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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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