Minnesota Vikings Mock Draft: Updated Day 3 Predictions
The Vikings have sustained their clear model so far throughout the 2015 NFL draft, one they established last year under new head coach Mike Zimmer. A priority on character significantly narrows the talent pool, as does the focus on rare or impressive athletes.
With six picks remaining in the draft as a result of consecutive trades in the third round, Minnesota might be able to accomplish its goal of having 10 picks in the draft. In the last three years, it has picked 29 times, and if it doesn't move it'll pick nine times in total, like it did in 2013.
Using a consensus of 43 different big boards from various draft analysts, we can take a look at who most people think the best players available are. Beyond that, we can isolate unique athletes and take a look at those reputed to have good character.
With those six picks, they may target an additional defensive back (at either the safety position or at corner), a linebacker who can play special teams, a receiver with talents missing from the roster, a backup offensive lineman or two and a developmental quarterback.
If there are four players who can fulfill all of the Vikings requirements at positions of need, they'll be solid. If there are six, they'll be ecstatic.
The Vikings have one pick in the fourth round, and they can use it on an excellent, consistent and high character player like Daryl Williams or they could grab a tackle later on. While Williams wouldn't be a bad pick by any means in the fourth round, he is merely an "average" athlete at his position.
That wouldn't rule him out of the Vikings' consideration, but for the purposes of this mock we'll avoid him for now.
Instead, in a thin safety class, we'll pick one of the last ones remaining that has a shot to be a starter. Adrian Amos has the highest SPARQ score—a metrics created by Nike to measure athleticism—among safeties, unless including hybrid corner/safety types like Eric Rowe.
Amos is another player who's known to be a hard worker in the film room and on the practice field. Dane Brugler at NFLDraftScout.com reported in his draft guide that coaches on the college and professional level raved about his even personality and excellent character.
Sounds like a fit.
The Vikings don't necessarily seek athletic standouts at safety—the additions of Antone Exum and Ahmad Dixon last year are decent evidence of that—but it can't hurt.
Amos is an excellent communicator among the secondary and plays with a lot of intelligence. He's quick to diagnose plays and react, willing to fill in to his assignment when necessary or freelance if the play breaks down for the defense.
In coverage, the Penn State product has all the tools. He has a lot of speed to cover from red line to red line. He's fluid and moves with ease, and can close on the ball faster than most safeties in the NFL. He plays with functional strength and can muscle out bigger receivers at the catch point or hit them over the middle with pop.
His length and reactiveness ensures that he has recovery speed and is never out of the play, making him an ideal player to make the field smaller for opposing offenses. With excellent ball skills, it's difficult to knock Amos for his coverage ability.
He's also a more-than-adequate nickel corner who can take on slot receivers in man or zone situations and can provide versatility to different nickel packages.
Unfortunately, he has issues taking on running backs. As willing as he is to fill in gaps, he'll too often overrun the play or attack the runner with poor angles. In gang-tackling situations, he isn't generally willing to add on the pile and is late to add to tackles. When he does hit the running back (or any ball-carrier), however, he packs a serious punch.
With two picks in the fifth round, the Vikings could trade out of the top of the fifth round to later on in order to acquire another pick. Otherwise, they'll have the opportunity to grab some falling talent that, in a class this deep, may be characterized as third-round grades in other classes. With one of the two picks, they could select Nebraska receiver Kenny Bell.
Bell isn't often lauded for being an athlete, but he does have the second-highest SPARQ score of the remaining receivers, and excels in areas specifically correlated with receiver success.
Running a sub-4.4 40-yard dash at his pro day, per NFLDraftScout.com, Bell's speed is often ignored in contemporary scouting reports. His scores all over are astounding, actually, with a 6.66-second three-cone and 41.5" vertical leap to his name.
The all-time leader for Nebraska in receptions and yards, his overall receiving number seem subpar (672 yards per season) until accounting for the fact that the Cornhuskers never threw the ball very often, and generally not with good quarterbacks. But it's difficult to find a receiver with over 30 percent of his team's receiving yards.
Bell is an efficient runner and can get open deep just as often as he can get open on intermediate routes. He's got easy speed and accelerates quickly, finding himself open all over the field.
His quickness and body control allow him to elude defenders after the catch with regularity, and also contribute to his route-running capabilities. His footwork is controlled and precise in routes and that gives him suddenness.
A competitor who would like to be physical, Bell competes for jump balls with aggressiveness and is also a willing blocker. Unfortunately, he simply isn't very strong and doesn't win those 50/50 balls as often as receivers ought to. As a blocker, his willingness doesn't translate into effectiveness and he can get pushed around.
Further, he needs to improve his ability to deceive defensive backs throughout the route, particularly with his upper body.
Bell is another player known for his high character, and as a team captain for years he's been a leader in their locker room.
The second pick the Vikings could make in the fifth round could be Quinton Spain. Mike Zimmer has preached a mantra of finding smart, tough, passionate players—and Spain checks all the boxes. He may not be the astounding leader that Eric Kendricks or Kenny Bell are, but he's a willing worker and takes hard coaching well.
Spain is a smart player with a lot of size, agility and attitude, but not much in the way of technique. His awareness in blitz protection is fantastic and he's constantly looking for work in protection. He identifies targets quickly on the second level and makes a beeline for them.
The West Virginia alum has power to spare and punches as strongly as anyone in the draft, and couples that with an ability to uncoil and snap his hips. He doesn't always time that punch well or place it in an ideal spot, but he'll control defenders through the run and finish.
As a pass protector, those hand placement issues are an even bigger problem and he'll have to improve his balance and pad level.
Still, he's extremely nasty on the field, a good person off of it, smart, coachable and reasonably athletic with good testing numbers and surprisingly better agility on the field than his testing numbers would indicate. He's not a freak in the class of Evan Mathis, but he's much more athletic than the average NFL starting guard.
The Vikings have acquired their only sixth-round pick as a result of a trade down with the Chiefs in the third round. This seems as good a time as any to acquire the requisite linebacker they seem to get late in the draft every year (and for the past three years running in Audie Cole, Michael Mauti and Brandon Watts).
Why not a poor man's Eric Kendricks?
Instinctive, but not nearly as much as Kendricks, Bryce Hager is an undersized linebacker with 4.6 speed, good but not great explosiveness and above-average agility. His size may contribute to his injury history, which is certainly worrisome but not something the Vikings have avoided late in the draft.
Looking at his scouting reports, one sees short stature, short arms, small hands, even thin bones. He doesn't have bulk and is surprisingly wiry for a linebacker. But he has the mentality of a special teamer and has performed excellently there, and that will be his first duty.
His speed allows him to be rangy in coverage, though his instincts there are not amazing. His general performance in coverage hasn't been great, but he does deter throws to his area, even if the throws that do end up his way are successful.
Hager will get washed out in the run game and doesn't take on blocks well, showing limited functional strength in take-on situations, but he does do a good job slipping blocks when he can do it within the constraints of the defensive call, and he's extremely good at getting to the running back, especially in those situations.
His tackling form is excellent, and his technique and footwork in movement could be better but are not bad. When he isn't engaged in blocks, his on-field strength is surprisingly above average, and could be the key, like Kendricks, to why his take-on skills are not doomed to be as bad as they look.
He made all the defensive calls at Baylor and his instincts allow him to always be around the ball. There are theories of roster development that value having "replicas" of players you already have on the roster. It makes a lot of sense because you don't have to change your scheme if a person goes down. Hager would be a great fit for that reason alone.
Let's keep with the theme of athletes with high character, and we can fulfill the backup tackle need with Rob Crisp from North Carolina State. On Friday we selected Laurence Gibson and on Thursday it was Trenton Brown. All three of these players are exceptionally athletic for offensive tackles, and have more length and raw athletic ability than almost every offensive lineman projected to go in the fourth through sixth rounds.
Of course, with that comes some issues.
Crisp is a finesse player that takes advantage of his foot speed and agility to protect the edge or move around on the second level, but he's not very strong at his position.
Interestingly, one of his best matchups was against a first-round pick in this draft whose strengths and weaknesses are perfectly matched up by Crisp: Vic Beasley from Clemson.
Crisp clearly has talent. He had some of the best agility and explosion scores for his position at the combine. With long arms (34.5 inches) and a big frame (6'6"), as well as good lower-body power and movement ability, he will likely get a chance from a team.
He will need to add strength, as he can be overpowered at the point of attack, and his recognition is a little below average.
With the other pick, the Vikings will want a developmental quarterback. A big arm is good, but the system may require a passer more attuned to a timing-oriented game. While we chose Brandon Bridge last time, hoping he could add accuracy and rhythm to his game. That could be too much to ask for, so we'll go in the opposite direction, because it may be easier to add arm strength in the NFL than accuracy.
Undersized Taylor Heinicke from Old Dominion fits the bill. He's got some pocket movement skills, but he won't run the ball very often. Instead, he wins with accuracy, a quick release and solid timing and anticipation—something you don't see often at his level of football.
That's not to say he's unathletic. In fact, his athletic profile is very similar to Teddy Bridgewater. Aside from the fact that both had size concerns (Heinicke is the exact same weight, 214 pounds), Heinicke's timed speed is within 0.01 seconds of Bridgewater in the 40-yard dash. He has quickness and vision as a runner, to boot.
Aside from size (he is only 6'0"), he has issues with pocket presence and arm strength—more so than Bridgewater. But he's a smart quarterback (even for quarterbacks) and a vocal leader who commanded the respect of the ODU locker room. His arm strength could be a liability in a way that Christian Ponder or Bridgewater's were not, making sideline throws difficult to throw and easy for defenses to key in on and anticipate.
Certainly, he's worth a flier.