2015 Minnesota Vikings Mock Draft: Early Offseason 7-Round Predictions
The Minnesota Vikings are already deep into their evaluations of collegiate prospects in preparation for another draft in May.
If fans have come to expect anything from the Vikings, it's an aggressive mentality on draft day. Minnesota may make its moves come May, but going through the current picks provides some perspective on how the team may approach its draft strategy.
The Vikings have needs on both sides of the ball, maybe even having more holes to fill than they have picks, so answers may not be easy without knowing where the team will stand four months from now.
With no trades on the books, Minnesota holds its full slate of designated picks. Per FoxSports.com, the Vikings slide into pick No. 11 with a 7-9 record. Let's start by projecting the first-round selection and then move from round to round to predict how Rick Spielman and company will attempt to stockpile the roster with more young talent.
DeVante Parker, WR, Louisville
Buttressing the offense by adding talent around upstart quarterback Teddy Bridgewater must be objective No. 1 as Minnesota works through its offseason plans.
The need for receiver help is easy to deduce. Greg Jennings is going on 32 years old with a contract that keeps growing. He and Jarius Wright have roles in 2015 but thrive from the slot primarily. Cordarrelle Patterson can hardly be counted on to produce moving forward, and Charles Johnson is still a work in progress, not realistically a candidate to become a No. 1 receiver.
Minnesota does not need to draft a receiver early for the sheer sake of it though. It must be the right guy.
DeVante Parker is a 6'3" 211-pound plucker of the football. He attacks it in the air, finishes drives as a red-zone target and can contribute after the catch. He also has a familiarity with Bridgewater. The two tore apart collegiate defenses at Louisville in 2012 and 2013. That previously built rapport will only help ease his transition into Minnesota's offense, one he fits into seamlessly.
By calling Parker's name, the Vikings would be adding a dynamic receiver who can climb for the football to beat vertically challenged cornerbacks, and he can become a focal point of the Minnesota passing game.
Ty Sambrailo, OT, Colorado State
Barring significant additions in free agency, expect the Vikings to address the offensive line in one of the first two rounds.
Minnesota's plan for Matt Kalil will determine the course of action. If the team wishes to slow play the situation by leaving him in the lineup to open 2015, which seems likely at this point, it should bring in a contingency plan. Then, if Kalil does not make positive strides, the Vikings can get out from underneath him.
Ty Sambrailo fits because of the versatility and instant impact he can bring to the Vikings. Jordan Plocher of GM Jr. highlights these traits as strengths of the Colorado State product:
Colorado State OT Ty Sambrailo is tough, nasty and versatile. He should be taken in the back half of the 1st Round and start as a rookie.— Jordan Plocher (@StarvingScout) December 4, 2014
The Vikings could conceivably slide Sambrailo into the lineup at left guard as an immediate starter or leave him behind Kalil and Charlie Johnson to begin the season, knowing the rookie's time will come. Either way, Sambrailo would bring a physical presence to a Minnesota offense that may wish to play with more balance in 2015 than it did in the final weeks of 2014.
Hayes Pullard, LB, USC
The Vikings have predraft decisions to make on both Chad Greenway and Jasper Brinkley. Assuming one or the other does not return, USC linebacker Hayes Pullard could immediately slide into the starting lineup.
Pullard was a four-year starter for the Trojans on the weak side and in the middle. He plays with all the savvy and instincts of an experienced linebacker.
At 6'1" and 235 pounds, Pullard fits the description of a "Will" LB in Mike Zimmer's scheme, replacing Greenway hypothetically. That might leave Audie Cole to start at the "Mike", filling out the Minnesota LB corps without gutting its depth.
In Pullard, the Vikings would be getting a physical, unforgiving linebacker against the run. When Pullard gets to ball-carriers, they usually go down in a heap. He also has little issue taking on blocks. Against the pass, Pullard can hold up in underneath zones or matching patterns in the short passing game. He also brings a viable blitzing threat, something that would put a smile on Zimmer's face.
Clayton Geathers, S, Central Florida
The smart bet on a secondary pick would be for Minnesota to address the safety position. Zimmer was clearly looking for answers next to Harrison Smith by rotating in Andrew Sendejo at the end of the season, but he definitely did not find them by doing so.
Clayton Geathers fits the description of what Zimmer is looking for. He's a tall, thick safety at 6'2" and 208 pounds. His strengths, as described by Chris Tripodi of Optimum Scouting, read like an instruction manual for the strong safety in Minnesota's defense:
A hard-hitting safety who performs best in the box and shows well playing downhill, Geathers also flashes ability in coverage. An effective man defender, Geathers’ fluid hips allow him to stay tight with receivers and tight ends down the field.
A Minnesota strong safety must be a strong tackler in the alley and at the numbers because cornerbacks provide little run support. He must also be able to match tight ends or inside receivers when coverage pairs with aggressive blitzes. In other coverage calls, he is the umbrella over top of the defense.
Geathers can handle all of the above. As a fourth-round pick, he might be a steal.
Marcus Hardison, DT, Arizona State
Tom Johnson may not be back for the Vikings in 2015 and if so, a replacement is needed behind Sharrif Floyd. A pass-rushing specialist makes the most sense.
Marcus Hardison was a highly productive rusher in 2014 for Arizona State. He tallied 10 sacks and 15 tackles for loss, with three multi-sack games. Despite being all of 6'5" and 298 pounds, the Sun Devil star was mostly effective from a defensive end spot. He showed the versatility to impact plays from multiple positions along the Arizona State defensive line.
The Vikings had no qualms about converting Johnson from end to 3-technique tackle last year and could do the same with Hardison.
Questions about what position Hardison should actually play as a pro may see him dropping this far in the draft. Minnesota would be smart to add him in as depth along the defensive line with hopes of making him into an impactful rotational player and sub-package rusher.
Terrence Magee, RB, LSU
Judging by how much they utilized him in 2014, the Vikings dig everything Matt Asiata brings to the table. LSU's Terrence Magee can be a better, younger, more spry version of that.
Magee's specialty is in the passing game, a role he fills for the Tigers. He has the technique and strength to hold up in pass protection and has reliable hands for screen passes and checkdowns. Though Magee will never be a foundation back in the NFL by any stretch, he can be a valuable player in filling out the depth of a RB group.
Decisions on re-upping Asiata (restricted free agent) and on bringing back Adrian Peterson will change Minnesota's plan of attack at this position well before draft day. The team can expect Jerick McKinnon to produce in another big role in 2015. If Peterson returns, the Vikings may opt to keep things status quo with this unit.
Magee could still be considered an option to add young competition in the backfield.
Nick Marshall, QB, Auburn
In taking a late-round flyer, teams should embrace the unknown. Nick Marshall's projection to the NFL fits that description.
The Auburn quarterback is the type of athlete the Vikings should seek to bring in and then find out what they have. As a passer, Marshall thrives down the field but struggles with the intricacies of the position. With over 1,700 yards on the ground over the last two years though, Marshall can do serious damage to defenses with the ball in his hands. A transition to running back or wide receiver could be in the cards.
Mel Kiper of ESPN took it a bit further, projecting Marshall's skills to the defensive backfield, via AL.com:
You can see the toughness when he's running with the football, the athleticism, the feet. To me, it's something you'll look at and say, OK, there's been some guys who've made the move to safety.
Either way, spending an inexpensive pick on the off chance Marshall takes hold at QB or another position makes sense. His athletic talents have upended the SEC for two seasons now. If he hangs around this long in the draft, some team must pull the trigger.