In case you're unfamiliar with what MockFive is, check it out here: MockOne.net. Hovering the mouse above the tabs at the top of the page will show you all the sub tabs needed to learn all about it. In this year's fifth version (hence MockFive) I got to be the GM for the Vikings. I am pretty happy with the results, grabbing a number of my favorite players for the Vikings.
My strategy going into the draft was to focus on defense and grab offensive weapons when the value was there. The defense is aging and lacking in depth and last year's draft had a emphasis on offense. To focus on defense though, I knew I would have to take a WR early in order to not let the talent dry up while trying to get top defensive talent and then not be able to a add weapon that can help the offense this year. The thought was that if I couldn't trade down, I could still get a top defensive prospect and a top WR to help out Ponder. I knew there would be chances to trade down, but I didn't want to feel like I had to. The 20-30 pick range of the draft is a great area of the draft for talent this year and didn't think I should take a trade that wasn't in my favor.
Through the first round, I looked for a potential trade down. A few offers came, most were grossly unbalanced in their favor and easy to ignore and a couple that fell through. I still think its likely that the Vikings get a good trade down offer with one of their first round picks, but I was more than happy to use both picks on top talent. There was a trade with the 49ers that fell through once their target was taken, so at 23 I decided to start the defensive turnover by bolstering the most important area: the defensive line.
Pick 1.23 NT Jesse Williams, 6'3" 323 Alabama The defensive line hasn't been the same since Pat Williams retired and a platoon of Guion and Evans and former free agents long gone haven't been getting the job done. Not having a NT that can command a double team and set the line of scrimmage has hurt this defense. Getting a prospect like Jesse helps everyone around him be better.
Defensive tackles are considered a depth in this draft class, but I favor the strategy of taking the best of the biggest players early (with the exception of QBs) because there are only so many people that size and only so many of them can play at that high a level. Williams has the potential to be the lynchpin of the defensive line for the next decade.
Jessie Williams vs Texas A&M and LSU 2012 (via JPDraftJedi)
Jesse Williams vs LSU/Arkansas (2011) (via Aaron Aloysius)
We already discussed our desire to grab a WR early and with Atlanta trading behind us with Indy, we already knew a top WR would be there. Only two had been taken previously with Tavon Austin going to the Saints and Patterson to the Rams.
Pick 1.25 WR Keenan Allen, 6'2" 206 Cal I know there is worry about his knee, but I am not in that camp. He is still within the recovery period for his injury (6-12 months) and admitted he wasn't 100% healthy. Because of his health, he also wasn't able to prepare for the pro day like an athlete who was completely healthy. Outside of this knee injury Allen has only missed game with an ankle injury, so I wouldn't call him injury prone either. Allen's biggest problem outside his current health predicament was his quarterback. He was the go-to WR at Cal, making the big catches and drawing the attention of the defense. Even though he missed the last 3 games of the season, he still lead Cal in receiving yards by almost 200 yards and had 4 more TDs than the next closest WR. Allen will be 100% by the time the season starts and he has the potential to be a #1 guy for the Vikings.
Keenan Allen vs Ohio State and USC 2012 (via JmpasqDraftjedi)
Keenan Allen vs USC,Texas,Washington (via JMPasq)
Now began our wait down to the bottom of the 2nd round. I have been pretty vocal about the state of affairs in the linebacking corps: Its awful. Greenway is great, but its a significant drop in talent from him to Erin Henderson and an even bigger drop from Erin to everyone else on the roster. The only other LB with a potentially bright future is Audie Cole and he was a 7th round pick and couldn't get active for a game all last year. Truthfully, everyone outside of Greenway is replaceable, so one linebacker isn't going to fix the problem. Lots of LB talent needs to be added and this draft will have lots of great talent on day 2 and beginning of day 3.
I would have considered Te'o at pick 53, but he went to the Steelers a few picks before hand. At that point I knew I could wait on a linebacker as no other teams had the immediate need and one of my favorite LB's hadn't gone before the 3rd round in any version of these mocks. So when Detroit was hot to move up for Corey Lemonier (who wasn't a target for me), I moved back into the top of the 3rd and picked up two more 5th round picks in the process.
So now the wait got even longer and as we got closer to the pick, I did start to worry a little that a team would try to jump me. As luck would have it, no one did and one of my favorite LBs was mine.
3.11 LB Kiko Alonso, 6'3" 240 Oregon Alonso is an athletic, lengthy linebacker who started at MLB for the Ducks for 3 years. He attacks the LOS very well and has shown the ability to be a factor in coverage, particularly while in zone. He does play with reckless abandon, but I would rather have an LB that the coach's need to try to decrease their intensity instead of having to constantly motivate them. Kiko has the ability to play any LB in the 4-3 and in nickel which makes him very valuable to a team that was in nickel for 59% of defensive snaps last year.
Kiko Alonso vs Kansas State (via footballmixtapes)
Kiko Alonso vs USC 2012 (via JmpasqDraftjedi)
The trade with the Lions ended up putting us in a position to have multiple picks in the 3rd, 4th, and 5th. This is the heartiest part of the draft this year and having 7 picks in that space was important going forward. It was still important to add defensive talent and with picks already dedicated to the DL and the LBs, it was time to turn our attention to the secondary. A real run on CBs hadn't come at this point in the draft, but 3 a round had been picked up to that point and the top of the class was starting to disappear. I was torn between two CB prospects and then one (Jordan Poyer) was swooped up by Miami right in front of me which then made the pick that much easier.
3.21 CB Leon McFadden, 5'10" 195 San Diego State McFadden is an instinctive and fast closing CB. His abnormally long arms (for his height) helped him break up almost 30 passes over the past two seasons. He's not the strongest CB against the run, but he can get off blocks and make plays. He saves his aggressiveness for attacking the ball when its in the air.
4.05 LB DeVonte Holloman, 6'2" 241 South Carolina It didn't take long for the Vikings next pick to come up. Our emphasis on defense continued with another coverage linebacker. Holloman is a former safety turned hybrid linebacker. He was used to cover and move in space and was very effective in that roll. He could sub for Erin when in 3 LB sets and play nickel while contributing on special teams. By the end of the season he could take over for Henderson completely.
Taking these two linebackers (particularly these two cover LBs) in the first half of the draft accomplished one of our major goals heading into this exercise. It doesn't necessarily transform the LB corp, but it doubles up on a trait (coverage) that is badly needed and each can contribute from day one. I wasn't quite sure how to approach the next pick. There wasn't a clear target for me and with so many picks still in my arsenal, a trade down didn't seem as effective. Since I had already doubled up on linebackers, doubling up on depth at another shallow position on defense seemed appropriate.
4.23 CB Tharold Simon, 6'3" 195 LSU Simon is another long limbed, tall corner who does his best work facing the LOS and watching the QB. He's very aggressive redirecting WRs and attacking the run game. All these characteristics translate well to the Vikings Cover2 and makes him an ideal fit. Having Cook, Robinson, McFadden, and Simon adds a lot of length and speed to the secondary which is essential in the pass heavy NFC North. (Editors Note: I made this pick several days before PFT had him in the first round to the Vikings. Just saying)
With such a focus on defense through the first four rounds it was time to grab some depth for the offense. The depth of the WR class showed up in this mock as I was able to get one at the top of the 5th whose skill set fit perfectly into what the Vikings do.
5.04 WR Mark Harrison, 6'3" 231 Rutgers There is a lot to like about Harrison. He's tall and very well coordinated for the amount of weight he carries. He ran an impressive 4.46 at the combine which is some explosive athleticism at that size. For comparison sake, Tavon Austin ran a 4.34 at almost 60 less pounds (174) and seven less inches in height. All these things are nice on paper, but what makes Harrison a great fit is how well he beats defense deep on play action. In each of the four games I can show you, he beats the defense for long touchdowns. Once catching at the LOS and going the distance and 3 other times winning one on one situations down field for touchdowns. WRs in Minnesota get a lot of one on one coverage and have a devastating play action scheme. Harrison has shown he can win in these situation and would be a big help to the Vikings WR corps.
Jennings, Wright, Rudolph, Allen, and Harrison gives Ponder a lot of weapons to distribute the ball to. With two picks left to go in the 5th, I had a couple of strategies in play. I wanted to add a QB to take over the 3rd spot, but I also know that QBs were being undervalued in MockFive and I decided to gamble on when to grab one. There was still some underrated talent out there and lots of depth that could be added to the roster.
5.14 TE Nick Kasa, 6'6" 271 Colorado Kasa represented a great value here. He's a top ten 10 in my book and has a skill set that fits well with the offense. He's a former OT who was too athletic and coordinated to stay on the OL while at Colorado. He's still more than capable blocker, but he's also good at running the seam route and can line up off the line and create mismatches. He's also very valuable in goal line situation both as a blocker and a big target in the passing game. He can sub for both Rudolph and Carlson while eventually replacing Carlson in the (near) future.
With our final pick in the fifth round, I decided to keep grabbing depth and go back to defense. The Vikings top 3 DEs are up for new contracts next year and they could stand to stash a pass rusher from this draft class somewhere on the roster to be ready for what could happen after the season with their pass rushers.
5.22 DE Walter Stewart, 6'5" 250 Cincinnati Stewart was diagnosed with a congenial spine disorder, but he is making a comeback and had a very impressive pro day. His skill set reminds me of Everson Griffin and he could come along on the roster much like he did. Walter can take over the last DE spot that D'Andre Reed has been hanging on to and take a redshirt year while getting acclimated to the NFL and giving the team some insurance while figuring out which of their current 3 starters are getting their contracts extended.
By gambling on Stewart, I knew I would have to trade up to get the QB I had in mind, but I still had 3 7th rounders to play with and not needing that many more picks in this draft. I decided to wait for someone in the 6th to start looking for a trade and move up.
6.06 QB Sean Renfree, 6'3" 220 Duke Renfree had a very good career at Duke, helping bring the football program back into relevance and its first bowl game in over 20 years. He also spent that time learning from Coach David Cutcliffe (of Manning fame). He is smart, prototypically sized, and has a good enough arm to spend the upcoming season as the 3rd QB and give the Vikings the option to dump Cassel in a year for a much cheaper backup/spot starter with more upside.
With one pick left it was time to try and find someone who could still contribute this season while developing a role for themselves over the course of their contract. One of the skills lost in the Harvin trade was his return ability. Sherels has been decent in that role, but he isn't that great and he doesn't offer much as a CB. So it was fortunate that I found someone with fantastic speed (both forward and lateral) who can also fill a spot on the roster that no one has been able to lock down for a few years.
7.08 RB Kerwynn Williams, 5'8" 190 Utah State When you have AD on your roster, RB is never a need, but Williams is capable of adding much more to the Vikings than just a #2/#3 RB. Kerwynn has shown time and again that once the ball is in his hands, he is a threat to take it to the house. Whether its on a run, a catch out of the back field, or as a punt/KO returner, Williams is dangerous with the ball in his hands and can contribute to the team even while sitting behind Peterson.
That was the end of MockFive for the Vikings. Its tough to sum up 11 picks quickly, but each of the picks have a role for the Vikings both this year and into the future. It strengthens the defense at its core spots, gives Ponder weapons to use this year to prove he belongs, and lots of depth to help bolster this team and develop into bigger contributors in the coming season.
The draft is only two weeks away and I couldn't be more excited. The Vikings are for the most part still a mystery which makes the anticipation that much better. Hope you liked the mock, videos, and thanks for making it this far.