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Future Viking? A Look At WR Jeffery’s Pro Day

Posted by Mike Wobschall on March 29, 2012 – 8:00 am

The University of South Carolina held its pro day on Wednesday, which is notable because the Gamecocks have 3 highly-rated prospects and it’s all but certain that the program will boast a pair of 1st-round picks in the draft, something that hasn’t happened since 1981.

Hybrid DE/OLB Melvin Ingram is the highest-rated player coming out of South Carolina this year, but right on his heels – and rising fast – is CB Stephon Gilmore. We’ll discuss both of those players briefly at the end of this blog entry.

The more relevant player for the Vikings, however, is South Carolina WR Alshon Jeffery. He’s a tough player to figure out because he’s faced plenty of criticism in the pre-draft build up, especially about his weight, but he’s also a beast of a WR and flashed signs of a play-making WR at the NFL level while playing for Steve Spurrier at South Carolina.

Jeffery measures in at 6-4, giving him ideal size for an outside receiver. The potential trouble is that he’s played at a weight of 235 pounds, which is a bit heavier than you’d like to see from an NFL WR. As Mike Mayock noted in this video on NFL.com, the big issue surrounding Jeffery’s draft stock is that teams won’t be sure which player – the heavy, inconsistent one or the big, physical freakish athletic one – you’re drafting.

“Remember, here’s the key, he played at 235 pounds,” Mayock says. “Today (at his pro day), 213 pounds, a 22-pound differential and he ran well. I had him at 4.50 and 4.51 (in the 40-yard dash). So, the question that NFL teams are going to have regarding Alshon Jeffery is “Which guy are you getting?” Are you getting the 235-pound guy that on tape doesn’t look like he’s a 4.5 guy? Or are you getting a kid that at 213 pounds looks completely different? I still think he’s a second-round pick.”

If he is available for the Vikings in the 2nd round at pick #35, it’s an intriguing option for a team that needs help at the outside WR position. From the reports I’ve read and people I’ve asked, there are parts of Jeffery’s game that make him well-worth a 2nd-round pick. He has ideal size, long arms and huge hands, outstanding ball skills and body control on downfield routes, adequate short-area quickness and is a willing run blocker. On the other hand, he doesn’t have elite top-end speed, at times neglects the details of route running, tends to have bad posture on quick routes and deep crossing routes, doesn’t always create separation and isn’t explosive off the line.

Many of those negatives are correctable deficiencies, especially when you have one of the best WR coaches in the NFL, which the Vikings do in George Stewart. Plus, the positives I listed are very enticing for a team with a young QB and an offense that needs a kickstart.

It’ll be interesting to see how it plays out with Jeffery. If the Vikings wind up with him, I’ll be anxious to see him in this offense.

As for the other two aforementioned players, Gilmore and Ingram, there are fewer questions. NFL Network’s Michael Lombardi stressed that Ingram is a player best-suited for a 3-4 defensive scheme, and both Lombardi and Mayock agreed that Ingram must be moved around within the defense to avoid him getting worn out by physical offensive guards. Mayock was very high on Gilmore, so much so that there’s virtually no chance he’ll be available for the Vikings in the 2nd round.

Gilmore is a pure cover corner who, as Lombardi explained, tends to win at the top of routes instead of at the beginning of routes (at the line of scrimmage). This means he’s more likely to intercept passes, whereas a CB who wins early in routes is more prone to disrupting the route and preventing his receiver from even being targeted with a throw. Mayock was more certain that Gilmore will go in the Top 15 and perhaps even the Top 10, while Lombardi and Brian Baldinger of NFL Network wondered aloud whether Gilmore would be selected before Alabama’s Dre Kirkpatrick. All 3 NFL Network analysts said Gilmore will be a starter this fall in the NFL.


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A Recap Of NFL Rules Changes

Posted by Mike Wobschall on March 29, 2012 – 6:45 am

The annual Spring NFL Owners’ Meetings have concluded, and one of the tasks at hand for the owners this past week was to consider rules changes proposed by the NFL Competition Committee. We broke down the many proposals brought forth by the Competition Committee earlier in the week, and now we’ll let you know which proposals the owners passed, which proposals were voted down and which proposals were “tabled” for further discussion when the owners get together again in May.

Approved Proposals
– Previously, any play that resulted in a score was subject to automatic review by the officials in the booth. Now, NFL owners have approved a proposal that makes any play that results in a turnover subject to automatic review by officials in the booth.

– The overtime rule, in which a game cannot end after a FG on the first possession of overtime, has been expanded to include the regular season as well. Previously, only postseason games were governed by that rule, but now the regular season shares the new overtime rule.

– Making it a dead ball foul if a team lines up with 12 men on offense, or if a team lines up with 12 men on defense and the snap is imminent. Previously, the play was allowed to proceed and a 5-yard penalty was assessed after the action. Now, however, officials will blow the play dead before the snap and a 5-yard penalty will be assessed.

– The “defenseless player” rule now includes defenders on “crackback” blocks from offensive players. It is now illegal for an offensive player to hit a defensive player in the head or neck area on a crackback block.

– The penalty for kicking a loose ball now also includes a loss of down.

– Roster rules for teams playing on Thanksgiving and Christmas have been modified.

Rejected Proposals
– Having replays viewed solely by the official in the booth, not the referee on the field.

– Modifying the horse-collar tackle rule to include quarterbacks in the pocket.

Tabled Proposals
– Moving the trade deadline from Week 6 to Week 8.

– Creating an “Injured Reserve exemption” to allow a player who was on the roster after Week 1 to return from the Reserve/Injured list at some point in that season.

– Allowing one roster exemption per week for a player who is listed with a concussion.

– Expanding the roster limit to 90 players for the offseason and training camp, and also including unsigned draft picks as counting toward that limit. The current limit is 80 players, with unsigned draft picks not counting against the limit.

– Moving this year’s final roster cutdown day to Friday night instead of Saturday.


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Vikings, CB Samuel Are An Unlikely Union

Posted by Mike Wobschall on March 29, 2012 – 5:41 am

Earlier in the week we discussed the possibility of the Vikings being suitors for CB Asante Samuel, who according to Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer has been placed on the trade block by the Philadelphia Eagles. At the time, I thought the likelihood of the Vikings acquiring Samuel – whether via trade or free agency if the Eagles couldn’t trade him – was somewhat of a longshot, but I also thought it was worth a discussion on the vikings.com Blog.

It was worth the discussion apparently because over 113 comments on the topic were posted by readers.

Now, just a few days later, I think the possibility is even more unlikely. It’s a legitimate longshot, actually.

Terry McCormick of Titan Insider reports, citing a league source, that the Tennessee Titans have “at least some interest” in the 31-year old CB. Remember, the Titans lost their top CB – Cortland Finnegan – to free agency. Increasing the unlikelihood that the Vikings will be in the mix for Samuel is the fact that, also according to McCormick, the Eagles are asking for a 3rd-round pick in a potential trade.

As I said in the first post on this topic, Samuel has great credentials as a 4-time Pro Bowler and 3-time All-Pro with 45 career INTs. And he’d instantly upgrade the Vikings secondary. But since we began discussing this earlier in the week, the Vikings signed CB Zack Bowman. On top of that, keep in mind that Samuel is already 31 years old and he’s due $9.5 million in 2012. Even if he restructures his contract, it’s a lot of money for a rebuilding team to pay a guy on the wrong side of 30. Plus, a 3rd-round pick is too steep a price to pay for Samuel, in my opinion. I was thinking it’d be more like a 6th rounder or 7th rounder, but apparently the Eagles have other ideas.

You can’t blame the Eagles for what seems like a high asking price. Solid cover CBs are a coveted commodity in a League that just had multiple 5,000-yard passers in the 2011 season. Offenses are becoming more dominated by prolific passing attacks, and defenses must respond by acquiring or developing quality CBs. Plus, we’ve seen the Eagles pull off masterful trades in the past, acquiring tremendous value for players that weren’t going to help them that year – QBs Donovan McNabb and Kevin Kolb come to mind.

But you also can’t blame the Vikings for not getting involved in talks with the Eagles. I don’t even know if the Vikings would have interest in Samuel, regardless of price. If they did have interest, the thought of giving up a 3rd-round pick and overpaying for a CB with 9 years of wear and tear on the treads is not a good one for a team looking to get younger and build for the future.


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Vikings Bring Back WR Aromashodu

Posted by Mike Wobschall on March 28, 2012 – 9:53 am

The Vikings are in the midst of reshuffling their roster, placing an emphasis on getting younger and building for the long-term while also trying to fill needs. While he won’t solve every problem the Vikings have at the position, WR Devin Aromashodu has been identified as a player who fits within the team’s plans for 2012.

The Vikings have re-signed Aromashodu, who set career highs with 26 receptions for 468 yards along with 3 TDs and 2 special teams tackles last season, his first with the Vikings. Going into his 6th NFL season in 2012, the Florida native has appeared in 46 games over his career, including 11 starts.

Drafted by Miami in the 7th round of the 2006 NFL Draft, Aromashodu spent time in Indianapolis from 2006-07 and Chicago from 2008-10 before coming to Minnesota.


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Vikings Make Bowman Signing, Erin Henderson Re-Signing Official

Posted by Mike Wobschall on March 27, 2012 – 1:40 pm

The Vikings have signed veteran free agent CB Zack Bowman and have re-signed LB Erin Henderson. Bowman figures to be in the Vikings CB rotation and will also be a key cog on special teams. Henderson will be the front-runner for a starting outside LB job.

Bowman joins the Vikings organization after spending the past 4 seasons with the Chicago Bears. The
Nebraska graduate has appeared in 46 games, making 16 starts during his career. The 2009  season marked Bowman’s best as he recorded a team-leading 6 INTs, 10 passes defensed and 67 total tackles. The 6 INTs tied for 4th in the NFL in 2009.

In his first season as a starter, Henderson finished 4th on the team with a career high 91 tackles. He also
set career highs with 1.5 sacks, 8 TFL, and 2 FF. A former rookie free agent out of Maryland, Henderson appeared in 15 games in 2011, starting 11.


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Compensatory Selections Give Vikings 6 Picks In First 4 Rounds And 10 Overall

Posted by Mike Wobschall on March 27, 2012 – 6:46 am

The NFL handed out compensatory draft picks on Monday at the annual Spring Owners’ Meetings, and the Vikings came away with a pair of 4th-round picks to add to their arsenal of selections in next month’s draft. The Vikings were awarded the 33rd and 39th picks in the 4th round, giving them 6 picks in the first 4 rounds and 10 selections overall.

The Vikings had 10 selections in last year’s draft as well, and 9 of those 10 picks remain on the roster. A similar effort in this year’s draft will go a long way toward Rick Spielman and Co.’s effort of rebuilding the roster.

Here’s a rundown of the Vikings 10 selections in this year’s draft…

1st round – 3rd pick – 3rd overall
2nd round – 3rd pick – 35th overall
3rd round – 3rd pick – 66th overall
4th round – 3rd pick – 98th overall
4th round – 33rd pick – 128th overall (compensatory)
4th round – 39th pick – 134th overall (compensatory)
5th round - 3rd pick – 138th overall
6th round – 5th pick – 175th overall (from Cleveland for Jayme Mitchell trade)
7th round – 3rd pick – 210th overall
7th round – 16th pick – 223rd overall (from Philadelphia through New England)


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Vikings Beef Up Offensive Line Competition

Posted by Mike Wobschall on March 26, 2012 – 11:23 am

The Vikings have made official the signing of free agent OL Geoff Schwartz, adding the versatile 5th-year pro to an offensive line that is getting younger this offseason. The move reunites Schwartz with Vikings OL coach Jeff Davidson, who was the Carolina Panthers offensive coordinator from 2007-10 when Schwartz was drafted by the Panthers in the 7th round of the 2008 NFL Draft out of Oregon.

The Vikings released veteran OGs Anthony Herrera and Steve Hutchinson earlier this month, and they appear committed to getting younger along the offensive line while also adding competition at the same time. Schwartz will turn 26 in July and has played in 32 games with 19 starts in his career. He’s dealt with injuries since entering the NFL, with his 32 games played and 19 starts coming over just 2 seasons. He is listed as appearing in no games in 2008 (his rookie season) and in 2011.

Following the release of Herrera and Hutchinson, I proposed an economical, long-term plan for the offensive line that included drafting Matt Kalil at #3, moving Charlie Johnson to LG and then holding competition for the starting RG spot between veteran Joe Berger and youngster Brandon Fusco, along with Chris DeGeare and any other future draft picks joining the competition. That plan would produce plenty of competition for at least one starting spot – RG – and could also open competition at LG should one of the youngsters push Johnson for playing time.

The Vikings decision to sign Schwartz only increases the competition for playing time. One could argue that if the Vikings had to play a game today, Schwartz would be the starter at one of the guard positions, or event perhaps at LT. But the Vikings don’t have to play a game today, and won’t play a game for another 4.5 months. In the meantime, Schwartz and the rest of his new offensive line teammates will go through a robust competition for playing time.


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Would CB Asante Samuel Be A Good Fit In Minnesota?

Posted by Mike Wobschall on March 26, 2012 – 6:53 am

Not many NFL players have been involved in more trade rumors than Eagles CB Asante Samuel. And now, according to Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer, Samuel is once again the subject of trade speculation in Philadelphia. With the Vikings needing an upgrade in the secondary and with Samuel reportedly on the trade block, that begs the question here, Is Samuel a good option for the Vikings?

The answer, in my view, is maybe.

Keep in mind that Samuel is 31 years old with 9 seasons of wear and tear on his tread. He’s also due $9.5 million in 2012, a number that is far too high for comfort. With those facts under consideration, I don’t think the Vikings should give up much in the way of draft picks to acquire his services. While he would instantly upgrade the Vikings secondary, it would come at too steep of a price for a CB on the wrong side of 30 and a team looking to rebuild its roster.

Rebuilding a roster to eventually yield an annual contender does not happen by adding 31-year old veterans.

But there are two plausible scenarios in which I think the Vikings and Samuel could unite. One would involve the Eagles dropping their asking price to a 6th-round or 7th-round pick, and then for Samuel to agree to a contract restructuring that would dramatically drop his cap number for 2012. The second scenario would be for the Eagles to fail at finding a trading partner and to simply cut Samuel in order to avoid paying him that $9.5 million salary.

Don’t count on that second scenario. We’ve already seen the Eagles shrewd front office coax other teams into lopsided trades. Last year the Eagles convinced the Arizona Cardinals to trade CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and a 2nd-round pick for QB Kevin Kolb. It’s Rodgers-Cromartie’s presence on the roster, in fact, that has made Samuel an expendable talent in their CB stable. So don’t be surprised if the Eagles are able to capitalize on their surplus of CBs in similar fashion to how they capitalized on their surplus of QBs a year ago.

I’m just not sure the Vikings will be the team Philadelphia dances with this time. At the right price, I’d consider it. A 6th-round or 7th-round pick might seem like too low of an offer to acquire Samuel, a 4-time Pro Bowler and 3-time All-Pro with 45 career INTs. But keep in mind, the price a team pays to acquire Samuel, whether in trade compensation or salary, is for what he can do in 2012, not for what he’s done prior to 2012.

I’m not sure what Samuel can do in 2012, but I am sure that, at the right price, I’d consider taking a front row seat to find out.


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NFL’s Big Brass Discussing Big Business In Florida

Posted by Mike Wobschall on March 25, 2012 – 6:02 pm

The annual League meetings have begun in Florida, with NFL owners, GMs and coaches gathering in the Palm Beach area to discuss some of the biggest issues facing the sport. From the Saints Bountygate scandal, to the weird salary cap situation involving the Cowboys and Redskins, to several proposed rules changes, there is big business for the NFL’s big brass to figure out.

We’ll leave the Bountygate and salary cap fiasco issues alone for now and instead focus on some of the proposed rules changes that will be up for discussion among the NFL’s owners this week. The NFL Competition Committee met last week and, after taking suggestions from teams, announced a series of proposed rules changes/alterations. Remember, in order for a proposal to be passed, 24 of the 32 teams must vote ‘yes.’

Here’s a basic look at some of the proposals…

– Having replays viewed solely by the official in the booth, not the referee on the field.

– Currently, any play resulting in a touchdown is subject to automatic review. One proposal calls for any play that results in a turnover also become subject to automatic review.

– Making the playoff overtime rules also apply during the regular season. It seems silly that this is not the case already, but keep in mind the playoff overtime rules are new. The new rules give one team possession in overtime should the team that had received the ball initially kick a FG on its first possession.

– Expanding the “defenseless player” definition to include defensive players on “crackback” blocks, making it illegal for an offensive player to execute a “crackback” block in the head or neck area against a defensive player.

– Modifying the horse-collar tackle rule to include quarterbacks in the pocket.

– Making the penalty for having too many men on the field a dead-ball foul, a suggestion that stems from this year’s Super Bowl in which the NY Giants were penalized for having too many men on the field. The Patriots ran a play and lost valuable time doing so, while the Giants were penalized just 5 yards. Under the proposal, the infraction still nets just 5 yards for the other team, but it will also be a dead-ball foul that will not result in lost time for the opposing offense.

– Moving the trade deadline from Week 6 to Week 8.

– Creating an “Injured Reserve exemption” to allow a player who was on the roster after Week 1 to return from the Reserve/Injured list at some point in that season.

– Allowing one roster exemption per week for a player who is listed with a concussion.

– Expanding the roster limit to 90 players for the offseason and training camp, and also including unsigned draft picks as counting toward that limit. The current limit is 80 players, with unsigned draft picks not counting against the limit.

– Moving this year’s final roster cutdown day to Friday night instead of Saturday.

– Modification of roster rules for teams who play on Thanksgiving and Christmas.


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Most Minnesotans Support Downtown Minneapolis Stadium Proposal, Poll Says

Posted by Mike Wobschall on March 23, 2012 – 3:24 pm

The following information was taken from a press release issued by Home Field Advantage on Friday.

More than 60 percent of Minnesotans support the proposed new Vikings stadium on the existing Metrodome site, according to a new statewide poll commissioned by Home Field Advantage, a consortium of Minneapolis business and community leaders.

The poll – conducted by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research Inc., of Washington, D.C. – asked a random sampling of 1,000 Minnesotans this week whether they would support or oppose a stadium financed with state gambling and existing revenues, along with a major contribution by the Vikings.

The response: 61 percent voiced support, 30 percent were opposed and 9 percent said they were undecided about the proposed deal, which has the backing of Gov. Mark Dayton and is currently under consideration by Minnesota legislators. The poll, conducted March 16 to 19, carries a margin error of plus or minus 3.2 percent.

“The results of this poll confirm that the majority of Minnesotans want a new Vikings stadium in downtown Minneapolis,” said Sam Grabarski, president of the Minneapolis Downtown Council and spokesman for Home Field Advantage.

Todd Klingel, president of the Minneapolis Regional Chamber of Commerce and a member of Home Field Advantage, said the poll results send a clear message to state lawmakers.

“It’s important that the Legislature work with Minneapolis officials and the Vikings to get this deal done,” said Klingel, referring to the stadium financing proposal.

The deal would require the football team’s owners to pay half of the stadium’s estimated $975 million cost. Most of the state’s contribution would come from gambling dollars, with no new tax increases or use of general-revenue funds. Minneapolis would chip in $150 million, exclusively from existing city hospitality taxes.

A few of the polls other important findings…

– Across Minnesota, an overwhelming majority of residents consider the Vikings an asset to the state, according to the poll. When asked to rate the importance of the Vikings staying in Minnesota, nearly 72 percent of respondents said that goal is “very important” or “somewhat important.”

– Most Minnesotans also are keeping up with news about the stadium issue. Nearly three-quarters of those polled said they are following the subject “very closely” or “somewhat closely,” with just a fraction – 9 percent – expressing a lack of interest in the stadium debate.

–In Duluth, 60 percent voiced support, versus 29 percent who were opposed. Nearly 11 percent were undecided in Duluth.

– In Rochester, 56 percent said they support the stadium deal, with 40 percent opposed and 4 percent undecided.


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