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5 Points To Ponder On Vikings Top Pick

Posted by Mike Wobschall on April 28, 2011 – 11:21 pm

The Vikings selected QB Christian Ponder with their 1st-round pick on Thursday night, a move that was met with mixed reaction among the Vikings fan base. I understand some of the criticism, but I also experienced some frustration right after the pick because of the negative reaction to the selection.

So, let’s talk it out quickly. Here are 5 points to Ponder about our new QB…

1. Assessing Ponder’s value at pick #12
It’s clear to me that the critics’ number one beef with this pick is the value, meaning there’s a belief the Vikings could’ve traded back in the 1st round to acquire more picks later in the draft while still ending up with Ponder. This may be true, but it might also not be true. The Miami Dolphins (#15) and Washington Redskins (#16) were lurking just a few picks back, and it’s certainly possible they could’ve selected Ponder with their picks. Also, I’d submit to critics that the true “value” of a rookie QB isn’t determined now. It’s determined down the line, when we know whether he turned out to be a productive starter who leads his club to wins and, ultimately, playoff victories.

To me, here’s the bottom line on this issue: The Vikings didn’t find themselves without a partner at the end of this year’s QB shuffle. Now that would’ve been reason for criticism.

2. An ideal fit in the Vikings offensive scheme
I’ll say that the reaction and mood of Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier, offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave and QBs coach Craig Johnson following the 1st round is the complete opposite as the mood of critics of this selection. Ponder was described by many analysts as the perfect QB for a west coach-type of offense. I’m not sure “west coast” is the most accurate characterization of what Musgrave will run in Minnesota, but I am sure that many of the principles of the west coast offense (rhythm, timing, variety of routes) will be found in the offense that Musgrave employs here. Ponder has experience being under center - a quality not always found in today’s college QBs – and Vikings VP of Player Personnel Rick Spielman says he is composed in the pocket, even when facing pressure.

Fans will see almost right away that Ponder is comfortable in the pocket and won’t compromise the chance for a completion whenever he faces pressure.

3. Intelligence and passion
In doing some reconnaissance on Ponder’s mental makeup and character, it became clear to me quite quickly that Ponder is considered an extremely intelligent player and he has a passion for the game that was admired by his teammates and coaches. Spielman said he talked to coaches who described Ponder as a player who wouldn’t come off the field, whether it be in games or at practices. A Vikings scout also told me that Ponder’s offensive coaches at Florida State were able to run a completely new scheme each week because of Ponder’s ability to grasp concepts in a matter of a few days. Also, Ponder graduated in 2+ years from Florida State and he’s currently working on his second Master’s degree.

4. An experienced, senior QB with a lot of wins
I actually tend to favor senior QBs coming out of college. While it can be argued that underclassmen QBs tend to be more talented (which is why they’re entering the NFL draft early), I think the difference in physical skill sets between senior passers and underclassmen passers is negligible compared to the bigger difference in their awareness and ability to both handle adversity and process information quickly during a game. Ponder played in 35 games during his college career, winning 22 of them and performing well in big spots. He’s the first QB since Chris Weinke to defeat both the University of Miami and the University of Florida in the same season and he was also named MVP of this year’s Senior Bowl.

A legitimate knock on Ponder is his injury history. He missed time in both 2009 and 2010 with throwing arm injuries, but he should also be credited for insisting on playing through pain during his career, particularly during his last game in 2009 and throughout the entire 2010 season.

5. Athleticism
I think one trait of Ponder’s that Vikings fan will be particularly pleased with is his athleticism. He throws pretty well on the run and he had 10 rushing TDs in college, displaying the mobility necessary to both elude rushers and pick up yardage down the field. Should the Vikings pass protection break down, Ponder will not be a sitting duck in the backfield; he’ll be able to escape and either find an open receiver downfield or simply take off and pick up yardage with his legs.


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Vikings Take FSU QB Christian Ponder With 1st Round Pick

Posted by Ryan Cardinal on April 28, 2011 – 7:18 pm

Vikings take Florida State QB Christian Ponder with the 12th overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft.  More coverage at vikings.com will be forthcoming.

Stay tuned to vikings.com Draft Central as the night unfolds for more coverage.


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Mild Surprise Goes To Huge Surprise

Posted by Mike Wobschall on April 28, 2011 – 6:48 pm

San Francisco gave us a mild surprise by taking DE Aldon Smith at #7 instead of QB Blaine Gabbert. But the Tennessee Titans gave us a huge surprise at #8.

They took a QB, but not the QB everyone thought would go 2nd after Cam Newton. They took Jake Locker, providing a huge surprise. The slide for Cam Newton continues. Something tells me Dallas, who picks next, has their phones ringing off the hook.

More to come shortly!


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San Francisco Provides First Mild Surprise

Posted by Mike Wobschall on April 28, 2011 – 6:44 pm

Our first somewhat surprise came when the San Francisco 49ers were on the clock at #7. Some thought they could go Blaine Gabbert, some thought they’d go DE Robert Quinn.

In the end, San Fran went with a DE, but not Quinn. Aldon Smith, out of Missouri, was the pick in a slight upset. He will be a great outside pass rusher in that 3-4 defense.

More to come soon…


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A.J. Green, Patrick Peterson and Julio Jones Go 4, 5, 6

Posted by Mike Wobschall on April 28, 2011 – 6:39 pm

– WR A.J. Green went to the Bengals at #4. It was between Green and QB Blaine Gabbert I think, and the Bengals went with Green.

– The Arizona Cardinals then struck quickly to take CB Patrick Peterson, who doubles as a dangerous punt returner. Again, the Cardinals were another team that could’ve taken Gabbert. But the Missouri QB continued to slide.

– The #6 pick was traded by the Browns. The Atlanta Falcons jumped up to #6 from #27 in order to grab WR Julio Jones. Again, it was expected Jones would go #6, but the trade was a bit of a surprise.

More to come momentarily…


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No Surprises In Draft’s First 3 Selections

Posted by Mike Wobschall on April 28, 2011 – 6:20 pm

The first 3 picks of the 2011 NFL Draft are in the books at Radio City Music Hall in New York City and so far there have been no surprises. Here’s a quick update…

– QB Cam Newton was the 1st overall pick, going to Carolina not long after NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell opened the festivities.

– The Denver Broncos were on the  clock with the 2nd pick and they took LB Von Miller, whom Mike Mayock called “the premier edge rusher in this draft.”

– The #3 pick belonged to the Buffalo Bills and they didn’t stray from conventional thinking, taking DT Marcell Dareus. He instantly becomes one of the best defenders on the Bills roster and he’ll beef up a defensive line that, well, needs beefing up. A good pick for Buffalo here.

More to come momentarily…


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Final Mock: Picks 1-12

Posted by Mike Wobschall on April 28, 2011 – 2:15 pm

It’s time to start the 2011 NFL Draft. Ryan and I conducted a final mock draft over the past 4 hours, adding 3 picks per hour up until the Vikings selection at #12. Don’t be afraid to leave comments in the comments section below this entry to let us know what you think will happen.

What do you think?

1. Carolina – QB Cam Newton
I’ve been predicting Newton would be the top pick for about 6 weeks now, but in the last 72 hours or so I’ve been cooling off on the opinion. But then a few guys whose opinions I respect chimed in with Newton as their projected #1 pick, so my confidence was restored. This isn’t the pick I’d make if the Vikings held the #1 selection, but I think the Panthers feel comfortable handing the “face of the franchise” role to this draft’s most dynamic offensive player.

2. Denver – LB Von Miller
To be honest I’m not sure if Miller fits with Denver’s defensive scheme. To my eye, Miller is a great outside LB in a 3-4 scheme, similar to a Terrell Suggs in Baltimore. I’m not sure that Broncos Head Coach John Fox is going to run a 3-4, but I am sure a defensive-minded guy like Fox covets the skill set of Miller. He’s explosive coming off the line and rushing the passer and he has the aggressive style to play the run well.

3. Buffalo – DT Marcell Dareus
In some combination, I’m sure that Dareus and Miller will go 2nd and 3rd. For the purposes of this mock draft, Dareus slips to #3 and Buffalo is happy. Dareus can play anywhere along the Bills defensive line and is “scheme diverse.” He’ll instantly become one of the best defensive players on the roster. I was tempted to put WR A.J. Green here, thinking head coach Chan Gailey (an offensive-minded head coach) would love to have an elite WR to aid QB Ryan Fitzpatrick’s development. But, in the end, I think defense wins out and the Bills wind up with Dareus (or Miller if Denver chooses Dareus).

4. Cincinnati – WR A.J. Green
Most mock drafts have the Bengals taking a wideout here, and I guess it comes down to either A.J. Green (Georgia) or Julio Jones (Alabama) if they go that route. The wild card for them would be the quarterback position. Assuming Cam Newton is off the board, the only quarterback most would consider taking here would be Missouri’s Blaine Gabbert. Carson Palmer has said he’s unhappy as a Bengal and wants out, so they would appear to be in the market for a signal-caller, but I think they go the safe route and take Green here.

5. Arizona – CB Patrick Peterson
The Cardinals, like most teams picking in the top ten, are another team with an unsettled quarterback situation. But there are reports out there that they will bring in Marc Bulger once the NFL’s labor situation is settled, and they have youngster John Skelton, who was a rookie last year and played okay in limited time. So while Gabbert is an option for them here, I think they’ll look to address their defense, which was 29th in the NFL a season ago. LSU’s Patrick Peterson is the best defensive player left on the board here, so he’s the pick.

6. Cleveland Browns – DE Robert Quinn
The Browns could go many ways here, but I think it comes down to North Carolina DE Robert Quinn or one of the two top wide receivers, assuming at least one of them is left on the board, which they certainly should be. The Browns leading wide receiver in 2010 was Chansi Stuckey with 40 catches, so there’s no where to go but up there. But Quinn has a chance to be the Draft’s top pass-rusher, and elite defensive ends are more valuable than top wide receivers, so I think Cleveland surprises and goes with Quinn and wait to address the wide receiver spot until later in the Draft.

7. San Francisco 49ers – QB Blaine Gabbert
A dream scenario unfold for new head coach Jim Harbaugh, as he will enjoy the pleasure of hand-picking his franchise QB and having him in the fold for his first season on the job. Harbaugh has publically praised current 49ers QB Alex Smith, but I believe it’s smokescreen in an attempt to keep Gabbert on the board. It worked, because Gabbert slides to #7 and the 49ers slap high-fives in their draft room.

8. Tennessee Titans – QB Jake Locker
If this happens, I’ll be disappointed. I’m hoping he’s available when the Vikings are on the clock at #12, but my hunch is Tennessee will surprise us and take a QB. They’ve publically acknowledged that Vince Young is on the way out, and I’m sure the new Titans coaching staff would like to have Locker on the roster to compete with Kerry Collins for the starting job.

9. Dallas Cowboys – OT Tyron Smith
There’s been late steam that Smith isn’t the best-rated OT among teams’ draft boards, but I think that’s wrong and Smith will be the pick for Jerry Jones and Co. The Cowboys saw QB Tony Romo go down early last year after a sack, which ruined their season. That’s the impetus for taking a pass-rushing stopper such as Smith here.

10. Washington Redskins – DT Corey Liuget
Two reasons for this pick. First, I think there’s a strong likelihood for a trade here. A run of defensive linemen is due and I think a team that covets Liuget will move up a few slots to grab him before someone else beats them to the punch. The second reason for this pick is because Washington could stay put and grab Liuget to replace Albert Haynesworth, who is certainly on his way out the door.

11. Houston Texas – DE Aldon Smith
New defensive coordinator Wade Phillips will tab Smith as an outside pass rusher who can stand up in his 3-4 defense. Smith could even slide in and put his hand on the ground as a DE in the 3-4 scheme. Phillips will love that versatility and that’s ultimately what will cause him to prefer Smith over CB Prince Amukamara.

12. Minnesota Vikings – CB Prince Amukamara
My instinct says the Vikings could very well trade back into the later stages of the 1st round to grab either a QB on their wish list or an offensive or defensive lineman. But with the way we have this draft working out, both Amukamara and WR Julio Jones are available and if the Vikings stay at #12 I think they’ll choose the CB.


Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 22 Comments »

Who Will Be Available At #12?

Posted by cjsiewert on April 28, 2011 – 1:38 pm

It’s been a while since I last voiced my opinion here on vikings.com, but with the 76th NFL Draft kicking off tonight with primetime, 1st-round coverage, how could one stay away?

After over 2 months of speculation and mock drafts, it’s finally time to turn the mock into reality. And the biggest reality that the Vikings are facing in this year’s draft is the unpredictable nature of what the 11 teams ahead of the Purple will do with their selections. Who will be available at No. 12 and will that prod the Vikings brass to grab “their guy” at that moment? Or will they trade back with the hope of snagging the right player later on while gaining a mid-to-late round pick? Or do they trade up with their eyes set on an immediate impact player?

All of these questions will be answered tonight but the most prevalent question that lingers with the Vikings faithful is what position will be addressed with that first selection.

As Mike pointed out with his No. 1 (out of 7) factor that complicates the 1st round, the labor situation has prohibited free agency to begin before the draft, as it typically does, and this leaves teams with more needs during the draft which would often be addressed with free agent signings. This is certainly the case for the Vikings as nearly every position on offense and defense, except RB, may be addressed with their first selection.

With all that in mind, let’s take a look at which players might be available when the Vikings are on the clock at the No. 12 spot.

QB: Jake Locker – Cam Newton is expected by many to go No. 1 overall and if not, it’s likely he won’t make it past the top 10 with teams such as Cincinnati (#4), Arizona (5), San Francisco (7) and Washington (10) possibly addressing the QB position. Blaine Gabbert is next in line for a top pick, leaving Locker as a strong candidate for the next QB to go off the board. But will Locker’s accuracy concerns convince teams to take a pass, or do any of the first 11 teams value him as a top selection?

CB: Prince Amukamara – If healthy, the Vikings core of CBs provides a stable secondary, but with Cedric Griffin coming off consecutive knee injuries, Chris Cook also rehabbing knee injuries and Antoine Winfield coming into his 13th year of service, the Vikings may look to bolster their secondary with the 6-0, 206-pound speedster.

DT: Nick Fairley – Vikings DT Pat Williams may be looking for a new home pending the result of a new Collective Bargaining Agreement, possibly leaving a big hole to fill in his place. Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier has stated numerous times that he wants the identity of his team to focus on establishing the run game and stopping the rush on defense. And the 6-4, 291-pounder out of Auburn is projected to be disruptive against the pass and run, fitting Frazier’s mold.

OL: Anthony Castonzo – I would be surprised to see the Vikings select an offensive lineman with their first pick, but many of the Vikings faithful have expressed concerns with the run and pass protection. Castonzo provides an imposing figure (6-7, 311 pounds) and is said to have the potential to shut down speed rushers with his great mobility.

This list could go on for another 10 or more players, but any one of the four named players could wind up as an immediate impact player for the Vikings in 2011.


Posted in All, CJ Siewert | 18 Comments »

7 Factors That Complicate The 1st Round

Posted by Mike Wobschall on April 28, 2011 – 10:46 am

Anyone who loves the NFL draft also loves to try and predict what will happen in the NFL draft, and this year is no exception. Mock drafts in April become as fashionable as filling out brackets in March, and appropriately enough it’s about as hard to fill out an accurate mock draft as it is to fill out a perfect bracket.

I know how difficult it is to predict what will happen in the NFL draft, yet I try to do it each year. And each year before the draft there are a handful or so of teams that I feel confident in being able to predict. Except for this year. It’s been more difficult than usual to forecast the 1st round, and I’ve figured out the 7 factors that make it more difficult than usual.

Here they are…

1. Labor Situation
One of the side effects of the work stoppage is that free agency did not launch at its usual time. Typically, we have free agency before the draft, which allows teams to cover up some needs before having to rely on draft picks. Not the case this year; teams haven’t been able to sign free agents and therefore they have more needs. And all of that makes it twice as hard to predict what each team will do. And when you have 11 teams picking in front of the Vikings, you can see why it’s so tough to know who will be available when it’s the Vikings turn to pick.

2. We Aren’t Sure Carolina Will Select QB Cam Newton
In a normal draft year, it’s common to see the team with the #1 pick reach a contract agreement with its top choice. But with the work stoppage, Carolina was not permitted to negotiate a contract with its top choice and so we don’t know who their top choice is at this point. I think it’s Newton, but I’m not sure. Plus I know that if I was picking #1, I would pick Newton. So that leads to confusion and we all know how the top choice influences the rest of the early 1st round.

3. The Carson Palmer Situation
Bengals QB Carson Palmer has been steadfast in saying he no longer wants to play for Cincinnati. He’s also said he wants to be traded or released, and that if he’s not traded or released he’s going to retire. But we also know that Cincinnati is steadfast in trying to retain Palmer. Factor all of this in and consider that Cincinnati has the #4 pick and will likely be in prime position to pick QB Blaine Gabbert. Will they concede that Palmer is on the way out the door and pick Gabbert? Or will they stay stubborn in trying to keep Palmer and then use the #4 choice on a WR, such as A.J. Green?

4. Where Will The Trades Begin?
The #1 culprit in ruining mock draft accuracy is trading activity. Predicting which players will go in which spots is not just about evaluating the prospects, it’s about evaluating the teams in each spot and figuring out which players fit with which teams. So when trades happen, it messes everything up. I think the first big opportunity for a trade is at #5 with Arizona, where a team could try and jump up to grab their QB of choice or perhaps a guy like Green or WR Julio Jones. After that, hot spots for trades are at #6 (Cleveland), #9 (Dallas), #10 (Washington) and then the Vikings at #12.

5. The Da’Quan Bowers and Robert Quinn Dilemmas
There are a pair of DEs in this draft – Da’Quan Bowers and Robert Quinn – who in a normal year would each be considerations for the #1 overall pick. But both guys happen to have significant alerts; Bowers reportedly has a potential long-term issue with his knee and Quinn was ineligible to play this past season. The issue here is you have two guys in Bowers and Quinn who can potentially provide game-changing productivity as pass rushers, a coveted commodity in the NFL. But with their question marks, we don’t know where they’ll end up because each team has different tolerance levels for question marks.

6. Washington’s Desires At #10
The Washington Redskins have some natural unpredictability to them because of owner Daniel Snyder. But add in the fact that Mike Shanahan is their head coach and I think they become a bit more mystical. So I have no idea what their desires are and I certainly have no idea what they’re going to do. It seems as if both DT Albert Haynesworth and QB Donovan McNabb are on the way out, so that obviously puts DT and QB in the mix as possibilities at pick #10. I could also see Shanahan trading out of that spot and I can see him addressing the CB position.

7.  The DE/OLB Position With Respect To 3-4 and 4-3 Defensive Schemes
There are scenarios when a great player is on the board for a team on the clock, but that particular player isn’t a good fit with that particular player because of scheme. The best and most common example of that predicament is outside pass rushers and the 3-4 or 4-3 scheme. I actually think LB Von Miller is a good example of this. He’s widely considered one of the best prospects in this draft and was extremely productive in college. In my estimation, he’s a bit undersized to be a traditional outside LB in a 4-3. But he’s a great edge rusher in the 3-4 scheme. So will a team that runs the 4-3 scheme take him because of his great talent, even though he might be a better fit in the 3-4? There are other examples this year, such as Ryan Kerrigan, Quinn and Aldon Smith.


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Settling In For Day 1 Of The 2011 NFL Draft

Posted by Mike Wobschall on April 28, 2011 – 8:47 am

It’s finally here – draft day. The 1st round of the 2011 NFL Draft will be held tonight and it will begin at 7:00 p.m. CT. The Vikings pick 12th of course, so I’m guessing they’ll make a selection sometime between 8:45 and 9:15 p.m. CT. That’s a long time from now, but don’t worry because we’ll have plenty of updates for you between now and then.

All morning and afternoon we’ll keep our ear to the ground and provide you with updates here on the vikings.com Blog, whether it be steam on what the Vikings might do in the 1st round or what teams in front of the Vikings will do in the 1st round. Also, be sure to follow us on Twitter for updates that don’t make it to the website. You can follow the Vikings on Twitter by following @VikingsFootball and you can follow me on Twitter by following @wobby.

Once the draft begins at 7:00 p.m. CT, vikings.com is your place for complete coverage of the event and of the Miller Lite Vikings Draft Party. We’ll be live chatting beginning when the draft begins and we’ll also be streaming the draft party live on vikings.com, which you can watch by using your Facebook information. You can post comments and interact with other Vikings fans who couldn’t make it to the Miller Lite Vikings Draft Party.

So it’s a jam-packed day and it’s underway now. Be sure to stay tuned to vikings.com and the vikings.com Blog and both Twitter and Facebook to stay up-to-date on all of today’s developments. You can also find all of the action in one place by visiting the vikings.com NFL Draft Hub Page.


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