Minnesota Vikings: How Draft Picks Fit into Vikings 2012 Plans
The Vikings entered the draft with many needs on both sides of the ball and left with a solidified offensive line and defensive secondary.
Vikings GM Rick Speilman was able to make some moves to bring in some of the guys he wanted and ultimately left his finger prints on one of the most successful drafts in recent memory for the team.
Whether the players the team drafted pan out or not, Speilman and the Vikings have a plan for all 10 of the players the Vikings brought in.
OT Matt Kalil, University of Southern California
This could be the most obvious pick to explain of the whole bunch.
Matt Kalil is a day-one starter for the Vikings at left tackle. Not only does he fill the need in the most crucial spot on their offensive line, he allows them to move Charlie Johnson to left guard—essentially shoring up the line pending a battle for the right guard spot.
Kalil won't step in and dominate on his first day in the league, but he will be a major improvement from what the Vikings had to work with in 2011, and he will grow with QB Christian Ponder, allowing him the time he needs in the pocket to deliver strikes down-field to his receivers.
Despite whatever speculation that said Claiborne was going to be the pick for the Vikings, Kalil was the plan all along. He fits into the Vikings' 2012 plans with more than just his own position. This was the most important selection they've made in years.
FS Harrison Smith, University of Notre Dame
Much like the selection of Kalil, Harrison Smith fits into the Vikings' plans by being a day-one starter at one of the two safety positions. Because FS and SS are essentially interchangeable in a cover-2, it doesn't really matter which slot he fills, as long as he becomes a playmaker in the secondary.
The Vikings did not have much top-end talent on the back end of their secondary in 2011, and in fact, they haven't had a playmaker at safety since Darren Sharper was wearing the purple and gold.
Smith might not step in and pick off 10 balls his rookie year, but the Vikings can expect him to make some plays. They will expect Smith to be an accountable starter in their secondary after trading back into the first round to select him.
Because he was a four-year starter and a team captain at Notre Dame, they will expect him to become a leader back there as well.
CB Josh Robinson, University of Central Florida
This could prove to be one of the best selections of the class for the Vikings.
Josh Robinson ran the fastest 40-yard-dash at the combine and after being selected early in the third round, he'll be expected to contribute—not necessarily start, but contribute—right away.
Robinson's speed will have him contributing on special teams in the first day of camp, but with some time to develop, it would not be unreasonable to expect him starting across from Chris Cook by a few weeks into the season.
He will likely start as a punt returner and possibly a kick returner, but could also contribute on kickoffs and on the edge against field goals as well.
Aside from potentially becoming a starting corner for the Vikings, Robinson will fit into the Vikings' 2012 plans by becoming a sort of utility player and a special teams renaissance man.
WR Jarius Wright, University of Arkansas
To be honest, this pick was a little puzzling to me.
I imagine Jarius Wright will be able to contribute, much like Robinson, on special teams. The problem is that the Vikings already have a short, speedy receiver in Percy Harvin and quite frankly, probably should have selected a tall, physical receiver here instead.
Ideally, as a fourth-round pick, Wright probably won't be a starter at any point in the season—barring some kind of injury to a starter—but could be able to contribute on offense in a limited role.
If I had to guess, I would bet that Wright and Robinson will be the kickoff returners for the Vikings on the first play week 1 against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
As far as fitting into the Vikings plans, Wright better be able to play the outside, or he will likely be riding the pine for much of the season.
TE/FB Rhett Ellison, University of Southern California
This was a pick that could have seemed puzzling to some on draft day, but after the Vikings picked up a pass-catching TE in John Carlson this offseason without finding a blocking replacement for the retired Jim Kleinsasser, Ellison makes perfect sense.
Granted, they probably did not have to use a fourth-round pick to get Ellison. But he will definitely have a niche with the Vikings as their new H-back.
Ellison has fantastic size and is an underrated receiver, but he will make his money blocking for Adrian Peterson and Toby Gerhart in the run game and in pass protection for Ponder.
Ellison won't be a flashy player for the Vikings by any means, but he fits into their plans just as well as anyone could.
WR Greg Childs, University of Arkansas
I know I'm the minority on this one, but I'm not very fond of the selection of Greg Childs. Sure, he's the tall receiver I just said I wanted, but I would have definitely preferred a more durable prospect.
Childs was a great prospect a couple of years ago, but after blowing his knee out, expectations are very low for this fourth-round pick.
Childs won't be expected to come in and contribute any time soon, and if I had to guess, he'll probably spend most of the next two seasons on the practice squad. I know that many of you disagree with me on that, or maybe that's not what you wanted to hear, but I just don't see him breaking into the top five receivers on the roster and I doubt that will be good enough to keep him off the practice squad.
Childs fits into the Vikings plans as a developmental prospect and I wouldn't expect much more from him for a couple of seasons.
CB Robert Blanton, University of Notre Dame
Though Robert Blanton played cornerback at Notre Dame, he will probably fit into the Vikings' plans as a safety.
Because he probably not fast enough to play corner at the NFL level but does have good size, the Vikings will probably try to convert him to play safety next to his Notre Dame teammate Harrison Smith. The Vikings have a concerning low level of depth at safety and creating some competition could only help.
Blanton will also likely contribute on special teams if he's able to make the roster after camp—but I would not necessarily count on that.
K Blair Walsh, University of Georgia
This was a pick that I was initially pleased with, but after looking at college statistics and finding out that he missed 40 percent of his attempts in 2011, Blair Walsh is kind of a head-shaker for me.
Ryan Longwell has not played very well for the last couple of seasons, he is going to be 38 years old going into training camp and he could very well be on his way out of Minnesota.
Walsh has a big leg and the Vikings may think they'll be able to refine his accuracy, but either way, I don't really see a scenario where Walsh does not become the team's only kicker. The Vikings would not have drafted him in the sixth round if they did not intend for him to become the "kicker of the future," especially when he probably would have gone undrafted.
MLB Audie Cole, North Carolina State University
I was pretty pleased with this pick, but I was surprised the Vikings did not select more linebackers in the draft.
Audie Cole likely won't come in and fight for a starting job, even if Jasper Brinkley isn't that great of a starter. He probably will have a good shot at making the team, however, because of the severe lack of depth at linebacker, particularly at the Mike 'backer position.
Cole will contribute on special teams, as any rookie would. The most important note to take on Cole is that he probably has the best chance at making the team of any of the late round picks.
DE Trevor Guyton, University of California
It was puzzling to me that the Vikings would pick a DE in this round when they needed a DT, and CB Alfonzo Dennard was still on the board, but I'm sure they have a plan for Guyton.
Guyton's size/speed combination makes him a decent candidate to be a speed-DT. Coming out of a 3-4 front at Cal., Guyton probably fits in better as a tackle in the Vikings' 4-3 front anyway. He will require some kind of transition period before he can contribute, but the Vikings should be able to coach him up.
I expect that Guyton will either be a special teams player or will be sent to the practice squad.
Thanks for reading.
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