Minnesota Vikings Day 2 2014 NFL Draft Primer
The Minnesota Vikings wrote the storylines from the draft's first day. Through multiple moves, they put themselves in position to draft an athletic linebacker in UCLA's Anthony Barr and a talented quarterback in Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater.
Getting their quarterback must ease the minds of all involved in the Vikings war room. The shrunken supply of viable signal-callers means that teams like Minnesota have to bend their draft boards to accommodate one. Once a team has its QB, the focus can go back to picking the single best player available and maximizing the value of the selection.
The Vikings will come into Friday with a shift of attention back to the defensive side of the ball. They still have two picks to work with—both in the third round. Continuing to retool to defense with young talent is surely the focus. Both picks being invested in players on that side of the ball is highly probable.
All NFL Scouting Combine statistics provided by NFL.com.
Day 1 Recap and Analysis
Thursday night saw the Vikings make both picks outside of their initial draft slots. General manager Rick Spielman and the Vikings acquired a fifth-round pick to move back from the No. 8 pick to No. 9 overall. That's where they opted for defense first with a selection of UCLA outside linebacker Anthony Barr.
Barr brings a pass-rushing presence to the Vikings that was sorely needed. Addressing the defense first made sense for the Vikings. They did that by acquiring one of the most athletically gifted players in the entire draft class.
With a defensive wizard like head coach Mike Zimmer, Anthony Barr may have found his best landing spot. Zimmer is creative with his schemes in a way that adapts to the talents of his players. That means he will find ways to let Barr's speed and flexibility do damage as a pass-rusher and pursuer of the football.
After that, Minnesota made an even bigger splash by trading back into the first round. It happily shipped off a fourth-round pick to Seattle in order to maneuver into position to draft its quarterback.
Selecting Teddy Bridgewater in the first round means the Vikings are planning their future with him penciled in at the quarterback position. The Louisville signal-caller was pin-pointed by the Vikings, and they were aggressive going to get him. Mike Zimmer certainly offered his blessing, as noted by Tom Pelissero of USA Today:
Mike Zimmer on Teddy Bridgewater: "You know the thing I like the most about him? He wins." #Vikings— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) May 9, 2014
Bridgewater may get his chance to compete for the starting job with incumbent Matt Cassel. If not, some time on the clipboard and time to absorb a new offense with new terminology will only help. In a few years, the selection of Teddy Bridgewater will define this draft class for the Vikings.
Updated Needs for the Vikings
The Vikings addressed what I listed as their No. 1 and No. 3 needs with their first two picks. Snatching a future quarterback and an athletic linebacker checks boxes on the shopping list. While both offensive coordinator Norv Turner and Mike Zimmer will have made their pitches to GM Rick Spielman, defense should get the nod on Day 2.
Secondary help has to be the top priority now, especially at the cornerback position. Pairing a reliable starter across from Xavier Rhodes has to be appealing. If Mike Zimmer can trust the back end of his defense to do the job, it frees him up to play games with the front seven and wreak all kinds of havoc. A cornerback with athleticism and technique for man coverage may be the target.
If it's not a cornerback that comes off the board first on Friday, chances are it's a safety. Jamarca Sanford can be a capable starter, but if a physical, imposing safety falls to Minnesota early in the third round, it would be an appealing selection.
The defensive front four may be set in terms of starters. Depth doesn't really exist as the roster sits. Only Corey Wootton and Fred Evans figure in as guys who should see snaps. Finding a penetrating, athletic defensive tackler with pass-rush value seems likely for rotational purposes.
If the right back falls, Norv Turner might just get his way on Friday night. After Toby Gerhart bolted, a hole was left in the Vikings depth chart. They will surely be looking for a different type of back this time around. One who has more value as a receiver would be a fine spell for Adrian Peterson.
The interior offensive line needs attention for the purposes of depth. Charlie Johnson is replaceable at left guard, but a third-day pick seems more likely than a selection of a guard on Friday night.
Top Day 2 Targets
As the draft board falls into place late Friday night, these are some guys the Vikings are likely to have their eyes on.
Will Sutton, DT, Arizona State
Playing weight was Will Sutton's biggest issue as a senior and could be the reason he falls to the third round. He dropped the bad weight after the season and could round back into the more explosive form he showed in 2012.
Pierre Desir, CB, Lindenwood
If length is what the Vikings want in a cornerback selection, 6'1" Pierre Desir (33" arm length) will be targeted. The small-school player held his own at the East-West Shrine Game and Senior Bowl, proving his domination at the NCAA Division II level was not just a product of the competition.
Bashaud Breeland, CB, Clemson
Breeland is another cornerback who can challenge receivers at the line of scrimmage. He plays bigger than listed (5'11") and does as good a job disrupting the catch point as any cornerback prospect.
Phillip Gaines, CB, Rice
Gaines should be a sought-after player on the second day due to his athletic potential. He proved to be one of the most athletic cornerback prospects with scorching times at the NFL Scouting Combine in February (4.38 seconds).
Caraun Reid, DT, Princeton
This Ivy League tackle is of the light (6'2", 302 lbs), quick and energetic variety. He has all kinds of value as a rotational defensive tackle, especially on passing downs. Mike Zimmer rotates defensive linemen with regularity, so depth is important.
Devonta Freeman, RB, Florida State
It might take a special kind of fit for the Vikings to draft an offensive player with one of their two Friday picks. Devonta Freeman is that. His proficiency in pass protection and as a pass-catcher are valuable traits as the spell back for Norv Turner.
What Are the Experts Saying?
Bucky Brooks, NFL.com: Dakota Dozier, OG, Furman
Creating competition along the offensive line is a priority with Charlie Johnson struggling at guard.
Furman's Dakota Dozier is a great fit for the Vikings offense as a converted tackle. The third round is quite high for a developmental guard prospect who probably won't factor into the competition for the starting gig, though.
Dan Kadar, SB Nation: Will Sutton, DT, Arizona State
The Vikings need to start adding youth and talent to the interior of their defensive line. Sutton was once considered a first-round player, but had a down senior season.
As previously mentioned, Sutton may be the Vikings' top priority. If adequate answers to questions about his senior slump exist, he may not fall far enough.
Dan Kadar, SB Nation: Ross Cockrell, CB, Duke
After Xavier Rhodes, the Vikings are light on talent at cornerback. Cockrell is a press specialist with solid physical tools.
The abundance of capable cornerbacks makes it tough to believe Ross Cockrell sneaks into a Friday night selection.
3 Predictions for Day 2
There are multiple avenues the Vikings could go down on Friday night. These seem the most feasible.
Minnesota Drafts a Cornerback with Its 1st Selection
I expect a group of talented cornerbacks to be on the board in the early third round. One of them will have the eye of the Vikings. If the value dictates it, a safety selection is the wild card.
Minnesota Will Not Trade Up Again
This comes down to sheer numbers. The Vikings will have an idea of how many players they want to draft in total. They have six picks remaining and may need to keep all of them in order to bring in a sufficient number of drafted rookies for competition.
Minnesota Does Not Draft an Offensive Player on Friday Night
Unless the trigger gets pulled on a running back, this should not happen. The roster is just too weak on the defensive side of the ball to consider going anywhere else with these picks.
Updated Vikings Mock Draft
Round 3, Pick No. 72: Pierre Desir, CB, Lindenwood
If Desir is still on the board when the Vikings come on the clock for the first time Friday night, it should be a race-to-the-podium situation. He's a great fit for what Minnesota wants to do in the secondary.
Round 3, Pick No. 96: Caraun Reid, DT, Princeton
Back to the interior defensive line, where it's all about depth and rotation. Caraun Reid is a spark of energy—the type of interior disruptor a defensive coordinator loves to send in.
Round 5, Pick No. 145: Marion Grice, RB, Arizona State
Grice has been plagued by injuries, so he will need to have the OK of the medical staff. The Arizona State back is one of the most talented backfield pass-catchers available.
Round 5, Pick No. 148: Ahmad Dixon, S, Baylor
Dixon is a strong safety through and through. His coverage discipline disappears too often, but he has special teams value in the worst case.
Round 6, Pick No. 184: Marquis Flowers, OLB, Arizona
Anthony Barr addresses the strong-side linebacker position, but Marquis Flowers could bring competition to the weak side. He's one of the most purely athletic linebacker prospects around.
Round 7, Pick No. 223: Spencer Long, OG, Nebraska
The only reason Long could be available at this point is because he missed most of his senior season with a knee injury. He has enough talent to make the roster.