offense, fifth-round selection David Yankey has the makings of a superior backup or very solid starter. He should push Charlie Johnson and/or Brandon Fusco for playing time at guard at some point, perhaps early this season.

Lastly, the pick with whom I am most intrigued is cornerback-turned-quarterback/running back Jerrick McKinnon out of Georgia Southern (their third-round pick). I’m not sure what to make of him yet but his combine numbers were absurd. It sounds like the Vikings plan to use him as a speedy, pass-catching running back and possible punt returner – their version of Sproles. He could turn out to be a great deal of fun to watch and a good change of pace to Peterson.

Letter grade: incomplete, but it looks pretty good on paper.

Bo Mitchell is the Vice President of Content at SportsData and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America

You can follow Bo on Twitter at @Bo_Mitchell

VikesCentric: Vikings face long odds if they fall to 0-2

Posted by: Bo Mitchell Updated: September 13, 2013 - 9:21 PM

There aren't many outside of Winter Park who seriously expect the Minnesota Vikings to win on Sunday. You know it's true.

In fact, given their history at Soldier Field, one has to wonder just how confident the Vikings themselves are of coming away with a win in Chicago this Sunday. Obviously, not a single person employed by the Vikings would ever admit such a thing on the record, but it is human nature to have such doubts. A look at the track record tells us why.

It's perfectly logical to question the Vikings' ability to win in Chicago – where the Bears have won the last five in a row and 11 of the last 12. That's an unmistakable trend, folks. Yes, the Vikings beat the Bears the last time these two teams squared off in Week 14 last season, but that was at Mall of America Field.

Vikings vs. Bears in Chicago
Year Bears Vikings
2012 28 10
2011 39 10
2010 27 13
2009 36 30
2008 48 41
2007 31 34
2006 23 13
2005 28 3
2004 24 14
2003 13 10
2002 27 23
2001 17 10

The Bears have defeated the Vikings by an average score of 28.4 to 17.6 over the last 12 games in the Chicago. My Richfield math tells me that's a double-digit difference on average. That's not promising for the Purple.

As the table shows, the Vikings' lone win in the Windy City in the last 12 years came in 2007. They needed overtime as well as 224 rushing yards and three touchdowns from a rookie named Adrian Peterson to win that day. They might need a similar Herculean effort from the MVP to do it again – which of course is never out of the question when it comes to Peterson.

Regardless of what Adrian does, Christian Ponder needs to play better and the defense needs to figure out a way to stop Matt Forte or he'll do the same thing Reggie Bush did to them in Week 1.

Moreover, if the Vikings are serious about their playoff chances – and I have every reason to believe that they are -- they'll have to buck the odds and figure out a way to win. If you've been paying attention to football at all this past week you have undoubtedly heard the daunting statistic about 0-2 teams and the postseason: since the playoffs expanded to 12 teams in 1990, 0-2 teams have gone on to make the playoffs only 11.6 percent of the time.

Of course, starting 0-2 on the road isn't the worst thing in the world. I think the Vikings will likely lose this Sunday, but I also expect them to win their next two games against the Cleveland Browns (at home) and Pittsburgh Steelers (in London). I'm guessing the percentage of teams that start 2-2 and make the playoffs is considerably higher than 11.6.

Should Vikings fans be concerned if they fall to 0-2 this Sunday? Of course. Should they throw in the towel on 2013 if they lose? Absolutely not.

Bo Mitchell is the Vice President of Content at SportsData

You can follow Bo on Twitter at @Bo_Mitchell

VikesCentric: Four Who Flashed vs. Buffalo

Posted by: Patrick Donnelly Updated: August 16, 2013 - 10:59 PM

We've started a new feature here at VikesCentric for the hotly awaited 2013 preseason (also known as the NFL's annual festival of gouging season-ticket holders by charging full price for a glorified scrimmage). We're calling it "Four Who Flashed" because "flashing" is our favorite preseason football cliché. No, it has nothing to do with Dino Ciccarelli (but just to be safe, don't read this with your garage door open). It's a buzzword used by the likes of Mike Mayock to describe a player who showed tremendous ability on the football field, perhaps even rising beyond expectations to merit extra attention. And we're limiting it to the preseason because in the regular season we'd have to call it "Adrian Peterson and Three Other Guys" – though we discussed tweaking it in Week 1 and calling it "While You Were Having Your Breath Taken Away by Adrian Peterson" to highlight the work of one of the less-heralded 52 Vikings. Honestly, we're still workshopping it. Stay tuned. 

So without further delay, here are the Four Who Flashed on Friday night against the Bills: 

1. Jeff Locke – Last week the rookie punter put up some pedestrian numbers (38.2-yard average on five kicks), mostly because he was usually kicking from midfield and trying to pin the Texans deep in their own territory. Still, he had a couple of chances to show off his big leg and didn't really come through. On Friday, the offense's struggles gave him more opportunities to prove special teams coordinator Mike Priefer right, and he came through with a big night. Locke punted seven times for a 48.9-yard average, dropped three punts inside the 10 and had a couple of bombs, including a 61-yarder. Blair Walsh showed last year that having elite special teams can help a good-but-not-great team overachieve. Locke could be the latest rookie to push the Vikings' kicking game over the top. 

2. Bobby Felder – The rookie free agent from Nicholls State is probably going to have a hard time cracking the 53-man roster, but if he keeps playing special teams like he did on Friday, the Vikings might have to find a spot for him. He calmly downed two of Locke's punts inside Buffalo's 5-yard line, and when the Vikings needed a big return to set up their final possession, he fielded a punt inside his own 10 (usually a no-no, but this is the preseason, where a guy like Felder is trying to make a name for himself) and brought it back 37 yards to set the offense up near midfield. Add in six tackles and suddenly you've got a guy who might be picking up some steam as we head to roster cutdown day. 

3. Toby Gerhart – The Vikings know what they have in Gerhart: a no-nonsense back who can do a little bit of everything but rarely gets to show his skills because of that Peterson fellow. This preseason is Gerhart's chance to audition for other teams – he's in his walk year and there's likely no way the Vikings bring him back, barring something catastrophic happening to Peterson that we hesitate to even write about so let's just forget we even said anything. On Friday, Gerhart showcased his pile-driving ability with a 9-yard run that was pretty much two yards of running and seven yards of shoving the defense backward just by keeping his feet moving. On the next play, Gerhart nimbly side-stepped a would-be tackler and converted a third-and-1 to move the chains on the first-team offense's only scoring drive. Gerhart's agent would do well to send that two-play snippet to any GM wondering about his client's versatility. 

4. Kyle Rudolph – The term "catch radius" was invented with Rudolph in mind. Basically, you throw it anywhere within five yards of this guy and he's going to find a way to catch it. He hauled in three balls from Christian Ponder including a leaping grab on the run that he took downfield for 25 yards. In fact, the one ball that hit him in the gut was the only one he dropped. He's such a unique talent – the trick will be making sure Ponder has enough time to find him (he usually didn't on Friday) and enough accuracy to get the ball somewhere remotely near his favorite tight end. Rudolph will take care of the rest.  

 

Patrick Donnelly is a Senior Editor at SportsData, a contributor to the Vikings Yearbook, and has covered the Vikings for FOXSportsNorth.com, Viking Update and the Associated Press. Follow him on Twitter at @donnelly612.

VikesCentric: Four who flashed vs. Houston

Posted by: Patrick Donnelly Updated: August 10, 2013 - 1:34 AM

We're going to debut a new feature here at VikesCentric for the hotly awaited 2013 preseason (also known as the NFL's annual festival of gouging season-ticket holders by charging full price for a glorified scrimmage). We're calling it "Four Who Flashed" because "flashing" is our favorite preseason football cliché. No, it has nothing to do with Dino Ciccarelli (but just to be safe, don't read this with your garage door open). It's a buzzword used by the likes of Mike Mayock to describe a player who showed tremendous ability on the football field, perhaps even rising beyond expectations to merit extra attention. And we're limiting it to the preseason because in the regular season we'd have to call it "Adrian Peterson and Three Other Guys" – though we discussed tweaking it in Week 1 and calling it "While You Were Having Your Breath Taken Away by Adrian Peterson" to highlight the work of one of the less-heralded 52 Vikings. Honestly, we're still workshopping it. Stay tuned.

So without further delay, here are the Four Who Flashed on Friday night against the Texans:

1. Stephen Burton – The Vikings' seventh-round pick in 2011 hasn't had much of a chance to shine since leaving the hardscrabble (we assume) fields of West Texas A&M. With seven total catches in his first two NFL seasons, he's clearly fighting for a job this year. His performance on Friday gave him a leg up on the competition. The 52-yard catch-and-run, complete with the stop-on-a-dime cutback at midfield that broke the play wide open, surely caught your eye. I was more sold on his downfield blocking, particularly on Zach Line's rumble down the sideline for the Vikings' sole touchdown of the night. Those are the kinds of plays that will help Burton stick around in Minneapolis for another glorious season of Vikings football.

2. Cordarrelle Patterson – We're going to have to learn how to spell this guy's name without looking it up pretty soon (pro tip: if you think a consonant should be doubled, you're probably right). Because it's becoming increasingly clear the Vikings are going to find a way to get the ball in his hands this year. His 50-yard kickoff return to open the game electrified the crowd (as much as one can electrify a preseason crowd) and he showcased his guts and girth by going over the middle and bouncing off would-be tacklers en route to a 4-catch, 54-yard night. I'm still not sure he got all 10 toes in bounds on that sideline catch in the second quarter, and you can quibble about him letting a Matt Cassel dying quail slip through his fingers, but for one week at least, you can close your eyes and imagine Patterson picking up at least some of the slack left by Percy Harvin's departure.

3. Sharrif Floyd – Playing the role of Kevin Williams on Friday night (because Williams was playing the role of a highly paid spectator, like most of the Vikings' starters), Floyd batted down a pass at the line, broke through for a tackle-for-loss, and generally provided energy on the second-team d-line. He gave everybody quite a scare when he crumpled to the ground with a knee injury, but postgame reports indicate that he could have returned had the game meant anything, which, of course, it most definitely did not, unless you're the Wilfs' accountant. But he's got a lot on his mind this week anyway, so Floyd joined his mentor on the sidelines for the remainder of the game and that's probably for the best.

4. John Carlson – No former Notre Dame player who didn't have a fake girlfriend was more eager to see the 2013 season begin than Carlson, who cashed a big paycheck to come back home and then caught only eight balls in another injury-riddled season. On Friday, with fellow ex-Domer Kyle Rudolph a mildly interested spectator, Carlson was on the other end of two passes from Cassel. One took the offense inside the 5-yard line before True MVP Blair Walsh hit the first of his two field goals on the night. The other was a quick-hitter that resulted in Carlson being quickly hit by numerous Texans. That he held onto both balls was a good sign. That he popped right back up and rejoined the fray was an even better sign. You might have heard that multiple tight ends are all the rage in the NFL these days, and if the Vikings can pair Rudolph with a healthy Carlson for 16 games, their offense will be a bit more dangerous on days when Peterson is held to 175 or so rushing yards.

 

Patrick Donnelly is a Senior Editor at SportsData, a contributor to the Vikings Yearbook, and has covered the Vikings for FOXSportsNorth.com, Viking Update and the Associated Press. Follow him on Twitter at @donnelly612.

VikesCentric: Up close with Vikings new uniforms

Posted by: Bo Mitchell Updated: April 25, 2013 - 7:07 PM

The Minnesota Vikings unveiled their sparkly new uniforms at their Draft Party Thursday night. Yeah, I know the uniform images were surreptitiously leaked all over the Internet earlier this week, but this was our first chance to get an up-close and personal look at the new outfits. If nothing else it was a good pre-draft diversion for those in attendance at Mall of America Field.

 
I think Vikings fans got what they wanted – a move away from the Denver Broncos-esque template toward an older, simpler time. But they didn't simply go back to a previous version; they gave the new uniform some refinements and flourishes. Had they gone even more modern, toward some Oregon Duck-inspired look, there would have been something of a revolt among the Vikings faithful. And had they attempted some sort of two-toned helmet fiasco akin to what the Jacksonville Jaguars unleashed on our ill-prepared eyeballs this week there likely would have been outright wailing and gnashing of teeth on the floor of the Metrodome.
 
Here are a few shots of the new threads. The first is from the Vikings. The last two are courtesy of Bo Mitchell photography (with a cameo appearance by KARE-11's Eric Perkins):
 

 

As you can see, the new uniforms have something of a throwback look. 

The overall feel is somewhat reminiscent of their old uniforms from the 1970s and 1980s, especially the pants stripe, which I tried to capture in the final photo below.

I thoroughly enjoy the matte helmet and black facemask. It gives the overall ensemble a more rugged feel… or something. I don't know; I'm just partial to the matte helmet as opposed to the shiny ones most teams are wearing right now. This is clearly a trend, though. A lot of teams will likely be going with the matte hats in years to come.
 
The uniform has a deeper purple, a step away from the nearly-lavender tones (under the wrong lighting) we've witnessed in the past. The gold trim seems sharper and a bit brighter, which is cool. They also did away with the gold "collars" from last year, thankfully. That look never really worked for me.
 
Personally, my favorite part of the new uniforms is the return of the purple pants for road uniforms.
 
I've been calling for the purple pants to make a triumphant and permanent comeback since they first disappeared decades ago. The Vikings dabbled with the purple pants a handful of seasons ago, but they suddenly disappeared as quickly as they reappeared, much to my chagrin.
Let's hope they are back to stay this time.
 
Speaking of the purple pants, there is a version of the uniform not pictured here that includes the pairing of purple pants and purple jersey – the full Barney look. I imagine this look will be saved for special occasions, but I do not have that confirmed.
 
The Vikes added some "curve appeal" to the new jerseys, and I'm not crazy about it. It's my only quibble. That's probably nit-picking, I realize. The striping on the sleeve is toned down and looks pretty sharp, but gets thicker and curves on the back of the jersey. I tried to capture this element on the final photo here – the one where he's talking to Perk. This shoulder stripe curving corresponds to the curving that you probably notice on the edge of the numbers (see the Adrian Peterson examples above). I get what they were going for here – something to do with the curved bow of a Viking ship. This curving will have to grow on me, though.
 
And with that, I think I've gone more in-depth on uniforms than I ever thought I would. I'll stop there.
 
I'm sure Vikings fans reading this post have plenty of opinions on the new uniforms so please feel free to chime in with your thoughts in the comment section below. Do you like them or loathe them?
 
Most importantly to the Vikings and NFL, how quickly will you rush out and purchase yourself a new Vikings jersey?
 
 
Bo Mitchell is the VP of Content at SportsData
You can follow Bo on Twitter at @Bo_Mitchell

VikesCentric Extra: What happens now that Harvin is gone?

Posted by: Bo Mitchell Updated: March 11, 2013 - 2:25 PM

I was plugging away at our palatial SportsData offices late this morning when NFL insider Adam Schefter appeared on SportsCenter telling ESPN's audience that the Vikings were in serious talks with the Seahawks about a trade involving Percy Harvin for draft picks. Not 10 minutes later my Tweetdeck feed blew up with reports that the deal was done, pending a physical.

 
"That escalated quickly" – Ron Burgundy
 
Jay Glazer of FOX Sports was the first to report it, according to my scorecard, not that it matters much. Within seconds, others like ESPN 1500's Tom Pelissero and the Star Tribune also had it. Within minutes, reaction to the blockbuster took off via Twitter… including much of my own (@BoMitchell).
 
Yeah, some of the reaction was clearly of the tongue-in-cheek variety (see photo) and much of it was wild speculation. That's where we come in.
 
We'll probably know a lot more within the next 24-36 hours, as NFL free agency kicks off at 3 p.m. CT on Tuesday, but what say you, Vikings fans? Where do the Vikings go from here at wide receiver?
 
If it wasn't already their most glaring position of need, it most certainly is now.
 
Reports currently have the Vikings armed with at least $17 million in salary cap space as well as two first-round draft picks (their own pick plus the Seahawks' pick in return for Harvin.) That's solid ammo to go after wide receiver help.
 
The most immediate reaction to the news was that the Vikings now have more cap room to make a run at Mike Wallace or Greg Jennings in free agency. And more of a dire need to do so.
 
The Palm Beach Post reported Monday that Wallace to the Dolphins was a "done deal," but that was before the Harvin Twitter bomb exploded. The USA Today had a piece on Jennings over the weekend in which the soon-to-be-former Packers wide receiver said that the quality of quarterback would be a factor in deciding where to sign in free agency. That would seem to work against the Vikings, but never forget: money talks. Plus Jennings seems to have a certain level of admiration for Adrian Peterson, if his late-season comments are any indication.
 
One theory has the Vikings taking one of those first-round picks and making an offer to Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz, who is a restricted free agent and was assigned a first-round tender about an hour after the Harvin news broke. Should the Vikings make Cruz an offer he can't resist to come and do his salsa dancing in Minnesota? They have an "extra" first-round pick to give the Giants now.
 
Then there's Larry Fitzgerald, for whom many Vikings fans have been pining for a long time. "Bring home, Larry," the thinking goes. "He's one of us. He belongs in purple." There's no arguing he'd be a great fit in the Vikings offense (or pretty much any offense for that matter). There's also no arguing with the potential PR bonanza, jersey sales, etc. Fitzgerald has never been a malcontent a la the departing Harvin. Quite the opposite, actually – he's long been considered a "good guy." To borrow a popular Twitter meme, if the NFL were the WWE, Fitzgerald would be a face and Harvin would be a heel. Both are fantastic, yet different, talents.
 
Of course, the Vikings could just stay the course, lay low in free agency, and grab one or two wide receivers in the draft. Having multiple first-round picks also affords them the option of moving up in round one to grab someone they really covet.
 
Let's face it, the Vikings had to get rid of Harvin because it's likely only a sliver of what actually transpired between him and the team was ever made public. He was going to be a free agent in a year, was likely going to hold out, reportedly didn't want to be here and definitely would have left in 12 months for a fat payday elsewhere. They got a good return for him, all things considered, as my VikesCentric colleague Ted Carlson points out. Moreover, if the likes of Wallace, Jennings, Cruz, Fitzgerald, or some other wide receiving talent we're not even considering yet, winds up in Purple as a result, even better.
 
Time for you to weigh in, Vikings fans… who would you like to see your team pursue at wide receiver now that Percy is gone?
 
Bo Mitchell is the VP of Content at SportsData
You can follow Bo on Twitter at @Bo_Mitchell

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