How early would you be willing to draft a return specialist? This is a player who is categorized under a specific position, but you’ve drafted him to serve exclusively as a return specialist for your club, at least for the first season of his career while he develops at his standard position.
Think of Devin Hester, for example. While he is listed as a receiver and has played that position for the Bears recently, the 2013 plan for Hester is to focus primarily on return duties. If Devin Hester were eligible in this year’s draft, where would you be willing to select him?
Keep that question in mind as you analyze the group of players we’ve compiled as draftable return specialists. Also keep in mind that elite prospects at standard positions who also project to be returners are not included in this piece, such as West Virginia’s Tavon Austin, Oregon’s Kenjon Barner, LSU’s Tyrann Mathieu and Tennessee’s Cordarrelle Patterson.
As usual, we want you to be involved. Let us know what you think by leaving your thoughts in the comments section below this entry or by emailing me for possible inclusion in a future Pick 6 or Monday Morning Mailbag.
WR Marquise Goodwin (Texas)
— Fastest timed player at the Combine (4.27 in the 40)
— Olympic track athlete (Participated in London Games)
— Explosive measurables besides speed (132.0-inch broad jump)
— Career kickoff return numbers: 44-985-1 (22.4 average)
NFL.com Grade: 4th-7th Round
Summary: Goodwin may develop into a solid NFL WR one day, but short arms, small hands and a need for improved route running make the primary KR role a better fit in Year 1.
WR Ace Sanders (South Carolina)
— Has potential as WR in NFL, but will instantly upgrade return game
— A true game-breaker who scouts describe as “quick twitch” with great feet, agility and instincts
— Set school record with 429 yards on 28 punt returns in 2012
— Career punt return numbers: 72-578-3
NFL.com Grade: 4th-7th Round
Summary: One of the more electric playmakers in this draft, Sanders could step in as an elite punt returner immediately and provides intriguing potential as a kickoff returner as well. Rare acceleration ability combined with rare awareness of where the creases will open.
RB Onterio McCalebb (Auburn)
– In 4 seasons at Auburn, had career kickoff return numbers of: 53-1,360-2 (25.7 average)
— Had returns of 100, 99 and 83 yards
— Fastest 40 time for RBs at Combine (4.34) – great accelerator
— Long, lean, wiry frame but doesn’t take big hits and has limited injury history
— No punt return history
NFL.com Grade: 4th-7th Round
Summary: A gadget player for Auburn’s dynamic offense, McCalebb was an all-purpose yardage machine and is a great candidate to focus on return role during the early stages of his career. He has big-time playmaking ability, reaches top speed quickly and has elite change of direction ability.
WR Denard Robinson (Michigan)
— A+ athlete with experience playing QB, RB and WR and was 2010 Big 10 Offensive Player of the Year as a QB.
— Transitioning to new position in the NFL (WR) and worked as a returner during pre-draft build-up
— Explosive measurables, great top-end speed (4.43), experienced playmaker
NFL.com Grade: 2nd-3rd Round
Summary: Robinson just has too much equity built up in terms of making big plays in big games to write him off as he switches positions coming into the NFL. He struggled fielding kicks and punts during Senior Bowl week, but has worked tirelessly since to improve and definitely has the “it” factor to him.
Will Compete For Starting Role
RB Kerwynn Williams (Utah State)
— Accomplished and experienced college kickoff returner with career numbers of: 91-2,272-1 (25.0)
— Full-time kickoff returner as freshman (53-1,444-1)
— Also returned punts occasionally (15 career punt returns)
— Developed as a RB behind NFL talent and started as a freshman, so he could have visions of developing into RB role in NFL down the road.
— 4.46-4.48 in 40-yard dash, top Combine performer in 20-yard shuttle (4.15), explosive in vertical, broad jumps
NFL.com Grade: 4th-7th Round
Summary: Another yardage machine, Williams leaves Utah State as the school’s and conferences all-time leader in all-purpose yardage. Appears to have potential as an NFL RB, but could be a difference-maker as a returner while that development takes place.
RB Theo Riddick (Notre Dame)
– Career kickoff return numbers: 47-1051-0 (22.4)
— Was Notre Dame’s primary kickoff returner in 2009 – 37-849-0 (22.9)
— Versatile player at Notre Dame – started at WR (2010) and led team in rushing (2012)
NFL.com Grade: 4th-7th Rounder
Summary: You can question whether or not Riddick has the long speed necessary to be an elite returner, but he does have excellent change of direction ability, is a proven versatile commodity and is known as a hard worker and team-first guy.
RB Michael Ford (LSU)
— Has just one season with return experience at LSU – kickoff return numbers of : 20-549-0
— Ran solid 4.5 in the 40-yard dash at the Combine, but Pro Football Weekly has him listed with a 4.46
— His 38½ vertical leap indicates explosiveness.
NFL.com Grade: 4th-7th Rounder
Summary: Ford was not heavily used as a RB at LSU, so there’s plenty of tread on the tires and he may cherish a role as a possible primary returner. Time speeds in drills are impressive, production at LSU doesn’t help his stock.
WR Jasper Collins (Mount Union)
– Was primary punt returner for 3 seasons – 38-605-3 (15.9)
— Snubbed by Combine but estimated 40-time is 4.55
— Helped Mount Union go 15-0 in 2012 as team’s leading receiver (no returns in ‘12)
NFL.com Grade: Ungraded
Summary: Hard to gauge true value as a returner because he stepped away entirely from that role as a senior. Solid 40-yard dash time combined with 15.9-yard average per punt return indicates he might have ability to fill this role in the NFL.
WR Alan Bonner (Jacksonville State)
— Productive and experienced returner in college – full-time role as a freshman and sophomore, but eventually became starter at WR.
— Career kickoff return numbers of: 46-1,020 (22.2) and career punt return numbers of: 87-972 (11.2)
NFL.com Grade: 4th-7th Round
Summary: Scouting reports describe Bonner as not explosive, but it’s hard not to like his experience and production as a returner in college. The fact that he’s experienced at both kickoff and punt return is a plus.
RB Chris Thompson (Florida State)
— Limited kickoff return experience at FSU: 8-183
— Pro Football Weekly has him with a 4.45 time in 40-yard dash
NFL.com Grade: 4th-7th Round
Summary: Big-time talent as a RB at Florida State, but injuries (broken back, ACL) derailed his chances of becoming a top-flight prospect as a ball-carrier. But that’s the rub here. Can he use his RB skill set in combo with elite track speed to be a returner at the NFL level and open the door for one day ascending the depth chart to carry the rock for an NFL team?
CB Greg Reid (Valdosta State)
— Electric playmaker for Florida State and then Valdosta State with some potential as a DB
— Was a kickoff and punt returner in college, posting totals of 63-1,553 (24.7) as a kickoff returner and 89-1,117-3 (12.6) on punt returns
NFL.com Grade: 4th-7th Round
Summary: The NFL.com scouting report on Reid says: “Electric returner. A threat to take the ball to the house any time he touches the football due to elusiveness and tremendous open-field vision.” The report also sites an ACL injury and off-field concerns as reasons he’ll go undrafted.
Others To Consider
CB Adrian Bushell (Louisville)
— Moved around during college career but settled at Louisville for 2 seasons
— Had 2-year KOR total of 26-609-1 (23.4)
Summary: Bushell had moderate production in college and lacks elite athletic traits, but he needs major refinement at CB so he’s a candidate for primary return duties.
CB Mike Edwards (Hawaii)
– Moved around in college, settled at Hawaii for 2 seasons
— 2-year kickoff return total of 84-2,301-3 (27.4)
— Named Mountain West Special Teams POY in ’12 for return production (30.4 + 3 TDs)
Summary: His size and technique deficiency makes him a candidate for primary return duty in the NFL.
CB Khalid Wooten (Nevada)
— Experience and solid production as both kickoff returner and punt returner
— Kickoff return total of 23-493 (21.4) and punt return total of 19-242 (12.7)
Summary: Wooten is a classic “height-weight-speed” prospect who will use special teams roles to stick on a roster in hopes of developing into a defender.
Tags: Ace Sanders, Adrian Bushell, Alan Bonner, Chris Thompson, Denard Robinson, Greg Reid, Jasper Collins, Kerwynn Williams, Khalid Wooten, Marquise Goodwin, Michael Ford, Mike Edwards, Onterio McCalebb, Theo Riddick
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 482 Comments »
The launch of the Offseason Program means a return to Winter Park for many Vikings players. But it also marks the arrival – for the first time – at Winter Park for other Vikings players. There are several veteran players who are new to the Vikings, and they’ll begin the process of assimilating to their new team this week.
Vikings fans are familiar with Christian Ponder, Kyle Rudolph, Everson Griffen and Chad Greenway. They are not familiar with Matt Cassel, TJ Conley, Greg Jennings, Greg McCoy and Roderick Williams. Now is a great time to get to know them.
Here’s a look at a few fresh faces now playing for the Vikings (you’ll get to know all of them as the offseason program progresses)…
We got Greg!
The Vikings reached across the Minnesota-Wisconsin border to nab a big-time Packers playmaker once again this offseason, signing WR Greg Jennings to conclude the first week of NFL free agency. After being a thorn in the Vikings side for the past 7 seasons, Jennings will now be a helping hand for the Vikings. He instantly upgrades the receiving corps and provides that group of players on the roster with a leader. The signing of Jennings was met with wild excitement from a Vikings fan base that has watched the former Packers pass-catcher torch them for 63 receptions and 10 TDs in 15 games vs. the Purple.
Calling for backup – Cassel signed
On the same day the Vikings made a big splash in signing Jennings, they also secured another QB to add to the mix behind Ponder. The Kansas City Chiefs released Matt Cassel early in free agency, and the Vikings immediately swooped in to pick him up. Cassel is an experienced passer in the NFL (62 starts) who was Tom Brady’s backup in New England when the Patriots went 16-0 and advanced to the Super Bowl in 2007. Also, when asked to play, Cassel has responded. He guided the Patriots to an 11-5 record after Brady went down with a knee injury in Week 1 of the 2008 season and he was also a Pro Bowler as the Chiefs starter in 2010, passing for 27 TDs and authoring a passer rating of 93.0.
From North of the border to the NFC North
The Vikings have reached into the Canadian Football League (CFL) with success in the past. Bud Grant became the second head coach in franchise history after leading the Winnipeg Blue Bombers to 4 Grey Cup titles over 10 seasons. This offseason the Vikings once again reached into Canada to try and improve the franchise, signing CB Roderick Williams. He measures in at 5-10, 180 pounds and he’s 26 years old. Williams is technically an undrafted rookie because this is his first NFL contact, but he’s played at a high level in the CFL for 3 seasons, collecting 11 INTs and 1 all-star honor for the Edmonton Eskimos in that time.
Edmonton released Williams, who attended the same school as Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier (Alcorn State), from his contract specifically so he could pursue an opportunity in the NFL. That opportunity will be with Frazier and the Vikings.
An extra leg
It’s not uncommon for teams to carry an extra kicker or punter during the offseason program and training camp, and the Vikings moved early in the offseason to add a punter to their roster in TJ Conley. An undrafted free agent in 2009 after playing college football at the University of Idaho, Conley joined the NY Jets from 2009-2011 and was a free agent in 2012. He was the Jets starting punter in 2011, the only year he recorded statistics, and in that season he punted 92 times in 16 games for a gross average of 42.7 and a net average of 38.8. None of his punts were blocked and none were returned for TDs, while 32 of them landed inside the 20 and 32 were returned for an average of 7.5 yards.
The real McCoy
Sometimes one team’s trash is another team’s treasure. The Vikings will test that theory with CB/return specialist Greg McCoy. He was a 7th-round pick of the Chicago Bears out of TCU in 2012 and was cut on final cutdown day heading into the regular season. McCoy then spent time on the Arizona Cardinals practice squad. He had 7 INTs in 51 career college games at TCU and he was named his conference’s special teams player of the year in his final season after averaging 30.6 yards per return and scoring 2 TDs on 37 kickoff return attempts.
Tags: Greg Jennings, Greg McCoy, Matt Cassel, Roderick Williams, TJ Conley
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 73 Comments »
The “small school” tag is not the only stigma this nimble, smooth-striding RB will have to overcome to make it in the NFL. He’ll also be characterized as a one-year starter who faced lesser competition. To his defense on those two charges, he played behind a pair of 2012 draft picks – Seattle 4th-rounder Robert Turbin and Tampa Bay 7th-rounder Michael Smith, and when he finally did assume a starting role in 2012 he dominated.
Here was his senior line as a RB: 218 carries for 1,512 yards (6.9 per carry) and 15 TDs. He also had 45 receptions for 697 yards and 5 TDs as a pass catcher out of the backfield, illustrating his ability to play all 3 downs as a versatile offensive weapon (20 total TDs). During his time at Utah State, Williams was also a talented returner, the type of player the Vikings could be looking to add in this draft. In 4 seasons at Utah State, Williams totaled 91 kickoff returns for 2,272 yards (25.0 per return) with 1 TD, and he was also an occasional punt returner (15 career punt returns). As a freshman, he was the full-time kickoff returner, averaging 27.2 yards per return with a TD.
The production is obviously there, in several facets of the game. The raw ability is there, too, as Williams was a top performer among RBs at the Combine with a 4.48 time in the 40-yard dash and a 4.15 time in the 20-yard shuttle. He also recorded explosive measurements in the broad jump and vertical leap.
Outside of the small-school, one-year starter and lesser competition tags, Williams will also be docked for his size – he measures in at 5-8, 195 pounds. Maybe that will prevent him from ascending a depth chart and becoming a bell-cow type of RB in the NFL. But maybe it won’t, either. Regardless of that, this small-school prospect who glides swiftly across and down a football field like a hockey player down the ice could be an impact player as a returner and receiver out of the backfield.
Tags: 2013 NFL Draft, Kerwynn Williams, Small School Spotlight
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 161 Comments »
Every NFL team has star players who are relied upon year-in and year-out to perform at a premium level. But on a year-in and year-out basis, successful NFL teams also have players who take huge steps in their development to push their team to the next level.
That is what you call a breakout season, and if the Vikings are to follow up last season’s success with another playoff-caliber campaign, they will need breakout seasons from several players. So with the offseason program launching today, what better time to identify candidates for breakout seasons in 2013.
DT Christian Ballard
Career games played/started: 32/2
2012 Role: Reserve DT, part of regular rotation
2013 Outlook: A reserve player as a rookie in 2011, Ballard became part of the rotation in 2012 and saw his production increase – he even registered his first career sack. In 2013, though, Ballard has an opportunity to take an even larger leap than he did from 2011 to 2012. Perhaps Ballard’s best trait is his versatility, as he can line up at DE or DT and he’s also been a special teams contributor for Mike Priefer’s group. It won’t be a surprise to see the Vikings address the DT position in the draft, but it also won’t be a surprise to see Ballard perform at a level that will make it hard for that rookie DT to walk into a starting spot.
RG Brandon Fusco
Career games played/started: 19/16
2012 Role: Starter/split time with Geoff Schwartz
2013 Outlook: A 6th-round pick in the 2011 draft, Fusco came to the Vikings from Division II school Slippery Rock and over a year earned a starting role blocking for the best RB in the NFL. The reason Fusco was able to overcome the small-school stigma and crack the starting lineup in his second season is because of his toughness and determination. Those are the same traits he’s going to need in 2013 to prevent this year’s version of Brandon Fusco (whoever that may be) from supplanting him in the lineup. We talk a lot about unknown commodities coming out of college and becoming house-hold names in the NFL – Fusco has the work ethic and desire to be another example of this.
S Mistral Raymond
Career games played/started: 20/8
2012 Role: Opened season as starter, injured, rotated with Jamarca Sanford
2013 Outlook: The Vikings are poised to once again hold a robust competition for a starting safety spot next to Harrison Smith. In 2012, Raymond won this competition over Sanford and rookie Robert Blanton, but an injury early in the season derailed his season for a bit. Fortunately, Raymond returned to action in 2012 but not as the full-time starter. The same cast of characters will return in 2013 to battle for a starting spot, and there may even be more names added to the mix once the NFL draft begins later this week. As a 6th-round pick who has battled and defeated personal and professional adversity before, expect Raymond to shine this offseason and training camp.
CB Josh Robinson
Career games played/started: 16/6
2012 Role: Rotational CB
2013 Outlook: After making all the dances and starting 6 of them as a rookie and intercepting 2 passes along the way, Robinson, a 3rd-round pick, turned out to be one of the draft’s better value selections for the Vikings. His performance in 2012 will likely land him in a starting position on the depth chart to begin the offseason program. But his development is not done. There are still improvements Robinson can make to his game, and there will also be plenty of competition added to the position before the team heads to Mankato for training camp this summer.
WR Jarius Wright
Career games played/started: 7/1
2012 Role: Inactive until Week 10, regular contributor over final half of the season
2013 Outlook: The diminutive Arkansas product showed flashes of potential in training camp and the preseason last year, but a high ankle sprain limited him in the first half of the regular season. Wright hit his stride at just the right time, though, as an ankle injury to Percy Harvin opened the door for him to step in. Wright finished the season with 22 receptions for 310 yards and 2 touchdowns, and now he’s poised to earn a spot in the starting lineup and continue in 2013 where he left off in 2012 as a versatile receiver who can play inside or outside but who excels from the slot.
Tags: Brandon Fusco, Christian Ballard, Jarius Wright, Josh Robinson, Mistral Raymond
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 70 Comments »
This is a big week for the crop of prospects hoping to be selected in the 2013 NFL Draft, with the 1st-round set to begin on Thursday evening and the draft scheduled to conclude by Saturday afternoon. But it’s also a big week for many current NFL players, including members of the Vikings.
The Vikings 9-week voluntary offseason program begins Monday and runs into June, which essentially means many Vikings players will be in and around Winter Park for the next 2 months preparing and training for training camp and ultimately the 2013 season.
Under provisions and rules set forth by the brand-new Collective Bargaining Agreement, the Vikings offseason program will consist of three phases, with each phase governed by a different set of rules that will regulate the players’ interaction with coaches, contact during workouts and drills, and more.
Phase One (April 22-May 3): Limited to strength and conditioning, and physical rehab. No position coaches on field. No footballs, exception being quarterbacks may throw to uncovered receivers. No helmets permitted.
Phase Two (May 6-May 24): All coaches on field. “Perfect Play,” individual player instruction drills, special teams drills on a “separates” basis. No live contact. No individual or team offense vs. defense. No helmets.
Phase Three (May 27-June 14): All coaches on field. Ten Organized Team Activities (OTAs) during four-week period. One mandatory minicamp during week three or four. No live contact. No individual offense vs. defense. Kicking team vs. return team permitted. Team offense vs. team defense permitted. Helmets permitted.
OTA #1-3: May 28-30
OTA #4-6: June 4-6
OTA #7-10: June 10-13
Rookie Minicamp: May 3-5
Mandatory Minicamp: June 18-20
As if the NFL draft wasn’t enough this week, the abyss of the NFL offseason is pushed even further into the rear view mirror thanks to the launch of the offseason program. Let the fun begin!
Tags: 2013 Offseason Program
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 8 Comments »
The 2013 NFL Draft is just 5 days away, and in honor of that we’re going to look at the 5 best draft picks in Vikings history. NFL.com ran a feature story earlier this month that looked at each NFL team’s top 5 picks in the pre-Super Bowl era (this takes Fran Tarkenton out of the picture, for example), and what’s written in this blog entry is what was included in the Vikings section of the NFL.com story.
Let us know what you think by leaving your thoughts in the comments section below this entry.
5. LB Scott Studwell (9th round, 250th overall in 1977)
A linebacker for 14 seasons, Studwell is the standard by which all other Vikings ‘backers are measured. He is the franchise career leader in combined tackles (1,981), defensive tackles (1,928), single-season tackles (230 – 1981) and single-game tackles (24 at Detroit 11/17/85). One of the most enduring figures in Vikings history, Studwell is in his fourth decade with the franchise and in 2013 enters his 22nd season working in the front office.
4. WR Randy Moss (1st round, 21st overall in 1998)
Moss put together one of the best debut seasons of all-time, hauling in a NFL rookie single-season record 17 touchdowns and averaging 19.0 yards per catch for a Vikings team that went 15-1 and scored a then-NFL record 556 points. An elite vertical threat throughout his 16-year career, Moss set the NFL single-season receiving record in 2007 with 23 scores and currently ranks second in NFL history behind only Jerry Rice with 156 touchdown receptions.
3. OT Ron Yary (1st round, 1st overall in 1968)
In 1968 Yary became the first offensive lineman to be drafted first overall in NFL history, and the Hall of Famer’s blend of size, speed and strength helped usher in a new era of offensive line play. He assumed a starting role midway through the 1969 season and was a fixture there for the rest of his career, missing only two games during his career due to injury. Yary was named an All-Pro in six consecutive seasons, played in seven Pro Bowls and started in four Super Bowls.
2. DT Alan Page (1st round, 15th overall in 1967)
A Hall of Famer (1988) and member of the vaunted Purple People Eaters, Page was a mainstay in a dominant Vikings defense that became legendary and led the franchise to four Super Bowls in the 1970s. Page was named to the Pro Bowl nine times in 12 seasons with the Vikings, and in 1971 he became the first defensive player to earn NFL MVP honors. Page played in 236 straight games and had a knack for the impact play, recording 148.5 sacks, 28 blocked kicks and 23 fumble recoveries.
1. RB Adrian Peterson (1st round, 7th overall in 2007)
Peterson hit the ground running as a rookie by leading the NFC in rushing yards (1,341), setting a new NFL single-game rushing record of 296 yards, and helping the Vikings set a new team rushing record (2,634) yards). He earned Associated Press Offensive Rookie of the Year honors in 2007 and was named MVP of the Pro Bowl. In six seasons with the Vikings, Peterson has authored five of the franchise’s top six rushing seasons and in 2012 he became just the seventh player in NFL history to rush for 2,000 yards while going on to earn NFL MVP honors.
*Not included on this list but worth mentioning is quarterback Fran Tarkenton, a third-round selection in 1961 (pre Super Bowl era).
Tags: Adrian Peterson, Alan Page, Randy Moss, Ron Yary, Scott Studwell
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 96 Comments »
Vikings fans have a very high standard when it comes to defensive tackles. After all, this is the home of the Purple People Eaters, of Keith Millard, of John Randle and Henry Thomas, and of the Williams Wall. So we approach this category with great respect to what fans demand out of their defensive tackles.
We also approach the preview of this position group knowing that we’re painting with a broad brush in categorizing them as defensive tackles. When it comes to defensive tackles, there are 3-techniques, there are under tackles, there are 5-techniques and there are nose tackles. There are players who fit primarily in the 3-4 or 4-3, and there are defensive tackles who can fit in both. Our goal here is not to distinguish between these categories, rather, the point is to assess this class of players and see which of them can help the Vikings defense continue to improve.
Without further ado, here’s a look at this year’s crop of defensive tackles. We’ll group them into four categories and place them alphabetically within each category. As usual, we’re interested in your feedback, so leave your thoughts in the comments section below this entry or email them to me for possible inclusion in a future Pick 6 or Monday Morning Mailbag.
Sharrif Floyd (Florida) – Having played both DE and DT at Florida and with elite size/athleticism combo, Floyd is likely to be the first DT off the board next week.
Johnathan Hankins (Ohio State) – Those looking for a Pat Williams clone will find something close with this 6-3, 320-pound gap stuffer. At this point he doesn’t have the instincts and cat-like quickness Williams had to be a game-changer in the NFL, but maybe he’ll get there one day.
Star Lotulelei (Utah) – In a 4-3 scheme such as the Vikings, Lotulelei is the perfect match to Kevin Williams. A heart condition could cause him to slide, but my guess is his ability to dominate centers and overpower double-teams will be too appealing to allow him to slide even close to the Vikings.
Sheldon Richardson (Missouri) – At 6-2, 294 pounds, Richardson has the size and strength to anchor in the run game but he also possesses the athleticism to rush the passer, run sideline-to-sideline and chase plays down from the backside. Would be a steal for the Vikings at #23.
Sylvester Williams (North Carolina) – Completely dominated two practices I watched at the Senior Bowl and was a game-changer during that game. He can play three downs, is great in short-area battles and has the strength to anchor and the motor to chase. Would be a nice complement to Williams in the Vikings defensive front.
Jonathan Jenkins (Georgia) – Tremendous size at 6-4, 336 pounds and with 34-inch arms, Jenkins is the type of defender whose impact is not measured in the stat sheet. He eats up blockers and yields opportunities for others. It’s fair to question his fit in a 4-3 and he might be better-suited as a nose tackle in a 3-4 alignment.
Kawann Short (Purdue) – The 2-time team captain at Purdue seems to be a polarizing player among scouts, but it’s hard not to like his 48.0 career tackles for loss and school record 8 blocked kicks in 4 productive seasons. His size (6-3, 299 pounds) and production combo is impressive.
Brandon Williams (Missouri Southern State) – Suggesting a 2nd-round grade on a player with concerns that include durability, level of competition and height deficiency sounds like suggesting a reach. But when you look at Williams’ production, raw ability and athletic traits, I think a 2nd-round grade makes sense. In 4 seasons at Missouri Southern State, Williams set the school record with 27.0 sacks, totaled 52.5 tackles for loss, batted down 14 passes and earned the 2012 Division II National Defensive Player of the Year award. For good measure, he bench pressed 225 pounds 38 times at the Combine and was a standout at the Senior Bowl.
Jordan Hill (Penn State) – You’re more impressed with his technique, movement skills and pass-rushing ability than his sheer strength versus blockers and destructiveness versus the run.
Bennie Logan (LSU) – His athleticism and size along with his pedigree (played at LSU) will intrigue teams who think they’ll buy low on a potential star. But proponents of Logan’s will point to a lack of production, an inability to beat double teams and stamina as concerns.
Akeem Spence (Illinois) – At 6-1, 307 pounds and with moderate-to-solid production in college, Spence is a lunch pail guy with lots of starting experience in a Big 10 program. He’s strong and has good range vs. the run, but needs to improve his explosiveness off the ball and technique versus double teams.
TJ Barnes (Georgia Tech) – A 6-6, 369 massive nose tackle who will likely be a 2-down player but who could develop into a legitimate run-stopper. Would be nice to have him on the field in short-yardage and goal line scenarios.
Kwame Geathers (Georgia) – Another massive run-stopper at 6-5, 342 pounds, Geathers has NFL bloodlines because his father, two brothers and uncle all played or play in the League. Geathers didn’t have tremendous production, but he played an important role on a SEC defense. Maybe more of a fit for 3-4 teams?
Cory Grissom (South Florida) – Big and powerful run-stopper with moderate production and 3 years of starting experience. At 6-1, 306, most reports say he can fit in a “30” or “40” front but will most likely be a 2-down player.
Jessie Williams (Alabama) – The former rugby player from Australia played 2 seasons at Alabama and possesses the strength to play at the NFL level. Teams that like him will be okay with his lack of experience and will look forward to developing a raw, 6-3, 323-pound playmaker from one of the best programs in the country.
Could Make Roster
Josh Boyd (Mississippi State) – Good size at 6-3, 310 pounds and production early in his career. He caught scouts’ eyes a year ago when teammate Fletcher Cox was being watched and was eventually chosen in the 1st round. Most reports site Boyd’s effective swim move, but they also point out his dip in production without Cox and point out his small hands and short arms.
Everett Dawkins (Florida State) – One of the harder players for me to get my arms around. Not a bunch of production and seemed to change positions and wait a bit at Florida State. Has good size (6-2, 292 pounds) and played a regular role on some good teams.
Montori Hughes (Tennessee Martin) – Gigantic frame at 6-4, 329 pounds but scouts say he doesn’t play to his size enough. Can anchor versus the run, occupies blockers and fights double teams, needs to mature more.
Tags: 2013 Draft Preview, 2013 NFL Draft, Akeem Spence, Bennie Logan, Brandon Williams, Cory Grissom, Everett Dawkins, Jessie Williams, Johnathan Hankins, Jonathan Jenkins, Jordan Hill, Josh Boyd, Kawann Short, Kwame Geathers, Montori Hughes, Sharrif Floyd, Sheldon Richardson, Star Lotulelei, Sylvester Williams, TJ Barnes
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 93 Comments »
The NFL has released its 2013 schedule, which means the teams and locations on the Vikings slate have now been assigned dates and times. Here’s a game-by-game list of the games as well as a few of my thoughts (home games in BOLD).
Week 1 – at Detroit Lions
Week 2 – at Chicago Bears
The schedule-makers didn’t do the Vikings any favors with assigning back-to-back road division games to open the season, but with a Week 4 London game in the fold and schedule rules associated with that arrangement there’s really not much the NFL could do. This is a formidable challenge for the Vikings right out of the gate.
Week 3 – Cleveland Browns
A treat for Vikings fans in the home opener – Adrian Peterson vs. Trent Richardson.
Week 4 – Pittsburgh Steelers (London)
A much-anticipated opportunity for the Vikings as they join the NFL’s effort to expand the game globally. It’s technically a home game, but this marks the third time in the season’s first four weeks that the Vikings will be on the road.
Week 5 – BYE
Too early for a bye, but the NFL madates a bye week for teams following their game in London.
Week 6 – Carolina Panthers
A cool home game for the Vikings and fans, as Cam Newton and that flashy Panthers offense come to town. It would be a perfect time for the Vikings offense to click on all cylinders.
Week 7 – at NY Giants (Monday Night Football)
The Vikings first of two games (hopefully) at MetLife Stadium this season (site of Super Bowl XLVIII)
Week 8 – Green Bay Packers
Arguably the most challenging stretch of games in the schedule begins with a home tilt against border rival Green Bay.
Week 9 – at Dallas Cowboys
Week 10 – (Thursday) Washington Redskins (NFL Network)
Two games vs. NFC East opponents in the span of four days with a Sunday game in Dallas and a Thursday game on NFL Network against RG3 and the Redskins. RG3 should be healthy and full-speed by this point.
Week 11 – at Seattle Seahawks
Don’t need to write much to build the hype here. Darrell Bevell, Heath Farwell, Percy Harvin and Antoine Winfield go against their former team.
Week 12 – at Green Bay Packers
Not a bad time to travel to Lambeau Field.
Week 13 – Chicago Bears
Week 14 – at Baltimore Ravens
A road trip to see the defending Super Bowl champs in early December.
Week 15 – Philadelphia Eagles
Week 16 – at Cincinnati Bengals
A tougher-than-you-think matchup for the Vikings as they go on the road late in the season to play a tough Bengals squad.
Week 17 – Detroit Lions
An interesting choice to close Mall of America Field, but there’s a good chance it’s a game with meaning because it’s a division game and it’s the final game of the season.
Tags: 2013 Schedule
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 239 Comments »
The NFL announced on Monday that Commissioner Roger Goodell has named Leslie Frazier and three other head coaches – Miami’s Joe Philbin, Carolina’s Ron Rivera and Atlanta’s Mike Smith – to the Coaches Subcommittee of the NFL Competition Committee. The subcommittee consists of the following members: John Madden, Tom Coughlin (NY Giants), Frazier, John Harbaugh (Baltimore Ravens), Philbin, Andy Reid (Kansas City Chiefs), Rivera and Smith.
The subcommittee is chaired by Hall of Fame coach John Madden and reports to the full Competition Committee prior to the annual NFL meeting every March. The subcommitee also meets on a regular basis via conference call to discuss player safety, competitive issues, coaching and personnel development and technological innovations.
Pittsburgh Steelers Head Coach Mike Tomlin, who served on the subcommittee since 2009, was recently named to the Competition Committee.
Tags: Leslie Frazier
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 100 Comments »
As the 2013 NFL Draft draws closer, some of the country’s top players from most of the country’s top college football programs are anxiously awaiting to find out their professional destination. While you can be sure that college football powerhouses such as Alabama, Florida State, Ohio State and USC will produce plenty of pros once again this year, you can be just as sure that some of the country’s smaller schools will yield some professional talent as well.
Jerry Rice, the best receiver in NFL history, is a produce of Mississippi Valley State. Our own John Randle, another Hall of Famer, played at Texas A&I – Kingsville. We see it all the time – players from small schools in college can make a big impact in the NFL.
In recognition of this, we’ll run a series called “Small School Spotlight” to highlight a few of this year’s intriguing prospects who may not get the attention they deserve because they come from smaller schools.
We’ll kickoff the small school spotlight with one of my favorite sleepers in this entire class – DE David Bass from Missouri Western State. You don’t see Missouri Western play its games on TV. They play the likes of Emporia State University, Pittsburgh State and Minnesota State – Mankato, and those matchups aren’t going to be featured on prime time network TV. But if you did see Missouri Western State football, you’d notice Bass right away.
He measures in 6-4, 262-pounds and he was moved between left DE and right DE because of his effectiveness and versatility. Bass was a 4-year starter at Missouri Western who at one point started 50 consecutive games. He’s the school’s all-time sacks leader with 39.5 and he recorded 56.0 tackles behind the line of scrimmage and 22 pass breakups in his career. I don’t care where you’re playing, that kind of production is worth serious consideration when it comes to transitioning into the NFL.
Bass lacks the burst and play-with-your-hair-on-fire demeanor that makes defensive linemen such as Jared Allen so special. But Bass does have the potential to play in the NFL, and if a 3-4 team likes him I think he can stand up as an outside linebacker in that scheme. At some point it’s hard not to wonder if the “small school” tag is too much of a factor for folks putting together pre-draft rankings. Bass is generally an underrated prospect in my view, and this point is illustrated by the fact that he’s the 24th-ranked DE in NFL.com’s rankings. Not the 24th-ranked defensive lineman – the 24th ranked DE. For my taste, that’s simply too low.
Tags: 2013 NFL Draft, David Bass, Small School Spotlight
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 45 Comments »