Blogs

Draft Preview: Drilling Down On Defensive Tackles

Posted by Mike Wobschall on April 20, 2013 – 9:33 am

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.

Game-Changers
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.

sly-blog-wp

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.

Instant Impact
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.

Eventual Starters
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.

2-Down Run-Stuffers
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.

Previous Draft Previews
Sorting out the inside linebackers
Rounding up the receivers
Corralling the cornerbacks


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 92 Comments »

Draft Preview: Corralling The Cornerbacks

Posted by Mike Wobschall on April 10, 2013 – 6:00 am

Previous Draft Previews
Sorting out the inside LBs
Rounding up the receivers

There isn’t a team in the NFL who wouldn’t consider adding talent and depth to their current crop of cornerbacks. But when you play in a division that features the likes of Jay Cutler, Aaron Rodgers and Matthew Stafford chucking the rock on 59.6% (1907 of 3201 of their teams’ snaps) of the time, talent and depth at cornerback takes on an enhanced importance.

The best time of the offseason to address the CB position – the NFL draft – will be here in a matter of weeks, so now is a good time to assess this year’s crop of talent. To maintain some sense of credible order, we’ll group the CB prospects according to the grade NFL.com has given them and include the top 15 graded players. As we did with the receivers, we’ll leave comments next to some but not all of the prospects.

Let us know what you think by leaving your thoughts in the comment section below this entry or by emailing them for inclusion in a future Monday Morning Mailbag or Pick 6.

Top of the Class

dee-wordpress
Dee Milliner (Alabama) – The consensus top choice and a cinch to go in the Top 10.

Xavier Rhodes (Florida State) – At 6-1, 210 pounds and with his physical style of play, Rhodes will be valued significantly higher by teams who run schemes that demand such a profile from their cornerbacks (think: Jacksonville, Seattle)

Jamar Taylor (Boise State)
Johnthan Banks (Mississippi State)

Desmond Trufant (Washington) – A standout during the two practices I watched at the Senior Bowl, Trufant has the athleticism/size combo to be a starter as a rookie in the NFL. His NFL.com scouting report says he has the skill set to play either outside or nickel CB, which I like in terms of his potential to be a good fit for the Vikings. With some coaching to fine-tune some mechanical issues, Trufant could be one of the better immediate-impact CB prospects in this year’s class.

Ready to contribute
Robert Alford (Southeast Louisiana) and Leon McFadden (San Diego State) – NFL.com grades them about equally, and that’s convenient for me because both of these cornerbacks caught my eye during our Senior Bowl coverage this past February. They’re essentially the same size and they both come from lower-profile schools, but I think they could both make an impact with their teams as rookies. Their scouting reports are very similar – good in coverage (especially zone), good ball skills, fluid athletes, need to improve vs. the run.

Blidi Wreh-Wilson (UCONN) – Mike Mayock’s 5th-rated CB in the entire class.

David Amerson (NC State)
Jordan Poyer (Oregon State)

Also on the radar
BW Webb (William & Mary) – Solid performer at this year’s Senior Bowl practices.

Tyrann Mathieu (LSU) – I would rate him higher. His size is nowhere near ideal, but haven’t we learned by now that “he’s too small” should only go so far? The guy is instinctual, he plays with aggressiveness and passion, and he has a lot to prove.

Will Davis (Utah State)

Darius Slay (Mississippi State) – His teammate at Mississippi State – Johnthan Banks – is the higher-rated prospect, but maybe Slay will be the better player. He has good size at 6-0, 192 pounds with long arms, and his NFL.com scouting report credits him for having good hands and being willing to get physical with receivers and in the run game. If you don’t get a cornerback in the 1st or 2nd round, maybe this is a guy you can grab in the 3rd or 4th round and get a steal in doing so.

Tharold Simon (LSU) – How many pro prospects does LSU’s defense have? Add Simon to the long list. He has great size (6-2, 202 pounds with 32¾ inch arms) and had great production at LSU with 22 pass break ups and 7 INTs in 3 seasons.


Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 46 Comments »

Draft Preview: Rounding Up The Receivers

Posted by Mike Wobschall on April 9, 2013 – 5:59 am

Other Draft Previews
Sorting out the inside LBs

Of the 8 mock drafts highlighted in last week’s Mock Madness, 7 of the analysts projected the Vikings to use one of their two 1st-round selections on a wide receiver. Of the 8 analysts with mock drafts at NFL.com’s Mock Draft Central, 6 have the Vikings taking a receiver in the 1st round and one of the analysts predicts the Vikings will choose a receiver with both of their 1st-round selections.

With all this talk of the Vikings taking a receiver early in the draft and with how deep the WR group is in this year’s class, it’s time for us to examine this talented crew of playmakers. We’ll break the entire group of draft-eligible receivers into our own preferred tiers (alphabetical within each tier), and I’ll provide a comment from time-to-time on several of the individuals.

We want you to get in on the action, too. Let us know what you think by leaving your thoughts in the comments section below this entry or emailing them to me for possible inclusion in an upcoming Pick 6 or Monday Morning Mailbag.

Blue-Chippers

tavon-440
Tavon Austin (West Virginia) – If you can get over the “undersized” tag (5-8, 174-pounds), Austin may be this drafts most versatile playmaker. He scored 40 total TDs in college as a receiver, runner and returner.

Keenan Allen (California) – Didn’t have elite college production, doesn’t have elite measureables and dealt with injuries at Cal, but has the frame, raw ability and potential to be a reliable, versatile and productive NFL receiver. Good fit in the Vikings offense.

DeAndre Hopkins (Clemson)

Cordarrelle Patterson (Tennessee)

Immediate Impacters
Stedman Bailey (West Virginia) – Overshadowed in this draft by his college teammate (Tavon Austin), Bailey was every bit as much a playmaker for West Virginia. In 2012, there were only two games in which he didn’t score a TD, and he recorded a 5-TD and 4-TD game during the season. Bailey had 114 receptions and 25 TDs last year – those are not typos.

Aaron Dobson (Marshall)

Chris Harper (Kansas State) – Senior Bowl standout who is tough, sure-handed and deceivingly fast.

Justin Hunter (Tennessee) – Great height for the position at 6-4, but needs to bulk up on his 196-pound frame. Has great ability and needs to grow into frame – sounds a lot like what we said about Sidney Rice the year the Vikings selected him in the 2nd round. Hmm…

Quinton Patton (Louisiana Tech) - Fast and quick with good size, Patton is a natural at the position and was ultra-productive in college. Plays bigger than he looks, has good wiggle after the catch and looks the part. Intriguing.

Markus Wheaton (Oregon State)
Terrance Williams (Baylor)

Robert Woods (USC) – Wrote about him in a recent Monday Morning Mailbag. In a typical year, he’d be a sure-fire 1st-rounder. But this class is so deep that he blends in, which means some team will take him and realize great value in doing so.

Potential Playmakers
Josh Boyce (TCU)
Corey Fuller – Virginia Tech)
Cobi Hamilton (Arkansas) – Improved as the week went on at the Senior Bowl; another Arkansas WR in Minnesota?
Marquise Goodwin (Texas) – Ran a 4.27 40-yard dash at the Combine; may be the best returner in this class.
Aaron Mellette (Elon)
Da’Rick Rogers  (Tennessee Tech)
Rodney Smith (Florida State) – Great size (6-6, 219); played with Christian Ponder; mid-to-late-round value?
Kenny Stills (Oklahoma) – One of my favorite sleepers in this position group; tough and makes the difficult catches; productive at OU.
Ryan Swope (Texas A&M)

Developmental
Alan Bonner – Jacksonville State
Marlon Brown – Georgia
Chad Bumphis – Mississippi State
Dan Buckner – Arizona
DeVonte Christopher – Utah
Keenan Davis – Iowa
Marcus Davis – Virginia Tech
Blake Emory – Auburn
Tyrone Goard – Eastern Kentucky
Mark Harrison – Rutgers
Erik Highsmith – North Carolina
Josh Jarboe – Arkansas State
Darius Johnson – SMU
Brandon Kaufman – Eastern Washington
La’Rod King – Kentucky
Tavarres King – Georgia
Javone Lawson – Louisiana-Lafayette
Alec Lemon – Syracuse
Mamal Miles – Arizona State
TJ Moe – Missouri
Uzoma Nwachukwu – Texas A&M
Denard Robinson – Michigan
Zach Rogers – Tennessee
Ray Roundtree – Michigan
Marcus Sales – Syracuse
Lanear Sampson – Baylor
Russell Sheppard – LSU
Ryan Spadola – Lehigh
Kenbrell Thompkins – Cincinnati
Marquess Wilson – Washington State
Ace Sanders – South Carolina
Conner Vernon – Duke


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 42 Comments »

Draft Preview: Sorting Out The Inside Linebackers

Posted by Mike Wobschall on April 8, 2013 – 5:12 am

The Vikings don’t have a returning starter at middle LB (Jasper Brinkley signed with Arizona), they have 11 picks overall and 6 selections in the first 4 rounds of this year’s draft, and both of their 1st-round selections sit in the area where many expect a few inside LBs to come off the board. Add it all up, and it’s fair to wonder if the Vikings will be in the mix to take one of the draft’s top inside LBs.

There are many factors to consider when evaluating a linebacker’s chances of making it in the NFL. Is he a 2-down or 3-down LB? Does his college position transition well to the NFL? Or will he have to go through a position change? Those are relevant questions and will be part of the evaluation process for teams as they examine this year’s crop of LBs.

The highest-profile player in this class is Manti Te’o, the leader of the country’s 2nd-ranked defense (Notre Dame) this past season. Those draft analysts who don’t have Te’o atop their boards likely have Georgia’s Alex Ogletree rated #1. Others often included in the top tier are LSU’s Kevin Minter and Kansas State’s Arthur Brown. The analysts in our most recent Mock Madness are virtually split between Ogletree and Te’o at #1 and #2, then it’s generally Minter who rates #3 and Brown comes in at #4. There is one mention of Kevin Reddick by ProFootballWeekly.com.

Only time will tell if the Vikings tab one of the class’ top LBs early in the draft or if they choose to rely on the position’s depth and lean on the middle rounds. For now, all we can do is assess the options. Here’s a look at this year’s crop of LBs (alphabetical order)…

Arthur Brown – Kansas State
An instinctive player with over 100 tackles as a senior in 2012, Brown possesses an adequate frame (6-0, 241) to play middle LB in the NFL. He redshirted his first season with Kansas State (transferred from Miami) before starting all 13 games as a team captain in 2011. After collecting 100+ tackles and 9.5 tackles for loss (TFLs), Brown was named the Big 12 Defensive Newcomer of the Year and was also 1st-team all-conference for the Wildcats. His success continued in 2012 as he amassed a second consecutive 100-tackle season and also tallied 7.0 tackles for loss (TFLs), 4 pass breakups (PBUs), 2 INTs and a sack.

Cool fact: Brown intercepted both Robert Griffin III and Geno Smith during his career at Kansas State.

Kevin Minter – LSU
Because the LSU Tigers consistently boast one of the country’s top defensive units, it’s easy for an individual to become overshadowed. After all, it was the likes of Michael Brockers, Morris Claiborne, Tyrann Mathieu, Barkevious Mingo, Sam Montgomery and Eric Reid who (deservedly) received much of the hype. But through it all, Minter was a solid contributor. The 6-0, 246-pound junior earned consensus 1st-Team All-SEC honors and was named his team’s MVP in 2012 following a campaign in which he totaled 130 tackles, 15 TFLs (which led the team), 5 PBUs, 4.0 sacks and a forced fumble.

Cool fact: Squatted 545 pounds as a redshirt freshman at LSU.

Alec Ogletree – Georgia
Athletic and productive, Ogletree enters the NFL draft after his junior season. In 30 games at Georgia Ogletree was productive, tallying just short of 200 tackles, 20.0 TFLs, 8 PBUs, 6.0 sacks, 4 forced fumbles and 1 INT. He was the Bulldogs’ leading tackler over the final 6 games of 2012 and was named All-SEC 1st Team after the season. The 6-2, 242-pound Ogletree came to Georgia as a safety and started his first game there, but quickly converted to LB and formed a talented duo with fellow draft class member Jarvis Jones. Ogletree missed the first 6 games of 2011 due to a broken foot and was also suspended the first 4 games of 2012. But when on the field, Ogletree is a difference-maker.

Cool fact: Has a twin brother who played FB for Georgia.

manti

Manti Te’o – Notre Dame
One of the most decorated defensive players in the history of college football, Te’o prepares to enter the NFL following an ultra-productive 4 seasons at Notre Dame in which he started 49 of 51 games (had 47 straight starts) and became the second player in school history to tally 100+ tackles in 3 consecutive seasons. Te’o was a consensus 1st-Team All-America by the Associated Press, Walter Camp and American Football Coaches Association. He finished runner-up in Heisman voting after this past season and helped lead Notre Dame to the national championship game. An off-field situation during the 2012 season in which he was the victim of an elaborate hoax captivated the sports world, but more relevant to Te’o’s football future is that he was one of the most productive players in the history of one of the country’s best programs and he has top-notch work ethic and intangible traits that will increase his chances of success at the NFL level.

Cool fact: Was teammates at Notre Dame with current Vikings S Robert Blanton, TE Kyle Rudolph and S Harrison Smith.

Don’t forget…
Kiko Alonso – Played 4 seasons at Oregon, led team in TFLs (14.0) in 2012 and was named 2nd-Team All Pac-12 after the ’12 season.
Jon Bostic – Senior from Florida known as big-time hitter against the run.
Kevin Reddick – A 4-year, productive starter at North Carolina who possesses traits that give him position flexibility.
Vince Williams – Key to Florida State ranking #2 in total defense during 2012 season and started 25 games the past 2 seasons.

Mid- and late-round prospects (as rated by NFL.com)
Michael Mauti (Penn State)
Nico Johnson (Alabama) – Nick Saban-coached, productive, smart, lunch-pail type of player who can step in and battle in the trenches.
Kenny Cain (TCU)
Bruce Taylor (Virginia Tech)
Steve Beauharnais (Rutgers) – Doesn’t jump out at you, but a solid and experienced player who may have been overshadowed at Rutgers.
Kenny Demens (Michigan)
Shaq Wilson (South Carolina)
Tom Wort (Oklahoma)
AJ Klein (Iowa State) – I’d rate him higher; 3-year starter in college; could play multiple positions in NFL; will be special teams star
John Lotulelei (UNLV) – No relation to Star Lotulelei; undersized; 121 tackles in 2012
Uona Kaveinga (BYU)
Jonathan Stewart (Texas A&M)
Will Compton (Nebraska)
Brandon Hepburn (Florida A&M)
Nick Clancy (Boston College)


Tags: , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 90 Comments »