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Vikings Mailbag: D-backs, the first-round pick, the NFC North favorite

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks to all the readers who submitted questions via Twitter for this morning’s Vikings Q & A session. Let’s get started …

@theFisherMaN78

Any O-line or cornerbacks left in free agency that would be worth the Vikings pursuing?

MC: The pickings are below slim after the big first wave and ensuing one-year prove-it deals. One head-scratcher is cornerback Logan Ryan, who’s 29 and coming off a solid season in Tennessee. The fact he’s still unsigned means his asking price is unreasonable and could drop as many teams have plugged holes at the position. Having discarded their top three corners, the Vikings must consider all possible options that remain. Meanwhile, at offensive line, Cameron Erving is an intriguing prospect at guard. In five seasons with the Browns and Chiefs, the former first-round pick has played all five O-line positions. The 6-5, 313-pounder helped the Chiefs win the Super Bowl last year by starting eight games at left tackle when Eric Fisher was injured. He’s 27 and presumably affordable considering the Chiefs declined an option that would have paid him $3.25 million for this season.

@AndrewDreisbach

Who is your favorite to win the NFC North prior to the draft?

MC: Green Bay. Sorry. The Packers have the best defense at this point, and they have a fella named Rodgers at QB. The Vikings have to answer a lot of question marks before I can dive all in on them. As for Chicago, is Nick Foles really the answer? And Detroit is, well, Detroit.

@brentj76

Is the Anthony Harris trade going to happen?

MC: I think he stays in Minnesota. Knowing Anthony’s personality, I think he signs an extension that pleases both sides. That would be ideal because the Vikings certainly don’t need another gaping hole to fill.

@Dadsman

Do players on guaranteed contracts get paid if the season is delayed or canceled due to Coronavirus?

MC: Yes. But presumably they would have to wait until a season is played considering standard NFL contracts say payments are made in “equal weekly or bi-weekly installments over the course of the applicable regular-season period.”

@jtone01

Which position you think minn would draft first? CB or WR.

MC: I’ll say WR, but don’t rule out DE. Or DT. Or OT. The Vikings need to take the best player available at any one of those positions. Picking a potentially good WR over a potentially great player at one of those other positions makes no sense to me.

@WampaOne1

Are the Vikings still looking at trading for Trent Williams?

MC: I don’t see them investing the necessary draft capital and then paying $20 million a year to someone who will be 32 this season. They have too many needs.

@Dev_H20s

What is your dream draft scenario for the Vikings in the 1st round?

MC: If I were you guys, I’d be dreaming of a dominant left tackle who’s good to go from Day 1 to Year 10. Yes, that’s a big dream.

@PhilBaxton

Do you think the loss of Griffen will have an impact on the locker room?

MC: I don’t think so. And that’s no slight against Everson. NFL players are a resilient bunch. Each season, they adapt quickly to changing dynamics to form a new team.

@psmjw01

Dalvin holdout or extension?

MC: Good question. The primary reason for Dalvin to hold out – risk of injury – also is the primary reason the Vikings should be hesitant to extend. Cook is an outstanding running back, but I wouldn’t overpay even an outstanding one in today’s NFL. Especially one whose durability is a concern. Can Cook trust NFL free agency to reward him for a great 2020 season if he shows up without an extension? Probably not since he’s a running back. It’s quite the pickle for the player and a team with multiple needs.

@BDuffy6142

Assuming the requisite moves are made to free up cap space, could Jadeveon Clowney be a target in FA?

MC: Don’t think so. Not when he’s asking for $20 million a year. Not when the Vikings have multiple needs.

@MallerBaller

If the Vikings go to a hybrid defense how will that impact Danielle Hunter? Capers used Julius Peppers as an elephant in his defense in Green Bay. Is that the role you would see Hunter in?

MC: Danielle might be the best athlete on the team. I think he would excel in anything they ask of him. We’re just scratching the surface with how good Hunter will become.

@Okie_Son

Who will be the #2 WR when the season starts? Is he currently on the roster?

MC: I don’t think the No. 2 receiver is on the roster currently. Bisi Johnson surprised us last year and could take an even bigger step this year. Tajae Sharpe was a necessary signing. But I think the No. 2 WR will come from this year’s deep rookie class.

Anthony Harris photo by Carlos Gonzalez.

Sharpe won't outrun Diggs, but he'll add solid depth to Vikings

The Vikings turned to Stefon Diggs for a variety of problems. He caught 84 passes one year without reaching 1,000 yards because, in lieu of a run game, he was asked to break tackles on short catches. Last year with Adam Thielen injured, Diggs broke Randy Moss’ three-game Vikings yardage record as a top NFL deep threat.

Diggs’ trade to Buffalo was a reason ex-Titans receiver Tajae Sharpe said he agreed to Minnesota’s modest one-year offer in free agency. But as the Vikings try to fill the massive Diggs void, what are realistic expectations for their newest addition? A look back at Sharpe’s 2019 season showed strengths that lured the Vikings, and weaknesses that could make Diggs’ absence felt if Sharpe is asked to fill a big role.

“The opportunity that the Vikings presented me with,” Sharpe said last week on a teleconference with Twin Cities reporters, “to come in and having a chance to compete for a starting spot and widen my role a little bit, have a larger role as a part of the offense — that was an opportunity that I just couldn’t pass up. I feel like this is the perfect place for me to be .”

1. Precise footwork and detailed routes make Sharpe a likely vertical threat for the Vikings. Just don’t expect him to break many tackles. Diggs’ game-breaking speed and elusiveness has yet to be replaced, but Sharpe can win with choppy feet, savvy positioning and automatic hands.

His Titans numbers undersell his potential. Sharpe didn’t get many chances to shine in Tennessee’s run-heavy offense that buried him on the depth chart with first-round receivers and free-agent additions. Even when he got targets, they mostly came from Marcus Mariota — a very inconsistent passer and one of 2019’s worst deep throwers.

So Sharpe, 25, said he was thrilled to hear from Kirk Cousins last week when the Vikings quarterback called him after his signing.

“Actually, [Cousins] was probably the best deep ball thrower in the league last year,” Sharpe said. “So I’m excited about that, to go down the field and make some plays.”

Sharpe caught Mariota’s longest completion (excluding yards after the catch) of the season during the Titans’ Week 3 win in Jacksonville. Sharpe (#19) uses a one-move release against soft press coverage, head faking to his right before bursting upfield to his left. Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey (#20) can’t get his hands on Sharpe. But when Ramsey catches up downfield, Sharpe leans into the defender to create separation then leans away to make the 47-yard catch.

2. Sharpe likely won’t rack up broken tackles or yards after the catch. He’s only avoided three tackles on 92 catches in his NFL career, according to Pro Football Focus. A tall, slender frame and average agility (for NFL standards) make Sharpe a big target for defensive backs.

Unlike Diggs, Sharpe doesn’t often correct for mistakes, let’s say, if a block is missed on a receiver screen. Because of this, the Vikings may look at Sharpe as an intermediate-to-deep threat where he can create separation with strong route running.

The Titans seldom went to Sharpe in short distances, but this is one example after he stepped into the slot for an injured Adam Humphries during a Week 14 win in Oakland.

Sharpe (#19) runs a bubble screen with seemingly ideal conditions against off coverage. But Corey Davis blows the block on Gareon Conley (#21), who tackles Sharpe for a 1-yard gain.

3. Sharpe can play everywhere for the Vikings, starting the 2019 season as the ‘X’ or ‘Z’ isolated receiver detached from the Titans formations. However, the Titans didn’t seem to like him as a slot receiver, since they gave $19 million guaranteed to Adam Humphries after Sharpe was their primary slot guy in 2018.

A December ankle injury to Humphries once again elevated Sharpe, who thanks to a strong final month ended the season as the Titans’ third-down leader in catches (15), yards (197) and touchdowns (4).

Five of Sharpe’s third-down grabs came against the Saints during the Titans’ Week 16 loss. He’s average in contested catch situations — including a would-be touchdown batted away by the Saints’ Patrick Robinson at the end of this loss — but Sharpe has a nose for finding space between defenders.

Take this 7-yard touchdown for example. Sharpe (#19) first sells the curl to get Janoris Jenkins (#20) flat-footed. Strong acceleration keeps him a step ahead. From there, Sharpe makes the leaping touchdown catch after finding the opening behind Robinson (#21), who drops into a middle zone.

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