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Minnesota Vikings Draft: Making The Case For C.J. Mosley

We start winding down our Making The Case series with the second best player at arguably the highest position of need

C.J. Mosley (32) intercepts a pass against Michigan. because Mosley is awesome, and Michigan sucks.
C.J. Mosley (32) intercepts a pass against Michigan. because Mosley is awesome, and Michigan sucks.
Ronald Martinez

Read a mock draft these days, and it goes in about 700 different directions by the time you get to the Vikings pick at number eight. Any one of six guys are being projected to Minnesota, although most experts see the Vikings getting one of the top three quarterbacks in the draft.

But recently, SB Nation started the blogger mock draft, and it went south for the Vikings early.  As a DN staff, we had to run our own Kobayashi Maru scenario in determining who we were going to select (trades aren't allowed)--not only were all three quarterbacks taken, but the two top defensive players and the top wide receiver were also gone.

Why is that a no win situation for Minnesota? Because even if Teddy Bridgewater, Johnny Manziel, and Blake Bortles are off the board, there's a consensus among most experts that Khalil Mack or Sammy Watkins will be available.  If Mack is there, draft him and don't look back. If Watkins is there, he would also make a great pick, but the Vikings should be able to trade out of that spot, if they decide they are okay at wide receiver with Greg Jennings and Cordarrelle Patterson

If all those players are gone, the Vikings are faced with the prospect of taking a player in the top ten that they really don't need (two very good offensive tackles are on the board, but the Vikes are set with Phil Loadholt and Matt Kalil), or guys at positions of need that all have a lot of questions.

Why C.J. Mosley?: When the season ended, a lot of folks had Mosley as the top rated linebacker in the draft.  As a matter of fact, he is still projected to go to the Vikings in more than one mock draft, even now. Yet, as the off-season chugged along, Mosley started to drop as Khalil Mack began to rise.  Maybe that was inevitable, as Mosley had the Alabama pedigree and name recognition over Mack, but still, Mosley hasn't done anything to drop as much as Mack has done to bring his profile up.  Of all the drop offs in talent level between the #1 rated prospect at a position and the #2 guy, the gap seems to be the smallest between Mack and Mosley

Why he'd be perfect for the Vikings: Entering the draft, linebacker is still the biggest position of need for a defense that was one of the worst in franchise history in 2013.  He would be a substantial upgrade over the trio of players the Vikings had last season, and if guys like Audie Cole, Michael Mauti, and Gerald Hodges pan out, all of a sudden the Vikings go from one of the worst linebacker units in the NFL to one of the best, in both talent and depth, almost overnight.

Mosley comes from the bluest of blue blood college programs at Alabama, and was the best player on arguably the nation's best defense.  Even among a bevy of guys that are NFL bound, Mosley's play stands out.  He is fast, smart, and a good tackler, leading Alabama in both tackles and tackles for loss in 2013. You can make the argument that he's the best open field tackler at the linebacker position in the draft, which is something the Vikings linebackers have had serious issues with the last couple seasons.

If there's a knock on Mosley, it's durability.  He had injuries that slowed him down in three of his four years at Alabama, yet he still only missed three games his entire career.  At the NFL Combine, he was given a clean bill of health, and he impressed NFL scouts at the Alabama Pro Day, running a 4.5 or 4.6 40 yard dash, depending on which eye-thumb combination you want to believe.

He's listed as an ILB, but has also played on the outside, and when you look at his tape, you could make the case he could play any of the three linebacker positions. He has the size, speed, and athleticism to play all three, and a talent like that would be tough to pass up when the Vikings are on the clock, assuming Kobayashi Maru is in effect.

And that versatility could be just what Mike Zimmer is looking for. He can play the Mike position, either right or left on the inside in a 3-4 set, and he's good enough to drop into coverage in a base nickel set on the outside, if asked to do so.  When you look at his highlights, you come away impressed with his nose for the ball, and his assignment discipline:

Like we mentioned in the Khalil Mack post, if they Vikings just went from bad to average on defense, it's probably the difference between 5-10-1 and the playoffs, regardless of who the quarterback is. Now, I'm not saying that the Vikings don't have any quarterback issues, but if they can fix the defense, Minnesota will be in the thick of the NFC North title race all season.

C.J. Mosley would go a long way towards being a part of that fix.