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Vikings 2015 Draft: Consensus Rankings v0.5

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The Daily Norseman calculates the average big board rankings for college prospects at the Vikings biggest positions of need.

Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

Now that the East/West Shrine Bowl and Senior Bowl are in the rear-view mirror that means the last meaningful college football games are over for the season.  And that makes now the perfect time to take a look at various college prospect rankings across the internet.  Why now?  Well, the "silly season" of draft scouting has barely begun, and most of the rankings right now are only considering what players have done on the field.  The combine is just under a month away, Pro Days have not even started yet and the microscope that is the NFL Draft Machine has barely begun to focus in on anyone yet.  I truly believe that the most accurate draft rankings you'll find on the web are what are in place right now before the combine, pro days and the "silly season", because most rankings right now are based on game tape and what players have done in the field of play.  Ultimately, when evaluating college prospects, how they look in actual games is what matters most.

And if the last two drafts are any indication, the Vikings must think so too.  Consider the 2013 draft for a minute.  If you go back and look at my consensus rankings from more than a month before the draft in 2013, you'll notice two very curious things: Cordarrelle Patterson and Shariff Floyd were ranked number one at their respective positions in the consensus rankings.  But by the time the draft had arrived, both players had slipped to #2 at their position due to various "silly season" stuff, like "short arms" and what-not.  The Vikings stayed true to their draft board and landed both players at the bottom of round 1.  Fast-forward to last year's draft.  In January of 2014, Teddy Bridgewater was the consensus number one quarterback, but once the silly season kicked in there were concerns about his Pro Day and "skinny knees".  He fell to the #2 spot, and the Vikings snagged him at the end of round 1.  Even Anthony Barr was the consensus top linebacker back in January of 2014, but he had slipped below Khalil Mack by the time the draft arrived.  The Vikings snagged Barr too.

So it will be interesting to track some of these rankings once again this season to see if the Vikings can once again capitalize on the silly season fall of various blue chip prospects.  For those new to the Consensus Rankings, let me take a second and explain what they are.  I have scoured the web and tabulated the average Big Board rankings of prospects from some of the most popular draft sources on the internet: NFL.com, ESPN, CBS Sports, Draftek and Walter Football.  As the draft season gets underway and more sources publish their big boards, I'll be adding even more sources, like National Football Post, SB Nation, Draft Countdown and more.  So, this first version is somewhat incomplete since it only contains five sources, hence it gets a "version 0.5" label.  And this year, after much consternation, I've decided to focus in on the following four positions: offensive guard, linebacker, wide receiver and cornerback.  Two of those positions (guard and linebacker) should be obvious needs for the Vikings to address in the top half of the draft, but after that it's not as cut and dry.  I considered many positions for the consensus rankings, like defensive end, offensive tackle, running back and even safety.  But ultimately I decided to zero in on what I believe are the Vikings four biggest positions of needs.  This may change as I do more analysis and consider the state of the roster in even more detail.  And obviously, once we get through the free agency period, the needs list will change dramatically, and I'll adjust the consensus rankings accordingly.  So, without any further preamble, let's get to the rankings!

Offensive Guard Consensus Ranking

Name

School

Average Positional Rank

Average Overall Rank

1. Cann, A.J.

South Carolina

1.6

45.4

2. Jackson, Tre

Florida State

3.4

76.6

3. Matias, Josue

Florida State

3.4

73.8

4. Tomlinson, Laken

Duke

5.2

89.4

5. Kouandijo, Arie

Alabama

6.4

106

6. Myers, Robert

Tennessee State

7

124.5

7. Miller, John

Louisville

7.25

125.75

8. Harrison, Jarvis

Texas A&M

8

135.25

9. Douglas, Jamil

Arizona State

10.3

154.67

10. Brown, Jamon OG/OT

Louisville

11.5

178

11. Mason, Shaq

Georgia Tech

11.5

180.5

12. Dieffenbach, Miles

Penn State

12

180.5

13. Marpet, Ali

Hobart

12.25

181.75

14. Brown, Trenton OG/OT

Florida

12.5

192.5

15. Walker, Aundrey

USC

13

204.5

16. Glowinski, Mark OG/OT

West Virginia

13

190.5

To be included on the consensus ranking for guard, the player had to have at least one positional ranking in the top 10 of a big board I consulted.  In other words, as long as their highest rank landed them in the top 10 among guards, they were included, which lead to a pretty long list of guards.  That doesn't necessarily mean the draft is deep at guard so much as it means there is a total lack of consensus.  As you can see a guy like Mark Glowinski from West Virgnia doesn't average out as much more than a 6th round pick overall, which means that even though he cracks the top 10 of one source and averages out as the 13th best offensive guard in the draft, many of the other sources don't have him very highly ranked overall since he averages a ranking of 190.5.

In fact, the talent pool at guard looks pretty thin in this draft, as there are no 1st round talents.  That said, the best talent on the board is A.J. Cann out of South Carolina, and it's not close.  The Vikings would seem to have a great shot to draft Cann in the 2nd round if they wanted, or they could wait until the 3rd or 4th round for a slew of talents that average out in the 70-100 ranks.  Based on the lack of elite talent at the guard position, the Vikings best bet to upgrade this position would probably be to make a run at a premiere guard in free agency, assuming top talents like Mike Iupati and Orlando Franklin are not resigned or franchise tagged by their respective teams.

Linebacker Consensus Ranking

Name

School

Average Overall Rank

1. Gregory, Randy OLB/DE

Nebraska

6.2

2. Fowler, Jr., Dante OLB/DE

Florida

10.8

3. Beasley, Vic OLB/DE

Clemson

14.8

4. McKinney, Benardick ILB

Mississippi State

28

5. Dupree, Alvin "Bud" OLB/DE

Kentucky

30.4

6. Thompson, Shaq OLB

Washington

35.8

7. Orchard, Nate OLB/DE

Utah

43

8. Dawson, Paul OLB

TCU

45.75

9. Kikaha, Hau'oli OLB/DE

Washington

49

10. Perryman, Denzel ILB

Miami

49.8

11. Kendricks, Eric OLB/ILB

UCLA

50.8

12. Harold, Eli OLB

Virginia

52.4

13. Mauldin, Lorenzo OLB/DE

Louisville

62.2

14. Alexander, Kwon ILB/OLB

LSU

96.3

15. Anthony, Stephone ILB

Clemson

128.5

In previous years I've painstakingly separated out inside linebackers from outside linebackers.  But this year I decided to lump them all together and focus only on their overall rank.  This was done mostly because it's easier and faster for me that way, but also because the Vikings are potentially interested in both inside and outside linebackers.   Included in the linebacker pool are also pass-rushing linebackers that could also play in a 4-3 defensive end role.  Some of these players have position flexibility, so rather than try to institute any kind of bias in the rankings; I just lumped them all together and made a note about positional flexibility.  To be included on this list, a linebacker had to be ranked at least 64th overall on one big board, meaning I narrowed it down to only 1st and 2nd round possibilities.

There appears to be much more consensus regarding the linebacker talent than there was with the guards, as no linebackers on the list grade out lower than a 5th round pick on average.  The bad news is that most of the highly ranked players are of the pass-rushing variety.  Benardick McKinney out of Mississippi State is perhaps the best pure inside linebacker in the draft, but even he barely has a 1st round grade.  Shaq Thompson out of Washington and Paul Dawson out of TCU are a pair of pure outside linebackers (of the non-pass rushing variety) that are intriguing prospects to consider at the top of the 2nd round for the Vikings.  Ultimately, the Vikings will have a lot of possibilities at linebacker, especially in the 2nd and 3rd rounds of the draft.  With uncertainty surrounding Chad Greenway, an unproven option in Gerald Hodges, and a stop-gap Band-Aid in Jasper Brinkley, the Vikings need another draft reload at the linebacker position.  And it arguably could include both the inside and outside linebacker positions.

Wide Receiver Consensus Ranking

Name

School

Average Position Rank

Average Overall Rank

1. Cooper, Amari

Alabama

1

3.8

2. Parker, DeVante

Louisville

2.2

14.4

3. White, Kevin

West Virginia

2.8

20

4. Strong, Jaelen

Arizona State

5.6

35.4

5. Green-Beckham, Dorial

Oklahoma

6.4

39.2

6. Funchess, Devin

Michigan

6.6

40.4

7. Coates, Sammie

Auburn

7.4

40.2

8. Smith, Devin

Ohio State

7.6

48.4

9. Agholor, Nelson

USC

9.25

51.5

10. Greene, Rashad

Florida State

9.8

59.4

11. Montgomery, Ty

Stanford

11

70.6

12. Harper, Josh

Fresno State

12.5

79

13. Mayle, Vince

Washington State

20

150.25

Like the guard ranking above, to be included in the wide receiver consensus ranking the player had to appear in the top 10 at the wide receiver position on at least one big board.  Depending on what you think of Cordarrelle Patterson, Greg Jennings, Charles Johnson and Jarius Wright, the Vikings have either a minor need at wide receiver or a pretty major one.  Put me in the second camp.  I've lost all hope that Patterson will amount to anything more than a dynamic kick returner, and with Greg Jennings age surpassing the 32-year mark, I think the Vikings have a pretty major need at wide receiver.  I have no faith that Jarius Wright and Charles Johnson can be relied upon as #1 wide receivers of the type that Norv Turner needs in his offense.  Despite the fact that our wide receivers looked much improved in the final 5 games of the year when Teddy started playing like a bona-fide NFL quarterback, I think we need a dominant, #1 wide receiver in the mold of a Dez Bryant, Calvin Johnson-type of player.

So, the good news is that there are plenty of options in the draft.  There are three wide receivers with first round grades, and all three would be good targets for the Vikings: Amari Cooper, DeVante Parker and Kevin White.  Parker has been a popular mock draft target for the Vikings due to his connection with Teddy Bridgewater, but it's pretty rare for a college quarterback and wide receiver to reunite at the NFL level.  Still, the consensus rankings have Parker graded out right in the sweet spot for the Vikings #11 pick.  It's an intriguing option for sure.  But, if the Vikings would rather go in a different direction with their top pick, there is no less than eight other options available to them in the 2nd round alone.  Like last year, 2015 looks to be a pretty deep and talented draft at wide receiver and I hope the Vikings are able to take advantage of it, as they missed out last year.

Cornerback Consensus Ranking

Name

School

Average  Position Rank

Average Overall Rank

1. Waynes, Trae

Michigan State

1.2

18.4

2. Peters, Marcus

Washington

4.4

35.6

3. Collins, Jalen

LSU

4.6

43

4. Carter, Alex

Stanford

5.67

48.67

5. Johnson, Kevin

Wake Forest

5.8

51.4

6. Williams, P.J.

Florida State

6

46.6

7. Ekpre-Olomu, Ifo

Oregon

6.8

54.8

8. Darby, Ronald

Florida State

7.25

66

9. Rollins, Quinten

Miami (OH)

8.8

70.2

10. Golson, Senquez

Mississippi

10.25

90

11. Smith, D'Joun

Florida Atlantic

10.8

92.8

12. Doss, Lorenzo

Tulane

11.3

96.3

13. Gaines, Charles

Louisville

12.5

98

14. Rowe, Eric

Utah

16.25

145.5

15. Jones, Byron

Connecticut

19.75

169.5

16. Riggs, Cody

Notre Dame

20.67

188

17. White, Kevin

TCU

21.75

183.75

I was on the fence about whether or not the Vikings needed an upgrade at cornerback, but after giving it some more thought, I'm convinced that they need another elite corner opposite Xavier Rhodes.  While Josh Robinson and Captain Munnerlyn certainly had their good moments this last season (and the pass defense in general was much improved over 2013), there were obvious matchup problems that our divisional opponents were able to take advantage of and they made some glaringly bad plays too.  Munnerlyn is a good slot cornerback, nothing more.  Josh Robinson is a decent backup cornerback, and dime option, nothing more.  But we need another consistent, big cornerback opposite Xavier Rhodes that can matchup against Calvin Johnson, Alshon Jeffrey, Brandon Marshall and all the other tall wide receivers that are littered across the NFL.

Can the Vikings find one in the draft?  Well, unfortunately there is only one cornerback with a 1st round consensus grade this year: Trae Waynes out of Michigan State.  He definitely has the size at 6' 1" to matchup well against taller receivers, and wouldn't be too much of a reach with the 11th overall pick.   Marcus Peters out of Washington is a border-line 1st round talent, but otherwise it looks like a pretty weak cornerback class at the top end.  There are a lot of 2nd and 3rd round talents to be had though like Alex Carter out of Stanford.  It's possible we could address cornerback again in free agency as there are a few options available there too.

So, before boiling this all down to offer up the best draft strategy for the Vikings based on their needs, I have one more consensus ranking for you. What follows is an "overall ranking" that includes all college prospects.  For this one, I included only those players who appeared in the top 10 overall of at least one ranking source.  It will give you an idea of what kinds of players in general will be available at pick #11.

Overall Consensus Ranking

Name

School

Average Overall Rank

1. Williams, Lenoard DE/DT

USC

1.6

2. Winston, Jameis QB

Florida State

2.2

3. Cooper, Amari WR

Alabama

3.8

4. Mariota, Marcus QB

Oregon

4.8

5. Ray, Shane DE/OLB

Missouri

6.2

6. Gregory, Randy DE/OLB

Nebraska

6.4

7. Scherff, Brandon OT

Iowa

7.6

8. Fowler Jr, Dante DE/OLB

Florida

11

9. Collins, Landon S

Alabama

11.6

10. Shelton, Danny NT

Washington

13.4

11. Beasley, Vic DE/OLB

Clemson

14

12. Gordon, Melvin RB

Wisconsin

14

13. Parker, Devante WR

Louisville

14.4

14. Clemmings, T.J. OT

Pittsburgh

15.25

15. Peat, Andrus OT

Stanford

16.4

16. Gurley, Todd RB

Georgia

19.6

17. Flowers, Ereck OT

Miami

20.8

If the NFL followed this consensus ranking for the NFL Draft, that would have the Vikings drafting linebacker Vic Beasley out of Clemson.  He's more of a pass-rushing outside linebacker, and would be a similar player to one the Vikings just drafted last year: Anthony Barr.  That would make him an unlikely target for the Vikings.  But in looking at the options that are ranked lower than #11 some interesting options appear at running back and offensive tackle.  It's possible that Adrian Peterson doesn't return to the Vikings and if that is the case they could easily draft a guy like Melvin Gordon or Todd Gurley in the first round.  Or perhaps they could draft an offensive tackle like T.J. Clemmings, Andrus Peat or Ereck Flowers and convert them to the guard position.  Or maybe just take DeVante Parker and be done with it.  The good news is that the Vikings should have lots of options available to them in the first round.

So, based on the available talent in the consensus rankings, what strategy should the Vikings take in order to get both the best draft day value while at the same time addressing their most pressing needs?  Well, if it were me, I might take the following approach with their first four picks:

Vikings Mini-Mock Draft - Consensus Ranking Edition
Round 1, Pick 11: WR DeVante Parker, Louisville
Round 2, Pick 13 (45 overall): CB Alex Carter, Stanford
Round 3, Pick 12 (76 overall): ILB/OLB Kwon Alexander, LSU
Round 4, Pick 11 (107 overall): OG Arie Kouandijo, Alabama

So, in an increasingly pass-happy league, and at this insanely early stage, I have the Vikings going WR-CB with the first two picks.  Who are your draft targets for the Minnesota Vikings?