I'm going to be leaving a few weeks to work another season in Alaska, and while that sounds like plenty of time to write up some more stuff I have a million things to get done. So I'm just going to throw my favorite prospects out there while I can. Many people have assumed who my favorites are because I've defended them or I mocked them before. Clearing the air now that I've had plenty of time to watch some footage of more prospects, and ones that were my personal favorites during the season. This list is not of my personal favorites though, but my favorites for the Vikings to pick up. Johnny Manziel was one of my personal favorites because.. Well, if you've watched him before you know how fun it is, but he wouldn't be one of my favorites for Minnesota to pick. So here we go:
NFL Draft Grade: 5.9
5'11" 199lbs 30 1/4" Arms 9" Hands
62 Tackles 4 INT 10 PD 3.5 TFL 2 FF
"Strengths: Outstanding size with a well-distributed frame, knotty calves and thin ankles. Good press strength. Controlled, efficient pedal. Good competitive playing speed. Transitions cleanly in man-off coverage. Very good eyes, anticipation and reactive quickness. Good pattern recognition -- sorts out what he sees quickly. Clings to the hip pocket of receivers down the field. Swift speed turn. Likeable personality. Very accountable leader by example. Brings intensity to the field and plays with urgency. Highly confident and competitive."
"Weaknesses: Has been slowed by injuries and durability needs to be examined closely (double hernia surgery). Was not asked to play a lot of zone coverage."
Mike Mayocks #1 rated CB prospect, Jim Thorpe Award winner as the best Defensive Back in the nation, Darqueze Dennard would be a great prospect to pair with Xavier Rhodes. Both are physical, lockdown, press corners. Both are team players willing to lower their shoulder and thats what Minnesota needs. Darqueze Dennard has everything I look for in defensive players: Physicality, Athleticism, Big Hitter, High football IQ, Leadership, and Coachablity. Out of all the CB's in this years draft, I think he is the most well suited for the NFL. He's physical enough to not let bigger receivers push him around, he easily throw's them their timing off at the line, he's very willing to jump in as run support, he's got the technique to lockdown corners and the patience to play the ball as well. Everyone thinks the Seahawks secondary is about size but it's more about that kind of physicality than size. They love to knock WR's off their timing and out of their roots. There is a reason before the Super Bowl you constantly heard that on just about every snap you could throw a flag on their defensive backfield for pass interference. He could be compared to a cross between Darrelle Revis and Joe Haden
NFL Draft Grade: 5.24
5'8" 184lbs 31 1/2" Arms 9 1/2" Hands
69 Tackles 2 INT 4 PD 7 TFL 3 FF
"Strengths: Very good run instincts -- is quick to step downhill. Keenly makes subtle, pre-snap adjustments (nice anticipation and play recognition). Outstanding overall production in all facets. Good competitive playing speed -- runs as fast as he needs to. Very good football-playing demeanor -- confident and opportunistic. Played big and produced timely, game-changing plays vs. Clemson (sack, interception and forced fumbles). Times up the blitz very well and plays bigger than his size. Has contributed as a gunner and displayed good short-area burst in the return game. Exceptional work ethic and leadership traits. Respected, vocal team leader with an infectious attitude that can unite a locker room. Has been extremely durable and never missed a game despite aggressive style of play and diminutive stature."
"Weaknesses: Average athlete. Tight-hipped and rounds off breaks -- not sudden. Lacks foot speed to carry receivers vertically from the slot and is seldom placed in situations where he can be distressed in downfield coverage. Lacks size and stature for press coverage. Can be out-quicked by shifty slot receivers. Marginal recovery speed and catch-up burst when he gets caught peeking. Struggles to match up with size and speed in man coverage. Makes mental mistakes too much in banjo coverage and struggles to sort out bunch sets. Does not have a body ideally built to withstand a 16-game season."
Before to be honest I didn't think he had the physical build to even play in the NFL or atleast be a top prospect, but then again look at Captain Munnerlyn and Tyrann Mathieu. This guy plays bigger than his size, small but delivers some nasty hits. Love his playmaking ability and versatility. He can play the slot during nickel packages, and then go back to playing safety. He constantly gets the Tyrann Mathieu comparison but I think he's a better prospect than the Honey Badger was. He doesn't come with all that baggage, lack of recent snaps and is a more consistent player. I think Tyrann Mathieu 2.0 but minus the rad nickname. He's Mike Mayocks #3 rated Safety, which isn't as bad as you think since the other two are expected to go anywhere from 10-25. Some teams going to fall in love with Joyner and pounce, lets hope he slides to the second and that team can be Minnesota.
NFL Draft Grade: 6.2
6'0 192lbs 31 3/4" Arms 9 1/2" Hands
2013: 57 Rec 791 Yards 4 TD
2012: 118 Rec 1721 Yards 14 TD
"Strengths: Very good athletic ability. Is a nifty runner after the catch -- can navigate through traffic and create with the ball in his hands. Can shift into top gear and run by tacklers -- terrific acceleration and short-area burst. Fine route runner -- understands how to set up defensive backs and has an innate feel for coverage. Understands how to manipulate man and zone coverage and can create separation when he needs to uncover. Very good hand-eye coordination. Tracks the deep ball very well -- has a knack for running underneath it. Attacks the ball and plucks it out of the sky. Very good competitive, functional playing speed. Has game-breaking return ability -- exceptional vision and traffic burst."
"Weaknesses: Average size and run strength. Does not break many tackles. Was slowed by nagging injuries, and body is not built to withstand a lot of punishment. Can do a better job securing the ball through traffic -- has shown a tendency to flag the ball. Long-term durability could become an issue."
Mike Mayocks #2 rated WR, Marqise Lee is a very well rounded player. He can do just about anything you ask him too, return kicks, go deep, play from the slot, rush, get good YAC on a screen, very willing blocker. Total package, just unfortunately that package is only 6 feet tall. Still for years Marqise Lee has been seen as one of the most dominant players in college football and a top draft pick. This year he dealt with a lot of different issues, from QB play, to a struggling program, to injuries, he's clearly been tested and like Mike Mayock things has done well. To put it in perspective, before this year he was seen as the clear #1 receiver, even ahead of Sammy Watkins. He's a do it receiver, a good teammate, and a feirce competitor. Minnesota would be lucky to have him.
NFL Draft Grade: 6.15
5'11 207lbs 31 3/8" Arms 9 1/8" Hands
75 Tackles 3 INT 4 PD 5.5 TFL 2 FF
"Strengths: Very good instincts. Physical, lights-out hitter (see second defensive snap of UCF game). Very aggressive running the alley and seeks to make his presence felt in the run game. Sacrifices his body. Defensive tempo-setter. Made a spectacular, one-handed INT vs. UCF. Good pre-snap recognition -- makes adjustments. Explosive tackler. Can leverage the field off the hash and cover ground. Good zone recognition. Rangy enough to play center field. Carries a swagger and plays with confidence."
"Weaknesses: Plays with too much reckless abandon and lacks discipline playing the cutback. Takes some bad angles and can be outflanked to the perimeter. Average production on the ball. Is not asked to play a lot of man coverage."
"A big, physical, hammering run defender brings an enforcer mentality to the box and an intimidating, punishing presence to the back end. Is arguably the most violent hitter in this year's draft class and should make his presence felt readily in the pros." I'm itching to see what Calvin Pryor, Mike Mayocks #1 rated Safety can do in the NFL. He is going to have highlight reels full of knockout hits. I just hope those reels are games against the Bears and Packers, and not against Minnesota. Theres a very real possibility of him going to either of those teams. If you teamed him with Harrison Smith, Minnesota could compete with Seattle as having the most punishing Safety tandem in the league. If they let him go to the Packers, we may have to deal with placing a star player like Patterson on IR.
NFL Draft Grade: 6.1
6'6" 310lbs 34 1/4" Arms 10 1/4" Hands
38 Tackles 2 Sacks 1 INT 8 PD 13 TFL
"Long and well-proportioned. Intriguing height-weight-speed ratio and natural athleticism. Flashes the ability explode off the ball, jolt blockers and disrupt the backfield. Terrific movement, flexibility and range. Loose ankles. Can work the edges. Able to redirect and chase athletically. Fierce tackler. Rare leaping ability for his size (workout all-star). Disrupts passing lanes. Has a "wow" factor at his best. Has immense upside. Team captain."
"Wide gap between physical ability and performance on tape. Green eyes, instincts and understanding of blocking schemes. Motor idles. Too often lets his pads rise and exposes his frame. Does not play to his length. On skates vs. double teams. Hand use needs work. Unsophisticated counters and pass-rush moves. Aimless pass rusher in need of a plan. Minimal, inflated sack production. Still learning to convert speed to power. Does not dominate single blocking. Needs more glass in his diet. Could require simple assignments. Motivation and coachability should be examined more closely. Will be 24-year-old rookie. Has a glaring bust factor."
Even though Ra'Shede Hageman is ranked as the #4 DT in this draft by Mike Mayock, most other prospects couldn't reach his ceiling even with a ladder. He is a giant with giant sized explosiveness and great athleticism. He also has great versatility being able to rotate to any position on a Defensive Line. Right now he's just a star against the run, but with good coaching and working on his technique he's going to be able to move some bodies to get to the Quarterback in a not to far future (more like toss some bodies). Any team would be able to find many, many ways to use this beast.
NFL Draft Grade: 5.75
5'9" 189lbs 30 5/8" Arms 9 1/4" Hands
2013: 39 Tackles 2 INT 14 PD 3.5 TFL 1 FF
2012: 63 Tackles 6 INT 22 PD 5 TFL
"Strengths: Quick, twitchy and explosive popping out of his pedal. Good eyes, anticipation and footwork. Very feisty and athletic. Outstanding instincts. Superb reactive quickness and recovery speed. Very good ball skills -- consistently makes plays on the ball. Very willing in run support and plays bigger than his size."
"Weaknesses: Very diminutive, skinny-waisted and thin-boned with small hands and short arms. Body has taken a beating through the years, and he's coming off shoulder surgery. Low-dive tackler (misses some). Can be overwhelmed by bigger blockers and struggles to shed blocks. Average play strength."
"A tough, scrappy, undersized nickel back with potential to emerge as a No. 2 corner", Mike Mayocks #4 rated CB, Jason Verrett is small but is one tough S.O.B. Turns out he played last year with a torn Labrum in his shoulder. He is physical besides his small size, and thrives in the slot. Something Minnesota desperately needs. Even if it came down to it (somehow they could draft a starting quality outside corner, or find one in FA) they could easily place Josh Robinson or Shaun Prater opposite of Rhodes and get decent play. Marcus Sherels does a very good jobs in small portions but he doesn't have it in him, atleast yet to be a full time starter. Verrett would be a star in the slot, would be a great addition to a Minnesota backfield that badly needs help.
NFL Draft Grade: 6.7
6'3" 251lb 33 1/4" Arms 10 1/4" Hands
100 Tackles 10.5 Sacks 19 TFL 3 INT 5 FF
'"He’s one of the best two or three players in this draft," Mayock said. "I’m going to tell you right now, I’d take him with the first pick."' What could I say that would hold any weight next to Mike Mayock ringing the endorsement bell that loud.
1. Michael Johnson
What Does He Bring: A "Do it all" Defensive End. One of the most productive in the league even with a lower sack total. He still had much more QB Hurries than Jared Allen, which means he's getting to the QB he just hesitates when he gets into the backfield because in Zimmers defense, stopping the run is just as important to his edge rushers.
2. Brandon Spikes
What Does He Bring: A physical presence to the defense that the LB core is very much lacking. He is one of the top run stopping ILB in the league. He could solve our problems in the middle of the D, and bring a vicious tone.
3. Walter Thurmond III
What Does He Bring: Walter Thurmond is a very talented, underrated CB and can also can play in the slot. Something as I've said many times Minnesota desperately needs. Robert Blanton so far has been the best option in the slot, while he is a very good back up option, and he provides very good depth that still means we've got a problem.
4. Corey Graham
What Does He Bring: While I would much rather have top end, young talent like Alterraun Verner or Vontae Davis, Corey Graham brings very solid play (was a huge part of the Ravens getting to and winning the Super Bowl) for a lower price. He also brings a scrappy, winning attitude to the secondary. He's very underrated, and would easily help patch up the Minnesota back field.
Well thats it from me guys, atleast for a while. I will be back come draft time though. Keep the faith!