Vikings postdraft roster analysis: 2 biggest holes filled
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The final day of the NFL Draft said a lot about the Minnesota Vikings' view of their roster.
Out of six picks, they used one on a pass rusher they didn't really need, two on players who will switch positions, one on a local linebacker who probably figures as a special-teams player and another on a developmental tight end who didn't start in college.
Only one -- the fifth-round pick that snagged Wake Forest offensive lineman Chris DeGeare -- was a direct nod to depth and competition at a specific spot.
The Vikings knew they had only two real holes, filled them by parlaying their top three picks into two second-rounders and spent the rest on prospects with potential and passion -- exactly what one would expect from a team that sees itself on the cusp of a championship.
As one NFC scout mused while surveying the Vikings' roster before the draft, "You're talking about one of the more talented teams in the NFC, really. I can't really pick a hole or see a glaring need with these guys. I think the corner -- that's the only thing that really jumps out at me looking at it."
Likewise, an AFC scout rated cornerback first and halfback second among the Vikings' needs, and vice president of player personnel Rick Spielman acknowledged on Saturday night that "corner was the one thing that we definitely wanted to address," with halfback another pressing issue because "if something were to ever happen to Adrian Peterson, knock on wood, where is your depth behind Adrian?"
The following is a position-by-position look at what NFL scouts told 1500ESPN.com before the draft, how we thought the Vikings would proceed and what ended up happening.
What scouts were saying: "Tarvaris, you need to let him play -- let him play through the mistakes and just keep him going, because he's a talented, athletic guy. If I were to equate the two, I think Tarvaris is more the playmaker, whereas Sage is more of the manager. (Rosenfels has) still got some quirks to work out. If they are stuck and Brett does not come back, they do have some question marks, that's definitely fair to say. But to me, I like some of the things Tarvaris showed in terms of arm strength and being able to make some plays with his athletic ability."
What we were saying: "The Vikings might have an opportunity to draft a quarterback at No. 30, but unless Favre retires, there are much more pressing short-term needs. If they feel they can get the quarterback of the next 15 years, though, it wouldn't be a total shock for the Vikings to pull the trigger at any spot."
Additions: Undrafted free agent -- R.J. Archer, William & Mary.
Analysis: In essence, the Vikings passed three times on Notre Dame's Jimmy Clausen and Texas' Colt McCoy -- at No. 30 before trading back, No. 34 and No. 51 -- making relatively clear they weren't sold on either as a future star and needed to focus on short-term needs. It also means they're comfortable spending another year developing Jackson, who has signed his restricted tender, and seemingly confirms their confidence Favre will return. Archer (6-2, 220) had a predraft visit with the Vikings and faces a challenging transition after only one season as a starting quarterback at the NCAA Division I Championship Subdivision level.
What scouts were saying: "When the ball's in his hands, (Peterson)'s as good as anybody in the National Football League. But I think what they need here is an insurance policy for the player. ... I think when they lost Chester Taylor, they lost some of that comfort zone of knowing that, ‘Hey, if we ever need to replace (Peterson) when he gets banged up, we're good. We're OK.' There's an unproven quantity with Albert Young sitting behind him, and I don't think Albert Young will ever be a replacement-type starter. I think he'd be more of a situational, change-of-pace guy. I think they need maybe a higher level of talent here."
What we were saying: "Taylor's departure left a sizeable hole, which the Vikings acknowledged with their failed pursuit of LaDainian Tomlinson. So, they could draft a running back as soon as the No. 30 overall pick -- California's versatile Jahvid Best could be an option if he checks out medically -- and most likely will grab one at some point. Any consideration for a fullback would come in the late rounds only."
Analysis: The Vikings made a bold move up to select Gerhart (6-0, 231), a decorated one-cut runner whose size and pass-blocking ability makes him an apparent fit for Taylor's old role. The position now seems fairly well-stocked, with Gerhart and Young the most likely backups to Peterson and Reynaud potentially contributing in a dual role with returns. D'Imperio (6-2, 230) played linebacker in college but will get a crack at fullback -- a transition made by current NFL starters including Green Bay's Korey Hall.
What scouts were saying: "The speed with Harvin stands out on you, and he's bigger than you think -- bigger and stronger than you actually think. I think that was what was impressive to me, the ability to break some tackles and make some plays in the open field. ... You could see (Rice's) athletic ability going up, high-pointing the ball, making some grabs. You say, ‘Well, you just can't coach that kind of stuff.' Obviously, the connection with Brett (Favre) was there and it just took off."
What we were saying: "The Vikings have been putting out signals they're not particularly interested in receivers, and why would they be? They have a true No. 1 in Rice, a complementary speed threat in Berrian and an all-around weapon in Harvin who should only get better. Any help here probably would come in the late rounds."
Analysis: As expected, the Vikings stood pat except for adding Webb (6-3, 223), a college quarterback whose raw skill-set made him worth a late-round flyer. Among the undrafted players, Small (5-11, 180) is intriguing because of his return ability -- he ranked among the nation's top 10 in punt-return average as a junior.
What scouts were saying: "Nothing that really scares you at that position. Shiancoe's a decent guy, pretty dependable. (Kleinsasser)'s a blue-collar, hard-working, grunt-work kind of guy. That would be him in a nutshell. Really, that's the only two they have. They had a couple guys mixed in there, kind of pass-receiving type guys that they've tried to mix through, but it's probably an area they address here coming up in the offseason."
What we were saying: "Kleinsasser is 33, Shiancoe turns 30 in June and both are signed through 2011. It's not a pressing need, but it wouldn't be a surprise to see the Vikings snare a tight end in the mid to late rounds."
Additions: 7th round (214th overall) -- Mickey Shuler, Penn State.
Analysis: Shuler (6-4, 251) fits the bill as a developmental player who wasn't used much as a receiver at Penn State but is a big target with an auspicious bloodline. If the Vikings keep three tight ends, Shuler may have the inside track on Mills, who has kicked around for four years with no impact.
What scouts were saying: "They won 13 games or whatever the hell they won last year with these guys -- you can still win with (Herrera and Sullivan). You don't have to have an elite player at a guard spot or even a center spot. But if the center is a smart, resourceful, efficient-type of player, you can still win with these guys. If you look around the league, there's a small group of elite centers and then there's a large majority of centers in the league who are kind of workmanlike-type players who aren't elite but teams find a way to win with them."
What we were saying: "Top-end interior linemen are few in this draft, so a mid- to late-round pick to bring help there probably is more likely than, say, moving up for Florida center Maurkice Pouncey in Round 1. But nothing can be ruled out -- not even grabbing a left tackle such as Rutgers' Anthony Davis, whose stock has taken a hit because of concerns about his work ethic. That sort of pick probably would expedite McKinnie's exit, but don't bank on it. The Vikings could stand to upgrade (or at least bring in competition for) two and perhaps three spots along the line, so it's probably a matter of when and not if they'll do it in the draft."
Additions: 5th round (161st overall) -- G Chris DeGeare, Wake Forest. Undrafted free agents -- G Thomas Austin, Clemson; T Matt Hanson, Midwestern State; C Tommy Hernandez, California-Davis; T Marlon Winn, Texas Tech.
Analysis: The Vikings haven't committed to where they'll work DeGeare (6-4, 325), who played guard most of his college career before moving to left tackle as a senior. The sensible spot is right guard, where DeGeare could challenge Anthony Herrera at some point if he progresses and keeps his weight down.
On the roster: Ends -- Jared Allen, Ray Edwards*, Jayme Mitchell, Michael Montgomery, Brian Robison. Tackles -- Fred Evans*, Letroy Guion, Tremaine Johnson, Jimmy Kennedy, Kevin Williams, Pat Williams.
*=Restricted free agent, has not signed tender.
What scouts were saying: "If you broke down just the right ends, Jared Allen's in your top two or three. If you did your undertackles, Kevin's probably one of your top two or three undertackles as well. Same thing with Pat at nose, and even Ray -- if you just break down pure left ends, he's probably one of the best that I can think of. I think across the board, as long as they can stay healthy, it's a good bunch."
What we were saying: "The Vikings have to replace Pat Williams sooner than later, but as long as he returns for next season, it's not the most pressing concern on the roster. Allen is signed through 2013, so locking up Edwards for the long term has to be the priority here. Though it's possible a defensive tackle the Vikings covet will be available at No. 30, the more likely scenario has them adding depth in later rounds."
Analysis: Griffen was a value pick at a position that wasn't a priority. He can play both end spots, could slide inside in nickel and is the latest pass-rushing threat in a group that already boasts starters Allen and Edwards as well as Robison, who has been productive in a reserve role since Allen arrived. Montgomery, who signed a one-year contract last month, will have a hard time making the team. It was a surprise the Vikings brought in no help for the interior, but Evans is an ascending rotational player, Kennedy remains a serviceable reserve at age 30 and some scouts remain convinced Guion will come on, too.
What scouts were saying: "I don't think the linebackers get enough credit. ... They benefit greatly from the front, but they're also an active group who can drop and play in space as well -- three-down type players who will make plays when put in position."
What we were saying: "In addition to E.J. Henderson's latest injury, he's due $4.1 million in base salary alone this season and will be 30 in August. Leber ($3.95 million salary, age 31) isn't getting younger either. There are short- and long-term issues with this group, so it wouldn't be a surprise to see the Vikings use at least one draft pick here."
Analysis: Triplett (6-3, 250) figures mostly as a special-teams player and multi-position backup, although he likely will get most of his defensive work in the middle. It's hard to imagine Triplett starting as a rookie, leaving Brinkley as the likely Plan B if Henderson isn't ready following his gruesome leg injury. Also, Leber and Greenway are entering contract years, so the Vikings have left themselves somewhat exposed on the outside if either leaves in free agency.
On the roster: Cornerbacks -- Asher Allen, Cedric Griffin, Benny Sapp, Antoine Winfield, DeAndre Wright. Safeties -- Husain Abdullah, Colt Anderson, Eric Frampton, Tyrell Johnson, Jamarca Sanford, Madieu Williams.
What scouts were saying: "The one thing that's tough is when you have a team that scores as many points as Minnesota does, inevitably, the ball's going to be in the air a lot more from the opponent. There's a lot of opportunities for people to make plays against you and that kind of sticks in people's minds. But I don't think it's any kind of a dire need (at safety) by any stretch. I kind of believe in Tyrell Johnson -- I just think it's going to take a little time."
What we were saying: "The Vikings could take a corner as early as the first round and might take more than one, considering there only are five on the roster and no starting-caliber options behind Winfield if Griffin isn't ready. Safety is a position that more likely would be addressed later, if at all, although nothing can be ruled out if a player the Vikings covet is on the board."
Analysis: The Vikings reportedly coveted two other cornerbacks -- Boise State's Kyle Wilson and Florida State's Patrick Robinson -- who came off the board late in the first round. But they also had a first-round grade on Cook (6-2, 212), who is somewhat raw but improved his stock greatly with a strong performance at the Senior Bowl. Depending on the speed of Griffin's recovery from ACL surgery, they'll have three options for a starter opposite Winfield -- Cook, Griffin and Sheppard, who signed a one-year deal the day before the draft. With no draft picks at safety, Johnson and Madieu Williams remain the clear favorites to start.
What we were saying: "Even with Longwell in a contract year, it's tough to imagine the Vikings drafting a kicker. Likewise, Kluwe is at least average and his contract, which runs through 2013, is due to pay him only $1.025 million this season."
Analysis: No surprises here. Unless someone falters, the Vikings will return the same specialists, with Lloyd competing for an extra roster spot as a kickoff specialist.