Christian Ponder had a fast, versatile, and young top receiver at his disposal when Percy Harvin was healthy. Now he’s been traded, and replaced by a slower, older, and far less versatile receiver.
Greg Jennings will do fine things in Minnesota. Wonderful things even, but he’s not nearly the vertical threat that Harvin was, as Jennings primarily excels on intermediate routes. That may actually be good since Ponder in turn often excels while throwing an abundance of short throws.
But stretching the field is a requirement to both win football games, and to continue Ponder’s development towards being a more dynamic passer. To do that, a field stretcher is needed in the first round.
The Vikings have multiple needs to address early, though, which is why their multiple picks in the opening round (23rd and 25th overall) after the Harvin trade are pretty convenient. Along with St. Louis, the Vikings are one of the two teams with two first-round picks.
1. There are a few directions the Vikings could go with their two late picks in the first round, but let’s start at wide receiver. Of the likely names available at either of the two spots, who’s the best fit to complement Greg Jennings?
Well, with Greg Jennings you get a great, complete receiver, but he’s not really a deep threat. So if you’re looking for a speed demon to stretch the field, I think you need to target Tavon Austin out of West Virginia. He ran a 4.2 40-yard dash, and was a big play guy at WVU, and would go a long way to replace the dynamic playmaking ability lost when Percy Harvin was traded to Seattle. He’s small, at only going 5’7″ or so, and that lack of height could very well mean he’s sitting at 23 for the taking.
Keenan Allen is linked to the Vikings more, as he’s a more prototypical receiver in size and stature, but he’s not as fast, and his knee injury scares me.
2. A cornerback is another likely target after Antonie Winfield was released. Any preferences? Desmond Trufant could be on the board.
Yeah, I like Trufant a lot. With Winfield gone, CB is a definite priority, and Trufant would be a solid pick. It will take an awful lot to replace the leadership and experience that Winfield brought to the table, but Trufant is more physically talented and would probably be penciled in as the starter opposite Chris Cook the day training camp opens.
3. Then there’s a middle linebacker, a need that could also be addressed in the first round. Where do you stand on Manti Te’o? He’s been widely mocked to the Vikings. At this point I think we’re all in agreement that the whole fake dead girlfriend thing has little impact on the football field. But do you think he can be an effective, three-down linebacker? Of course, Kevin Minter is also a possibility here.
I can understand the reasoning for Te’o being linked to the Vikings — Minnesota has taken four Notre Dame players in the last five drafts with great success (John Sullivan, Kyle Rudolph, Harrison Smith, Robert Blanton) and GM Rick Spielman has said he likes Notre Dame players. But I’m just not a fan of Te’o, and it’s not because of the fake dead girlfriend thing.
I just don’t think he’s as athletic as Minter, and a lot of guys are high on Arthur Brown too. I think both of those guys would be better than Te’o, but with all the controversy surrounding him and that whole weird ordeal, the Vikings locker room, with several of his former teammates who already like and respect him, would probably be the easiest transition for him.
4. Having two first-round picks provides some trade leverage. Do you think the Vikings will float one of their picks in a package to move up, and be more aggressive to address one of their needs while pursuing, say, Dee Milliner or Tavon Austin?
Funny you ask that as I just did a post on DN talking about that very thing.
Personally, I think Austin has a great chance to be there at 23 as it is, but I don’t know that anyone on the board is worth trading up for. Trading up means giving up good draft picks, and although Spielman is one of the more active GMs during draft weekend, he usually trades down and accumulates picks. He did move up last year to grab Harrison Smith in the back end of the first round, but that was a low-cost move, trade wise. A move up into the first round this year would be costly in terms of compensation the Vikings would have to give up, and I don’t know that there is a “must have” player at any position. The draft this year has a lot of good players and the Vikings have enough needs that they can stand pat and get two very good players at 23 and 25 who will make the team better, and they won’t have to give up early and mid round picks to do it.
5. Beyond the first round, how do you see the rest of the Vikings’ draft playing out?
Well, like I mentioned earlier, the Vikings have been active on draft weekend with Spielman calling the shots, and he has amassed 11 picks to wheel and deal with this year. I expect the Vikings to be very active in the middle rounds to move up and grab players they’ve identified, and outside of wide receiver, I expect this draft to be more focused on defense. There are needs on the defensive line, at linebacker, and in the secondary, so look for the Vikings to use their early picks to address those needs.