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(Re)Making The Grade: Looking Back At 2012 Draft

Posted by Mike Wobschall on February 8, 2013 – 7:12 am

We will talk a lot about the 2013 NFL Draft on vikings.com and the vikings.com Blog over the next 2.5 months. But right now, let’s take a look back at how the Vikings fared in the 2012 NFL Draft.

The impetus behind this idea is a piece put together by ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper, Jr. Immediately following each year’s draft, he applies a grade to each team’s effort by reconciling the selections made by each team against that team’s draft positions and specific roster needs. Anyone who does this will tell you there’s a high degree of error involved because it’s typically a 3-year process before you can complete the evaluation of a draft-class. But in order to be fair and to hold himself accountable, Kiper has decided to revisit his post-draft grades for each team and hand out new grades based on how the draft picks and teams fared during the 2012 season.

The Vikings efforts in the 2012 NFL Draft were applauded immediately after, as they came out of the event with a pair of 1st-round picks at positions of need and also peppered the roster with 8 other selections after that. Kiper gave the Vikings a post-draft grade of a “B” and said the following: “The Vikings did pretty well. They got the left tackle they coveted in Matt Kalil, and they moved up to get a safety. Both Kalil and Harrison Smith, their two first-round picks, should be starting in Week 1. Josh Robinson adds speed, if not a lot of polish, at corner, and has the chance to develop into a good player.”

A pretty spot-on post-draft evaluation. Kalil and Smith both started all 16 games this season, and Robinson indeed has the look of a developing player after playing in all 16 games and starting 6 in his rookie season. Plus, he was 3rd on the team with 2 INTs and 7th on the team with 61 tackles.

In revisiting the draft and handing out new grades, though, Kiper has increased that grade by changing it to an A-. Kalil, Robinson and Smith fulfilled his expectations, and then others, most notably Blair Walsh, add significant contributions to cause Kiper to upgrade his evaluation. Here’s what he provided as new commentary:

“Kalil not only started 16 games at left tackle, played well at a significant position and if his run-blocking catches up with his pass-blocking, he’ll become among the league’s best. Smith became exactly what the Vikings had hoped, started all 16 games at free safety and should be there for years to come. The instincts he showed at Notre Dame were on display, and he’ll continue to get better. Robinson is raw, but could ultimately take over for Antoine Winfield. And don’t overlook one of the steals of the draft. Blair Walsh was taken at No. 175 overall, and was the best kicker in the league in 2012. A year later, a pretty good draft looks even better.”

And that’s not even to mention WR Jarius Wright coming on in the second half of the season, Rhett Ellison well on the way to providing the offense with gritty blocking and sneaky-good production in the passing game, and late-round picks Robert Blanton and Audie Cole poised to take on increased roles after serving on special teams from time-to-time in 2012. Including the injured Greg Childs, 9 of the Vikings 10 draft picks from last year are still on the team.

The news gets better from here, too. The Vikings are currently slated to have 8 draft picks in the 2013 NFL Draft, which provides GM Rick Spielman and Co. with plenty of ammunition and opportunity to add even more young talent to an already young and talented roster that will continue to get better.

 


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Pick-By-Pick Summary Of Vikings 2012 NFL Draft

Posted by Mike Wobschall on April 30, 2012 – 10:56 am

A quick pick-by-pick analysis of the Vikings 2012 draft…

LT Matt Kalil – 1st round
Projected to be a cornerstone LT for the next decade and allows the Vikings to solidify their offensive line by moving Charlie Johnson to LG and holding a robust competition at RG among Joe Berger, Chris DeGeare, Brandon Fusco and Geoff Schwartz.

S Harrison Smith – 1st round
A 2-year captain at Notre Dame who is known for his intelligence, leadership, consistency and tackling ability, Smith will start from Day 1 at safety.

CB Josh Robinson – 3rd round
The fastest player at the Combine, Robinson has explosive athletic qualities and will compete for time at both CB and punt returner in his rookie season. If he can be the 4th CB and contribute on special teams as a rookie, this pick is a success. From a long-term perspective, Robinson could compete for a starting spot at CB some day.

WR Jarius Wright – 4th round
One of my favorite moves of the draft. Wright provides depth behind Percy Harvin at slot receiver should he sustain an injury or should the Vikings chose to deploy Harvin in the backfield or as an outside receiver on occasion. Wright, a First-Team All-SEC WR in 2011, is an explosive athlete with big-time production at Arkansas.

TE Rhett Ellison – 4th round
Seems to be a player who can fulfill the role of blocking TE and FB. No one can replace Jim Kleinsasser, but that’s the thinking behind this pick perhaps. Ellison is a blue-collar, nose-to-the-grindstone player who will quickly become a fan-favorite in Minnesota, similar to how Kleinsasser’s career progressed.

WR Greg Childs – 4th round
A great value pick here, as a knee injury caused Childs to fall from a 1st- or 2nd-round prospect last year to a mid-round prospect this year. Childs has prototypical size for an outside WR at 6-3, 219 pounds, and he also has great speed and ball skills.

CB Robert Blanton – 5th round
Blanton will likely move from CB to safety with the Vikings and perhaps even join Smith, his college teammate, as a starter in 2012. Good position flexibility here for Blanton, plus he can be a special teams contributor right away as well.

K Blair Walsh – 6th round
Walsh has a very strong leg and was one of just three kickers with a draftable grade on the Vikings board. His accuracy dipped in 2011, but also consider he was 40 of 46 as a sophomore and junior. His accuracy dipped last year because he had so many attempts (led nation in FG tries) and because he had a high number of long attempts. A good selection here because it adds competition to the kicker position with the ever-steady and reliable Ryan Longwell also still in the fold.

LB Audie Cole – 7th round
Cole adds competition to his position, and his best attribute may be position flexibility, as he can play all three LB spots in the Vikings defense.

DL Trevor Guyton – 7th round
Similar to Cole, Guyton is a late-round selection who has a chance to stick around because of his position flexibility. Guyton can play DE or DT, will add competition to the defensive line, and could contribute as a special teams player as well.


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Undrafted But Not Undeserving

Posted by Mike Wobschall on April 30, 2012 – 6:03 am

It may be hard to believe, but after seven rounds of the NFL draft concluded and 253 players were selected, NFL-caliber players remain unclaimed and are looking to begin their pro careers. Going undrafted does not mean you are undeserving.

Two of the best players in franchise went undrafted, in fact, as Vikings Ring of Honor members John Randle and Mick Tingelhoff were both slighted by NFL teams during the draft; Randle is now a Hall of Famer. Furthermore, the following NFL stars were also initially judged as not worthy of being drafted: WR Miles Austin, S Ryan Clark, WR Victor Cruz, RB Arian Foster, TE Antonio Gates, LBs James Harrison and London Fletcher, QB Tony Romo and WR Wes Welker.

So who are the undrafted players this year that will soon become NFL stars? We don’t know that yet, but here’s a list of candidates to watch…

C Mike Brewster: An experienced, four-year starter for Ohio State, Brewster was a surprise undrafted player for me. He ranks second in school history with 49 consecutive starts and he’s known as a fiery and scrappy competitor.

LB Vontaze Burfict: The fall from prominence Burfict experienced over the past year is remarkable. He was once considered an elite LB prospect and potential 1st-round pick, but a rash of issues have since arisen and ultimately Burfict went undrafted this past weekend. Burfict was benched as a senior, committed several personal foul penalties, is considered a bad locker room influence and then bombed at the Combine and at his pro day. But he plays with aggression, physicality and passion.

CB Donnie Fletcher: Supposedly a subpar senior season and Senior Bowl performance hurt Fletcher’s draft stock, but he does have good size for the position (6-0, 201 pounds) and scouts like his ability to make plays (11 career INTs). Some say he’s pigeon-holed as Cover 2 player, so perhaps that caused him to slide?

CB Cliff Harris: An electric athlete with elite return skills, Harris is no doubt a better returner than defender. He did intercept Stanford’s Andrew Luck four times, though, and there’s nothing wrong with having great athletes on your team. Character concerns may have hurt his draft stock, as he had multiple run-ins with the law, multiple suspensions at Oregon and was ultimately dismissed from the program.

CB Leonard Johnson: A member of the North squad at this year’s Senior Bowl, Johnson was a solid-not-spectacular performer down in Mobile. A lot of scouts pigeon-hole Johnson as a Cover 2 CB, which could’ve hurt his draft stock. He’s also not an exceptional athlete, which is a tough label to overcome for a CB. I thought he’d be a mid-round selection at best, late-round selection at worst. But he went undrafted, and some team could find some good value in bringing him to camp.

CB Chase Minnifield: The kid has NFL bloodlines (father played), lots of experience, and moderate production while playing at the University of Virginia. He had 9 INTs during final his two seasons and has return experience as well. Minnifield is described as hard worker, versatile and a good character guy. Scouts say he’ll support the run, but he also needs to get stronger and tends to grab and clutch receivers down the field. Doesn’t have great athleticism overall, but is a smart player and could develop as a sub-package player with special teams ability.

QB Kellen Moore: If you look at his statistics and won-loss record in college, there’s no way to view him as an undrafted prospect. But there’s more to it than that, and as a result Moore was not chosen with a draft pick this year. He was also on the North squad at the Senior Bowl, and I saw first-hand that he doesn’t have a strong arm, has an awkward hitch in his delivery and doesn’t have the stature you associate with NFL QBs. But I would also say that you rarely see a QB get rid of the ball on time as consistently or with such an easy rhythm, and I was also impressed with Moore’s accuracy.

RB Chris Polk: Lack of production is certainly not the reason Polk went undrafted. He became just the third Washington player to rush for 1,000 yards in a season multiple times and he finished his career as the second-leading rusher in school history with 4,049 yards. Polk is also just one of seven Pac-10 (now Pac-12) players to rush for more than 4,000 yards. He took a medical redshirt in 2008 for shoulder injury and reports say he runs high and doesn’t have breakaway speed.


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Vikings Take Two In Round Seven: LB Audie Cole And DL Trevor Guyton

Posted by Mike Wobschall on April 28, 2012 – 3:57 pm

To close their efforts in the 2012 NFL Draft, the Vikings selected former NC State LB Audie Cole with the 3rd pick of the 7th round (210th overall), traded away the 4th pick of the round (#211 overall) for a 6th-round pick next year, and with the 12th pick of the round (219th overall) selected DE Trevor Guyton.

Cole, who measures in at 6-4, 246 pounds, moved from outside LB to middle LB as a senior and was productive during his career. He led the team in tackles in 2009 and 2011 after redshirting in 2007 and playing a reserve and special teams role in 2008.

Reports describe Colt as an intelligent player who can make all the calls and checks at the line of scrimmage and also as an efficient pass rusher from his position. It will be interesting to see what the Vikings vision is for him because he has experience playing both outside and inside, and many say he was better playing outside. The Vikings have depth needs at all three LB positions, plus they’ll count on Cole to contribute on special teams.

Guyton played at the University of California and has experience at both DE and DT. He played in 7 games as a true freshman, 11 games as a reserve during his sophomore year, 11 games as a junior with 4 starts and then started all 13 games as senior. Scouts describe Guyton as scheme-diverse player who has a workman-like mentality and consistent performance history.

We’ll have more on these picks and each pick the Vikings made during the 2012 NFL draft later on vikings.com.


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Here’s The Kicker: Vikings Take K Blair Walsh In 6th Round

Posted by Mike Wobschall on April 28, 2012 – 2:03 pm

With the 5th pick of the 6th round and the 175th choice overall, the Vikings selected former Georgia K Blair Walsh.

Walsh was extremely accurate as a sophomore, hitting 40 of 46 tries during those two seasons. He was 15 of 23 as a freshman and 21 of 35 as a senior, with 14 of his misses coming from 40+ yards. He led the nation in FG tries last year, and converted a 56-yard try as well.

As of now, the Vikings have three selections remaining in the draft, all of them in the 7th round.


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Vikings Add CB Blanton To Collection Of Former Notre Dame Standouts

Posted by Mike Wobschall on April 28, 2012 – 12:18 pm

The Vikings collected a pair of former Arkansas Razorbacks in the 4th round with the selections of WRs Jarius Wright and Greg Childs, but in the 5th round they added another former Notre Dame standout in CB Robert Blanton. With Blanton in the fold, the Vikings now boast five former Notre Dame players, two of which will help bolster the team’s secondary (Harrison Smith).

Blanton stands at 6-1, 208 pounds and improved his draft stock as a senior at Notre Dame. He is an experienced and productive college player, having contributed significantly even as a true freshman in 2008 with 33 tackles, 3 PBUs and 2 INTs in 12 games played with 4 starts. As a senior, Blanton stepped up his game and recorded 70 tackles, 6 PBUs and 2 INTs in 13 starts at CB.

Some will question Blanton’s explosiveness and strength, which is fair, but he comes to the Vikings with experience and production at a top-tier college program. Plus, he fits a position of need and some say he could transition to safety. It’s also fair to expect Blanton to become a solid special teams contributor as a rookie.


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(Razor)Back For More: Vikings Select Arkansas WR Greg Childs

Posted by Mike Wobschall on April 28, 2012 – 12:05 pm

With a stockpile of selections in the 4th and 5th rounds, the Vikings could’ve found a way to package those picks and move up. Instead, Vikings GM Rick Spielman chose to retain those selections and he continues to attack areas of need on the roster.

The latest selection is another former Arkansas WR, with the selection this time being 6-3, 219-pounder Greg Childs. The selection of Childs follows the selection two picks earlier of Jarius Wright. Vikings WRs coach George Stewart, an Arkansas alum, must be a happy man.

Childs is a big, physical receiver with long arms who can play on the outside and does a nice job of high-pointing the football and plucking throws away from defenders. He clocked a 4.5 time in the 40-yard dash at the Combine, and the main reason he lasted this long in the draft, in my view, is he’s coming off a knee injury from last year.

We’re moving fast and furious here, so we’ll have more on this pick and all the other selections soon, so stay tuned to vikings.com.


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You Bet! Vikings Select TE Rhett Ellison

Posted by Mike Wobschall on April 28, 2012 – 11:47 am

With the 33rd selection of the 4th round (#128 overall), the Vikings selected TE Rhett Ellison out of USC. Ellison was a First-Team All-Pac 12 player in 2011 and leaves USC with plenty of playing experience and production to his credit. Ellison’s father, Riki, also played at USC and was an NFL LB with the San Francisco 49ers and Oakland Raiders.

Ellison, a teammate of 1st-round selection Matt Kalil at USC, weighs in at 6-5, 251 pounds, and is a versatile threat who is perhaps the team’s best candidate to replace the retired Jim Kleinsasser as a blocking TE/H-back/FB type of player. He redshirted at USC in 2007, but played in 8 games as a freshman, 13 as a sophomore and junior, and 12 as a senior. Ellison was a team captain at USC, has graduated and is now pursuing a Master’s degree.

NFL Network’s Mike Mayock was complimentary about this pick for the Vikings, which is good news. He also said that the when the USC offense was moving down the field in 2011, it at times ran through Ellison. He appeared in and started games as both a FB and TE at USC, and he figures to fulfill a similar role with the Vikings.


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Vikings Grab WR Jarius Wright In 4th Round

Posted by Mike Wobschall on April 28, 2012 – 11:19 am

Needing a young, field-stretching WR at some point in the 2012 NFL Draft, the Vikings went other directions in the first three rounds and chose to rely on the draft’s WR depth to address that need at a later point. The plan worked, as the Vikings choose former Arkansas WR Jarius Wright with their first of three 4th-round selections on Saturday.

Wright measures in a 5-8, 182 pounds and clocked an impressive 4.44 time in the 40-yard dash. He is an experienced and productive receiver, appearing in all 12 games and starting 7 times as a true freshman in 2008. In 2009 he started 12 of 13 games, in 2010 he started all 13 games and in 2011 he started 12 times, missing the first and only game of his career. Wright was a team captain at Arkansas and fumbled the ball just one time during his career.

“He is a great addition to our team,” Vikings WRs coach George Stewart told me just after the selection was made. “He was one of the most explosive players in the country.”

As a freshman, Wright had 19 receptions for 348 yards and 2 TDs. He followed that season up with campaigns of 41-681-5, 42-788-5 and 66-1,117-12. He was Arkansas’ leading receiver in 2011 and was also chosen as a First-Team All-SEC performer.

Wright isn’t the biggest receiver in the world and he might be best in the slot. Of course the Vikings have one of the best slot receivers in the NFL in Percy Harvin, but having Wright in the fold allows the Vikings to be more creative in how they deploy Harvin within the offense.

We’ll have more on this selection and the rest of the Vikings picks later, so stay tuned to vikings.com.


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Vikings Locked And Loaded For Day 3 Of NFL Draft

Posted by Mike Wobschall on April 28, 2012 – 7:45 am

The 2012 NFL Draft has already been a productive one for the Vikings, as they’ve added three players who will make an impact on the team as a rookies, including two – LT Matt Kalil and S Harrison Smith – who will start at their respective positions and the third – CB Josh Robinson – figures to make a run at the starting punt returner job as well as significant playing time on defense.

But the fun has just begun. Rounds 4-7 will go down on Saturday, and the Vikings will be major players in the action. As we stand right now, the Vikings have 9 selections over the final four rounds, including three picks in the 4th and two more in the 5th. In fact, the Vikings next five selections all occur within a 21-selection window. The Vikings also have one selection in the 6th round and three more to cap off the draft in the 7th round.

All of that ammo gives the Vikings some flexibility to move up if there’s a player they covet, especially in the early parts of the 4th round. While the Vikings cannot trade their compensatory picks – 33rd choice and 39th choice in the 4th round – they can consider exchanging their two 5th-round selections - #138 overall and #139 overall – for a chance to move up into the 4th round. Or, the Vikings could stay put and put those picks to use, acquiring several mid-round prospects to beef up depth at certain positions.

A lot can, and will, happen today, so make sure you stay tuned to vikings.com for all the latest information. You can also keep up with all the action by following us on Twitter. You can follow the Vikings (@VikingsFootball) and me (@wobby) to stay up-to-date on all things Vikings.


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