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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.


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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.


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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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Spielman Confident In Team’s Evaluation Of QB Class

Posted by Mike Wobschall on April 27, 2011 – 8:03 am

We’ve talked about a lot of different QBs here on vikings.com over the past few months, from top prospects such as Blaine Gabbert, Jake Locker and Cam Newton to the “next tier” of passers such as Andy Dalton, Colin Kaepernick and Ryan Mallett. Through it all, consensus has been absent and opinion has been rampant.

That’s the beauty of the NFL draft for NFL fans. Everyone has their opinions and there are so many players and so many scenarios that there’s a seemingly endless amount of topics to discuss and debate. When you add in mock drafts and talking heads on ESPN and NFL Network trying to guess how teams are going to operate on draft day, there is so much information and opinion that it can be confusing.

But Vikings fans can take solace in knowing that their teams draft room won’t be spinning when the 2011 NFL Draft begins on Thursday evening. The Vikings, under the guidance of VP of Player Personnel Rick Spielman and his staff, along with the coaching staff, have evaluated this year’s class of QBs and it sounds like a plan is in place.

“We’ve done an extensive study, and every one of these guys has a strength and a weakness,” Spielman said. “We are identifying what those strengths are and what those weaknesses are. Specifically, if any of these guys’ weakness can be corrected, or is it an off-the-field weakness, or a leadership weakness, or an on-the-field issue. Everyone has different issues, we’ve been through that and what we feel comfortable with.

“We analyzed all this and went through every guy’s strength and weakness, and everyone got an opportunity to speak their mind.  We feel very confident with where we have these quarterbacks stacked.”

It’s good the Vikings feel confident in their evaluation of this year’s QB class because there’s a good chance one of those prospects will be on the roster later this summer competing with Joe Webb. And that leads us to another element of this year’s draft and entire offseason that Spielman brought up and indicated the team was prepared to handle: how the work stoppage impacts the Vikings going forward.

Specifically, the Vikings of course have a new head coach in Leslie Frazier and that means a partially new coaching staff. What also typically comes with a new head coach and coaching staff is more roster turnover than usual. This will inevitably breathe new life into the Vikings roster, but it also adds some complexity because it’s not certain when these new players – both QBs and players at other positions – will be able to begin practicing and acclimating themselves to the team with the work stoppage. This will all need to be factored in by Spielman and Co. during the draft.

“The other thing you have to look at in this draft, that is so much different than the drafts in the past, is that the rookies you bring in, if they’re not here, and they’re not here until August, they have missed all that time with the coaches, all of the OTAs and mini-camps,” Spielman explained. “I believe that they will be significantly further behind than a normal rookie class would be because of the lack of working with our coaches, lack of knowledge of the system, and getting acclimated to our game. We will have to be more patient with our rookie class; if the scenario comes up that these guys don’t show up until sometime in August.”


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To Trade Or Not To Trade, That Is The Question

Posted by Mike Wobschall on April 27, 2011 – 6:20 am

NFL coaches and personnel executives typically keep their plans and strategies close to the vest in the months and weeks leading up to the draft. Aside from engaging in some gamesmanship and subterfuge, there’s really no upside for teams to disclose their thoughts on certain prospects.

But there’s one issue Vikings VP of Player Personnel Rick Spielman has been clear on in the build-up to this year’s draft: the Vikings want to find a way to recoup the (3rd-round) pick they handed over in last season’s Randy Moss trade.

Prior to and during the Combine, Spielman told reporters he’d like to find a way to score an additional selection during the draft, and he said the same thing on Tuesday while meeting with reporters during his annual pre-draft press conference at Winter Park.

“If we can get a pick we like and get a third round pick, we think we will have had a very successful draft,” Spielman explained.

But Spielman also said he’s taken his staff through other potential 1st-round scenarios, including the possibility of staying put at #12 and taking an impact player.

“There are players we’ve already talked about, that if he is available at the number twelve pick, we aren’t going to move, we are going take that player because we think that he’s significant enough to take him and not trade out,” Spielman continued. “We have been through scenarios where we’ve looked at our team if we move back, lost that player, but picked up a third-rounder. We have also looked at scenarios where we didn’t move back, didn’t have a third-rounder, picked that player and how that player would impact our football team.”

So while it’s crystal clear the Vikings will consider trading back in the draft this year to acquire an additional pick or two, it’s not clear when exactly the Vikings will make that move. It could be in the 1st round, or it could be at a later point.

In some respects, Spielman might not even have a good idea of when a trade back – or up – could happen. Much of how a team behaves during the draft is an after-effect of what happens in front of them.

“You have an idea, but I don’t know because sometimes there are some pretty good players up there, and (you don’t know) where they are going to come off,” Spielman said. “Now if one of those players that we have in the top five comes to us at twelve, I can tell you we aren’t going to trade out, we’re going to take that player.

“You’re going to have to sit back, be patient and wait. Then you’re going to have to weigh in when you’re on that clock and look at your options and how many bodies you have left so you could potentially move back, pick up a third round pick, and still get one of those three or four players that you would’ve taken at 12 anyway.”


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A New Perspective For Frazier During NFL Draft

Posted by Mike Wobschall on April 26, 2011 – 2:17 pm

In an article posted in the news headline section of vikings.com, we pointed out that Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier is going through NFL draft preparations for the first time as a head coach and that he’s handling the responsibilities with aplomb. We also explained that it should come as no surprise, given how gracefully he led the organization through the tumultuous conclusion to the 2010 season.

But now is not the time to reflect back on the end of the 2010 season. It’s time to think about the 2011 season and, more specifically and more imminently, the 2011 NFL Draft, which will begin on Thursday evening at 6:00 p.m. CT.

Frazier, going through the draft for the first time as head coach, says he has a different perspective on things this year. He’s a 23-year coaching veteran, but for the first time at the NFL level he’s considering more than just the defensive side of the ball in his evaluation and decision-making.

“You go from being a defensive coordinator, where you’re working just one side of the football, although in the role of assistant head coach I would have discussions on occasion with Rick and others about other positions. But my primary responsibility was working on the defensive side of the football,” Frazier explained. “Now, to have to look at it globally when it comes to special teams, offense and defense, that’s a little bit different but it’s not something I’ve never had to do before.”

As he’s done in other areas of his life and his profession, Frazier has clearly prepared himself well for his current role. And since he’s prepared to handle the responsibilities of helping VP of Player Personnel Rick Spielman and Co. guide the franchise through the draft, he’s enjoying the process as well.

“I really enjoy doing it,” Frazier said. “I like being able to have some say in who we’re looking at as a return specialist, who we’re looking at at other positions other than just defense. I’ve enjoyed it, it’s been good. I’ve enjoyed it a great deal.”

Frazier also stressed that Vikings fans can enjoy this time of year also. The team is coming off a disappointing season and roster turnover is expected, but the Vikings head coach is optimistic about this year’s draft class and he knows the draft represents an opportunity for new life.

“There are a lot of good players on that board that we’re discussing,” Frazier commend, “and I’m excited about what’s going to happen in the days ahead and it should be a great time if you’re a Minnesota Vikings fan. It should be a great time.”


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