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 before arriving in Minneapolis. Follow him at @masterstrib.

Posts about Brett Favre

Fourth round: Will Vikings continue building D-line here?

Posted by: Updated: April 12, 2012 - 11:36 AM

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.

 [[[ See our previous breakdowns: ROUND 2, ROUND 3 ]]]


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.  

HITS: 2.

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. 


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.


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. 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.  

[[[ See our previous breakdowns: ROUND 2; ROUND 3. ]]]



Second round: Vikings looking for another hit at receiver?

Posted by: Mark Craig Updated: April 10, 2012 - 9:18 AM

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? Starting today, Access Vikings will take 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.


VIKINGS' PICK: 35th overall.

SINCE 2007: The Vikings have had six second-round picks in the past five drafts. The team has taken four offensive players and two defensive players. They've traded up to pick Toby Gerhart and have traded down and gotten Sidney Rice. They also picked Chris Cook after trading out of the first round.

HITS: 1.

1, Sidney Rice, WR, South Carolina, 44th overall 2007: The Vikings traded down three spots, picked up a fourth-rounder and still came away with Rice. Rice became Brett Favre's favorite receiver during the 2009 run to the NFC Championship game. His hip surgery in the summer of 2010 was a key moment in the team's collapse. He left via free agency in 2011 and the Vikings have yet to replace him as a deep threat. Although injuries and his departure limited his impact, he was still a "hit" pick in the second round.


1, Tyrell Johnson, S, Arkansas State, 43rd overall 2008: This is Spielman's most disappointing selection. In four seasons, Johnson never fit with the system or the coaching staff. He lacked instincts and wasn't a good tackler. He also had only one year in which he had more than 22 solo tackles. Johnson has signed by Miami and might resurrect his career with the Dolphins. But no one can deny that his first four seasons were a major miss, especially considering the Vikings traded up four spots to get him. They gave up a fourth-rounder, but also got a fifth-rounder that became Letroy Guion. Guion might be the team's starting nose tackle this year.


1, Phil Loadholt, RT, Oklahoma, 54th overall, 2009: He's been a starter since Day 1, so he's not a miss. But he still lacks the consistency to be considered a hit.

2, Chris Cook, CB, Virginia, 34th overall 2010: On the field, he was becoming a hit until, well, you know. A 6-2 corner with above-average speed and cover skills, he was regaining the confidence he lost while battling nagging knee injuries in 2010. But then came the arrest for domestic assault that wiped out the final 10 games of 2011. He has since been found innocent of all charges and isn't expected to be suspended by the league. With a new appreciation for football and freedom, Cook should go on to make this pick a hit. Also helping this pick is the fact the Vikings also got a fourth-round pick as part of the deal that saw them give Detroit the 30th overall pick. The Vikings used that fourth-rounder on Everson Griffen, one of the team's more promising young defenders.

3, Toby Gerhart, RB, Stanford, 51st overall 2010: He's definitely not a miss. He's done all that's been asked in his role as Adrian Peterson's backup. He also gives the team a strong Plan B starter if Peterson can't return from his torn ACL in time for the start of the 2012 season. However, that being said, one has to wonder whether the team simply gave up too much to get a backup running back. Besides using a second-round pick on Gerhart, the team also had to give up its third-round pick to move up in the second round. Gerhart can post a solid career and still not make that pick a strong "hit."

4, Kyle Rudolph, TE, Notre Dame, 43rd overall 2011: He has all the physical skills and certainly appears to be heading toward hit status. However, we'll need more than 26 catches for 249 yards and three touchdowns as evidence that he was worthy of a second-round pick.


1, Stephen Hill, WR, Georgia Tech: The 6-4, 215-pounder with the freakish 4.36 40-yard dash has become one of the pre-draft darlings. After his combine performance, many now believe he won't make it out of the first round. But if he does and the Vikings don't take Oklahoma State receiver Justin Blackmon with the No. 3 pick, Hill is a possibility at No. 35. He caught only 28 passes in an option offense last year. But he also averaged 29.3 yards per catch with five touchdowns.

2, Mike Adams, OT, Ohio State: If the Vikings don't take USC's Matt Kalil with the third overall pick, they might be looking for Christian Ponder's blind-side protector at the top of the second round. Adams is a 6-7, 323-pounder that could last into the second round. He's known to have good technique, but there reportedly are concerns about character and work ethic.

3, Stephon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina: Even though the Vikings have added free agent corners Chris Carr and Zack Bowman, they still can use a quality youngster to help them deal with an NFC North division that's loaded with giant receivers and big-time QBs. Gilmore fits a zone defense and has the size (6-foot, 190) and 4.4 speed to help at a position of need.

4, Harrison Smith, S, Notre Dame: It's pretty well established that Spielman loves players from Notre Dame. It's also well established that the Vikings have but three safeties under contract. It's one of the unheralded positions of need. Smith is a 6-2, 213-pounder with the strength and power to possibly give the Vikings a presence at safety that's been lacking. 

5, Dont'a Hightower, ILB, Alabama: E.J. Henderson isn't expected back and his heir apparent, Jasper Brinkley, missed all of last season because of hip surgery. Hightower could be an excellent pick at the top of the second round. He's 6-2, 265 pounds, runs a sub 4.7 40 and certainly displayed all the necessary instincts of a middle linebacker while he was helping Alabama become the country's most dominant defense.     

Rob Gronkowski makes good on promise to smash Jared Allen

Posted by: Updated: April 4, 2012 - 10:37 AM

Good news for Vikings star Jared Allen: he no longer has to worry about being swallowed up by the Madden curse.

This year, EA Sports is using a bracket format and fan voting to determine which player will be put on the cover of its "Madden '13" NFL video game. In the first round of the tournament, Allen cruised past Dallas' DeMarcus Ware, winning 58 percent of the vote in that head-to-head matchup.

But in the Sweet 16, Allen was handily beaten by New England tight end Rob Gronkowski -- 65 percent to 35 percent. Gronkowski guaranteed such a destruction, channeling his inner-Gallagher and smashing a watermelon which he said represented Allen.

Gronk, who just might have been seperated at birth from Ronnie of MTV's "Jersey Shore", now moves on to the Elite Eight of the Madden cover vote bracket where he'll next take on Detroit's Calvin Johnson.

The other three quarterfinal matchups: Aaron Rodgers vs. Ray Rice; Cam Newton vs. Larry Fitzgerald; and Patrick Willis vs. Victor Cruz.

As for Allen, this is one loss he might actually be celebrating. After all, appearing on the cover of Madden might seem like an honor. In truth, it's a trap door into misfortune. Some of the more notable victims of the Madden curse:

2001 (Madden '02 cover) - Daunte Culpepper suffered a career-altering knee injury.

2002 (Madden '03 cover) - Marshall Faulk was bothered by an ankle injury and struggled through an unproductive year.

2003 (Madden '04 cover) - Michael Vick broke his leg in the preseason.

2005 (Madden '06 cover) - Donovan McNabb suffered a sports hernia early in the season, struggled to play with it and later went on the shelf for the final seven games of the season.

2006 (Madden '07 cover) - Shaun Alexander suffered a broken foot early in the season.

2007 (Madden '08 cover) - Vince Young went down with a quadriceps injury.

2008 (Madden '09 cover) - Brett Favre led the New York Jets to an 8-3 start then faltered down the stretch, his shoulder pain contributing to the Jets' four losses in the final five games.

2009 (Madden '10 cover) - Troy Polamalu suffered a sprained MCL in the Steelers' season opener and missed 11 games.

2011 (Madden '12 cover) - Peyton Hillis was banged up all season, missed six games and rushed for 587 yards, less than half of what he totaled in 2010.

So, yeah, maybe it's best for Allen the way this has worked out. And just for the record, two NFC North superstars are still alive in the Madden bracket. For whatever that's worth.

Vikings await possible punishment for Ayodele

Posted by: Mark Craig Updated: March 21, 2012 - 12:40 PM

It seemed a little odd at the time when the Vikings announced Letroy Guion's move to nose tackle and then also re-signed backup nose tackle Fred Evans.

Not anymore. Not after the NFL just lowered the first round of booms on the Saints for their involvement in a bounty program.  

Head coach Sean Payton will be suspended without pay for a year beginning April 1. Former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, the current Rams defensive coordinator who admitted to orchestrating the program, has been suspended indefinitely. Assistant head coach Joe Vitt has been suspended for the first six games of this season. GM Mickey Loomis is out for the first eight games. And the team was fined $500 K and docked second-round picks in 2012 and 2013.

That pretty much assures everyone that the NFL will never see another bounty program.

Meanwhile, the NFL Players Association has formally requested that the league hold off on disciplining the 22 to 27 players it cited until after the NFLPA has had a chance to complete its own investigation.

Vikings nose tackle Remi Ayodele was with the Saints when they beat the Vikings in the NFC Championship Game in January of 2010. That, as we all know, was the game in which linebacker Jonathan Vilma offered 10 grand to anyone who could knock Brett Favre out of the game.

Ayodele joined the Vikings before the 2011 season and was unproductive. He was a starter, but had a limited role, finishing with 15 tackles.

With Guion moving over to nose and Evans providing extra interior depth along with Christian Ballard, the Vikings seem to have prepared themselves for life without Remi. 

What comes around, goes around with Seattle and T-Jack

Posted by: Mark Craig Updated: March 21, 2012 - 11:23 AM

While taking a breath in this free-agent yawner frenzy ...

Funny how things change in a year.

A year ago, the Seahawks needed a quarterback. They signed Tarvaris Jackson, who had spent his first five NFL seasons either struggling and/or being shoved aside to make room for Brett Favre's post-Mankato arrivals.

When the Seahawks nabbed T-Jack, Seattle GM John Schneider gave an interview to Yahoo! that slammed a big old club right over former Vikings coach Brad Childress, who hooked T-Jack in 2006, but was too stubborn to throw him back when he started to stink up the boat.

"He has not been in a good situation," Schneider said at the time. "He's been jerked around. We wanted to put him in a stable situation."

Schneider also said, "He's 28 years old, and quite frankly, was ..." um, well, "... on for four years."

Schneider later apologized to the Vikings. As free agency unfolds this year, one has to think that somewhere in Northeast Ohio, Childress, the Browns new offensive coordinator, is enjoying what's going on in Seattle this spring.

One of the more fascinating non-Peyton transactions of the spring is Seattle's signing of quarterback Matt Flynn, who got a three-year deal that will pay him $13 million for each of the two NFL starts he now has on his resume.

So, yes, the team that said the Vikings jerked T-Jack around by signing Brett Favre went out and got its own former Packer -- albeit one with about 300 or so fewer starts. By the way, the Seahawks also tried to sign Manning as well, which is further evidence that teams trying to groom Tarvaris are usually going to be teams looking to replace Tarvaris.

The Seahawks say Flynn and Jackson will compete for the job. But something tells me if this were a 40-yard dash, Flynn would be starting on the 33-yard line.

A year after ripping the Vikings for jerking Jackson around, Schneider might want to thank them for helping Jackson deal with what appears to be the backup to a guy with two starts.


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