Minnesota Vikings 2014 Draft: The Good, the Bad and the Baffling
Check and check.
The Vikings moved back into the first round to take Teddy Bridgewater at No. 32, 23 picks after Minnesota used the No. 9 overall selection on UCLA linebacker Anthony Barr. Later in the draft, the Vikings got value finds along the defensive line and in the secondary, and a potential starter along the offensive line.
It was a strong couple of days for the Vikings.
In the following slides, we'll take a look at the good, the bad and the baffling from the Vikings' 2014 draft.
List of 2014 Draft Selections
The complete list of Vikings draft picks in 2014:
- 1.9: LB Anthony Barr, UCLA
- 1.32: QB Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville
- 3.72: DE Scott Crichton, Oregon State
- 3.96: RB Jerik McKinnon, Georgia Southern
- 5.145: G David Yankey, Stanford
- 6.182: CB/S Antone Exum, Virginia Tech
- 6.184: CB Kendall James, Maine
- 7.220: DL Shamar Stephen, UConn
- 7.223: OLB Brandon Watts, Georgia Tech
- 7.225: CB Jabari Price, UNC
The best of the Vikings draft...
1.32: QB Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville
Maybe the best pick of the first round came at No. 32, when the Vikings moved back into the first round to take the draft's best quarterback. What a dream scenario for the Vikings, who gave up a fourth-round pick to move up eight spots (from 40 to 32) and secure a franchise quarterback. Bridgewater was harassed throughout the draft process, thanks mostly to a poor pro day, but his collegiate tape trumps all the other top throwers in this class, and he arrives in the NFL as far and away the most pro-ready. He could thrive under an offensive mind like Norv Turner, especially given the kind of supporting cast he'll be inheriting early on in Minnesota. This was a home run selection and a potential turning-point moment for the Vikings franchise.
1.9: LB Anthony Barr, UCLA
Unlike some, I hesitate to call this a reach, and for two reasons. One, Barr has all the upside in the world. He's an impressive athlete with raw, moldable tools, given he's only played on the defensive side for two years. Despite just 27 career games at outside linebacker, he still managed 23.5 sacks and 41.5 tackles for loss in the Pac-12. Second, he's going to a defense run by Mike Zimmer. If anyone in the league can turn a physical specimen like Barr into a player, it's Zimmer. And who is in position to question his eye for defensive talent? Watch Barr turn into a monster under Zimmer's watch.
3.72: DE Scott Crichton, Oregon State
Forty picks after Minnesota stole Bridgewater, the Vikings had Crichton fall into their lap at No. 72. He may never be a 10-sack player in the NFL, but his all-out effort and ability to hold the edge against the run are going to make him a favorite player of Mike Zimmer's. Keep in mind, Zimmer has always asked his ends to play the run first and rush the passer second. Crichton fits that mentality perfectly. At the very least, he'll be a valuable rotational player for the Vikings at defensive end. But he has starter traits and ability, and it wouldn't be at all surprising if he was playing a decent amount snaps early in his career.
5.145: G David Yankey, Stanford
The Vikings get a potential long-term starter at either left or right guard in Yankey, a massive lineman who also played at both tackle spots. He's a little slow on his feet, but he'll bring power and typical Stanford physicality to the Vikings line. Minnesota is very good up front already, but the two guard spots had room for improvement. Yankey has starter ability, and it wouldn't be at all surprising if he's playing alongside center John Sullivan at some point in 2014. The Vikings again got great value here.
6.182: CB/S Antone Exum, Virginia Tech
Exum wouldn't have been an option for Minnesota at No. 182 had he not shredded his knee early in 2013. He returned but wasn't the same player as a senior. The Vikings are drafting him hoping he'll be more of the guy he was in 2012, when he dominated receivers at the line of scrimmage and had elite production on the football (16 pass breakups, five interceptions). Either Exum won't ever be the same post-injury, or he just needed a year to get his legs back under him. If he returns to his 2012 form, the Vikings will get a starting-level NFL cornerback in the sixth round. Exum also has safety potential.
7.223: OLB Brandon Watts, Georgia Tech
In the seventh round, you can roll the dice and gamble on a player. Watts is the ideal shot in the dark. He doesn't have great size (225 pounds), but few linebackers in this draft are faster or more fluid stopping and starting. His rare athletic traits are worth molding as a seventh-rounder. And, at the very worst, he could become a terror on special teams.
The questionable of the Vikings draft...
3.96: RB Jerick McKinnon, Georgia Southern
The Vikings needed a backup running back, and they've apparently found one in McKinnon. He blew the doors off the combine with some impressive numbers (no seriously, check them out). It's easy to project McKinnon as a potential Darren Sproles-like player for Norv Turner, but McKinnon caught only 10 passes in college and in no way is he the same kind of elusive player as Sproles. Might the Vikings have been better off taking a more accomplished receiver to back up Adrian Peterson? Devonta Freeman felt like a perfect fit, and he was on the board (later selected by Atlanta at 103). Taking McKinnon in the top-100 picks had a gamble-feel to it.
6.184: CB Kendall James, Maine
James makes up for his 5'10" frame with impressive leaping ability (39 inches), but this is still a small, light (180 lbs) cornerback with short arms and small hands. He'll now have to transition from the FCS to the NFL, and no one can be sure if he's physically ready for the jump. It won't help that he's being placed into a division with tall, physical receivers. James will need to find his way as a nickelback, but he didn't play a bunch in the slot at Maine. He's a big projection. E.J. Gaines might have been the safer pick.
The worst from the Vikings draft...
I went through Minnesota's 10 picks several times, each successive time attempting to be more critical than the last, to find anything "baffling" about the Vikings draft. I found nothing.
You can argue, as I have done, that Jerick McKinnon and Kendall James were not the best fits at their respective draft locations. But the counter arguments against those criticisms are just as valid. McKinnon is a freak athlete capable of causing matchup problems and James has good upside, despite his size.
You can nit-pick and say the Vikings didn't add a receiver in a deep class of pass-catchers, or that the defense did not add a pure safety or middle linebacker, but those are very minor details for a collection of picks that looks—on the surface—like one of the best classes in this entire draft.