April 29, 2006
"Draft Preferences" by Vikes Geek


breaking......exclusive Winter Park fight between Scott Studwell and Fran Foley!!!

With the 2006 NFL entry draft drawing ever near, the Minnesota Vikings approach one of their most meaningful drafts in recent years. For this year, with five picks on the first day of the draft, the Vikings have an opportunity to fill their remaining holes with legitimate NFL starters—a goal which, if reached, would place the relatively young Vikings’ team in good stead for several years to come.

What the Vikings Contend They Want

Publicly, the Vikings’ draft consortium is saying very little. What members of this group are divulging, however, suggests that the team has yet to determine its first-round course, let alone the course it will follow in later rounds of the draft. That has left outsiders to pull together the scraps that Vikings’ personnel man Fran Foley, head coach Brad Childress, and personnel man Scott Studwell have offered.

Piecing all the statements together, one thing is clear—the Vikings could go one of several ways today. That means that the Vikings could still trade up, trade down, trade for a quarterback, or stand pat. And no matter where the Vikings draft—assuming they do not trade away all of their picks for a player or two—there remains a sense that the Vikings’ draft wonks will see what happens at the outset of the draft before they reach their final decision on whom to draft in the first round.

With that said, the Vikings certainly have let it be known that they have a strong interest in a handful of players. Among those players are Ohio State linebacker AJ Hawk, Vanderbilt quarterback Jay Cutler, and Iowa linebacker Chad Greenway. The team also brought in Vince Young for an interview but said nothing about the interview, leading to the suspicion that the team either really liked Young or really disliked Young.

What the Vikings Need

For the past four years, the Vikings have needed defense more than they have needed offense. And for each of those four years, the Vikings’ paramount defensive need has been linebacker—more specifically, middle linebacker. This year is no different. Yes, the Vikings need a quarterback who will be ready to step in for Brad Johnson when Johnson is no longer able to take the field, but that need is slightly less pressing than is the need for a bona fide middle linebacker who can play this year.

Adding a middle linebacker would ensure the Vikings of having a quality NFL starter at every position on the field, with the possible exception of right offensive tackle—a position that the Vikings probably will fill by platoon, rotating the eminently mediocre to bad Mike Rosenthal and Adam Goldberg. That gives the Vikings at least a band-aid at right tackle.

The Vikings are without even a band-aid at middle linebacker, however, currently suggesting that former failed-middle-linebacker-experiment E.J. Henderson—who appears to have settled in nicely at outside linebacker—has the inside track on middle linebacker. That sounds like a recipe for disaster.

Numerous mock drafts have the Vikings selecting either a safety or cornerback in the first round. Those mocks—many of them offered on ESPN’s site—either offer some heretofore unavailable insight or were made in a fit of absolute misinformation. One mock board even had the Vikings drafting a corner in round one to “replace the departed Brian Williams.? As most Vikings’ fans will recall, Williams was number two on the depth chart behind Fred Smoot—rightly or wrongly—when he left for greener pastures. Drafting a corner to play nickel and passing up a starting middle linebacker would be a tremendous mistake, and one that the Vikings’ draft group appears incapable of making.

Pecking Order

The Vikings can make a case for drafting at several positions in the first round no matter where they ultimately select. Three positions, however, lead the rest in terms of how they would meet the Vikings’ current needs given who’s available in this year’s draft. In addition to drafting a middle linebacker such as Greenway or Hawk, the Vikings could draft a quarterback or a running back.

The following is a ranking of players from which the Vikings probably will have an opportunity to select:

1. AJ Hawk: Great college career. No mistakes in workouts. No surprises. Can play middle linebacker immediately. 121 tackles and 9.5 sacks in 2005.

2. Chad Greenway: Great college career. Sound college program with history of producing NFL-ready players, particularly on defense. Can play middle linebacker immediately. Could be better than Hawk. 156 tackles and 2 sacks in 2005.

3. DeAngelo Williams: Great college career. Massive numbers—two consecutive seasons with nearly 2,000 yards rushing. Vikings could use some help at running back even if Chester Taylor pans out, but especially if Taylor is just average. Average hasn’t been getting it done in Minnesota for some time, not even when the line was good. Was not asked to catch the ball out of the backfield at Memphis, but showed some ability to do so when asked to do so.

4. Jay Cutler: Would be higher if the Vikings needed him immediately and if he had the ability to play immediately. Since neither currently is the case, it is difficult to take him over a linebacker that would fill an immediate need or even over a running back as good as Williams who would fill a lesser, though still important role on the team. Another concern about Cutler is the Williamson effect. Prior to workouts, Cutler was mostly a regional commodity. The numbers don’t necessarily mean much coming out of Vanderbilt, a traditionally weak team, but they are good—3,073 yards, 21 touchdown passes, 9 interceptions, 23 sacks, 126.1 quarterback rating in 2005—with the exception of that mobility-challenged sack total. If you are in the camp that doubts Cutler, there’s fuel for your fire, however. in 2005, Gopher quarterback Bryan Cupito, not known for his quarterback play, threw for 2,267 yards and 15 TDs with 8 INTs. Would a game against Kentucky have put Cupito in league with Cutler statistics-wise?

5. Bobby Carpenter: Good college career. Benefited from playing with Hawk probably more than Hawk benefited from playing with Carpenter. Probably a second-round pick were it not for his Ohio State connection. 49 tackles and 8 sacks is good in total, but a bit light on tackles, making one wonder where Carpenter is when he’s not blitzing. Not an immediate middle linebacker.

6. Laurence Maroney: Great college career. Needs to work on pass receiving and run blocking, but has the speed and quickness to be a very good NFL back. 1464 yards rushing, 5.2 yard average, 17 receptions for 170 yards in 2005. Might not be ready to start at the beginning of 2006.

One of these six players will be available when the Vikings draft, even if the Vikings remain at seventeen in the draft. The two players in whom the Vikings had expressed interest but whom the Vikings probably will take a pass on should they be available when they draft are Texas quarterback Vince Young and Florida State linebacker Ernie Sims—both of whom are responsible for any drop that they see from the top of the draft.

For Young, the concern is mental awareness. It’s one thing to do poorly on the NFL’s written exam. That’s probably excusable. It’s quite another thing, however, to come off as a borderline imbecile when responding to questions that you’ve undoubtedly heard many times already and when you’ve arranged the interview to promote yourself, as Young did on Thursday. Responding to clearly worded questions, Young often gave answers that had nothing to do with the question—though Young clearly thought he was addressing the questions, often sounded befuddled by certain lines of questioning, and sometimes even failed to respond to questions. If that’s indicative of Young’s deftness, it doesn’t bode well for whichever teams selects him to read situations in the NFL.

The concern with Sims is his past—both off and on the field. Only an arrest for domestic battery and resisting arrest in his recent history deflects attention away from a very mediocre performance in 2005—77 tackles, zero sacks. If the Vikings mean what they say about getting the best available player, they probably will pass on this guy. If they mean what they say about quality individuals, they definitely will pass on Sims.

Up Next: The draft! Mulling over the picks.

Posted by maasx003 at April 29, 2006 8:00 AM