After an encouraging 2009 draft, the Vikings have turned their focus to signing free agents. At first glance one may think it’s just another process to fill the field with practice players.
However, several of the 14 players recently signed by the Vikings have a great chance of being on the roster come September. Below are eight players that I believe has a good chance of making the roster as the Vikings are quietly building a super bowl contender.
Ian Johnson RB, Boise State, 5’11 212
Clocked 4.46 at the combine: His 4,183 yards and 58 career touchdowns equals one word – productive. Johnson is a shifty runner with good speed, hands and vision. He can also contribute as a kick returner.
Scouting reports credit a lackluster 2008 season as the main reason he went undrafted. He has all the physical skills to be the Vikings third running back. He only has to beat out former Iowa running back Albert Young.
Johnson is most famous for scoring the two-point conversion that upset heavy favorite Oklahoma in the 2006 Fiesta Bowl. He has had some injuries, but barring anything major, I think he’s the blue collar guy that Brad Childress covets.
He’ll be a great safety valve in case Chester Taylor gets tired of playing second fiddle to the great Adrian Peterson and wants out.
Safeties Colt Anderson (5’9 195) of Montana and Utah State’s Devon Hall (6’2 212) are interesting prospects.
Safety Devon Hall is 6’2, 212, runs a 4.45 forty and has a 39 inch vertical. Oh, My! A two-year starter in the Utah State secondary, the only knock in the scouting report is that he has a tendency to bite on pass fakes.
Ok, I admit we’ll have to fix that; but with 4.4 speed, he can probably recover pretty well. Bottom line—he is a hard-hitting sure tackler that plays well in the box. I like Hall’s chances to make this roster at safety behind projected starters Madieu Williams and Tyrell Johnson. Other safeties include Eric Frampton, Husain Abdullah and seventh round draft pick Jamarca Sanford
After watching safety Colt Anderson on YouTube, I came away with one conclusion—this guy can flat out play. He run a 4.54 in the 40 and makes up for his lack of height by utilizing great ball awareness and an ability to lay the wood on receivers coming across the middle.
The Vikings can use an intimidating force in the secondary or another torpedo to break up wedges on kickoffs. Anderson wraps up in space and shoots the gaps to make plays. I love his intensity.
As for his chances of sticking, the competition in the secondary will be intense. Although his height will hurt him, he has some value as a strong safety and special team’s player. He’s a long shot, but nevertheless deserves a good look.
Several other signees that pique my interest include wide receiver Nick Moore, linebacker Robert Francois, guard Andy Kemp and center Jon Cooper.
Toledo’s Nick Moore (6’3 193), lit up Michigan last October with 20 receptions and 167 yards! He runs a 4.53 forty yard dash and has a 35" vertical. This guy knows how to get open and has great hands. After Berrian, Harvin, Wade and Rice, Moore could slice in for quality playing time.
He will be a good player to keep close in case of injury to any of the top four wide outs. The Vikings picked up Glen Holt as a free agent earlier to join speedsters Aundrae Allison, Jaymar Johnson and Darius Reynaud as other receivers vying for a roster spot. However, Nick Moore may be more complete than any of them.
Oklahoma center Jon Cooper (6’3 290) is the 2008 Big 12 Offensive Lineman of the Year. That has to count for something. Cooper’s scouting report calls him a smart technician who makes intelligent line calls; something the Vikings can use after losing Matt Birk.
The report by Consensus Draft Services goes on to read that Cooper is “very quick off the ball and into his blocks. Good cut blocker who can get to the second level and excels in combination blocks.
Very strong hands and sticks to his man. Good pass blocker who uses leverage to his advantage, and is aware of stunts and blitzes.” Sounds like the Vikings may have found a true gem at a need position. I’m guessing this guy makes the team.
Boston College linebacker Robert Francois (6’2 245) is an impressive physical specimen with 4.6 speed. He had 82 tackles, (9 for losses) and 2 sacks in 2008. The knock on him is he does not play up to expectation. Imagine what he can do if he gets the right motivation.
According to the scouting report, “(Francois) looks the part off the bus. Nice OLB size. Straight line fast. Decent lateral quickness and agility. Plays like Godzilla in spurts. Test very well athletically.” If he truly plays like Godzilla, defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier will find room for him on the depth chart.
Andy Kemp 6’6 315 Guard, Wisconsin rated as one of the top undrafted players. Kemp could add value to the Vikings because the team is thin at guard and he can play both sides, if needed. Scouts love his strength in the run game, but also rated him a little slow on pulling plays.