The 2013 draft never seems too far away to discuss, and the Minnesota Vikings surely already have their eye on a number of prospects. While no prospects are truly "can't miss," many are guaranteed to draw interest from the team.
With a surprising 2012 Vikings season coming to a close, Minnesota—and the rest of the country—have come to realize how close the team is to becoming a competitive force in the National Football League, already coming close to making the playoffs in the toughest division in the country just one year removed from an abysmal 3-13 season.
While there's no question that the Vikings will keep close tabs on players like Star Lotulelei and Manti Te'o in case they fall precipitously on draft day, they'll focus on those that will be available in a position they'll expect to draft in, somewhere around the 19th pick.
More than that, they'll want to make sure they draft players ready to fit into their system, leaving exciting prospects like Johnathan Jenkins or Damontre Moore available for other teams.
These 20 players should garner serious interest from the Minnesota Vikings should they be available.
Perhaps a bit of a stretch, Alabama offensive guard Chance Warmack could be one of the few interior offensive linemen to find himself drafted in the top 15. The fact is, however, that he's one of the most talented guards to hit the draft in years.
While the Bengals will surely be happy with Kevin Zeitler (drafted No. 27), Warmack has the potential to outshine even the best picks from previous years with his quick feet and strong build.
He rarely loses a pass-rusher in pass protection, locking on quickly with a great burst off the line and good footwork. The Alabama product has shown an ability to deal with strength and technique, beating bull-rushers and speed-rushers at the line of scrimmage.
What stands out most of all for him is his agility despite his size. He has the ability to operate in nearly any scheme, sliding well in protection and in the run game and beating defensive linemen from the first step. More than that, he has the precision needed to execute complex running schemes and the speed to make devastating blocks on the second level.
Warmack might be better known for his skill in the run game than in pass protection, but that's a forte that suits the run-oriented Vikings just fine.
Sylvester Williams flew up big boards in his senior year at North Carolina, shedding some of the concerns scouts had with his rawness and development.
As it is, his quick rise in the ranks of the scouting universe has created uncertainty about where he'd go in the draft, ranging from a top-10 pick to high second-round selection.
Nevertheless, he's put together a strong year. Williams is built well for a defensive tackle and possesses a good frame already; he doesn't need to gain or lose muscle in order to be competitive in the NFL.
The Vikings are looking for a defensive tackle that can either replace Kevin Williams as he ages or provide production from their nose tackle slot—one that can consume double teams while being stout against the run.
Sylvester fits the second, and arguably more important, need. Doing well against outside and inside zone runs, Williams can blow runs up in the backfield while recognizing the need to maintain gap discipline. He's tough to move off the ball and can control blockers.
His inconsistent pad level and early-season struggles might warn some teams off, but his stout play against the run should earn him consideration by the Vikings. He's not the most productive pass-rusher, however, and could improve his footwork.
He has the agility he needs to be a good "1-technique" defensive tackle and can move laterally when the play dictates a need for it. He has excellent hands, but that might be most of what he has going for him when rushing the passer. Still, he has a lot of potential here and has learned over the course of the year how to improve as a pass disruptor.
Ideally, the versatile Johnathan Hankins or dominant Star Lotulelei would be better choices, but there is a very slim chance either would make it out of the top 10, much less fall to the Vikings.
The second or third-best guard in a surprisingly stacked interior line class, Jonathan Cooper boasts a far different profile from Chance Warmack.
Cooper lives off of his ability to protect the passer and has excellent footwork to complement his technical capability with his arms and hands. Not a physical specimen, Cooper can still stymie defenders with his preternatural awareness and ability to pick up on blitzes, stunts and other pass protection nuances.
He isn't weak by any means, but his inability to completely dominate opponents physically does limit his upside as a run blocker. While tenacious even after the whistle, Cooper has more than bested his competition on a number of plays.
The former Tar Heel has done well to stop all types of pass-rushers, relying on a wide base and good technique to take out much stronger rushers.
Minnesota might take a flyer on him if he falls far enough, and his mean streak—along with a good looking pull block and second-level capability—could more than make up for his average physicality. Already a zone blocker, the Vikings would not need to teach him as much to fit him in their system.
Ogletree isn't quite Manti Te'o, but he does have a freakish range of athletic abilities that demand consideration from quite a few teams.
Most exciting about Ogletree is his speed. With his size (6'3", 237 lbs.), it would seem unlikely that he could move from sideline to sideline with such speed, but he consistently shows up where offensive players least expect it.
His speed has occasionally led him to overpursue in run defense, but he's one of the rare players that can recover and make the play in those situations.
He's better known as a solid run defender than coverage linebacker, and that might cause problems for Minnesota, who rely on a solid linebacking corps to provide them with underneath pass coverage.
His instincts are inconsistent, and he doesn't have the best ability to convert easy picks into interceptions, but the Vikings have long been interested in athletic prospects. Everson Griffen and Joe Webb are proof enough of that.
The Bulldog's reaction time is very good, both to a ball thrown in the air and in response to the flow of a running play. While he doesn't often come away with the ball, his range in zone coverage and good burst into and out of a backpedal make him useful in coverage, and his long arms are very helpful in batting passes down.
As a tackler, Ogletree is extremely sure of himself. He hits hard and generally wraps up well. He doesn't necessarily take on blockers all too well and will want to work on shedding fullbacks and guards.
Certainly, he would be an upgrade over Jasper Brinkley. His suspension at the beginning of the year is a big red flag, and he might do better as an outside linebacker, but fans can be sure he is on the Vikings' radar.
In close competition with Justin Hunter as the top receiver in the 2013 draft class, Keenan Allen heads up an arguably disappointing group of receivers.
At 6'3" and 206 pounds, Allen could possess the body type of receiver the Vikings are looking for and give Christian Ponder the deep threat he needs to take advantage of defenses selling out to stop Adrian Peterson.
Allen isn't necessarily the fastest player on the field, but his route running is well-developed—rare for a college prospect. The Vikings are a team that emphasizes the importance of solid route running, and their timing-oriented offense would benefit from the control and precision that Allen brings.
He doesn't give up much at the breaks and can provide surprising explosiveness when changing direction, which gives him the separation that Vikings receivers have been sorely lacking.
Allen is strong off the snap and shows an ability to beat press coverage with his strength and his feet. He can shield the ball from defensive backs with his size.
The Cal prospect improved his stock this year by working on his ball skills and seems more reliable than he was in the past—and he wasn't too unreliable before.
Most importantly, Allen already shows the skills to run the routes the Vikings call the most—excelling on screens because of his patience setting up blocks, gathering quickly on curls and outs and lining up as a split end, flanker and in the slot. He can be the downfield threat the Vikings need while displaying the versatility Minnesota thrives on.
Allen's biggest knock is that his statistics are shockingly sub-par for such a highly-rated receiver, but he has been playing much better than his statistics, being forced to make up for poor play from Zach Maynard.
Right alongside Allen is Justin Hunter, hoping to reassert the tradition of NFL-ready wideouts that Tennessee once developed.
Perhaps not as polished as Allen on individual routes, Hunter outshines nearly every receiver prospect in measurables. At 6'4" and 205 pounds, he could stand to gain more weight, but certainly has the long limbs and great height to be a viable target anywhere on the field. He runs well, not just posting good top-end speed, but running with fluidity and confidence.
He'll find himself rounding off corners or getting pushed off the line, but he can recover quickly, and his large catch radius might make up for it. He has better ball skills than Allen and is impressive at hauling down quick balls, regardless of their ball placement.
His athletic ability allows him to make defenders miss, and it's hard to overstate his body control both in the air and on the ground. He can stop and start very quickly and can pose a headache for opposing defensive coordinators with his potential versatility.
Hunter needs quite a bit of work to get to the level of a top-tier wideout, but might possess more upside than Allen, who might have reached his physical limits. If Hunter can grasp the nuances of what's needed of him in an NFL offense, his physical talents should carry him the rest of the way. More than most receivers, he can make his quarterback look good, which is something the Vikings might need.
Hunter's biggest worry was an injury that took him out of almost the entire 2011 season. He seems to have regained all of his speed since then, but the Vikings may want to hold on previously injured wide receivers, given what happened to Greg Childs.
Sheldon Richardson has some talent evaluators drooling because of his versatility. He looks capable of playing either as a 5-technique defensive end or a 3-technique defensive tackle, and the Vikings might love to see him backing up Kevin Williams.
Richardson is difficult to move despite his relatively light weight (a feather-light 290 pounds) because he plays low to the ground with a squat frame in run situations, making him useful on short-yardage plays.
Despite all the talk of his scheme and position versatility, Richardson really most shines when attacking one gap, where he has been extremely productive. His burst off the line has been good all year, especially against some of the top teams in the country.
He has been a terror in the backfield, recording 10.5 tackles for loss and four sacks in the 2012 season for Missouri. Beyond that, he's forced three fumbles and blocked a kick.
The Tiger shows particular skill moving his hands, breaking free of offensive linemen and using smooth pass-rushing moves to terrorize quarterbacks. He has great balance, but his greatest asset is his drive. He'll often pursue runners from behind or across the field, making the tackle from unexpected places.
His ability to diagnose plays and move laterally while disengaging blocks allows him to blow up the most unlikely offensive sets, often going wide enough to prevent screens.
A shoulder surgery in 2011 and some character concerns hold Richardson back, but the Vikings might feel themselves wise for investing in him come draft time.
Barrett Jones is as dynamic an offensive lineman as one will see coming out of the draft. Having played at every position along the line, Jones is both a technical and physical wonder.
Jones doesn't have the sheer physical dominance of Chance Warmack or the extremely refined handwork of Jonathan Cooper, but his consistency and intelligence has earned him some of the highest honors in college football.
Having earned honors as a Third Team All-American and a First Team All-SEC player in 2010 as a right guard, he stepped up to play the left tackle position and earned the Outland Trophy as the nation's top interior lineman. After that, he moved to center and impressed scouts even more.
It's true that Jones is both dedicated and intelligent; those are clearly his greatest assets. But his physical prowess is often understated. His height and bulk are prototypical for his position, and Jones' mobility often gets ignored. He moves well both laterally and downhill, making blocks both on the second level and when stretching to the outside.
While he perhaps has average strength and poor change-of-direction capability, he more than makes up for it with elite awareness, excellent instincts and a good nose for where to go. He calls protection schemes extremely well and can intuit blitzers based off of instinct and study.
Swingmen are extremely valuable in the NFL, and Jones might move up based on that. His arm length may not be ideal for a tackle, but good hand placement and fast footwork should help make up for it if he's needed in a pinch.
Jones is best as a center, but also would excel as a guard a clear area of need for the Vikings after seeing Charlie Johnson struggle and Brandon Fusco fail to deliver after a strong initial performance at the beginning of the 2012 season.
There's a large separation between the top tier of deep threat receivers in the 2013 draft and the second tier, and Hopkins finds himself looking to go off the board at the bottom of the first round if he can place himself as the best of the also-rans.
If he falls due to a run on defensive players, the Vikings could well be in a position to trade up for him, or even find him in the middle of the second round, and so, will be aware of what he can do.
Like Hunter, Hopkins has a wide catch radius and enough speed to qualify as a vertical threat. Without the precision of others as a route runner, Hopkins has been relying quite a bit on a physical advantage he won't quite have in the NFL and will need to improve his explosiveness out of breaks and his footwork at the gather.
He certainly has the agility and sure hands to be a threat in any role, but the Vikings will look to make sure he can fulfill duties at the split end position in order to round out their limited offense. Another receiver who can make poorer quarterbacks look good with simple looking circus catches, Spielman and the rest of the front office might look to Clemson to shore up their receiver woes.
Jesse Williams is well-known for being the "tattooed monster from down under" who benched 600 pounds in the offseason. More than a cute story, however, Williams is an extremely good defensive lineman.
Williams played as a 5-technique defensive end in 2011 and as a nose guard/0-technique this year, but has also been asked to attach the A-gap directly in Alabama's offense. He projects better as a nose tackle in a 3-4 two-gap system than the Vikings' 4-3 one-gap system, but he could still excel in Minnesota.
This year, Williams saw many more double teams than he had as a defensive end and generally handled it well. When playing with proper leverage, it's nearly impossible to move Williams, and he improved his consistency in this respect this year. Still, there's work to be done to make sure he stays low and uses his hands better.
He will, on occasion, move the double teams, but will more often than not take advantage of offensive linemen left alone to deal with him after their partner moves on to the second level. Williams can punish teams for leaving him one on one with an offensive lineman and keeps his legs moving at the point of attack in order to enable linebackers and close off running lanes.
His strength is obvious on the field, and it's not wasted either. The fact that he can move around football players and still maintain the explosiveness and speed he's had to get into the backfield is impressive. More than that, his ability to move laterally to get to the ball-carrier has allowed him to be more than simply a space-eater and could give any team that takes a chance on him a real opportunity to improve its run defense.
There's still a lot of work to be done before he can fully perform in the Vikings' system, but it wouldn't be bad to use a pick on him—it's not as much of a risk as most players who might be asked to switch systems.
Alabama linebacker C.J. Mosley plays as an inside linebacker in Alabama's 3-4 scheme and could go to 3-4 teams in need of one, but also projects as a high-level outside linebacker prospect.
The Vikings aren't hurting for outside linebackers, with Chad Greenway performing at a high level and Erin Henderson playing adequately on the weak side, but Mosley could easily replace Henderson or move him to the middle linebacker position instead of Brinkley.
Minnesota might be a bit disappointed with Henderson's play, which hasn't quite met the potential he showed the year previous in a two down role.
Mosley might also simply slot into a middle linebacker role despite not really doing a lot of backpedaling while with Alabama.
It doesn't matter much, however, as his pass coverage skills are phenomenal for a linebacker. With two interceptions and innumerable pass deflections, Mosley has shown an ability to play in both man and zone coverages against some of the quickest tight ends and slot receivers in the league.
Minnesota doesn't find itself blitzing linebackers often, but could change its tune if it has a chance to draft Mosley, whose blitzing skills are good enough to warrant a change to scheme.
As the Vikings defense has improved over the previous year, it still has several weaknesses that Mosley can improve upon. They are wont to give up passes underneath and in the middle that end up converting first downs, which is the exact type of pass Mosley has done well to break up. He's a fast hitter that knows how to get to the ball, but he would need to bulk up before really being an effective player in the NFL. If he can do that while maintaining his excellent speed, he'll be a real gem.
It's true that Williams might have been a better receiver than DeAndre Hopkins, but the draft often finds potential coming before college production. Regardless, both Hopkins and Williams represent more upside than proven talent anyway and need to make up for some perceived deficiencies if they want to make an impact.
Williams leads the NCAA in receiving yards by just shy of 100 yards and has proven that his receiving skills are not dependent upon Robert Griffin III, using his excellent speed and agility to force himself into the discussion for nation's top receiver.
Over 6'2", Williams is tall enough to provide a threat to catch anywhere and lanky enough to provide a respectable catch radius. Like Hopkins, he needs to improve his route running, but by not quite as much.
He can explode out of cuts to create separation at the drop of a hat, but will often drift out of his routes and won't always make a move towards the ball.
Like Jerome Simpson, Williams' ball skills are inconsistent. He will, on occasion, make impressive catches that display his excellent body control and range, but will often rely on his body to make the catch—worrisome to NFL scouts because it speaks to reliability and the ability to create yards after the catch.
He doesn't read blocks or defenders as well as some of the better receivers in the draft and has been accused of being lazy when it's clear the play isn't running through him. He has a lot of work to do before he's NFL-ready, but could rattle off some great big plays for the Vikings if they choose to draft him.
Larry Warford represents a potential value pick that may fall as far as the third round. If so, the Vikings might pounce on him because of how similarly he plays to Barrett Jones and Chance Warmack. He's not as talented as either of those individuals, but shutting down Shariff Floyd and Sheldon Richardson is no easy feat.
Warford combines both intellectual awareness and strength to be effective both in pass protection and as a run blocker. While there's still technique work to do, it's clear that Warford can play at an NFL level with just some degree of coaching.
The Kentucky product knows well enough to stay low and can deal with the bull rush with the best of guards. Extremely reliable at picking up schemes, knowing his assignments and maintaining positioning, Warford represents a clear upgrade over Charlie Johnson or Brandon Fusco in pass protection.
As a run blocker, he could use more work, but still likely exceeds anyone the Vikings have on their roster. He gets off the line well and keeps his head on a swivel when making blocks. He plays a little too downhill at times and won't be properly positioned when making contact with defenders on the second level, but gets to them surprisingly quickly. He should do a better job locking onto defenders with his hands, but generally gets the job done anyway.
His strength serves him well, and he can push defensive linemen around and punches off of them well. With the ability to execute traps and pulls very well, he can open up the run game in ways Charlie Johnson could not.
Despite playing for a poor football school, Warford has good tape against elite competition. While the other guards ahead of him in the draft all are clearly superior in one skill set or another, Warford has a full package of talents that just needs tweaking before he's successful.
Kevin Minter has made a name for himself in the LSU defense and figures to be the third or fourth inside linebacker taken off the board.
An excellent tackler, Minter has been the centerpiece of the Tigers defense. He finished with 111 tackles, 13.5 of which went for a loss. He's done damage in the passing game as well, with three sacks, five pass deflections and an interception.
Minter's instincts are great, and he can read the flow of the play as well as anyone. His penchant for hard hits hasn't really hurt him, and he usually finishes the play with the tackle. He plays much faster than he looks and can run down running backs from behind if need be. The LSU standout has done well in run defense and excels when playing downhill.
That's not to say he doesn't play well in pass coverage, either. A surprising ability to cover receivers, tight ends and running backs in man coverage makes him very valuable in a defense like the Vikings, which relies on an intelligent middle linebacker to match tight ends with speed.
He doesn't play to his zone landmarks well and has some agility problems, but the first problem is eminently fixable. Right now, it seems like he is successfully covering up his stiffness with excellent play diagnosis, and it's working. Hopefully, the Vikings can rely on that, as they take on the high-powered passing offenses in the NFC North.
Minter can blitz well from the middle and looks to be a prospect for 3-4 and 4-3 teams. He's a good, instinctive linebacker that the Vikings could use heading the defense.
Kawann Short came into the 2012 college football season with a lot of questions about his consistency, work ethic and conditioning and has resolved many of these concerns to a point.
While he has continued to play streaky, his power is hard to ignore. While large for a one-gap defensive tackle at 325 pounds (and perhaps even heavier than his listed weight), he can quickly end up in the backfield to make plays. He has all the physical capability teams would want in a defensive tackle and can play as either a 3-technique or a 1-technique tackle.
His power wins a lot of his matchups, but he also has a number of effective pass-rushing moves that help him out. It's difficult for him to maintain leverage, as he doesn't always stay low, but is nearly impossible to stop when he does.
Often drawing double teams, Short has started moving around and beating them this year with his power, skill and speed. While he often gets pressure, however, he doesn't always get to the quarterback, as he needs more gas to finish the job.
Nevertheless, active hands and good strength have done a lot for him, but he does need to be a little better disengaging from blocks in the run game. While he could do more on zone running plays, his lateral speed is more than good enough for most NFL tackles, and he can be found making plays outside of the box.
If Minnesota feels it can solve Short's consistency problem and move him down to an ideal weight, it could end up with one of the best defensive tackles in the league. It's a big if, however, and Short has a lot of technical work to do as well.
Cordarrelle Patterson is once again a receiver the Vikings could find and develop. As the third receiver at Tennessee before Da'Rick Rogers left, Patterson entered the season with a number of questions.
But Patterson proved his doubters wrong and put together a great year for 1,086 yards from scrimmage as both a receiver and runner. With excellent speed, Patterson took it to David Amerson in the first week of the year.
As a tall, lanky wideout, he seems to fit the same mold as Williams and Hopkins, but so many more questions surround Patterson. He's physically much more capable and could end up running a 4.3 40 and set the SEC single-season record for combined kickoff and punt return yards at 27.6 yards per attempt.
With those yards, he set a school record for all-purpose yards at 1858.
But with that pure physical ability comes inconsistent ball skills and work ethic. He won't always compete with defensive backs for the ball and sometimes wastes his separation with an incomplete effort getting to the ball.
Against press coverage and more physical corners, he seems to struggle when he should be punishing them with his speed. His raw physical capability unfortunately does not match up with his on-field tape and represents a big high-risk, high-reward pick. If the Vikings were to select him, they'd be rolling the dice on a second-round choice that could really amount to not much.
Patterson is clearly a bit immature as a player and invites questions about his maturity as a person, but doesn't have major character red flags in his background.
The breakout Tennessee receiver could end up being the best receiver in the draft, but really needs a strong, steady hand to develop him—both to improve his mechanics, like route running and body placement—and to get his mind right on plays where he might not be asked to make a difference. If he pays off, however, the team that drafts him will have enormous dividends.
Anyone who has watched Rutgers play has found it impossible to ignore Khaseem Greene. Finishing with 125 tackles, 5.5 sacks, six forced fumbles, two interceptions and five batted passes, Greene has been performing in every aspect of the game—even stuffing runs with 10.5 tackles for loss. What's even more shocking is that this last year represents a down year in his statistics from 2011.
Then, he finished with 141 tackles and 14.5 tackles for a loss.
When he avoids blockers—something he can do deftly if he doesn't get hit right away—he generally displays rare form when wrapping up and is a solid tackler. Unfortunately, he also likes getting away with big hits from time to time and will miss tackles.
His biggest asset is his ability to move sideline to sideline with speed, and his ability to diagnose plays only helps him. He can read the flow of the play and suss out the run gaps or slower screens and stop the plays before they start. It helps that he has excellent change-of-direction skills and excellent pursuit with uncommon speed for a linebacker.
Unfortunately, that speed comes from having a safety's body. Converting from safety to linebacker was relatively easy for him in college, but the 40 pounds of bulk he's added are not enough for most teams, including the Vikings, who prefer faster players to larger players.
The good news is that his frame can stand to add 10-15 pounds, which is what he needs to match the current Vikings linebacker corps.
There are clearly things he still needs to learn about being a linebacker, including making sure he can maintain gap integrity or take on blocks, so he's not a Week 1 starter. He might have the ability to play in the middle, but more likely would play on the outside. Dropping deep in the Tampa-2 should be no problem for him, however, and the Vikings would do well to consider it.
Naturally, his pass coverage skills are fantastic for a college linebacker, and he should be able to handle tight ends and running backs well. He can blitz well, but it is unlikely the Vikings would call on him to do that too often, given his other capabilities in pass defense.
Ryan Nassib might be overlooked by national media, but scouts seem to have a different opinion. While not setting the world on fire in scouting reports or on the stat sheet, he's been moving up the boards with consistent and impressive quarterback play in his senior season.
Nassib led Syracuse to a fourth-quarter comeback in the first game of the year, only to watch his defense falter without taking advantage of his 482-yard day.
He fell down boards in the middle of the season with poor decision-making and turnovers, but a lightning-quick improvement in his ability to read defenses, go through progressions and make difficult throws and thrust him back in the conversation as a viable quarterback pickup in the draft.
A quick release and a powerful arm, along with excellent scrambling ability and a good throw on the run combine for a physical package that might be too irresistible to pass up if Nassib falls far enough.
Nassib's technique, footwork and release look good, and his improvement in the mental aspects of the game are really enlightening for NFL scouts.
The biggest knock on Nassib is the same problem Christian Ponder has with the Vikings right now—poor performance under pressure. But while Nassib has improved and stepped up in response to pressure, Ponder has underwhelmed. The Syracuse thrower has poise at times that seems a complete turnaround from the season before, or even the beginning of the 2012 season.
He has some experience in a pro-style offense, but needs more before he could be comfortable running them. He reportedly picks up offensive concepts quickly and might be able to provide Ponder with the internal pressure from the team to improve or even be a viable replacement. While Ponder might have a starting job secured for the beginning of 2013, picking up a late-round prospect as backup isn't a terrible idea.
If Nassib falls that far.
The Vikings well know the importance of cornerback depth. Having lost Chris Cook in consecutive seasons and losing out on Antoine Winfield the year before, the Vikings might find CB one of the positions to stock up on in case of a rainy day. Playing Marcus Sherels in the nickel for two years straight should have at least taught them that.
That said, the Vikings should be relatively happy with their starting cornerbacks. Cook had been performing at a decent level and Josh Robinson looked quite good at the beginning of the season, with only a recent run of mediocrity marring his debut.
The Vikings have been torched in the passing game by tall receivers—who exist in droves in the NFC North—and Winfield, Robinson and Jefferson can't always get it done. The 6'1" Blidi Wreh-Wilson should help and might only cost the Vikings a fourth-round pick.
Speedy and tall, Wreh-Wilson's biggest flag might be the 2011 knee surgery he had to go through. But he played after five games of convalescence and recorded nine pass breakups in his first game back, tying a previous high.
A natural ball-hawk, Wreh-Wilson started the year with seven interceptions to his name, two of them returned for touchdowns. In 2012, he added one more interception to his total and eight pass deflections, signalling somewhat of a down year.
Nevertheless, he possess the size and speed the Vikings could use in relief of Cook. His ability to read the ball in the air and position himself translates well in the NFL, and he would just have to learn to play outside his receivers. He wouldn't be a home-run hit as a pick, but certainly could be a valuable fourth-round pick.
In all likelihood, Boyd won't be entering the NFL draft. He has recently submitted some paperwork for draft consideration to see where his prospects lie, so there is some chance that he'll be eligible for the draft when the time finally rolls around.
Having led the ACC in passing efficiency, total yards, yards per attempt and touchdowns, he certainly seems like he has some value. He entered 2012 with a host of questions, not all of which were answered. He has all of the physical tools to succeed, with excellent arm strength, a tight spiral and good touch, but scouts had concern with his decision-making.
His performance has at least allowed him to point to tangible improvements over his already good poise and control over his offense. In the pocket, his quick release and good peripheral vision have saved him from a couple of sacks, but can be easily flustered by interior pressure. His mechanics when throwing under that pressure have suffered, but not as much as in 2011.
He can redirect defensive backs with his eyes and learned his new offense quickly while going through progressions relatively quickly. More than that, he deploys his athleticism well, generally choosing not to run whenever he thought there was a pass option available, but always threatening to make a big play when scrambling.
Boyd's decision-making in the pocket still hasn't improved in a big way and will often throw to routes instead of receivers, allowing the defense to make a big play. Patience should help Boyd out more, and he certainly seems to have the tools and intelligence to do well in the NFL.
Just like Nassib, a mid-round pick on a prospect like Boyd might end up providing a push for Ponder to do better, or at the very least provide some level of insurance. Boyd can't make every throw, but he's getting there. He might already be able to fit the ball in tighter windows than Ponder.