For the past couple of years, I have been participating in a twitter mock draft called MockOne (along with DailyNorseman writer KJ Segal), representing the Vikings. MockOne pits 32 different (mock) GMs, one for each team, against each other with their teams allotment of picks. Picks can be traded, even future picks, but no player trades are allowed. The biggest caveat would be that this version of MockOne started a few days before the combine and before free agency (obviously). Everything is completely fluid until then, so I didn't think I should feel hampered by needs and just pick players who fit the scheme and value on my board (which I'll share a peek at later). At first I had a list of guys I'd consider the Vikings signing in FA, for instance, I started the draft under the consideration that the Vikings would sign Mark's guy, Desmond Bryant. Guess what happened in Miami as we neared the end of the 2nd round? Anyways, I threw out my list of guys that could sign in FA and stuck to the fits/value approach.
You can check out the full results here, but lets face it, you really just want to know who I took and why it wasn't your favorite player/in the order you would have done it :) I kid! I'll explain each pick and trade with thoughts and a link to their Draft Breakdown page that includes all of our current prospect videos for each player.
Round 1, Pick 23 - Xaiver Rhodes, CB Florida State With the first pick, I didn't want to feel saddled with taking a WR to take a WR and playing against the other GMs expectations was something I wanted working in my favor. So I decided to either try and trade down or take the best player on my board. No one was offering to move up, so I made my pick.
Rhodes is my top corner fit for the Vikings. His size and length are exactly what they look for on the outside and have Cook/Rhodes as big CBs on each side of the field makes it that much harder for the big WRs in the NFC to hide by moving around the formation. Having Cook/Rhodes lock down the outside spots also helps in keep Winfield working in the slot, where he's best, and Robinson can be used in that same role to help keep Toine's snap count down. On top of that, Rhodes gives the Vikings some leverage when negotiating a new deal with Cook next year. Easier to let him walk or talk him into a cap friendlier contract with the more talented Rhodes under contract.
Round 2, Pick 52 - Justin Hunter, WR Tennessee I had eyes for another WR in the second and even had a trade in place in case he fell to just before the middle of round 2. Alas, Atlanta did the unexpected and draft Stedman Bailey before he fell with in striking distance. After that, I still had four WRs I thought worth taking in the 2nd and waiting to see which would fall to me. In the end, only one of the four was still there, but I didn't have to give up any picks to get him.
Hunter's raw potential has been compared to Randy Moss. He's no Moss, but when his game is on, its easy to see why people jumped to that conclusion. Hunter is tall (6'4") with a huge catch radius and speed. He's good at using his frame against corners to gain position and gets good speed in and out of his route breaks. He spent the year recovering from a knee injury combined with some mental lapses that contributed to him falling this far in the 2nd. However, I think this could also play into the Vikings favor. Another year removed from injury could bring more confidence to Hunter as well as the addition of some NFL coaching leaves a lot of potential for Hunter to be even better. That kind of upside could lead to him being one of the best WRs from this class and I didn't have to spend a first round pick on him.
Round 3, Pick 78 Kiko Alonso, LB Oregon Not long after our 2nd round pick, a run on DTs started, so I made a deal to move up to the second pick in the 3rd to go after Brandon Williams. This too fell through when he was picked at the end of the 2nd. With Williams gone, so had most of the top DTs and the best fits for the Vikings with them. With that being the case, I decided to turn to what could be the biggest defensive need of all: Linebackers. There were two mid to late 2nd round LBs left on my board in Khaseem Greene and Kiko Alonso. I know Greene is more highly thought of, but I think Kiko's size, athleticism, and instincts in zone make him a much better fit to the Vikings. So I waited until someone jumped on Greene to make my move for Alonso before someone else could get him. The team just after the Patriots picked Greene was happy to move from 3.16 to 3.21 for our 5th round pick (5.22).
As I mentioned, Alonso is a great fit for the Vikings D. He's such a good fit he could legitimately play any LB spot not occupied by Chad Greenway. At 6'3" 242 he actually looks a little lean and could play just as fast with maybe 10-15 more pounds on him. Even if he didn't gain that weight, he has shown the skills on tape to play both in the middle of the D and out in space. Though he has that versatility, I think his best fit going forward would be playing on the outside when playing with 3 LBs and next to Greenway when in nickel.
Round 4, Pick 99 Aaron Dobson, WR Marshall You may have heard this before, and you're likely to hear it alot up through the draft, but the draft is deep at wide receiver. Considering this and the need for every kind of WR to replenish the Vikings corps, I went into MockOne knowing I'd be looking to take a couple of WRs. Dobson was one of two guys I considered here, the other being Rutgers WR Mark Harrison, but I have Dobson rank just a little bit higher.
Dobson is another big (6'3" 210) WR with some speed to him. Dobson is one of the better route runners in this class and may be even better than Hunter at controlling his body to make the big catch. Adding he and Hunter to Harvin and Wright gives Ponder a lot of weapons to work with at WR with a lot of upside and ability. Add Rudolph to that list of players gives defenses a lot of size and speed to deal with when the Vikings want to throw the ball around.
Round 5, Pick 139 Kwame Geathers, NT Georgia By the time the draft got to the Vikings original 4th rounder, there were still a lot of guys available and the Steelers were offering 5.13 and 6.12 to move up. So after moving down, we still wanting to target a big defensive lineman to plug the middle of the defense. Nine DTs had been taken when I traded down and 11 by the time I was up again, but I was still able to get a top 10 DT on my board and one of the biggest nose tackles in the draft.
Geathers is a 355 mountain of a man and like a mountain, he is difficult to move. He has a wide frame and long limbs to help him eat up space and keep OL off him. He is almost as big as some double teams making his job of freeing up other defenders easier.
Round 6, Pick 159 Ace Sanders, WR South Carolina At this point in the draft, it started becoming about getting the best ranked guys left out there. I was able to use 7.23 to move to the top of the 6th round and grab a final WR who is not only one of the top slot WRs, but one who gets comparisons to Harvin. I said before I don't believe that Harvin will be traded this offseason, but that doesn't mean he will with the Vikings for more than a couple years. Sanders has amazing speed and change of direction skills which could make him the #1 return man on both kickoffs and punts from the starters gate. WR snaps might be tough to come by at first, but he could easily be the #4 or #5 on the field when they spread the defense out.
Round 6, Pick 6.21 Vince Williams, ILB Florida State Kiko's versatility to play all LB spots was a great get early on, there are still holes in the LB corp and if we plan on using Alonso on the outside and in nickel to take advantage of his speed and athleticism then a dedicate MLB is still needed. Williams doesn't have that same athleticism as Kiko, but he is powerful when working downhill towards the ball carrier and he isn't lost when asked to drop into coverage. He would be competing with Brinkley or whoever is brought in should Brinkley be given his walking papers.
Round 7, Pick 197 Jack Doyle, TE Western Kentucky We finally came to the Vikings final pick. With a lot of offensive firepower still available, I wanted to get one more weapon for the offense. Doyle is a favorite of mine as a pass catching TE that can play lined up all over the formation. He's capable of staying in-line, being a primary blocker and working the seam against LBs and safeties, while also having the skills to line up in the slot or as a split-end and use his 6'6" frame to post up corner backs. He's another versatile weapon to add to the offense and a great young weapon to develop.
...And with that pick, the Vikings time in MockOne came to a close. The final haul comprised of 1 TE, 1 CB, 1 DT, 2 LBs, and 3 WRs, eight picks in all. Couldn't quite get all ten picks Spielman mentioned he wanted, but I still feel I came away with great value for those eight. I'm sure the biggest gripe would be the lack of OL, but I am not in the camp that thinks one will be taken early. Aside from Johnson, there is a lot of youth on the OL roster already and unless one of the top OGs falls to them, the Vikings will focus on other positions. I think the Vikings will re-sign Loadholt and feel very confident about an OL that paved the way for AD to run for 2097 yards.
Of course, just because all the picks are in doesn't mean that was the end. After Mr. Irrelevant was selected by Baltimore (they selected FB Lonnie Pryor out of FSU) there was time to announce Undrafed Free Agents as well. So along with a look at the positional rankings I made for this draft, here is a look at the names of the UDFAs I picked up as well:
(For whatever reason, the FanPost won't let me post a screen grab of the excel sheet I used, but if you paste that link into another tab, it should show you the one I tweeted out after the draft was over)
So that was everything I was able to accomplish in MockOne. The people who put this together will be doing lots of these mocks leading up to the draft, including War Room versions with multiple players on each team working together to form a draft plan and execute it. This year is the first year of open sign ups, so be sure to visit MockOne.net and click on the "Sign Up" button underneath the space showing the draft picks. You'll have a chance to participate like I did in either a Solo draft or a War Room style draft. Check out the whole site for all the rules and see what other teams did during the draft. They are currently going through the second run which you can follow on Twitter using #MockTwo or by following @MockOneNet which is the account that announces every pick in the draft. Well, I think that's everything. Let me know your thoughts.