The Minnesota winter has been exceedingly cruel in the 2013-14 off-season. This has left us bitter.
Luckily, the NFL has a three day event. The 79th NFL Draft at Radio City Music Hall will begin at 7 PM CST on Thursday night, May 8th. Rounds two and three will take place on Friday. The remaining rounds completed on Saturday. The NFL has decried that this and all further drafts will take place now in early May, as opposed to late April. As if our winter was not bad enough, the NFL piled on a week delay.
Local fans are ecstatic about off-season acquisitions including: head coach Mike Zimmer; offensive coordinator Norv Turner; defensive coordinator George Edwards; cornerback Captain Munnerlyn; defensive tackle Linvar Joseph; defensive end Corey Wootton; and many others.
Minnesota has eight selections this year. They have the eighth pick in all seven rounds, and the last pick in the third round as part of the Percy Harvin deal of last year with Seattle.
Some fans point to quarterback. Their disgust with Christian Ponder manifested into a love of Johnny Manziel, Blake Bortles, or Teddy Bridgewater. Originally, it was believed that none would be available with the 8th selection. Now it is believed that anywhere from one to all three could still be available when Minnesota selects.
Bortles played for Central Florida which was also home to Daunte Culpepper. He was 22-5 there and took his team to a BCS Championship game, quite an accomplishment for a small school. Bortles looks good throwing out of the pocket, and was an accomplished runner of the football. At 6'5, 232 lbs., Bortles ran a 4.93 in the 40 yard workout, and was measured as a 9 3/8 inch hand.
Manziel is a high risk-reward choice. He is fast. He ran a 4.68 and his hands are 1/2 inch bigger than Bortles. Manziel is small for a quarterback at 6'0, 207 lbs. And he comes with baggage. Questions around character and dependability. But not about talent. A Heisman talent since his freshman year, Manziel was 25-9 as a starter, and had over 5,000 total yards in a single season. He will electrify.
Bridgewater's stock has plummeted from his original status as the number one pick in the draft. At 6'2, 214 lbs, he is bigger than Manziel but smaller than Bortles. His hands are 9 1/4 inches. He did not record a 40 yard run. He was 27-8 in his college career, and showed heart playing through injuries at times.
Other fans lean toward picking a defensive player with the 8th selection. Linebacker appears to be the biggest need, but cornerback, free safety, or even a defensive tackle would meet approval of most fans concerned about a defense that ranked 32nd in scoring defense. A few possibilities include...
Two cornerbacks who catch the eye in the first round are Justin Gilbert of Oklahoma State and Darqueze Denard of Michigan State.
Gilbert ran a 4.37, 20 reps in the bench press (good for CBs), and is only twenty-one years old. At 6'0, 202 lbs, he is decent-sized. He did miss games with a sports hernia.
Denard is 5'11, 199 lbs. He was timed at 4.51 and had 15 reps. He was chosen to receive the Jim Thorpe Award, given to the best defensive back in college.
Almost everyone agrees outside linebacker Khalil Mack of Buffalo will be the first, before Minnesota selects. Mack ran a 4.65, had 23 reps, and has a 40 inch vertical. All that at 6'3, 251 lbs.
Most mock drafts have outside linebacker Anthony Barr of UCLA available, and quite a few have the Vikings taking Barr. At 6'5, 255 lbs, Barr is a specimen. He ran a 4.66, with 15 reps, and a 34.5 inch vertical. He converted from running back to linebacker his junior year. In 2013 he had 13.5 sacks.
Ryan Shozier of Ohio State is also a potential first round outside linebacker .He has run under a 4.40 , 25 reps, and a 42 inch vertical. He is only 6'1, 237 lbs, but he led the Big Ten in tackles.
If Minnesota decides to improve at middle linebacker first, few would complain. With the departure of Erin Henderson, it is an even more glaring hole than in the beginning of the 2013 season.
C.J. Moseley of Alabama is clearly the cream of the inside-linebacker crop. A majority of projections have him available further down the first round. If the Vikings felt like gambling, they could trade down with a quarterback hungry team. Or they may be forced take him there.
The defensive secondary improved in the off-season with the addition of Munnerlyn, and recent draftees Harrison Smith and Xavier Rhodes. But what is still missing is free safety.
Ha'Sean Clinton-Dix of Alabama goes by the name 'Ha-Ha'. He ran a 4.58, 11 reps, and a 33 inch vertical. Those numbers do not impress. But his tackling and ability to intercept passes will. And playing for the Crimson Tide he has gone against quality teams.
The 2014 NFL Draft appears to be more uncertain than many. The Vikings could take any one of six or seven players and meet need while claiming to take the 'best player available'. And what do I think we should do in the first round?
Trade the pick to the Dallas Cowboys for six draft choices and five players.