So let’s recap, shall we?
Free agency is a huge question mark, the CBA talks unexpectedly failed and Blaine Gabbert is ranked higher than Jake Locker? Well, nuts to all of that because what's really important is the 2011 NFL Draft—namely, the Minnesota Vikings' seven-round Mock Draft!
There is a ton of discussion over what the Vikings will do in the draft, particularly with their first selection.
But it will be the middle rounds where the Vikings will really want to pick wisely if they are to build through youth and prepare for age.
The other interesting situation is exactly who will be where in each of the rounds that the Vikings will draft in. I say this because there are a couple of players who are extremely intriguing and could be great back-end filler picks who could potentially help this team down the road.
It’s no secret that the Vikings need a QB they can develop for the future—and perhaps immediately. And while there has been speculation of the Vikings targeting a DE with their first selection—not out of the question if Cameron Jordan is still around by the 12th pick—a quarterback just makes sense.
But there are two things to consider:
1. With Cincinnati and Buffalo ahead of the Vikings, there isn’t any guarantee that either quarterback will be available.
2. If Locker goes but number one prospect Blaine Gabbert remains, the Vikings could in fact go DE first, and possibly hold out for Andy Dalton (TCU) or Ryan Mallett (Arkansas) in the second round.
Mizzou quarterbacks are not known for their successful adaptation to the pros, which is why the Vikings could—and should—pass on Gabbert; this is something I explain with much further detail here.
My guess is Buffalo will pass on a QB and go DE/DT first since they were bottom feeders when it came to getting to the QB in 2010. This could leave Locker wide open for the Vikings to pull the trigger.
If the Vikings go QB first—a likely scenario—then they should have a huge opportunity to snatch up Ohio State’s Cameron Heyward, the draft’s most versatile DE.
The Vikings really need a guy who can do the following:
1. Have enough athleticism to move from outside to inside on the line.
2. Have enough presence in the trenches to cause disruption to the quarterback…not necessarily get to him, just get him off his game and let the veteran pass rushers seal the deal.
3. Be a dual threat on the line as both a pass rusher in assignment and a solid run defender.
All of these qualities are basically what makes up Heyward.
He was able to play both anchors at OSU, did some time in the interior—despite not having much opportunities due to the Buckeyes’ depth—and provided solid run support.
Heyward would be a steal at the 43rd pick and I don’t see the Vikings being foolish enough to pass on him at that spot.
During the NFL Network's Combine coverage, Steve Wyche mentioned something rather revealing when he said, "I know for sure the Vikings are looking for a tight end."
What he didn’t mention was the need for a young TE who can create matchup issues for opposing teams, stretch the field and have an existing knowledge of a pro-style offense.
Welcome D.J. Williams!
The only issue here is whether or not Williams will be around by the Vikings’ 105th pick, because if he isn’t, the talent level begins to decline rapidly.
The next available option would be Lance Kendricks of Wisconsin, who is also a viable option.
Grabbing a guy like Williams would help the Vikings do several things in time:
1. Sure up the O-line in blocking situations.
2. Introduce more two-TE sets, which opens up sooo many doors offensively.
3. Provide another fantastic check-down option for whoever plays QB.
4. Keep defenses in check, linebackers “at home" and safeties on alert in those double-TE situations, which could open up more downfield lanes for the outside receivers.
But as I said before, there isn’t a great chance that he will be available by the fourth round since Williams is projected as a late third-rounder.
Assuming the Vikings can beat the Packers to the punch, I am really high on the chances of Pettis getting drafted by the Vikings and super high on his sleeper-like talent.
The best thing going right now for teams in the market for a late-round WR is the overabundance of focus on fellow teammate Titus Young. But the fact remains that Pettis is just as talented as Mr. Young
That’s why he’d be a perfect fit for the Vikings.
Greg Camarillo was brought in last year as a possible slot threat, but never really rose to the occasion. This is one glaring weakness the Vikings need to address in an effort to add a little dimension to their passing game and get away from being so damn vertical.
Also, Bernard Berrian is not the downfield threat he was thought to be and who knows if Sidney Rice will return.
That leaves the fragile Percy Harvin all by his lonesome.
Even if the Vikings are able to keep Rice, they’ll need a speedy receiver who can exploit the middle lanes and catch the ball well, which is where Pettis excels.
The consensus is the Vikings need to address the CB/FS situation earlier than the fifth round, but I believe the aforementioned needs are higher in necessity.
Drafting this late for a CB/FS could afford the Vikings a diamond in the rough, while settling other issues for the team in the early goings of the 2011 NFL Draft.
That diamond in the rough could wind up being Justin Rodgers.
At 5’8” and 180 pounds, Rodgers is a very deceptive cover man who racked up seven interceptions in 2008. This caused opposing quarterbacks to avoid throwing towards him during in his 2009 junior season.
Rodgers is a natural shutdown comer in the making who was named to the All-CAA Football First Team for three-straight seasons. In addition to that, his return skills and speed are nothing short of amazing.
As a redshirt freshman in 2007, he averaged 30.4 yards (third-best in the FCS) on 33 returns, taking two all the way for touchdowns. He had three games of at least 200 yards in kickoff returns.
How about that for a smart pick in the fifth round?
At some point, the Vikings will need to draft an offensive lineman and linebacker capable of playing inside and out.
I believe the Vikes will go guard first, since Anthony Herrera is already on the fence after last year’s abysmal performance.
The beauty and value of Jackson is the sheer chance of finding him in the sixth round.
This is a guy who comes with serious value, with his combined raw strength and size and his ability to play in a man-zone scheme.
Jackson is a gritty traditional “in the trench ” kind of player who has great hand skills, but needs to develop his foot movement a little bit further in pass protection to prevent being twisted, or injured.
Still, he has all the necessary tools that fit the Vikings' offensive scheme nicely.
Another player that will probably—albeit curiously—be found in the tail end of the draft is LB J.T. Thomas.
Thomas was a member of one of the best defensive teams in West Virginia and with that, brings nothing but sheer talent and experience to the table for anyone interested.
Thomas is a linebacker who is acclimated at the weak side as well as the strong side, which is where the Vikings have the most problems.
Thomas is a speedy backer who can move laterally against the run, press up front on coverage and get into pass-rushing lanes with ease, making him a near five-tool player.
His only knock is his history of injuries—and the fact that zone coverage is not his strong suit…but not very many collegiate backers can boast otherwise.
Got an idea of who the Vikings may target? Let me know below, and thanks for reading!