Minnesota Vikings: Waiver Wire Pickups the Vikings Could Look at
As NFL rosters make the move from 75 players to 53, they still won't have decided on a final roster. Any number of players cut by other teams will get looks and even a paycheck from a team that has ostensibly decided on a final 53. As the 2012 Vikings move ahead, they may find more value on the waiver wire than they might have available on the team. Expect them to take a look at any of these players as the waiver window closes.
WR Roberto Wallace
Roberto Wallace is better known as the receiver on "Hard Knocks" that couldn't find a way open, but that's not to say there isn't upside here. He's tall, with a 6'4" frame, and has made a living off making difficult catches look simple. Unfortunately, his biggest problem has been generating separation. This is Wallace's third year, so his next chance with a team will be his last. He ran a 4.49 40-time, but is a rough route-runner. If Wallace needs a change of environment, WR coach George Stewart might be able to get more out of him than the Dolphins could.
WR Tori Gurley, WR Diondre Borel or WR Dale Moss
This trio from the Packers has been making waves in the preseason, and each of them has something to offer. Gurley is probably the most intriguing and performed the best out of the three in training camp. At 6'4", he represents the tall receiver the Vikings may be looking for. He ran a quick 4.56, although his field speed was a little faster than his combine speed would have you believe. He ran good routes, but didn't get much exposure in the preseason.
Diondre Borel (6'0" 4.5 40-time) did better in preseason games, with seven catches for 48 yards, but was behind Gurley in camp. Borel has been running shorter routes—his longest reception was 17 yards—and does not look like the deep threat the Vikings need to replace Jerome Simpson in the first three games of the season. Still, Borel may represent a clear upgrade over some of the receivers on the roster.
Dale Moss is a project who only played one year of football at the college level. However, his physical attributes have amazed talent scouts—4.45 40-yard dash, a 41.5-inch vertical and 6.32 three-cone time combines well with a 6'3" frame. He certainly has all the physical tools to succeed, but may just need time to learn the game and the position before making an impact.
WR Marvin McNutt
A surprise cut, but the Eagles also have a good roster. McNutt's best asset is his reliability and he has solid hands once the ball gets to him—something the Vikings are missing in spades, especially if they plan to cut Jenkins once Simpson returns to the roster. He has decent field awareness and can make some fairly difficult catches, but still has work to do as a route-runner.
At 6'3" and 216 pounds, McNutt would be hard to move around, but he doesn't always take advantage of his strength and punch out on the release. More than that, he's not the blocker that many want from their big receivers, so his height and strength are not as big an asset as they could be.
Still, McNutt certainly has the propensity to make big plays, and made a number of them at Iowa. McNutt didn't have a bad camp, but the Eagles WR corps is tough to crack.
WR David Douglas
Cut by the Giants, another team that has quite a few options at receiver, Douglas doesn't have quite the height of some of the other receivers on the waiver wire at 6'0", but is fast (4.46). He needs to work at explosiveness off the line in order to exploit this speed, but is a decent route runner with only some minor trouble at the breaks (he'll round off some routes).
There are worries he might not be able to get separation at the next level, but he is intuitive at making the right route choices in different coverage schemes. He works hard on every play and makes the extra effort to get the ball. Has good body control and reaction time to the ball in the air.
WR Deion Branch and WR Jabar Gaffney
Neither are likely to be grabbed by the Vikings, who are sticking true to their strategy of grabbing younger players with high upside or veterans who fit into the team concept cheaply for a year. While Branch and Gaffney would certainly be cheap, there's a good question about whether or not they fit into the model the Vikings want to put forth.
The Vikings need a long term answer at split end, and while Gaffney has the height (6'2"), there are good reasons to believe neither Branch (5'9") has the speed or the height. Both ran well when they were young, but have clearly lost a few steps and may not have made up for it with savvy.
The roster cuts today prove how much the Vikings are emphasizing youth, with 40 of their 53 players at age 27 or younger.
CB Dominique Franks
More a special-teamer than a solid starter, Franks was the Falcons' presumed No. 1 punt returner before his relatively surprising cut. He had two interceptions and allowed three touchdowns last year, while also deflecting three passes in his limited play.
He did end up playing more than 300 snaps in regular play and was arguably better than Dunta Robinson, if you believe professional grading experts Pro Football Focus. He was also not targeted nearly as often, so a cumulative grade is not particularly useful.
By comparison, current CB and primary punt returner Marcus Sherels was just bad in coverage. No interceptions, two touchdowns allowed and two pass deflections—all of which speak more favorably to him than his actual ability on the field.
An average punt returner, Sherels flashed athletic ability from time to time. Franks has done the same, although he fumbled on his only regular season punt return in the NFL. He has showed some talent at punt returning in the preseason, however.
CB Darius Butler
Cut by the Panthers, who are admittedly thin at cornerback, Darius Butler may not seem like an interesting prospect. Still, he is more likely to make the roster than perpetual slot cornerback Joselio Hanson and has perhaps untapped potential.
He was the 41st pick in the draft and was even then considered a steal. He has good height for a cornerback (5'11") and ran a somewhat blistering 4.41 40-time. Add that to a fantastic vertical jump of 43 inches, and his physical assets (along with a relatively young age of 26) could invite another look.
He didn't have any interceptions last year, but deflected seven passes (while still allowing four touchdowns). In college, he had excellent instincts and good reads, but seems to have issues with reaction time in the NFL. He plays better in man systems than zone systems, which could be a problem for the Vikings, but still might be worth a waiver-wire pickup.
The trade for AJ Jefferson makes moves for Butler or Franks much less likely, but the Vikings have enough questions in their secondary that this could be an issue.
LB Carmen Messina
Messina is an undrafted free agent, but has had an excellent offseason so far and played well in the preseason (fourth most tackles on the team).
He was very productive at New Mexico, and regularly recorded double-digit tackles in the Mountain West Conference (the all-time MWC leader in tackles). He finished his career in college with 21 tackles against Boise State.
He's not as athletic as the Vikings may want at middle linebacker, but they don't seem to mind (neither are starter Jasper Brinkley or preseason phenom Audie Cole). He has good instincts and a good nose for the ball, so he might be worth a look. His strength is intriguing and he does well in zone coverage. If the Vikings want him, expect the Vikings to cut Marvin Mitchell or less likely Larry Dean.
LB Greg Jones
An inside linebacker in college, he was projected to need to switch positions to the outside given some technique problems. He's relatively small (6'1" 240 lbs) and can hit well (despite his strength, not because of it), but sometimes gets beaten in blocks. He can usually avoid blockers with his quickness, and has good closing speed. He wraps up and tackles well, something that many Minnesota defenders could learn.
He's been good at the pass rush, and may be an option in blitzes. As a cover linebacker, he can get physical with tight ends or slot receivers, but is much better at zone coverage than man-to-man. He might be a small liability in coverage, especially in the deep third, but no more than Brinkley or Cole are expected to be.
He started five games and had significant snaps in two more for the Giants last year due to injury.
LB Gary Guyton
An outside linebacker coming from two 3-4 systems (Miami and New England), he may not seem the best fit for the Vikings, but he has the potential of being a good outside linebacker over Larry Dean or Tyrone McKenzie.
He had a great vertical leap for an outside linebacker (36.5) and ran a 4.47 40-yard dash. He's studious and could learn much more about how to be an effective linebacker from LB coaches Mike Singletary and Fred Pagac.
He has tackled well and can use his long arms to make arm tackles or pass deflections if need be and is a solid run-stuffer. His instincts are raw and he might need more exposure to the game before he can be effective, but represents the youth (26 years old) the Vikings may be looking for.
DT Daniel Muir
Daniel Muir is a 300-pound beast projected to fit nose tackle in a 4-3 front or a defensive end in a 3-4 front (usually a 2-gap system). He's a bit older than the Vikings may want (28), but he is extremely athletic and was known as a good run-stuffer in college.
He's had a poor run of play this preseason and the last few years, but perhaps does not fit as well into the Packers' scheme as many had hoped. If asked to focus in a single-gap system, he could command the double team, but will need to be quicker off the line to be a reliable option. The Vikings' depth at DT commands this attention more than Muir's resume.
DT Nicolas Jean-Baptiste
Jean-Baptiste might be a much better option for the Vikings, both for their strategy of finding young talent (he's 23) and because he's much better known as a good run-stopper. He's powerful (he can squat 600 pounds), and translates this into on-field strength when locked in.
Despite his four sacks, he's a specialist in the running game and had nine tackles for loss in his last season at Baylor. He wraps up his tackles well and delivers powerful arm tackles when he hasn't squared into the runner. He rarely misses tackles.
He's not physically perfect by any means and ran the 40-yard dash at 5.41, slow for even NFL linemen. He lacks upper body strength and needs to refine technique before he's disruptive enough to consistently be an option on the defensive line, but could certainly provide depth at a position that sorely needs it. He can play as an undertackle or at the nose and that versatility can be the reason the Vikings take a look.
His stamina is also a huge question, but as a potential depth option, this shouldn't be an issue. He does get gassed easily, and if the conditioning and strength coaches get his weight down (330-335 lbs), he might improve his stamina.
DT Hebron "Loni" Fangupo
Hebron "Loni" Fangupo is better known as a nose tackle for a 3-4 system than a 4-3 system, but could slot in as a nose tackle in the 4-3. Unlike Jean-Baptiste, he's well known for his upper body strength (36 bench reps at the combine), and can command double teams well. He has questions about his height (6'1"), but that's less of an issue in the nose position.
His height would normally imply good, low leverage, but he'll lose it quickly with technique issues.
He's not much of a pass-rusher, but the Vikings scheme doesn't ask for a pass-rusher in their 1-technique position. He will occasionally break double teams to make the tackle (and make it look easy), which makes for excellent highlight reels.
He plays low, but needs better technique to take advantage of his strength and positioning and needs to resolve concerns about low agility. His film tape does him a better job than his combine 3-cone time (7.95), and fans may more likely see his performance on the field reflect game tape than combine tests. He's had light footwork at times, but is still a bit of a liability in pursuit. He still needs to display consistent lateral quickness before this issue goes away.
The Vikings need a nose tackle who can funnel runners to the Will linebacker, and Loni might fit that mold.
SS Omar Brown
Omar Brown has had a good preseason and offseason and saw more snaps than many expected due to concussions and injury to a normally solid Ravens secondary.
He did well as a strong safety in college and in the preseason and nimble enough to be a sideline-to-sideline player. He uses technique more than strength to make his tackles and he's a bit of an undersized safety (5'11", 195 pounds). He'll want more speed to be competitive, but he has short-space agility.
He possesses the instincts to be successful at the NFL level, and just has a few questions about other aspects of his game. In the preseason, he had recorded three fumble recoveries and an interception. He was third on the team in tackles.
He's been making good plays in camp, too. He's possessed good awareness and positioning, although is still technically a bit raw. He can play either free safety or strong safety, but has largely played inside the box. In college, he's also played as a cornerback (and held A.J. Green to one catch).
OT Andrew Datko
With DeMarcus Love on IR, the Vikings may want depth in their offensive line and Andrew Datko could provide that depth. He's tall (6'6") and lanky, and has the prototypical size one wants in an offensive tackle. He has good footwork and light feet for an offensive lineman and does well against speed rushers off the edge. His good first step serves him well and he can keep leverage against bull rushers as well. He is less successful against powerful defensive ends than quick ones, however, and a good bull rusher may have his number.
He's not just athletic, but generally strong as well. He's not quite a mauler in the run game, but can figure out where he needs to be and seal the edge consistently, which shows both in his running game and on screens. He studies his opponent well and applies that knowledge on the field.
Originally projected as a mid-round pick, his injury issues have had him slide. At Florida State (which runs a zone-blocking scheme similar to the Vikings'), he injured his left shoulder twice and suffered a concussion with the Packers.
While there have been several guards who have been waived, the Vikings need more depth at tackle than anything else—Pat Brown may not be a viable answer for the Vikings if someone goes down (although Charlie Johnson could slide outside). Datko represents the best option amongst the waived tackles.
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