We’ve had a week now to absorb the draft. As far as the Vikings go I can’t say that I was terribly impressed. I had no issue with trading out of the first round, really swapping picks with Detroit was barely trading out of the first round, but what happened subsequently wasn’t particularly impressive.
I will reserve judgement to a certain extent, of course, because I think the Vikings front office has earned it. Adrian Peterson, Sidney Rice, Percy Harvin, even later round picks like Jasper Brinkley and John Sullivan, were all picks that had serious questions attached to them, but have all developed into solid NFL starters.
So, while I have a lot of trust in Rick Spielman and Brad Childress (as a talent evaluator anyway), I don’t think it’s a bad thing to take a look at the pros and cons of the guys the Vikings selected and see what to look for once training camp starts in a few months.
Chris Cook (CB, Virginia)
The Viking’s first draft pick was an interesting one. A lot of people would’ve said that Jimmy Clausen or Taylor Mays would be a better use of their top selection, but instead they chose a relatively unheralded corner out of Virginia.
I don’t mean to disparage Cook, who has a lot of skills that teams look for in an NFL corner. He’s 6’2” and lanky, meaning that he can add a little muscle to his frame. Finding a tall corner is hard enough to find, but Cook’s a guy who will be able to compete for jump balls and press the more physical wide outs in the NFL.
Cook’s biggest issue to overcome is his lack of speed. The Vikings don’t really have a burner at the corner position, and speed is one thing they’re not going to be able to teach Cook.
That said, he fits the Viking’s zone cover schemes perfectly, and he’s got the size that you want from an NFL corner these days. I don’t think he comes in and starts right away, especially not with Lito Sheppard on the roster, but he’s a guy who will be able to step up in the next few years.
Toby Gerhart (RB, Stanford)
It makes total sense to me that the Vikings would take a running back with their second second round draft pick. Chester Taylor left some big shoes to fill and if the Vikings want to compete for the Super Bowl again, they’re going to need someone to have Adrian Peterson’s back.
Gerhart is a big, powerful running back who has all the talent to succeed in the NFL. While a lot of college power backs fade in the pros, Gerhart has the patience and just enough elusiveness to make big plays against the best athletes in the NFL. As a plus, he will have the benefit of running against defenses softened up by Adrian Peterson.
My biggest problem with Gerhart lies in the fact that he’s too much like Peterson. He’s not nearly as fast or explosive, of course, but in terms of running styles and what they bring to the table offensively, they’re remarkably similar. There’s not much value in having a secondary back that isn’t a change of pace.
I can’t hate the Vikings for taking Gerhart here. He’s a good, strong running back which is a position they needed some more talent. I just don’t know that Gerhart is a guy who is going to be in the mix enough in this offense, when he doesn’t really do enough different than Adrian Peterson does.
Everson Griffen (DE, USC)
There are value picks and there are *value* picks, and getting Everson Griffen in the fourth round is a *value* pick. There were “character concerns” about Griffen that lead to him falling from sure-fire first round pick to a fourth rounder, most of which could be chalked up to being an immature college student. But it’s hard to argue that the Vikings got a steal here.
Griffen has a great initial burst and is a strong hard tackler. He’s probably better against the run, but he has all the right physical tools to develop into an NFL-style pass rusher in the coming years.
His biggest detriments at this point are mental. It’s not so much the police citation or even the fights that bother me at this point, but his inconstancy on the field. That’s a hard habit to break, and that sort of sleepy lack of effort Griffen sometimes puts down seems ingrained into him, which is troubling.
That having been said, you can live with a little of that from a fourth rounder. Griffen’s physical abilities were going to be too much to pass up here, and with Ray Edwards possibly on the way out next year, Griffen will have plenty of time to get used to the rotation between himself and Brian Robison on the defensive line.
Chris DeGeare (OG, Wake Forest)
DeGeare is more of a project than anything else and probably isn’t going to be much help to the Viking’s occasionally flagging offensive line for another two or three years.
He does come prepared with one tool the Vikings like to see out of a guard, he’s great at enveloping defenders on running plays. He’s a big, strong guy with a nice broad frame that can eat up a lot of space between the center and the tackle. His academic ineligibility was at least partially due to his mother’s death, so I’m not going to knock him for that.
His technique needs a lot of work, though. He’s in just about the same position as Anthony Herrera was, and still is, really. He’s sloppy, and relies too much on his size and strength to overwhelm defenders, which doesn’t happen too often in the NFL. He’s going to need to work on his conditioning too before he gets into the rotation (just please, no StarCaps).
I don’t hate the selection of DeGeare at all, really. The fifth through seventh rounds are really for taking flyers on players with a lot of physical tools and not much polish. Maybe DeGeare drops ten pounds and learns how to pass block. Or maybe he sits on the bench for two seasons and gets cut. Either way it was worth the experiment.
Nate Triplett (LB, Minnesota)
The old Hometown Pick. Not to say that Triplett isn’t a good player, but it’s a better story at this point in the draft. Nate Triplett is a classic overachiever, mixing mediocre athleticism with a lot of passion and football knowledge. He’s like a football Nick Punto.
Triplett’s a good, physical player, and a guy with a really high football IQ. It’s hard to avoid using all kinds of football clichés when you’re grading out draft picks so, I’m just going to go ahead and say it: He has great intangibles. I feel so dirty. But he really does. There’s a lot to be said for a guy who has a really deep passion for the game of football.
His weaknesses are pretty much…well…his tangibles. He’s not a great tackler, but he’s ok. He’s not particularly fast. Or strong. He sometimes gets caught up in what he’s doing (shedding a block, rushing the quarterback, etc.) and forgets to watch the play unfold.
Triplett probably isn’t ever going to start an NFL game. He’s just not that kind of player. But he’s the perfect kind of guy to be a special teams stud. He’s the type of player who will do anything to get onto the field and will fly around and put his body on the line to make plays. That’s exactly the type of player you want on your special teams units, and something the Vikings have a real dearth of with the exception of Heath Farwell.
Joe Webb (QB, UAB)
Well, the Vikings eventually picked a quarterback, so I guess that’s something. Unfortunately, Joe Webb is never going to line up behind center as a pro, unless something goes terribly, terribly wrong.
Webb does have a great arm, and he’s shown flashes of consistency over his college career. Webb’s biggest asset, though, is his athleticism. He has ideal size, speed, and body control for the NFL, especially if he converts to receiver at the next level.
As a quarterback? He’s still far too erratic and more of a project than the time it would take to fix his mechanics would be worth. As a receiver, it’s still going to take quite a bit of time and effort to mold him into an NFL-caliber player, but at least the physical abilities are there.
Either way, I can’t see Joe Webb being anything but a practice squad player this year. He’s a guy you can build a few gadget plays and packages around, but it’s going to be two years or so before we really see the fruits of any of that, I think. Right now he’s all potential.
Mickey Shuler Jr. (TE, Penn State)
Hey, it’s the other Penn State tight end! Shuler has a good NFL Pedigree, his dad was a decent player in his day. But the Vikings didn’t draft the Shuler family, they just drafted Mickey Jr.
He’s a good blocker with a solid push off the line. He’s got great strength for a tight end, and it projects well into the pros. I think he’s got enough there that he’ll be able to engage NFL linebackers well. He’s not a bad receiver, and he does run pretty good routes.
But he’s very vanilla. He struggled with drops at Penn State, and his skill-set isn’t very broad. He might do well to develop himself as a fullback in sort of a Jeff Dugan mould, because he’s not really going to be a top tight end.
Once you drop into the later rounds, you’re just taking projects and training camp bodies, so Shuler’s worth the risk. I think he might be a good H-Back/Fullback type guy, but he’ll never be a tight end in the league.
Ryan D’Imperio (LB, Rutgers)
For a 7th round pick, the Vikings are already putting a lot of work into D’Imperio. He was a fine linebacker at Rutgers with great straight-line speed. He looks like he’s got all the potential to contribute right away on special teams.
The Vikings have talked to D’Imperio about becoming a fullback, and he worked out in fullback drills at Rutgers' Pro Day, and looked pretty good. He’s maybe not the most natural fullback, but he’s got plenty of work to do to put himself on the Opening Day roster.
As a seventh rounder though? A solid pick with a decent level of skill.
How will the Vikings new class of rookies pan out during the season? That remains to be seen. History says to trust the Vikings’ front office and that most of these guys will contribute significantly to the team over the next few seasons, but call me a bit nonplussed at this year’s crop of players. So far.