10 Free Agency, Draft Targets the Vikings Must Chase for 2013
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The purpose of this slideshow is to assess a handful of players who could fulfill the Minnesota Vikings' needs this off-season, either through the draft or free agency.
Since this is a slideshow devoted to both off-season venues, I selected five players from each. The focus is on cheaper players via free agency, and a handful of first round worthy players and potential second or third round players.
I apologize to Vikings fans who may find it hard to swallow the number of Green Bay Packer players on this list. But that franchise has a handful of players who may come cheaper than most since they are just on the verge of proving themselves as valuable impact players.
Alec Ogletree, Middle Linebacker Georgia University
Alec Ogletree is a fast linebacker who can cover sideline to sideline.
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When talking about middle linebacker prospects the conversation begins and ends with Notre Dame's Mante Te'o.
But Te'o will be a top-10 pick, if not a top five. The Minnesota Vikings are unlikely to have a top-10 pick. They're likely to find themselves somewhere between 15 and 22.
In that window a player like Alec Ogletree is likely to be taken. Ogletree is, on most boards, the No. 2 prospect at middle linebacker.
The Jasper Brinkley experiment at middle linebacker has provided mostly disappointing results. He's capable as a run stopping linebacker, but not consistent.
He doesn't appear to be a viable long-term solution for a playoff contender.
Ogletree is tall at 6'3", but a little undersized for an NFL middle linebacker (232 pounds). He looks like someone who can grow into the frame. He doesn't want to grow too much, though. His speed is a great asset that allows him to track down the opposition sideline to sideline.
In his junior season he recorded 98 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss and two sacks in nine games with a bowl game still waiting.
Justin Hunter, Wide Receiver University of Tennessee
Justin Hunter is a tall, athletic receiver who would be a dangerous red zone threat.
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It's no secret.
The Minnesota Vikings NEED help at the wide receiver position. They may need to scrap their entire wide receiving corps minus Percy Harvin this off-season. It's that bad.
Justin Hunter has had a productive junior season at the University of Tennessee. In 12 games he had 73 receptions for 1,083 yards and nine touchdowns.
At 6'4" and 200 pounds Hunter has the size and leaping abilities to be a red zone threat. He also has the speed to be a down-field threat. Minnesota is in dire need of a player with both of those capabilities.
Hunter is projected as a late first or early second round pick by most, should he declare for the draft.
Terrance Williams of Baylor (6'2" and 205 pounds) would also be a very logical first or second round pick (95 receptions for 1,764 yards and 12 touchdowns this season).
Sylvester Williams, Defensive Tackle University of North Carolina
Sylvester Williams is a talented defensive tackle who could supplant Kevin Williams when the time comes.
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Kevin Williams is getting older play by play, game by game of the 2012 season.
On opening day next fall he'll be 33 years old. As each year passes he has become less and less productive.
His fellow starter, Letroy Guion, appears to be (at best) a rotational player.
The Minnesota Vikings need to find a true No. 1 defensive tackle soon.
Depending on which draft site you scour, Sylvester Williams is projected as a first or second round selection. The beauty of this pick is that Vikings fans need only learn a new first name. The last name of their potential No. 1 defensive tackle remains the same.
Sylvester (6'3" and 305 pounds) has the size to clog the middle and the speed to provide some pass-rushing abilities. In his senior season, he's recorded six sacks, 13.5 tackles for loss and 42 tackles total.
Travis Frederick, Guard/Center University of Wisconsin
Travis Frederick has played a big role in the Wisconsin ground game's success this season.
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Charlie Johnson has to go. Whether the Minnesota Vikings do anything about it, it is a thought most Vikings fans have engrained in their minds.
He started out fine as a left guard but has steadily regressed as the season has progressed.
Minnesota signed Geoff Schwartz this off-season to a one-year deal, but he hasn't started a game yet this season. The Vikings may or may not reclaim his services.
Travis Frederick has the ability to play guard or center and has been apart of a great offensive line at the University of Wisconsin. He helped the Wisconsin Badgers average 237.8 yards per game and 5.2 yards per rush.
The Vikings are strong at center with John Sullivan. But if he were to get injured, they could use a reliable backup, which Frederick could be. If not at center, Frederick could come in and compete for a starting job from day one in Minnesota. And he's projected as a second or third round pick.
If Minnesota has a chance to snag him, especially in the third round, it should do just that. The redshirt junior would be a versatile addition to what is becoming a strong line.
Matt Elam, Safety University of Florida
Matt Elam is a do-it-all safety and would fit very well next to do-it-all rookie safety Harrison Smith.
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Minnesota has a gem in Harrison Smith. If he's not named the defensive rookie of the year or to the Pro Bowl, then something is wrong with the system.
He's going to be a great one for a long time in Minnesota's defensive backfield. But that only covers one safety position.
Now, depending on how you feel about Mistral Raymond, the safety position is either filled or still a big question mark.
Raymond has been injured throughout much of this season (he's played in just seven games) and has provided inconsistent results when healthy. You could make the case that health has cost him of his 2012 campaign.
Jamarca Sanford is not a starter on a contending team.
According to Walter Football, Matt Elam will be a third round pick, which would be a steal. Elam was named to the 2012 AP All-American list. Elam finished the regular season of his junior year with 65 tackles, 10 tackles for loss, one forced fumble and four interceptions.
At 5'10" and 202 pounds he wouldn't be the biggest safety in the league, but he doesn't have many weaknesses in his game, at least according to this scouting report from Walter Football.
Danario Alexander, Wide Receiver San Diego Chargers
At 6'5" and 217 pounds Danario Alexander could be the big, down-field threat the Vikings need.
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On to the NFL free agents.
As previously mentioned the wide receiver position should be Minnesota's No. 1 priority this off-season.
Danario Alexander has seemingly come from nowhere. He had 46 receptions for 437 yards and three touchdowns in two seasons prior to this one. In 2012 he has 33 receptions for 555 yards and five touchdowns in seven games.
At 6'5" and 217 pounds he has the ability to be a red-zone threat and a down-field threat. Minnesota needs help in both departments. And because of his limited experience, Alexander will come cheaper than a Dwayne Bowe or Victor Cruz this off-season but could provide similar production, if he replicates his 2012 production over a full season in 2013 (just over 75 receptions, 1,268 yards and 11 touchdown receptions).
Pair him with Percy Harvin and those numbers could be even better.
Brad Jones, Linebacker Green Bay Packers
Brad Jones is capable of playing middle and outside linebacker. He could play either for Minnesota.
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As I mentioned earlier, this is the beginning of a Green Bay Packer heavy slideshow.
Green Bay is in the hunt for the NFC's No. 1 seed in part because of the work its backups have done in 2012.
The Packers have incurred their fair share of injuries, which have required the backups to make Green Bay a conference contender.
Brad Jones has filled in for D.J. Smith who has filled in for Desmond Bishop.
Jones is more comfortable at outside linebacker but has been forced to play inside linebacker for Green Bay given the injuries at the position. In seven starts at the position he has 50 tackles, a sack and a forced fumble.
At 26 years old, he'll be 27 for the opener of 2013. He has time to adjust to either middle or inside linebacker. His versatility would be a welcomed addition to a linebacking corps that doesn't have much experience at either position.
Evan Dietrich-Smith, Guard/Center Green Bay Packers
Evan Dietrich-Smith has experience at center and guard and would come relatively cheap compared to others.
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Evan Dietrich-Smith is another Green Bay Packer who has benefited from injury to see the field of play.
Dietrich-Smith has started at left guard in the past four games since Bryan Bulaga's hip injury ended his season and forced left guard T.J. Lang to play right tackle.
Dietrich-Smith isn't a standout left guard, but he's a young player (26 years old, 27 on the 2013 opener) finding his way in this league and doing a sound job as Green Bay's left guard over the past four games.
Minnesota needs help at guard, particularly left guard, and could use a versatile player who would come relatively cheap for its O-line.
Tom Crabtree, Tight End Green Bay Packers
Tom Crabtree has strong blocking skills that coincide with adequate receiving skills.
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This is the final Green Bay Packer, I promise.
During his three-year career Tom Crabtree has never been a major part of the Green Bay offense. But what he's proven over that time is that he's a reliable blocker with some skills in the passing game.
Minnesota already has its No. 1 tight end of the future in Kyle Rudolph (45 receptions for 412 yards and eight touchdowns this season). But it doesn't have much behind him.
John Carlson was supposed to provide Christian Ponder with a second reliable receiving tight end, but he's underwhelmed in his first season and may be released this off-season.
Allen Reisner is more of a receiving tight end who lacks experience.
Crabtree has experience as a blocking tight end and has some impressive receptions on his resume (a 27-yard touchdown reception on a special teams play vs. the Chicago Bears in Week 2 of 2012 and a 72-yard touchdown reception to end the third quarter vs. the Arizona Cardinals in Week 9).
The Vikings should be on a tight leash this off-season given the impending extension for Percy Harvin, and Crabtree could provide talent at a reasonable price and age (he'll turn 28 during the 2013 campaign).
Dannell Ellerbe, Linebacker Baltimore Ravens
Dannell Ellerbe was slotted as an outside linebacker to begin this season but has filled in nicely at middle for Ray Lewis.
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Minnesota may need a new middle linebacker and an outside linebacker next season.
Jasper Brinkley (MLB) and Erin Henderson (OLB) are both free agents this off-season.
There hasn't been much said about the likelihood of either being re-signed this off-season, which means the more versatile the players Minnesota can get the better.
Earlier in this slideshow I suggested Minnesota target Green Bay's Brad Jones, an outside linebacker with experience inside.
Dannell Ellerbe is another outside linebacker who has sufficient experience inside. He's started in the five games without Ray Lewis, racking up 50 tackles over that stretch and 81 for the year.
At 6'1" and 240 pounds he has the size to play outside or inside and at 27 (he'll be 28 in November 2013) he's still a younger player who hasn't had much experience as a starter, which means he could be a cheaper commodity.