Hell yeah! The Vikings are doing well and are clearly the surprise team so far this season. Some fans take it as an insult that others would be considering the draft when the team is playing so well, but some of us can cheer in the present while looking for possibly improvements in the upcoming year. It may also have something to do with which fans love college football as much as Vikings football, but I digress. As good as the Vikings have been over the first quarter of the season, its obvious that they have holes on the roster that will need to be addressed in the future. I've done a few of these now over the past few weeks (along with reading MarkSP18's articles and mocks) and there has been one big thing missing: TRADES! There have been shockingly few in Mark's mocks, so I am going to change that this time around. The critical assumption of this mock is that the Vikings picks are in the middle of each round:
Round 1: WR Justin Hunter, Tennessee 6'4" 200
While I still believe the biggest holes on the roster are at LB and NT, the NFL is built around offense and while the Vikings have invested some in offensive playmakers, they still don't have enough to be a force in the league. Here's a quick rundown of the WR corps:
* Percy Harvin - Signed thru 2013, but will need to be re-signed soon if they want to keep him and I hope they want to keep him. He is currently the only known playmaker at WR.
* Jerome Simpson - On a one year contract and still needs to prove his consistency. If you include penalty yards, he accounted for over 100 yards in his first game. Would be nice if he plays well and gets re-signed, but no guarantees.
* Jarius Wright - Was drafted recently and has yet to play a game. Who knows how that will turn out right now, but I bet he's playing before the end of the season. Still completely unknown commodity.
* Greg Childs - Also recently drafted, but trying to come back from two torn patella tendons. Not only will he most likely not be ready to play in 2013, but based on other athletes recovering from the same injury have never returned to their former prowess and Childs has yet to see the field. Like him a lot, but he may never play a down for the Vikes because of his injury.
* Stephen Burton - In his second full year on the roster and has yet to make a play outside preseason. I am a proponent of giving WRs at least 3 years to transition, which in the best case scenario puts Burton on the razors edge roster-wise.
* Everyone else - Are replaceable talents. Not only replaceable, but for the most part, on one year contracts and gone next year anyways.
Out of all of that, only one is proven and guaranteed to be on the roster next year. Even if Simpson becomes everything Vikings fans hoped and more, he'll need to be re-signed and that still may not be enough offensive weapons to hurt good to great defenses in the NFL.
Hunter is a big, fast WR who has been compared to Randy Moss ability-wise in the past. Has the hands of a possession receiver, plus the speed to beat defenses deep and hurt them in the open field. Spielman isn't going to let the offense (and his first 1st round QB pick) to regress talent wise and I wouldn't be surprised to see him go after a weapon for Ponder early.
**TRADE** Vikings trade their 2nd, a 4th, and a 6th to move back into late first
Round 1, pick 2 - DT John Jenkins, Georgia 6'3" 351
Just like in 2012, the Vikings take the BPA with their 1st rounder, only to trade back into the first to grab a top talent at a need position. They created the term "space-eater" for guys like Jenkins. His wide frame, physicality, and girth make him a load to move in the middle of the D. Stopping the run is his main game, but for his size Jenkins is surprisingly mobile getting up and down the line and even breaking into the back field. He's not a pass rusher, but can beat OL one on one and get plenty of pressure on the QB on passing downs.
Guion has done admirably as the NT this season, but NT doesn't seem like a natural fit for someone that has been playing backup to the 3Tech his whole career to this point and may be even better as a rotational player along the D-line.
Round 3 - LB Michael Mauti, Penn State 6'2" 239
Mauti has not only been great on the field for Penn State during his time there, but after all the problems that have come out of that University, Mauti showed that he is also a leader, rallying his teammates behind him. Mauti plays ILB for the Nittany Lions, but has the size and speed to play ILB or SLB in the Vikings D. Currently, Greenway is the only starting LB on a multi year deal. Henderson is on a one year deal and is currently dealing w/ a concussion and just about everyone else (who isn't a new draft pick) is replaceable.
**TRADE** Vikings trade their second 4th and second 6th to move to the bottom of the 3rd
Round 3, pick 2 - CB Desmond Trufant, Washington 6'0" 190
For the third defender in as many picks, the Vikings add another piece to the secondary. Trufant has been a standout for the Husky defense since he began starting as a true freshman. Trufant has the size and speed to play on the outside and has shown good ball skills when playing in coverage. Trufant could rotate with Robinson from day one and possible solidify the CB spot opposite Cook to have two big CBs on outside and let speedier CBs (Winfield/Robinson) to be better matchups against slot WRs. Either way, having three CBs who can play will be important for the Vikings to take on the NFC North and NFL at large.
Round 5 - DE James Gayle, Virginia Tech 6'5" 270
Is DE a big need currently for the Vikings? No. They have enough trouble finding ways to get Everson Griffin onto the field and it is one of the few positions on D that is considered a major strength. However, rushing the passer is a huge part of any defense and its important to stock pile talent at that position. There are already rumors about Jared Allen being on his last legs, Robison's above average but needs to stay on his side of the line (against RTs), and while Griffin is great as a spot player, he's unknown commodity as a full time player.
Gayle is better than his current grade arond the internet (IMO) and could be a steal, especially if he gets a "red shirt" season and has time to develop for a year behind Allen. Could also see the Vikings in contention for top DE in 2014, but would be smart to start preparing for some turnover at the position.
Round 7 - DT A.J. Francis, Maryland 6'3" 305
Francis is a DT that has been having himself a good 2012 season. He has the size to play NT, but his skill set seems more applicable to 3Tech as hes good at getting penetration along the OL. Not a big pass rusher from the inside, but has surprising power and speed for his size. Could be like Guion where it takes him a year or two, but he can be a good rotational piece along the DL.
Whew! Thanks for making it this far. So the Vikings start with 9 picks (3 in Top 100) and finish with 6 picks (4 in Top 100) while coming away with top WR/DT and starters at LB/CB. Those are probably the 4 positions with the biggest needs at this point in the season and would go a long way towards improving the future of the Vikings. As I've reiterated in most of these posts, look for the Vikings to draft heavy on the defense after going heavy on offense last year.
Setting aside any complaints about the trades, I am sure the biggest issue most will have will be the lack of OL drafted. By design this time, I avoided OL because I think there is a chance the Vikings decide that they are "fine" along the OL and have bigger needs on defense. Adding Kalil has really settled the OL and while they aren't the most talented individually, as a group they have already shown a huge improvement over last year. With all of the lineman on at least one more contract year, I could see the Vikings trying to duplicate that improvement thru the draft at other positions while allowing the OL to gel with possible replacements that they like (Schwartz/Love) getting healthy and ready to make contributions. Still a long way to go, but some reasoning I could see them going with.
So what are your thoughts both overall on the mock and on the prospects?