7 Late-Round Sleepers Who Would Be Perfect for the Minnesota Vikings

Tim Arcand@@TArcandCorrespondent IJanuary 31, 2014

7 Late-Round Sleepers Who Would Be Perfect for the Minnesota Vikings

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    As the Minnesota Vikings look to complete their coaching staff, they are also building their database for the upcoming draft class. The ranking of draft prospects is not an exact science. If it was, there wouldn't be so many misses in the draft.

    A list of first-round draft picks the Vikings misjudged include wide receiver Troy Williamson in 2005, defensive end Kenechi Udeze in 2004 and defensive tackle Dimitrius Underwood in 1999.

    At the same time, there are a handful of players that no one saw coming. Players that were flying so far under the radar, that every team in the NFL passed on them—several times. The biggest surprise in Vikings' franchise history is defensive tackle John Randle.

    The Vikings signed Randle as an undrafted rookie free agent out of Texas A&I in 1990 (later renamed to Texas A&M Univeristy-Kingsville). At that time, the NFL draft was 12 rounds. All 28 teams passed on Randle a total of 331 times—the number of players selected that year. In 2010, Randle was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He played 11 seasons with the Vikings and is the franchise leader in sacks with 114 sacks.    

    The players profiled on the following slides are projected as late-round draft picks, going somewhere after the fifth round in the upcoming NFL draft.

    Who knows, hopefully there's another future Hall of Famer just waiting for the opportunity to prove it.   

Quarterback James Franklin from Missouri

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    According to CBS Sports, Missouri quarterback James Franklin is the 30th-ranked quarterback in the draft and is not expected to be drafted. 

    In 10 games this season for the Tigers, he completed 62.1 percent of his passes for 2,429 yards with 19 touchdowns and only six interceptions. He also ran for 510 yards and four touchdowns. 

    In the SEC Championship game, he passed for 303 yards and three touchdowns against Auburn in a losing effort. He also rushed for 62 yards and a touchdown.

    Unfortunately, he followed that up with a less-than-stellar performance against Oklahoma State in the Cotton Bowl. Franklin finished 15-of-40 for only 174 yards and an interception. 

    In four seasons with Missouri, Franklin finished with 6,962 passing yards and rushed for 1,729 yards with a total of 72 touchdowns—51 passing and 21 rushing. 

    According to Rob Rang of CBS Sports, Franklin "has a solid athletic build, and is a true scrambling threat." Even though he may not be ready for the NFL, perhaps he can develop into an effective read-option quarterback. With the right group of receivers and a power running back around him, anything is possible. 

    In 1992, the Vikings drafted Florida State backup quarterback Brad Johnson in the ninth round. In two separate stints with the Vikings, he finished with a 28-18 record. In 1998, he opened the season 2-0 as the starter when a shoulder injury allowed Randall Cunningham to lead the Vikings to a 15-1 record. In 2002, he led the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to a Super Bowl championship. 

Offensive Guard Zach Fulton from Tennessee

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    The Minnesota Vikings need to find a replacement for guard Charlie Johnson, who is set to become a free agent this season. Last year, the Vikings drafted two guards, Jeff Baca in the fifth round from UCLA and Travis Bond from North Carolina in the seventh—who is currently a Carolina Panther.

    That doesn't mean the Vikings are not in the market for another offensive lineman. 

    A potential player they could pick up later in the draft is Zach Fulton from the University of Tennessee. Fulton is ranked 18th among offensive guards by CBS Sports and is projected no better than a seventh-round draft pick. 

    Fulton was a three-year starter for the Volunteers, breaking into the starting lineup for five games at right guard his freshman season. At 6'5" and 323 pounds, he has the body to play in the NFL.

    Perhaps he has the potential to take over at guard, playing on the line with Brandon Fusco, a sixth-round draft pick out of Slippery Rock in 2011. Fusco has started 31 games the last two seasons.  


Defensive Tackle Kerry Hyder from Texas Tech

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    The Minnesota Vikings need to find a couple of defensive linemen. According to a tweet from CBS Fantasy Football, it's unlikely Jared Allen will re-sign with the Vikings.

    The Vikings renegotiated defensive tackle Kevin Williams' contract last season, reducing the term of his contract and making him a free agent this season. It's unlikely the team will be looking to re-sign Williams, who will turn 34 before the start of the season. 

    Wouldn't it be great if they could stumble onto another John Randle either later in the draft or as a free agent? Texas Tech defensive tackle Kerry Hyder, finished fourth for the Red Raiders with 65 tackles this season. He led his team with 11.5 tackles for a loss and had two sacks and three forced fumbles.

    In four seasons at Texas Tech, Hyder has 176 tackles and 11 sacks. Compare that to 88 tackles and 11.5 sacks for Williams the last four years. 

    At 6'2" and 281 pounds, Hyder has a frame close to that of John Randle (6'1" and 290 lbs). Now if he has a motor that never stops running.   


Defensive End Chaz Sutton from South Carolina

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    The top-rated defensive end in the upcoming draft is Jadeveon Clowney from South Carolina. Walter Football projects Clowney as a top-five pick. 

    On the other end of the South Carolina defensive line is Chaz Sutton, projected as a seventh-round selection by both Walter Football and CBS Sports

    Sutton finished tied for second with Clowney with three sacks for the Gamecocks. Clowney and Sutton finished second and third, respectively, with 11.5 and 8.5 tackles for a loss this season.

    At 6'5" and 256 pounds, Sutton has a longer frame like Jared Allen (6'6", 265 lbs). Perhaps, like Allen, Sutton can become an elite sack producer that no one saw coming. Four years after being selected by the Chiefs in the fourth-round of the 2004 draft, Allen led the NFL with 15.5 sacks.


Inside Linebacker Caleb Lavey from Oklahoma State

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    The Minnesota Vikings need to upgrade the linebacker position. Unfortunately, with greater needs on the defensive line, cornerback and quarterback, linebacker may not get addressed until later in the draft—again.

    Since selecting Chad Greenway in the first round of the 2006 draft, the Vikings have drafted seven linebackers over the past seven years. The highest drafted linebacker was Gerald Hodges in the fourth round in 2013.

    Audie Cole, a seventh-round draft pick in 2012, started five games last season, but those starts came after Erin Henderson was arrested for a DUI in November and after Cole was waived and then re-signed to the roster.

    Henderson, an undrafted rookie in 2008, started 33 games the last three seasons. St. Paul Pioneer Press sports writer Chris Tomasson tweeted earlier this month insinuating that Henderson will most likely be waived once NFL teams are allowed to do so. 

    Another potential linebacker the Vikings should consider is Caleb Lavey from Oklahoma State. According to Walter Football, Lavey is a value pick for a team as a late-round selection.  He led the Cowboys this past season with 93 tackles, 12.5 for a loss and was second on the team with four interceptions. 

    At 6'3" and 240 pounds, Lavey has the body to play in the NFL. 



Lindenwood Cornerback Pierre Desir

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    The Minnesota Vikings desperately need to find a cornerback to help improve the 31st-ranked passing defense. After four ineffective seasons, the Vikings should be parting ways with Chris Cook, their second-round draft pick in 2010. 

    A potential cornerback the Vikings should consider is Pierre Desir from Lindenwood University. He led the Lions with four interceptions this season and played in both the East-West Shrine Bowl and the Senior Bowl.

    In the Senior Bowl, two passes were thrown in his direction and both were completed—one to the receiver and one to him. At 6'1" and 195 pounds, he brings some size to the cornerback position that the Vikings need.   

    Surprisingly, Desir is not listed among the 32 cornerbacks by Walter Football, while CBS Sports projects him as a second- or third-round draft pick. Based on the different projections, perhaps he's not flying under the radar all that much and should not be included on this list. Still, he has the potential to be a great addition to the team. 


Wide Receiver Ryan Grant from Tulane

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    According to Spotrac, the Minnesota Vikings have only three of their wide receivers from last year's roster signed for 2014. Jerome Simpson, who opened the season as a starter, and former quarterback Joe Webb are free agents.

    The Vikings still have seven wide receivers on the roster, with Greg Jennings, Cordarrelle Patterson and Jarius Wright topping the list. The last time the Vikings failed to draft a wide receiver was 2006—the year after drafting Troy Williamson with the seventh pick in the 2005 draft. 

    A potential late-round wide receiver that could help the Vikings is Ryan Grant from Tulane University. Projected as a fifth- to seventh-round draft pick, Grant averaged 76.5 receptions and 1,094 yards. He leaves college with 21 touchdowns, nine of them last season as Tulane's leading receiver. 

    According to Dane Brugler of CBS Sports, Grant is an underrated receiver with quick hands who is a good route runner. At 6'1" and 190 pounds, he's the same size as Simpson. No doubt if the Vikings draft a receiver like Grant, there's a good chance he would catch more than the single touchdown that Simpson had in two seasons.