In putting together our Pre-Combine version of the Mock Draft Database, I found myself wondering what, exactly, I would do for the Minnesota Vikings if the 2015 NFL Draft were held today. So, I've cobbled together a mock draft based around the team's picks for your consumption.
A few things. . .in order to sort of gauge who might be available where at certain points in the draft, I'm going to use the Big Board put together by Matt Miller over at Bleacher Report. Yes, you can scoff about BR if you wish, but Matt Miller was one of the few draft pundits that stood by his assessment of Teddy Bridgewater last season while people were freaking out about skinny knees and whatever else. So, I take his opinion relatively seriously on this sort of thing.
In using his big board, I'm going to try to take players at each pick that are relatively close to that spot on the big board. I will attempt to best balance needs and best player available at each spot.
I'm also going to be operating under the assumption that Adrian Peterson is going to be back with the Vikings in 2015. Not that this revelation would affect my first round selection because, really, I don't think teams need to take first-round backs any more unless they're truly special. But I'm putting that out there.
So, with that, let's jump into this Vikings-centric mock draft.
First Round (
#13 #11 overall) - Shaq Thompson, LB/S/RB/equipment manager/bus driver, Washington
In our Pre-Combine Mock Draft Database, the overwhelming assumption was that the Minnesota Vikings need to use their first pick on a wide receiver, whether it's DeVante Parker or Kevin White or (possibly) Amari Cooper. I'm not sure that's the case. The reason being that Teddy Bridgewater seemed to do quite well with what he had last year, and appears to be one of those quarterbacks who will have the ability to make his receivers more productive, as opposed to the other way around. Also, this wide receiver class is relatively deep, so the Vikings probably don't need to go wide receiver in this spot.
So, then, we take a guy that I think Mike Zimmer could mold into something truly special on defense in Shaq Thompson. There has been a lot of debate about Thompson recently, specifically about what position he's going to play at the next level. At about 6'1" and 230 pounds, he's a real "tweener." Some experts (such as Mike Mayock) have Thompson listed as a safety, while the majority show him as a linebacker. Personally, I'd probably lean towards using him as a safety, but wherever he plays in the NFL, he's going to be an impact defender, and if anyone could get the most out of him, it would probably be Mike Zimmer. Draft the guy, put him on the field, and let him do things.
Second Round (#45 overall) - Devin Smith, WR, The. . .dramatic pause. . .Ohio State University
So, you want a field-stretching wide receiver for Teddy Bridgewater, you say? Well, at the college level last season, there wasn't anyone that was field-stretchier than Devin Smith. He only had 33 receptions for the Buckeyes in 2014. . .and still had nearly 1,000 receiving yards, averaging a whopping 28.2 yards per reception and finding the end zone twelve times. He's also a very good blocking wide receiver, and was very good as a gunner on the punt team. He's a bit inconsistent in his route running, but likely has the ability to take the top off of defenses pretty early.
Part of me wanted to go with Dorial Green-Beckham at this spot, who Miller has at #52 on his big board. However, his off-field issues might put up a red flag for the Vikings, who have had to deal with more than their fair share of that sort of thing recently. In addition, there's a very good chance that, following the Scouting Combine, Green-Beckham is going to move way up a lot of draft boards. Sure, Smith might fall into that boat as well, but we'll keep him here for now.
Third Round (#76 overall) - A.J. Cann, G, South Carolina
The Vikings got a player that many thought was a steal last season in guard David Yankey. Unfortunately, Yankey was inactive for all but one game in 2014 and made no impact. In a perfect world, he will have added the strength that coaches said was lacking this past season and would be able to step right into the starting left guard spot. However, since we don't know whether or not that's the case, we take the player that Miller has at the top of his list of guards. A.J. Cann isn't the biggest guy out there at the guard spot, currently listed at around 310 pounds or so. However, he does have the ability and the talent to immediately step in and take over at left guard.
I toyed with the idea of an offensive tackle like Jake Fisher (Oregon) in this spot, but even with Matt Kalil's struggles. . .and I think he's going to get it together this year. . .the left guard spot is every bit in need of replacement. Charlie Johnson is likely out for Minnesota, so at the very least there's going to be competition for the starting left guard spot. Cann adds to that competition.
Fourth Round (#107 overall) - Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, CB, Oregon
Even with the rapid improvement of the Minnesota secondary, they could still use another player or two back there. Ekpre-Olomu is a guy that was projected to go in the mid-first round for much of the season, but tore his ACL preparing for bowl season and has taken a significant tumble. Miller currently has him ranked as his 126th overall player, so that might make him a bit of a reach at this spot. . .particularly if he isn't going to be ready to contribute in 2015. Still, if the Vikings do enough for the secondary in free agency and with their own players to feel that they could stash him away for a season, they could get a real steal here.
Fifth Round (#141 overall) - Garrett Grayson, QB, Colorado State
Yes, we know that the Vikings don't have to take a quarterback early. However, Matt Cassel only has one season left on his contract, and Christian Ponder's time in Minnesota is over. So, the Vikings need to find a guy to serve as the third guy on the depth chart and potentially take over for Cassel as Teddy Bridgewater's backup in 2016 and beyond. This year's quarterback class is pretty weak, and there's a very good chance that Grayson goes much earlier than this as a result. But if he's still here in the fifth round, he'd be the kind of guy that could be groomed for such a position.
Sixth Round (#172 overall) - Ben Heeney, LB, Kansas
Heeney is an undersized middle linebacker, but is one of those "high motor" type of players that you don't mind having at the position. Depending on what the Vikings do with their linebacker corps in 2015, their middle linebacker isn't going to see the field much, but Heeney could be a Heath Farwell-esque special teamer as well. He could pretty easily fill the role that a guy like Jasper Brinkley currently fills for a whole lot less money.
Seventh Round (#204 overall) - John Crockett, RB, North Dakota State
WOO-HOO GO BISON! No, seriously, Crockett has all of the talent and ability to be playing on Sundays in the National Football League. He made a pretty favorable impression in the East-West Shrine Game, and earned himself a Combine invite. The Vikings might need to do something at the running back position, and at this point in the draft, Crockett is as good a selection as any.
In my opinion, the team would also have to look at a punter in the undrafted free agent signing scramble, as well as a long snapper, since I'm not sure I would bet on either Jeff Locke or Cullen Loeffler being back with the Vikings in 2015.
So, that's what I have as we go into the NFL Scouting Combine this coming week. What would your mock draft for the Vikings look like?