Is Tyler Eifert even in the Vikings draft board conversation?
Don't let it be said the Vikings current regime does not like Notre Dame players.
Since 1965—when the Vikings drafted their first Notre Dame player in WR Jack Snow—to the most
recent in DB Robert Blanton, the Vikings have drafted a total of 10 Notre Dame players. The most famous being Alan Page, DT in 1967.
The new regime has drafted a player from Notre Dame in back-to-back drafts, 2011 and 2012.
Recent evidence points to strategic moves as the Vikings have moved up in the past two years to grab instant starters Kyle Rudolph and Harrison Smith. We are hoping they wear purple and gold for many, many years with great productivity.
Will that trend continue in 2013?
Here is a list of probable Notre Dame players in the upcoming draft.
In no particular order they are:
- Braxston Cave, C
- Tyler Eifert, TE
- Robby Toma, WR
- Cierre Wood, RB
- Theo Riddick, RB
- Kapron Lewis-Moore
- Manti Te'o
- Jamoris Slaughter, S
- Zeke Motta, S
There are also juniors OT Zack Martin, DT Louis Nix, G Chris Watt and OLB Prince Shembo.
Chances are OLB Prince Shembo and OT Zack Martin will stay for their senior year in order to bolster
their 2014 draft status. At this point both appear to be Day 2 draftees.
The following slides examine the aforementioned players and whether the Vikings might/will/should consider any of these players.
Could a Theo Riddick be added to the Vikings backfield mix?
It is safe to say the Vikings will evaluate tight end Tyler Eifert, but most likely not draft him. Eifert projects to be a first- or second-round pick. Drafting Eifert would send shock waves throughout Minnesota and the NFL, and the Vikings will most likely look at one more year with Carlson to see about their investment with him.
On the receiving end, Robby Toma is a small receiver who just seems to be a potential chain mover, but not the way one would think. Toma, at 5'9", 185 lbs., lacks the necessary speed and quickness to be a threat, and Lord knows the Vikings already have enough of those.
For his career, Toma pulled in 60 catches for 667 and one TD. He had zero catches in the national championship game.
Theo Riddick and Cierre Wood: One school of thought is to say the Vikings are doing very well in the running back department, but a closer evaluation may have the Vikings looking deeper at this position than most would think.
Adrian Peterson is hands down the NFL's best back, and Toby Gerhart is a very capable backup, but Gerhart is a free agent in 2014. Even though he doesn't have the resume of typical free agents, he will still garner attention by teams who may want to see if Gerhart can be a full time guy.
Riddick is 5'11", 200 lbs with a 4.55 40 time and, according to walterfootball.com, "Riddick averaged 4.8 yards per carry as a senior to collect 917 yards and five touchdowns. He also contributed well in the passing game with 36 receptions for 370 yards and a touchdown. Riddick is an undersized back who looks like a solid rotational back in the NFL who can contribute in the passing game."
Riddick is a Round 5 through Round 7 prospect, but his versatility is a plus.
Cierre Wood is 5'11", 215 and runs a 4.58 40. Wood has good strength and burst, but he does not have that breakaway speed and, according to walterfootball.com, projects as a fourth- or fifth-round selection. The reason he is ranked higher than his batterymate most likely stems from his ability to be an every-down type runner, but his inability to be a threat out of the backfield is a concern in today's pass happy league.
It's hard to say who has the better upside and both backs seem to have similar styles, although Riddick does add the receiving component. If I were a betting man my money would be on Riddick in Round 6.
Depending on who you talk to, the Vikings offensive line either had a very good year or one where significant weaknesses are still very evident and must be addressed.
Personally, I thought the offensive line played well. The addition of Matt Kalil and moving Charlie Johnson to guard solidified the left side. True, Johnson struggled against the pass rush, but he acquitted himself well in the run game.
On the right side, the battle between Brandon Fusco and Geoff Schwartz seemed to play itself out with Fusco returning to starter and playing very well down the stretch. And at right tackle, the big Phil Loadholt had his best season yet. No need to mention John Sullivan, who is becoming one of the best centers in the NFC.
Where the Vikings need help is depth. Schwartz is a free agent, Joe Berger is a free agent and G Tyler Holmes and T Kevin Murphy were practice squad players. Demarcus Love should return from injuries, but there is still concern there.
The guard class in this year's draft is fairly weak, so unless the Vikings select G Chance Warmack, Alabama, or his batterymate Barrett Jones, or maybe even Dallas Thomas of Tennessee, in Rounds 1 through 3, it could be said the Vikings already addressed this in free agency or will consider a late-round diamond in the rough, the likes of Fusco.
According to Brian Kelly, Zack Martin will return in 2013. Chris Watt is also a junior and since he is considered a free agent type, he should return for 2013 as well.
Center Braxston Cave: WIth John Sullivan in tow it us unlikely the Vikings would select Cave who is projected to be a mid- to late-round selection according to nfldraftscout.com. He struggled in the national championship game and against another stout DT Kawaan Short of Purdue.
At this point, it does not look like any Notre Dame line players project to be future Vikings other than Cave.
Could it happen? Will Te'o drop?
OK, let's have some fun here. Last year the Vikings moved up to draft Harrison Smith and thus far appears to be a deft move. So, could it be the Vikings will move up should Manti Te'o drop?
There are two schools of thought here. One, Te'o seems to be a Ray Lewis type in terms of his inspiration, motivation and desire, but then there is the national championship game where Te'o looked lost at times, missing tackles and not having the type of impact a player of his status should have.
However, it's not all on Te'o, though. At last check there are 10 other players on that side of the ball and Bama dominated every aspect of the game.
So, Te'o is the great debate of this draft. Will he go high or drop? I can't say for certain. I do think the Vikings, should Te'o drop, will be very interested in him, but again, it all depends on where he ranks on their draft board compared to other players they are looking at for that No. 23 spot.
The Vikings have higher priorities than MLB, but it's hard to resist when a player drops into your lap and the Vikings have benefited from that in the past: Randy Moss, Adrian Peterson, Percy Harvin.
The Vikings defensive front did a lot of rotating this year so it's hard to say how they will look at this position in the draft. Some draftniks have the Vikings looking at DT in the first or second round, while others have them looking mid rounds for a run stuffer.
DT Louis Nix has decided to return to Notre Dame for 2013, but had he come out I am sure the Vikings would have taken a very long look at the 6'3", 326-pound run stuffer. He was a projected second-round selection for this year's draft.
DE Kapron Lewis-Moore, according to several draft websites, is projected as a late-round draft pick or free agent. Given the Vikings depth at that position right now, I think it would be a stretch for the Vikings to consider Lewis-Moore other than bringing him in as a free agent should he not get drafted.
Here is where it might get interesting.
Two Irish defenders on the back end look intriguing: Zeke Motta, S, and Jamoris Slaughter, S.
Zeke Motta is almost a Harrison Smith redux. He is 6'2", 215 and has similar attributes of Smith. He's not as fluid and his redirection needs work. The 4.62 40 is somewhat of a concern, but there is no doubt the Vikings might show considerable interest because there is something to be said for combining Smith and Motta.
I would like to have seen more plays out of Motta this past year, but his strong point is run support, and that bodes well for him. He had 75 tackles with 0 INTs and 0 sacks. But Smith did not have that great senior year either, so body of work does matter. Motta projects as a late-round pick, but a surprising combine could elevate his stock.
Jamoris Slaughter is rated as a free-agent type. He is the 43rd-ranked player at his position, so it looks like Slaughter is more suited to be a special teams player if he is going to have an NFL career.
So, of the likely defenders, Te'o and Motta stand out as possible Irish wearing purple next season.
The question is an interesting one: will the Vikings pull the trigger on another Notre Dame player in the upcoming draft?
It's hard to say given the players who are available and what the Vikings need. If I had to put my money on who would be wearing purple, I'd go with Motta and/or Riddick.
What say you?