It's tough to envision Minnesota being able to celebrate selecting Johnny Manziel at No. 8.
Don't let the title of this slideshow fool you.
Yes, this is a mock draft projecting the ideal outcome of the Minnesota Vikings' seven draft picks for the 2014 NFL draft. But it also tries to consider players who could be available and could fill a need when the Vikings are picking.
So no, the Vikings won't be selecting Johnny Manziel with the No. 8 pick. Bleacher Report's Matt Miller, among others, has said Manziel is a lock as a top-five selection. And no, the Vikings won't be getting Clemson's Sammy Watkins in the second round.
This mock tries to use some logic (It's your call whether it does.) about who will be available at every pick and where value can be had based upon Minnesota's needs.
Justin Gilbert has the size (6' and 200 pounds) to defend any NFL wide receiver.
What? A cornerback? Where's the quarterback? C'MON MAN!
At this juncture, it's tough to envision a quarterback worthy of a top-10 selection slipping to No. 8, especially given the needs of the seven teams picking in front of Minnesota.
That makes it tough to envision Johnny Manziel, Teddy Bridgewater or Blake Bortles (the three quarterbacks worthy of top-10 consideration) still being on the board. (I'm not a fan of Derek Carr as a top-10 pick.)
That brings us to Justin Gilbert.
Gilbert (6' and 200 pounds) is projected by many to be the top cornerback in this draft class. Minnesota's 31st-ranked pass defense is filled with problems, and Gilbert could be the solution.
ESPN NFL draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. has him as the No. 10 pick and the first cornerback off the board in his Jan. 15 mock.
In that mock, Kiper opines on Gilbert: "Gilbert would help the cause coming off a season where you could argue that no cornerback in college football performed better. He has the size to compete with bigger wide receivers and the agility and speed to run with anybody. He also brings strong return skills."
Bleacher Report's Matt Miller has Gilbert going 10th to the Lions, the first corner off the board, and says: "Gilbert has everything you want from an NFL cornerback. He's big enough to handle outside receivers but shows the quick feet and hips to work through transitions and double-moves in man coverage. And to top it all off, he's brilliant at attacking the ball and making plays once he has the football in his hands."
CBSSports.com ranks Gilbert as the No. 21 overall prospect and the No. 2 cornerback, behind Michigan State's Darqueze Dennard.
Gilbert recorded 42 tackles and seven interceptions in 13 games this past season at Oklahoma State.
Charlie Johnson: So long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, good night!
Cyril Richardson would be a slam-dunk pick in the second round.
Richardson (6'5" and 340 pounds) is a mammoth offensive guard who isn't afraid of suiting up to make pancakes, and he should be selected in the late first or early second round.
ESPN.com (subscription required) ranks him the No. 1 guard and the No. 31 prospect overall, while CBSSports.com ranks him as the No. 2 guard and the No. 35 prospect overall. Bleacher Report's Matt Miller ranks him as the No. 31 overall prospect and the No. 2 guard.
Ahmad Dixon is a physical safety who would play well alongside Harrison Smith.
Over the final three games of the 2013 season, Harrison Smith was lonely in Minnesota's defensive backfield.
That's because he lacked a legitimate safety partner.
Jamarca Sanford is good at stuffing the run (as evidenced by his 75 tackles in 13 games) but was putrid in his pass-defense efforts.
Smith is a well-rounded safety who has the physicality to play the strong position and the coverage skills to play the free.
Ahmad Dixon (6' and 205 pounds) would slide Smith to the free position, as his physicality is off the charts. (Slobber over his abs if you wish. See this hit too).
CBSSports.com projects the senior to be selected in the second or third round and says the following about him:
Extremely fast downhill and loves to get his hands dirty in the run game, striking through his target with strong hands to finish. Dixon has an accurate first step with the quickness and range to play both sidelines with an alert, active mentality. Displays the feet and overall body coordination to hold up on an island if needed. Excellent size/speed athlete with the fluidity and natural speed to cover the entire field, making plays behind the line of scrimmage and in the deep half of the field. Works hard to shed blocks to make open-field stops and is a physical tackler. He is confident in coverage to jump routes and aggressively go after the ball.
Dixon was second on Baylor's defense with 81 tackles while notching two tackles for loss, one interception and one forced fumble in 13 games this past season.
Daniel McCullers is a large man who could anchor Minnesota's run defense.
While the pass defense took most of the flack this past season, the run defense was a shadow of its former self.
It finished 16th against the run (110.4 yards per game), which was its worst finish since 2005, when it finished 19th (115.1 yards per game).
Part of the reason: limited resistance up the middle.
It's been that way since Pat Williams' last season in 2010, and Daniel McCullers could be Minnesota's next Pat Williams.
McCullers (6'6" and 351 pounds) towers over Pat Williams' listed height and weight (6'3" and 317 pounds). Just like Pat, McCullers does little as a pass-rusher. But that's not why you employ McCullers or Pat. You employ them to stop the run.
CBSSports.com says the following about McCullers:
Despite his inexperience, McCullers' size and ability to disrupt things from the middle often made him the focus of an opponent's blocking scheme. Has been double-teamed on most snaps and has even seen triple-team blocks often. Despite the attention, McCullers' size and strength make him tough to move in the running game. He plays with better leverage than one might expect given his frame, holding up well inside and sliding off blockers to handle two-gap responsibilities when playing the 3-4 nose guard. He was equally impressive against the run when Tennessee switched to a four-man front in 2012.
With Sharrif Floyd expected to take over for Kevin Williams (a free agent who appears unlikely to return), it'd be an opportunity for McCullers and Floyd to grow a partnership.
McCullers (39 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss and one sack in 12 games in 2013) can do more for Minnesota's defensive line than free agent Fred Evans or Letroy Guion (a free agent after next season).
Aaron Murray suffered a torn ACL and will need to be monitored closely.
The Vikings missed on a quarterback with their top-10 selection in this mock draft. But that doesn't mean they'll go home empty-handed at the position.
Tell them what they've won, Johnny!
Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray!
Murray will scare off plenty of teams as he recovers from a torn ACL suffered in November. But given the Vikings' success with rehabbing Adrian Peterson, they should be more confident than most to help him successfully recover (assuming all the medical documents check out beforehand).
The Vikings are likely to enter 2014 with Matt Cassel as their starter (assuming he opts to return), but that really isn't a long-term solution at the position, as Cassel turns 32 in May. That's not to say Murray is a long-term solution either, but at this stage of the draft, it's worth taking a shot on a player who would have gone earlier in the draft if not for his injury.
NFL.com's Daniel Jeremiah opines on Murray (6'1" and 205 pounds): "I love Murray's toughness and touch as a passer, but his lack of top arm strength and size will likely keep him out of the first two rounds of the 2014 NFL Draft."
CBSSports.com says of Murray:
As one might expect given his playing time, Murray does many of the little things well. He has a quick set-up and delivery. He throws a tight spiral and is creative in the pocket, showing the ability to slide and re-set, as well as deliver passes from a variety of arm slots. He throws deep passes with velocity and good trajectory and can attack down the seam with excellent touch, as well. He's starred in a pro-style offense for three seasons against elite competition.
He leaves Georgia as the SEC's all-time leader in passing yards (13,166).
Deion Belue was part of a strong defense at Alabama.
As I pointed out earlier, the Vikings' 31st-ranked pass defense could use some help.
If it's able to procure Justin Gilbert and Ahmad Dixon from this draft, it's off to a pretty good start.
But there are plenty of holes to fill.
Chris Cook is a free agent and may not return. Marcus Sherels is also a free agent.
Even if both return, it's not as if Minnesota boasted one of the NFL's best cornerback corps.
Deion Belue was part of a winning, dominant defense at Alabama, and at this point in the draft, that separates him from his peers.
CBS Sports writes of Belue, who it projects as a fifth- or sixth-round pick:
Belue is able to be successful because of his desire to win body positioning during the route and at the catch point to make a play on the ball. He can get his hips turned with his aggressive demeanor, but has the footwork to quickly recover and collect himself. Belue does need to clean up his tackling technique, but he isn't shy to attack the run with his competitive presence on the outside.
Belue (5'11" and 183 pounds) had 20 tackles, one tackle for loss and one interception in 11 games.
LaDarius Perkins is quick and can be dangerous coming out of the backfield.
Hmm. Adrian Peterson? Why draft a running back?
Well, Toby Gerhart, a free agent this offseason, is unlikely to return to the Vikings with that monumental running back standing in his way.
With Gerhart gone, that means Matt Asiata, also a free agent, jumps to the No. 2 guy (if he's retained), which creates a hole in the No. 3. slot.
Worst-case scenario, the Vikings could be out Gerhart and Asiata. That means the position needs help.
Coincidentally, Bleacher Report's Miller has the Vikings selecting Perkins with this exact pick.
Perkins isn't much to look at (5'9" and 195 pounds), but don't judge the book by its cover.
Of course, there are reasons CBSSports.com projects Perkins to go undrafted: "Perhaps not as fast as his estimated 40-yard dash time would indicate, as he'll appear to lose steam on longer runs, and has been run down from behind at times. Perkins will lower a shoulder into an oncoming defender when in pass protection but ultimately, his lack of size limits his effectiveness in this area."
But CBSSports.com says there's plenty to love too:
Perkins has broad shoulders, thick thighs and quick feet, which allow him to spurt through creases and run through arm tackles. Possesses intriguing acceleration. Some of his most impressive runs, are due to an ability to stop and start, allow pursuing defenders to slip right on by him. Perkins has good vision and likes to cut-back, making him a threat even when defenders appear to have him bottled up. He isn't asked to do much as a receiver, typically slipping out in the flats, but when given the opportunity, has shown good hands and explosion upfield after the catch.
In 12 games at Mississippi State this past season, Perkins rushed for 593 yards on 137 carries (4.0 yards per carry) and two touchdowns and caught 27 receptions for 248 yards and three receiving touchdowns.