We are in the last few days leading up to the NFL draft, and the time for mock drafts, speculation, and every possible scenario under the sun is at an end. It's almost time to do this for real, and the staff of the Daily Norseman have our own ideas on what the Vikings should do with the #12 overall pick.
So I'll do my best Atticus Finch and try to convince you who the Vikings should pick. My client? Wisconsin DE JJ Watt.
/Rises from the table, adjusts helga horns, sets sword and shield on defense table
Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, you're gonna hear a lot of things over the next few days on who the Vikings should pick. Chris, Kyle, and Eric are gonna try to put on a little magic act here. They're gonna try a little misdirection. They'll astound you with stories of Dr. Prometheus and dazzle you with official-sounding terms like 'franchise quarterback', 'offensive lineman', and other phrases of wonderment. They'll have no evidence, mind you, none . . . but it will be entertaining.
(Five Internet dollars to the first person that can name what movie that previous paragraph was appropriated from).
But let's stick to facts, and not dabble in the occult, shall we? And the facts are this:
1) There will almost certainly be some sort of extended NFL work stoppage.
2) There will be no franchise quarterbacks available when the Vikings pick.
3) Current DE Ray Edwards will almost certainly leave for free agency, leaving a gaping hole in the Vikings defensive front.
4) Of the available defensive lineman that will be available, there is only one sure fire bet, Wisconsin's JJ Watt.
But let's not talk in generalizations, let's talk in the realm of reality. Why is JJ Watt the best pick for the Vikings?
Well, let's blow the 'gotta draft a quarterback in the first round' theory out of the water. For one, it's essential that the Vikings get a quarterback of the future...or is it? Maybe, just maybe, Joe Webb is the guy that can get it done. If he isn't, the Vikings can trade for a vet like Carson Palmer, or God Help Us All, Donovan McNabb, and get a guy in the second round. So to say the Vikings 'must' draft a QB in the first round just isn't true, especially this season.
Why? Well, because of the expected work stoppage, players can have no contact with the coaching staff. None. Zero. Zip. Sure, Roger Goodell can call Chad Johnson and shoot the breeze for an hour, but Leslie Frazier and his staff can have zero contact with their players to do things like, oh for instance, practice. That will absolutely cripple a rookie quarterback's development, and makes drafting one with the #12 pick more harmful than anything else.
So if quarterback is out, what is the biggest position of need with the most available talent? You can argue that safety is a bigger need than DE, but you can't tell me there is a prospect worth a #12 pick at that position. So that leaves defensive end, and there are a couple of prospects that are allegedly rated better than Watt who might be available. One is Clemson DE Da'Quan Bowers, the other is North Carolina DE Robert Quinn. Bowers, in my opinion, is nothing more than a bag of questions. He has knee problems, which might result in microfracture surgery, had only one really standout year, albeit a very good one, and questions about his work ethic after his big payday abound.
Quinn didn't even play in 2010 due to a suspension by the NCAA. His crime? He accepted over $5,000 in under the table payments and gifts from an agent and got caught. It is those kind of character concerns that make guys like Quinn almost undraftable in the eyes of the Vikings under owner Zygi Wilf. He has a strong commitment to drafting not only talented guys, but talented guys with character, of which Quinn's can be brought in to question.
So that leaves one guy, JJ Watt. I really am loathe to use the term 'high intensity, high motor guy', but that phrase was made for Watt. Watt was an AP and Sports Illustrated second team All American, consensus first team all Big Ten, and all academic Big Ten. In his 2010 season at Wisconsin, he lead the Badgers in tackles for loss (TFLs) with 20.5, sacks (7), quarterback hurries (10), forced fumbles (3) and blocked kicks (also 3).
He is a constant presence off the edge, and harried and hassled quarterbacks all season. Running against him was next to impossible, as his tackles for loss indicate, and he never ever gave up on a play. Another phrase I can't stand is 'blue collar lunch pail guy', but again, it fits Watt to a T. He is a guy that wasn't blessed with as much God given natural talent as some other guys in the draft, but he has taken what was given to him and worked harder than anyone to get himself in this position.
Oh, and it was only his second season as a defensive end. He transferred from Central Michigan and had been a tight end. Yeah, that's right, in only his second season as a defensive end in big boy college football, he was first team All Big Ten and second team All American. In his first, he was second on the team in tackles, tackles for loss, sacks, and QB hurries.
I have three words for you: Ree...damn...diculous.
One of the things you can't measure in a player is heart, or as my old coach used to call it, 'want to'. But you can get an indication of how badly a guy 'wants to' based on how hard they work, on and off the field, and JJ Watt has worked harder than anybody, and if drafted by the Vikings, will lock down the DE position opposite Jared Allen for a decade.
JJ Watt is the safe, no brainer pick for the Vikings in this spot.