Matt Vensel is in his first year at the Star Tribune after covering the Ravens for the Baltimore Sun for six years. He is a Pittsburgh native and a Penn State grad. Follow him at @mattvensel.
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.
At this point, everyone from the expert draftnik to the most casual Vikings fan has discussed the Vikings' No. 3 overall pick ad nauseam. But what about the team's nine other picks? What might a team with numerous holes to fill do on Days 2-3 of this month's NFL draft? On Monday, Access Vikings began a round-by-round look at the team's history in Rounds 2-7 since Rick Spielman began overseeing the team's draft preparation as director of player personnel in 2007. We'll also take a look at players Spielman, now the team's general manager, might select later this month.
TODAY'S ROUND: 4.
VIKINGS' PICKS: 98th overall, 128th overall (compensatory), 134th overall (compensatory).
SINCE 2007: The Vikings have done well in this round. With the three picks they've used, they beefed up their defensive line with Brian Robison, Everson Griffen and Christian Ballard. They've also been active when it comes to trades involving this round. In 2007, they traded their fourth-round pick and a sixth-rounder to move up four spots and take Robison. Later in the fourth round that year, they traded a pick to Denver for a sixth-rounder (Rufus Alexander), a seventh-rounder (Chandler Williams) and a third-rounder in 2008. Although Alexander and Williams didn't stick, the third-rounder in 2008 was used as part of the Jared Allen trade. So not bad there. However, in 2008, the Vikings used their fourth-rounder as part of the package to move up in the second round and take Tyrell Johnson. Not so good. In 2009, the fourth-rounder was traded to Houston for Sage Rosenfels, who was supposed to challenge for the starting quarterback job until Brett Favre arrived fashionably late. And in 2010, the Vikings flipped fourth-round picks as part of the deal that sent the Lions the 30th pick in exchange for the 34th pick. The Lions got the 128th overall pick, while the Vikings got the 100th pick, which was used to pick Griffen.
1, Brian Robison, DE, Texas, 102nd overall 2007: He came in with the perception of being an undersized project whose most interesting trait was an ability to throw the shotput a world-class distance. He was confident, bordering on cocky. And for good reason. The dude can play. He was a valuable backup for four seasons. Then he made disgruntled left end Ray Edwards expendable. Robison took over the starting job in 2011 and proved he can be an every-down player. He also had eight sacks, giving him 21 1/2 in his career.
2, Everson Griffen, DE-LB, USC, 100th overall 2010: At one point, Griffen was projected as a first-round pick. Character concerns dropped his stock considerably. At pick 100, those concerns were well worth the risk. The Vikings not only landed one of their best special teams player, they got a freakish athlete who's 6-3, 273 pounds and runs a 4.6. When the Vikings go with a 3-4 nickel package, it's only because Griffen as a roaming, rushing linebacker is a matchup problem for offenses. Griffen also is strong enough to play inside at tackle in passing situations. Look for the Vikings to continue to use him in creative ways.
TO BE DETERMINED: 1.
1, Christian Ballard, DL, Iowa, 106th overall 2011: One could argue that he's either a hit already or is a safe pick to become one. He's got the size, strength, quickness and overall flexibility to play nose tackle, under tackle or left end. With Letroy Guion moving to nose tackle, Ballard probably will replace Kevin Williams at the three-technique as early as 2013. Ballard started two of 16 games last year and was surprisingly good on special teams. It's odd when defensive ends and defensive tackles are good special teamers, but that's what the Vikings have in Griffen and Ballard.
FIVE PLAYERS TO WATCH IN ROUND 4, 2012:
1, Marcus Forston, DT, Miami, Fla.: A powerful fire-plug at 6-1, 300. He had 12 tackles for loss, including three sacks as a sophomore in 2010. He might have been a higher projection this year had a knee injury not limited him to three games a year ago.
2, DeQuan Menzie, CB, Alabama: He's the Tide's "other" corner, opposite Dre Kirkpatrick, a first-round projection. Menzie is known as an intelligent player, a good tackler and a guy who would fit well in a zone scheme. His 40 time was in the 4.6 range, which might be a concern.
3, Aaron Henry, S, Wisconsin: Had a strong pro day with a 4.5-second 40 and a 39.5-inch vertical. An interesting mid-round prospect who's 6 feet tall, 208 pounds.
4, Tommy Streeter, WR, Miami, Fla.: A 6-5, 215-pound vertical threat who's raw, but worth a look in the fourth round. Had a team-high eight TDs and a 17.6-yard average on 46 catches a year ago.
5, Chase Minnifield, CB, Virginia: I covered his dad, Frank, a corner for the Browns from 1984-92. Frank was an exceptional press corner. That's not something the Vikings ask a lot of with their corners, but it's sure worth looking at a guy with Frank's genes and direction. NFLDraftScout.com ranks Chase as the 14th corner available. Minnifield had arthroscoping knee surgery last month. He's expected to be ready for training camp, if not much sooner. the 5-10, 183-pounder had 13 interceptions in his four seasons.
It’s been 16 days now since free agency opened across the NFL. Here’s your comprehensive report on how the Vikings have operated in the market over the past two-and-a-half weeks.
Turns out the big winner of the Donovan McNabb-Vikings experiment is ... Sage Rosenfels.
Rosenfels, who returned to Minnesota in early December last year, a few days after the Vikings put McNabb on waivers, has now carved out a niche as a reliable veteran back-up quarterback. With free agency opening Tuesday, the Vikings took no chances in letting Rosenfels get away and have now agreed to a new contract.
Details of the new deal have yet to surface.
Still, it puts the 34-year-old Rosenfels in position to head to training camp this summer as the Vikings' No. 3 signal caller behind Christian Ponder and Joe Webb.The Vikings believe Rosenfels' presence will be a plus and he should provide leadership that will help steady Ponder and Webb.
Rosenfels has spent 11 seasons in the NFL but hasn't thrown a pass since December 2008 when with the Houston Texans.
Rosenfels' first stint with the Vikings began in 2009 when he was brought to Winter Park to compete with Tarvaris Jackson for the starting quarterback job. But eventually Brett Favre later rode into town and altered the script dramatically. Rosenfels never played in '09 and left to join the Giants for the 2010 season.
He was with Miami early last season but was eventually waived with the Vikings swooping in to land him as their No. 3 quarterback after McNabb's exit.
The Vikings wrapped up their final (thank goodness) practice of the season on Friday. Afterward, coach Leslie Frazier talked about the 17 players who will become unrestricted free agents after Sunday's game against Chicago at Mall of America Field.
"It's a tough deal when you have guys that can help you," Frazier said. "But in this age of free agency, most guys that can still can perform are going to want to explore. We'll do whatever we can with those guys that we really want to keep here, to keep here.
"But when guys have been contributors to your team and have helped you to get through what we've had to go through, you'd like to find a way to keep those guys around, believing that you're going to get it turned, and they're going to be a part of that turn. But you wish nothing but the best for every player who becomes a free agent. Hopefully, it works out that they're a part of what we're doing. But if not and they end up somewhere else, you want to see them succeed."
The 17 players who will become unrestricted free agents are: FS Husain Abdullah, MLB E.J. Henderson, OLB Erin Henderson, TE Visanthe Shiancoe, WR Devin Aromashodu, RB Lorenzo Booker, CB Benny Sapp, S Tyrell Johnson, LB Xavier Adibi, WR Greg Camarillo, DT Fred Evans, DT Letroy Guion, TE Jim Kleinsasser, OL Scott Kooistra, LS Matt Katula, S Jarrad Page and QB Sage Rosenfels.
Frazier was asked to evaluate E.J. Henderson, who has been with the team since 2003 and has been a starter since 2004.
"I think he's done a lot of good things," Frazier said. "After the bye, he really came on for us. He struggled a little bit early in the year, battling with injuries. But after the bye, he came back and had played better. That's in large part due to his health. We did some things to take some reps off him as well. His leadership has helped us to get through a tough season and his play has been very good for us. There are some things that he would like to do better, but overall I think he did a good job."
Asked if he thinks Henderson can still be a starting middle linebacker next season, Frazier said, "I think he does. The thing he's dealing with now is just staying healthy. The biggest thing is to stay healthy enough to participate and practice and get what he needs from practice and a game. But he can definitely still be a 16-game starter."
In other news:
Even during a 2-10 disaster, it's never good when the head coach steps to the podium the day after a game and announces the most significant injury belongs to the quarterback.
Rookie Christian Ponder has a hip-pointer compliments of the beating he took during Sunday's 35-32 loss to the Broncos at Mall of America Field. Coach Leslie Frazier said the hit that caused the injury came early on, which makes sense since Ponder was seen limping very early in the game.
Ponder stayed in the game and threw for 381 yards, a franchise rookie record, but he also turned the ball over three times, leading to 10 points and costing at least another 3 because his fumble came in the red zone.
"Christian was probably the guy who was the one we're most concerned about," Frazier said. "He has a hip-pointer. We'll have to see how he progresses as the week goes on. He took a shot early in the game and was able to finish the game, but it did inhibit his movement. So we'll see how he does as the week goes on."
Frazier said Ponder would be limited in practice, if he's able to practice at all. If Ponder can't play, Frazier said Joe Webb would start. Sage Rosenfels, who was signed on Friday, doesn't know the offense well enough yet to start, Frazier said.
In other injury news:
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