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Vikings Fan Experiences Draft From Unique Perspective

Posted by Mike Wobschall on May 2, 2011 – 2:33 pm

For the 254 football players who were just drafted onto NFL teams, this past weekend was the moment for which they’ve preparing their whole life. But they weren’t the only ones who enjoyed a once-in-a-lifetime experience this past weekend.

Life-long Vikings fan Jerry Hansen, a Minnesota native and decades-long draft junkie, was a winner in the NFL/Verizon Mobile Draft Dream Sweepstakes, which means he got a behind-the-scenes look at the NFL draft live from Radio City Music Hall in NY City.

Click here to view a video of Hansen making the pick.

“I’ve been a draft junkie since Mel Kiper, Jr. first started issuing his annual draft report and would answer the phone himself,” Hansen told me from NY City this past weekend. “I love the NFL draft. I used to take vacation days from work so I could watch the entire draft.”

Hansen announced the Saints 3rd-round pick, DB Johnny Patrick out of Louisville, because the Vikings didn’t have a pick in that round. But he was also able to announce the Vikings 4th-round pick, DT Christian Ballard out of Iowa. But more than just announcing the draft picks, which multiple other winners of the sweepstakes were also able to do, Hansen says the thrill was all-encompassing. From running into NFL legends in his hotel to watching the top college prospects get their names called in the 1st round, the experience is one Hansen will never forget.

“To be here after all these years, and now to be there sitting at the Vikings draft table and talking to Scott Studwell, it was so surreal. I wore my Scott Studwell jersey and I’m talking to him on the phone as we made our pick. It was just unbelievable. I’m in a rush right now just talking about it.”

Jerry traveled to NY City with his wife and following their time at Radio City Music Hall for the NFL Draft they enjoyed the Grey Line tour of the city. Jerry said he’d been to NY City in the past on business, but he’s always wanted to visit Ground Zero. As fate would have it, events transpired literally hours after Jerry and his wife returned home from their trip and Usama bin Laden had been killed by American Special Forces.

Said Jerry in an email to me this morning, “I wanted to make sure I saw Ground Zero and when we got home last night we heard they got bin Laden. Our timing on the trip was good…”

I couldn’t have written it better myself.


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Ponder’s Splits Refute Critics

Posted by cjsiewert on May 2, 2011 – 7:21 am

As many of you may have heard by now, ESPN NFL analyst Trent Dilfer had some harsh words directed at Vikings 1st-round draft choice Christian Ponder in terms of his value as a #12 overall selection.

“Christian Ponder is Elvis Grbac,” Dilfer said last Friday morning during a radio appearance. “He’s Elvis Grbac. Elvis Grbac was a beautiful thrower. He threw for 4,000 yards. He did a lot of nice things. Every time it got tough, he melted.”

Ponder also received mixed feelings from other draft pundits, as I pointed out last Friday. But as for Dilfer’s comments, it got me wondering why he felt Ponder “melted” in pressure situations. Dilfer also went on to say Ponder “plays with a lot of anxiety. Do you want your quarterback in the NFL to play with a lot of anxiety?”

Ponder’s splits say otherwise.

During his junior and senior seasons at Florida State, Ponder completed 105 of 133 passes (78.9%) for 1,156 yards when the game was tied. When his team was losing by a margin of 1-7, Ponder completed 116 of 180 passes (64.4%) for 1,380 yards with 5 TDs and 1 INT.

Other numbers that indicate his ability to perform in pressure situations would include his 4th quarter performances. In 2009 and 2010, Ponder completed 69 of 112 passes (61.6%) for 779 yards with 5 TDs and 2 INTs. Not to mention his performance against AP ranked teams – 72 for 117 (61.5%), 846 yards, 9 TDs and 3 INTs.

What I like most about Ponder’s splits, though, is how he managed the offense when it reached the opponent’s red zone. His last 2 seasons at FSU saw Ponder complete 45 of 72 attempts for 373 yards with 22 TDs and only 1 INT in the red zone. When faced with 3rd and goal, he converted 8 of 11 attempts for 44 yards with 7 TDs and zero INTs.

How Ponder reacts to pressure situations as an NFL QB is to be determined, but I thought it would beneficial to point out his numbers in said circumstances over his past 2 seasons.


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Notes And A Recap Of The Vikings 2011 Draft

Posted by Mike Wobschall on April 30, 2011 – 6:13 pm

The 2011 NFL Draft is officially in the books and the Vikings came away with a total of 10 players. We’ve had tons of draft coverage over the past few days and we’ve got even more coming your way soon.

Click here to go to our “Picks Page” to get all the details of whom the Vikings selected and when they selected them.

Here are a few notes to chew on for now…

– The 10 selections this year are the most since 2000, when the Vikings also chose 10 players in that draft.
— The Vikings selected 5 offensive players and 5 defensive players, with all 5 of the defensive players being selected on Saturday.
— The Vikings consummated a trade with the Cleveland Browns in the 5th round, netting the Purple a pair of 6th round picks this year. In exchange for the 5th-round pick (#150), the Vikings got the 3rd selection of the 6th round (#168 overall) and the 5th selection of the 6th round (#170).
— With the extra 6th-rounders, the Vikings picked up OT DeMarcus Love from Arkansas and S Mistral Raymond from South Florida. Love has great position flexibility and can play on either the left side or the right side and Raymond can play either CB or S.


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Vikings Take DE D’Aundre Reed With 7th-Round Choice

Posted by Mike Wobschall on April 30, 2011 – 3:42 pm

The Vikings continued to add defensive players to their roster on Day 3 of the 2011 NFL Draft, using their first of two 7th-round choices on DE D’Aundre Reed.

Reed is 6-4, 261 pounds and was projected to be a DE in a 4-3 scheme or an outside LB in a 3-4 scheme. The Vikings, of course, run a 4-3 scheme so Reed will join the DE rotation in Minnesota, a stable that is growing and will be one of the most competitive spots on the roster leading up to the regular season.

As is typically the case with picks at this point in the draft, Reed will also be a contributor on special teams for the Vikings.

Here is the NFL.com scouting report on Reed: “Reed brings a lot of versatility to the table but lacks the athleticism to become a starter.. Could turn into a back up run-stopping defensive end or 3-4 outside linebacker for a team that stresses gap-integrity. Does a good job against the run, coming off the ball, keeping blockers off his body, and maintaining outside contain but struggles against bigger tackles, with misdirection, and won’t make a ton of plays from the backside or in space. Currently does not offer much as a pass rusher but could develop into an adequate power rusher with some more moves and technical refinement. Reed’s a late-round prospect.”


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Vikings Tab LB Ross Homan As Final 6th-Round Pick

Posted by Mike Wobschall on April 30, 2011 – 3:03 pm

The Vikings selected 4 players in the 6th round of the 2011 NFL Draft, with the final selection being LB Ross Homan out of Ohio State. It sound like Homan was a leader of the Buckeyes defense and was also a valuable contributor on special teams.

Homan joins a Vikings team that has a former LBs coach Fred Pagac as the defensive coordinator and Mike Singletary as the LBs coach.

Here is the NFL.com scouting report on Homan: “Homan is an undersized linebacker with good speed that could potentially develop into a starter on the weak side. He runs very well and shows the ability to chase running backs down from behind. He is a smooth athlete that makes plays in space and flashes the ability to mirror tight ends and running backs in man coverage. However, he lacks the strength and shedding ability to be a run stopper at the next level and can be a non-factor on running plays directed at him. Homan has the skills to be a quality Tampa 2 linebacker and will likely be a middle round pick.”


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Burton A Viking From The Start?

Posted by Mike Wobschall on April 30, 2011 – 1:59 pm

For most draft picks, there’s really no way to know which team you’ll end up with after the NFL draft. But for Vikings 5th-round pick CB Brandon Burton, there was apparently an indication from early on in his childhood.

Check out this photo that Burton shared with the Vikings on Saturday…

Burton felt comfortable in a Vikings uniform a long time ago

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A Look At First 3 Vikings Selections In 6th Round

Posted by Mike Wobschall on April 30, 2011 – 1:54 pm

The Vikings entered the 6th round of the 2011 NFL Draft with 4 picks – the 3rd, 5th and 7th choices in the round and then the 35th pick in the round (compensatory selection). Instead of separate blog entries for each pick, we’ll package the first 3 together and then address the final 6th round pick later.

– With the 3rd pick of the 6th round (#168 overall), the Vikings chose OT Demarcus Love. He played college football at Arkansas and stands 6-4, 315 pounds. Love played LT the past 2 seasons but also played strong-side G before switching to the outside. That kind of versatility will serve him well with the Vikings.

S Mistral Raymond was the Vikings selection with the 5th pick of the 6th round (#170 overall). Raymond played at South Florida and stands at 6-1, 191 pounds.

– The Vikings selected C Brandon Fusco with the 7th pick of the 6th round (#172 overall). He played college football at the Slippery Rock, which is a Division II school. Fusco was the Gene Upshaw Lineman of the Year (given to top offensive lineman in Division II) and was also a 2-time team captain. According to his scouting report on NFL.com, he has the versatility to play either guard or center.

For some extra reading material, here are blurbs from Love’s and Fusco’s scouting reports:

Demarcus Love
Love is an experienced offensive lineman with great size and a lot of starts under his belt at a variety of spots up front. Can be a road-grading, in-line run blocker who can blow defenders off the ball, but must improve his awareness while playing in space. In pass protection, he can have a tough time with speed rushers but does a nice job dealing with blitzers and creative defensive line play. A versatile prospect with plus size and good intangibles, Love could be selected as high as the second round in April.

 Brandon Fusco
Fusco has the toughness and size to make it in the league as a reserve guard or center but lacks the athleticisms necessary to become a starter. Will face a big jump in competition level coming from Division II but was not intimidated at the Senior Bowl. Can anchor in pass protection but needs to get set quicker and doesn’t have the feet to move and slide laterally. Will get some push off the ball when run blocking but has a tendency to play too high and is not productive out in space. Fusco’s build, motor, and attitude could make him a late-round pick.


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DBs Coach Joe Woods Talks About CB Brandon Burton

Posted by Mike Wobschall on April 30, 2011 – 1:16 pm

The Vikings addressed the front of their defense in the 4th round by selecting DL Christian Ballard, surely putting extra pep in the step of DL coach Karl Dunbar. In the 5th round, Vikings DBs coach Joe Woods found the same extra pep in his step because the Vikings decided to select CB Brandon Burton in the 5th round (#139 overall).

Burton stands at 6-0, 190 pounds and is described as a good fit in the Vikings Cover 2 scheme because of his ability to re-route WRs at the line of scrimmage. But in speaking with Woods this afternoon, the Vikings decision to select Burton was more about him just being an overall good football player as opposed to being a great fit in the defensive scheme.

“It’s not really about scheme when you’re looking at players right now,” Woods explained from his perspective. “He’s just a good overall player. Solid in coverage, willing in run support, and he really just understands what he’s doing on the field. That’s really what stands out the most.”

It was actually refreshing to hear Woods explain that a player the team selected wasn’t necessarily chosen because he’s a great fit for the scheme or because of some other rubber-stamped, generic reason that no one can refute. Woods put is simply, saying Burton was just a flat-out good athlete who loves football, will be a smart player and understands how to play defense.

“He’s a big corner, a good athlete and smart,” Woods said. “He’s going to be a student of the game.”


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CB Brandon Burton Is Vikings 5th-Round Pick

Posted by Mike Wobschall on April 30, 2011 – 12:12 pm

The Vikings added another defensive player to this year’s draft class by selecting CB Brandon Burton with a 5th-round pick (#139 overall). It’s the 3rd year in a row they’ve added a CB in the draft and Burton will be a guy who steps in and immediately competes for playing time.

Burton played college football at the University of Utah and he’s exactly what head coach Leslie Frazier likes in a CB – big and physical. Burton is 6-0 and 190 pounds and ran a 4.53 time in the 40-yard dash. The Vikings often require their CBs to re-route WRs off the line of scrimmage, and that’s something Burton excels at, according to his scouting report on NFL.com. Also, NFL Network’s Mike Mayock said he had a 3rd-round grade on Burton.

Mayock also cited 3 separate times when Burton won a “jump ball” contest with 1st-round WR Jonathan Baldwin in a game last season.

Here is a paragraph from Burton’s scouting report on NFL.com: “Burton has a nice combination of height and speed. Uses his length to jam and re-route receivers at the line and shows the ability to recover. Does a nice job in off-man reacting to the football in front of him. Can rack up the PBUs and break up the jump ball.”


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Pagac Excited To Get “Versatile” Player In Ballard

Posted by Mike Wobschall on April 30, 2011 – 10:51 am

The Vikings selected offensive players with their first 2 picks of this year’s draft, so you can bet the defensive coaching staff was pleased to add a player like DL Christian Ballard with the team’s first pick on Saturday.

“He’s a total player,” Vikings defensive coordinator Fred Pagac said when I asked what he liked about Ballard in evaluating the University of Iowa product. “He comes from a program that plays good defense and produces a lot of NFL players and we’re excited about getting him.”

At 6-4, 283 pounds, Ballard has the size to battle offensive linemen in the trenches but he also possesses the quickness to get past them and be a disruptive force in the offensive backfield. Ballard spent the first 2 years of his career at left DE before moving inside and starting all 13 games of his junior season at DT. In his final season, Ballard rotated often at both spots, starting 8 contests on the outside and 5 more inside.

I have a feeling he’ll be more of an interior lineman with the Vikings, but it’s a luxury to have a guy who can slide to the outside should a need arise there. I’d also expect Ballard to be a core contributor on special teams as a rookie in 2011.

Here are a few stats from Ballard’s official bio: Ballard started 39 of 49 games for Iowa (21 at left defensive end, 18 at defensive tackle)…Recorded 153 tackles (60 solos) with 12.0 sacks for minus 78 yards and 21.5 stops for losses totaling 99 yards…Forced 2 fumbles and blocked 1 field goal attempt…Deflected 3 passes and tallied 10 QB pressures.


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