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An Adrian-less Offseason Plan for the Minnesota Vikings, with Vikings Mock Draft

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What can the Vikings look like if they traded Adrian Peterson and can the team be more competitive after trading away their greatest running back? We'll look at an offseason plan that includes re-signing, free agency and the draft.

We'll probably construct 8000 different offseason plans for our favorite team and virtually none of them will be accurate.

Aside from the fact that we can't predict draft-day trades or each team's big board, we have to acknowledge that teams have millions of combinations of options in free agency (to that point, they can sign anywhere between zero and, I don't know, ten free agents from a pool of 400 players).

So, we're going to be wrong.

That's OK, because it's fun to do and instructive to see the kinds of decisions a team will need to go through throughout an offseason to see why they acted a particular way.

At the very least, it's useful to see what kinds of constraints a team will have when they engage in offseason activity.

For the most part, I will attempt to keep things within the Vikings mold—which is to say I won't make "realistic" moves that I think the Vikings will make so much as make moves that I think fit the team the Vikings want to build.

Making Room

With that kind of freedom, my first move will be polarizing: trade Adrian Peterson!

He had a good year. He will probably continue to have a few good years. I think the team is (should?) be moving in a different direction and they're too afraid to trade him to make it happen. I, free of the constraints of accountability and loss aversion, will do it instead.

How much is Adrian worth?

I could write another long piece on the question, but I'll estimate that it's a little lower than it was a season ago. While the uncertainty about whether or not he could return to football and play well has been settled (therefore increasing his value), he's aged another year and 357 carries and has renewed fumbling concerns.

So while I estimated it was worth a mid-second round pick and a fourth-round pick or so, I'd figure him for a second-round pick flat at this point.

I really don't think they'll trade him, not just because of the atmosphere beat reporters are projecting regarding Adrian but also how ardent the Vikings were in keeping him.

Beyond that—and perhaps not as big a motivator in a front office seemingly (relatively) free of owner influence—€”opening a new stadium without the big draw Adrian provides is not an amazing business proposition.

It's not that I think Peterson is a bad fit for Bridgewater or vice versa, but rather that he's taking too much cap space for what he can offer and his production—€”though superficially impressive as the league's leading rusher—€”can for the most part either be replaced or sacrificed for improvement elsewhere.

Who do I trade him to? For the Vikings (the real team, headquartered in Eden Prairie), this is a super relevant question—we tend to ignore the other side of things for transactional fictions we engage in for these offseason plans, like whether a player will agree to sign or team wants to trade.

For me, it's less relevant. The Jets seem like a team that is surprisingly pretty close to being in the playoff discussion for next year. I doubt Ryan Fitzpatrick is a sustainably good quarterback or anything, but the Jets probably do. With an explosive offense and a powerful defense, Peterson might be the push they need to get over the Patriots in the AFC East.

They don't have the cap space for it, but this is an exercise for the Vikings, not the Jets. Mid-to-late second-round pick. It might as well be the Texans or Redskins, who pick just around the same spot.

The frees up $11 million in cap space, which moves them from $20.3 million to $31.3 million.

I'm also cutting Mike Wallace. Mike Zimmer loves him, and I see a restructure for him as a result. But if I get to construct an offseason plan, he's gone. I think his focus degraded over the season and he cannot provide enough of a spark to an offense to consider keeping him on over another promising young prospect or exciting vet.

$42.8 million.

Over forty million in space is nice, but there are a lot of things to get out of the way first.

Bringing Them Home

I don't want to "restructure" (cut pay) Sullivan or Loadholt like a number of people are implying. Loadholt is under contract for one more year—€”you can't restructure him without extending him, and extending him in a way that reduces his cap hit implies you want to be cash-tied to him in some way for a few years any way... in which case he's the kind of person you don't want to restructure anyway because he'll be a cog for some time. Sullivan's contract is up at the end of 2017.

Neither of them are extraordinary cap charges, anyway.

In fact, I'll include Loadholt on my list of extensions because tackles do not die at the age of 30 (it's his birthday in nine days!)—Sebastian Vollmer will assuredly be the New England tackle next year and he'll be 32. Doug Free is 32, Andrew Whitworth is 34, Erik Pears is 31 and Jason Peters is 33.

Loadholt should be relatively easy to extend because of his injury, so I think I can offer him the same contract (but in a new cap environment) for a four-year extension with limited guaranteed exposure in the final two years (basically, just the prorated signing bonus). The goal will be an average cap charge of $6.25 million. That won't consume more cap space, so we still have $42.8 million (realistically, the first year of an extension is cheaper, but we'll ignore that for simplicity).

Matt Kalil does deserve an extension as he's improved his play to become an average (or perhaps just below-average) level tackle. Beyond that, it may not have been Jeff Davidson who helped fix him in the first place. An outside consultant (legend Hudson Houck) was perhaps the coach who did the most with him, and maybe Tony Sparano can expand on that. Davidson's absence could be a blessing.

Left tackles are exceedingly difficult to find, and I can live with average, but not at $11 million—what he'll likely be paid as a result of his fifth-year option. I'll give him the contract that older vets without a ton of promise typically get, a bit under $4 million. He really has no leverage given that the Vikings might rather simply cut a guy before his contract is guaranteed (March 15th) to make a point about negotiations (for example, cutting Greg Jennings and absorbing a $6 million dead hit instead of taking Jennings' offer of $6 million).

That saves us about $7 million dollars, and I'll round down. $49.8 million.

I'll also extend Harrison Smith. He's a top safety, which is worth about $9 million a year. Realistically, he's worth more in a larger cap, but I'll put those in Pro Bowl/All-Pro incentives. Because those are "not likely to be earned" (calculated solely on the fact that he's not earned them, not because his level of play doesn't deserve it), they don't kick in this year.

Again, the first year of a contract costs less than the rest of the contract, but we'll stick with the averages for now. Theoretically, as an extension, this should kick in in 2017, but we'll replace the option year with it. He's a tough negotiator.

The option year pays him just under $5.3 million, so adding a little more than $3.7 million on brings us down from nearly $50 million to $46 million.

Before we get to re-signing and signing new free agents, we'll reserve $7 million for rookies (if the cap expands from $143 million to $150 million, the Vikings draft picks will cost around $6.7 million). I'll also keep a $3.5 million buffer, in keeping with what the Vikings have done over the past several years.

With that in mind, we're down to $35.5 million.

There are quite a few potential re-signings for the Vikings. With some issues at linebacker, safety, wide receiver, offensive line, tight end and now running back, I actually like signing a number of people that either I or other people have been less than pleased with.

At linebacker, I'm getting back both Chad Greenway and Audie Cole. Chad wants to come back, and I want backups. Greenway can probably be had for $3.5 million for one more year while I like Audie at about $2.6 million, which is about the contract that young players make when they can compete for a starting position but will likely be a backup.

At safety, I'll get two position converts: Terence Newman (like Chad, one year) and Josh Robinson. Robinson has all the physical traits of a safety, including high level quickness and great hitting ability. Maybe allowing him a half a second longer to read the field will help him. I think he has high-level potential as a backup and I still liked him at cornerback anyway.

That, and Josh Robinson is 25 years old—€”even though his birthday past by us twelve days ago.

I'm letting both Andrew Sendejo and Robert Blanton walk, which feels risky to me (Blanton is probably gone, but Sendejo can still be a backup) but we'll grab another safety in the draft or free agency to compete with Anthony Harris, Antone Exum, Newman and Robinson. We'll also get to fill out the team with fliers so who knows.

We'll get Newman at the same rate we had him before, but adjusted for the new cap ($2.36 million) and Josh Robinson at the level that young players who have not made it at safety do—$1.6 million.

Those four contracts bring us down to $25.4 million.

I think the Vikings need Mike Harris back. He's played excellently, and in some games was the best player on the line. Despite his one good year of play, I don't think he'll command much. More than Berger (just over $1 million) but less than more well-known quantities that hit the market.

It's hard to find comparable contracts to players in Harris' situation, but my guess is that the Vikings can have him for $1.9 million (average).

Tight end Rhett Ellison is also crucial in my eyes. He'll be harder to gauge because blocking tight ends are routinely underpaid compared to their equally well-performing receiving counterparts and because he still has a snap deficit to Kyle Rudolph by about 350 snaps.

The TE2 contracts I'm seeing that could be comparable to his snap count but high level of play range between $2 million (Niles Paul) and $3 million (Lee Smith). I'll pay on the higher end of that for his talent and the increased cap, at about $2.8 million.

Sure, that's more than a player who is more important who will get more snaps (Mike Harris), but that's how the NFL's weird market works. And Rhett is more versatile, while being more tested.

Zach Line and Adam Thielen are also technically free agents, though Line is a restricted free agent and Thielen is an exclusive rights free agent. I'm still not incredibly sold on Line as a fullback, but he's definitely improved so he deserves a shot in camp against whoever I'll get from the college ranks.

And we all love Thielen. He'll get the minimum for two years of experience (he has three years in the NFL, but only two "credited seasons" per the NFL definition) at $600,000.

As for Line, he'll get a bit more but not a ton. Matching Tyler Clutts makes sense at $745,000. For Line, it's a two-year contract, while Thielen will get three.

I think Marcus Sherels is a fantastic punt returner, so he gets one more contract. Jeremy Kerley and Dwayne Harris make $3.5 million a year, but Sherels himself only makes $1.1 million and Marc Mariani makes $610,000. I'm OK offering Sherels $1.3 million.

I really like how Matt Asiata has improved and he will compete for the second running back spot behind McKinnon, which will be a lightning/thunder-type combination. To me, he's become good enough to be as good as a typical RB2, which is a little below $2,000,000. Mike Tolbert and Reggie Bush make $2.5 million, while Chris Ivory, Rashad Jennings and DeAngelo Williams make $2,000,000. Darren McFadden made $1.5 million and Stevan Ridley garnered $1.25 million

Let's give Asiata $1.75 million because, despite his reputation as a banger more than a gasher, he's a great receiver and his pass protection capabilities make him complete enough to be useful on any down.

I'm also bringing back Kenrick Ellis and Justin Trattou at their minimums, $760,000. Because of the vet minimum rule, their cap hit is only $585,000.

We're at $15.2 million and 64 players (and that's after trading Peterson, cutting Wallace and freeing up $7 million of Kalil's contract). With another nine from the draft (or so—€”Spielman likes ten) and another ten from undrafted free agency, that puts us at 82.

One of those players is Austin Wentworth, who is retired. The Vikings will get a roster and cap exemption for him, so that's $15.4 million and 82 spots claimed. We only count the salaries of the top 51 players at the moment, so re-signing 12 players allows us to drop the 12 next-lowest contracts, bringing us back up to $21.7 million.

We have to add 8 players in free agency, most of whom will be added as camp bodies or minimum contracts.  This really restricts our ability to go after a player like Alshon Jeffery or Eric Weddle, but let's see what we can take care of before we do a big signing.

Here's the roster currently:

Offensive Depth Chart

QB

Teddy Bridgewater

Shaun Hill

Taylor Heinicke

HB

Jerick McKinnon

Matt Asiata

FB

Zach Line

Blake Renaud

WR1

Charles Johnson

Adam Thielen

WR2

Stefon Diggs

Isaac Fruechte

WR3

Jarius Wright

Cordarrelle Patterson

TE

Kyle Rudolph

Rhett Ellison

MyCole Pruitt

LT

Matt Kalil

Jeremiah Sirles

LG

Brandon Fusco

Joe Berger

C

John Sullivan

Zac Kerin

Nick Easton

RG

Mike Harris

Austin Shepherd

Isame Faciane

RT

Phil Loadholt

T.J. Clemmings

Defensive Depth Chart

RDE

Everson Griffen

Danielle Hunter

Justin Trattou

UT

Sharrif Floyd

Tom Johnson

Toby Johnson

NT

Linval Joseph

Shamar Stephen

Kenrick Ellis

LDE

Brian Robison

Scott Crichton

Zach Moore

B.J. Dubose

SLB

Anthony Barr

Edmond Robinson

Alex Singleton

MLB

Eric Kendricks

Audie Cole

WLB

Chad Greenway

Brandon Watts

Terrance Plummer

LCB

Trae Waynes

Jabari Price

SS

Antone Exum

Johnny Lowdermilk

Josh Robinson

FS

Harrison Smith

Anthony Harris

Terence Newman

RCB

Xavier Rhodes

Captain Munnerlyn

Marcus Sherels

*SCB

Captain Munnerlyn

Jabari Price

Marcus Sherels

Specialists

P

Jeff Locke

K

Blair Walsh

LS

Kevin McDermott

PR

Marcus Sherels

KR

Cordarrelle Patterson

And here are our moves:

Move

Player

Impact

Cap Space

-

-

$                             -

$  20,269,256.00

Trade

Adrian Peterson

$  11,000,000.00

$31,269,256.00

Cut

Mike Wallace

$  11,500,000.00

$42,769,256.00

Extend

Phil Loadholt

$                             -

$42,769,256.00

Extend

Matt Kalil

$    7,000,000.00

$49,769,256.00

Extend

Harrison Smith

$  (3,722,000.00)

$46,047,256.00

Draft

Rookies

$  (7,000,000.00)

$39,047,256.00

Buffer

-

$  (3,500,000.00)

$35,547,256.00

Re-sign

Chad Greenway

$  (3,500,000.00)

$32,047,256.00

Re-sign

Audie Cole

$  (2,666,000.00)

$29,381,256.00

Re-sign

Terence Newman

$  (2,362,500.00)

$27,018,756.00

Re-sign

Josh Robinson

$  (1,575,000.00)

$25,443,756.00

Re-sign

Mike Harris

$  (1,900,000.00)

$23,543,756.00

Re-sign

Rhett Ellison

$  (2,800,000.00)

$20,743,756.00

Re-sign

Adam Thielen

$      (600,000.00)

$20,143,756.00

Re-sign

Zach Line

$      (745,000.00)

$19,398,756.00

Re-sign

Marcus Sherels

$  (1,300,000.00)

$18,098,756.00

Re-sign

Matt Asiata

$  (1,750,000.00)

$16,348,756.00

Re-sign

Kenrick Ellis

$      (585,000.00)

$15,763,756.00

Re-sign

Justin Trattou

$      (585,000.00)

$15,178,756.00

51 Cut-off

-

$    6,544,760.00

$21,723,516.00

Retire

Austin Wentworth

$        600,000.00

$21,973,516.00

As I see it, the roster now has no issue at tight end, but we have glaring holes at wide receiver and linebacker, some questions at safety and along the offensive line and serious depth issues at running back and to some extent cornerback.

So the questions are whether or not to draft a stud at receiver or linebacker, or pursue a player in free agency at those spots. We've got one first-round pick and I'm not inclined to get another one, so if we want a first-round pick at either of the spots, we have to choose. If you think a good linebacker or receiver will drop into the second, it's not an issue.

For what it's worth, I had figured Jaylon Smith to be a second-round steal, but it seems like his recovery won't be as tumultuous as many originally feared.

Buying Depth

Let's see if we can buy some depth on the free agent market. We don't have to get starters, but people who can compete in camp and possibly grab the third running back spot. We'll grab a mid-round rookie, too, so we won't invest too much here.

For the most part I'll look for running backs in the Asiata mold, in that they can protect well and get it done in short situations while also providing some value as receivers (for example, not that he's available, David Cobb). That narrows down the list to Robert Turbin, Bernard Pierce, Chris Polk, Bryce Brown and Tim Hightower.

I'd like to get a young guy, and one who's reasonably athletic. That rules out Hightower, and to some degree Polk. There are additional problems with Polk—one that applies to Turbin and Pierce—he comes out of a zone-running scheme. I'm not ruling them out entirely because of that.

Beyond that, Pierce and Turbin are actually far worse in goal line situations than you'd think and I also think they'd go to a place where they can really compete for a #1 spot, even if it seems like neither of them are particularly great. Given that Brown has more experience with both running schemes and is quite a bit more athletic, I'll give the nod to Brown.

So, Brown gets $760,000 for one year as a player with four accrued seasons (and get this, he's only 24). His cap hit, because of the veteran's minimum rule, is only $585,000.

I also want a flier, so I'll get Jarryd Hayne because it's fun. He'll cost rookie minimum, which means he won't count against the cap as he won't crack the top 51.

We'll get two rookies, so that means we'll enter camp with six running backs, like last year.

Last year's camp had ten linebackers and the Vikings have eight now, so while I wouldn't be surprised if the Vikings grabbed a flier at LB in free agency, I'll ignore that for now.

I like the Vikings tight end group, so I'll add only one rookie and a vet flier. We could get Chase Ford back (I'd approve), but he's a restricted rights free agent (as is Zach Sudfeld, another interesting name). We'll go after James Hanna, a 26-year-old tight end who last played for the Cowboys and is extremely athletic (think along the lines of Jerick McKinnon and Christine Michael).

Vet minimum for him too, costing a cap charge of $585,000.

The Vikings entered training camp last year with 16 bodies along the offensive line and we have 12. I'm OK making all the new guys rookies.

That means, out of 19 rookie spots I've saved, I've got four for offensive linemen, two for linebackers, one for a tight end and two for running backs.

The Vikings entered camp last year with 15 defensive linemen and they have 13 now, but I don't see a reason to grab any in free agency. It's a good group, possibly supplemented by a rookie if there's room (after all, supersub Tom Johnson is getting up there in age).

With five cornerbacks instead of the nine they had this last year or the ten they had the year before, there are some players they'll need to add there, especially because I'm not counting Newman or Robinson among those players.

I really like Sterling Moore, so it's him. He's versatile, very athletic, and still young. $900,000 to him and a minimum contract for Crezdon Butler who can be described in much the same way (but not as good). As a result, he'll only incur a charge of $585,000.

We've scrimped and saved and bought what I think is reasonable depth. We've got some room to make some splashes, but before we do that, I'm going to get one more dude at safety.

Shooting For Stars

I'm not concerned about depth at cornerback if two of the potential safeties are Newman and Robinson because they both know the scheme at cornerback well enough to switch back if need be.

In that case, I'll load up on defensive backs again, but this time at safety to have a real competition there.

So, George Iloka it is. I like the fact that he'll only be 26 when the season starts and has recently come into his own, playing at either safety spot but especially as a good fit for strong safety. He reads offenses well and uses his length well in conjunction with his eyes and instincts. His strength allows him to work through blocks or be explosive at the point of attack and he doesn't sacrifice a lot of technique for it.

Safeties can be had for surprisingly cheap even if they're good—it's only the elites that really break the bank. I wouldn't be surprised if he could be had for under $3.5 million a year, but we'll go with $3.6 to be safe.

After dropping the bottom seven contracts once more (Hayne already wouldn't count but our next signing will), we're at $19.6 million.

Well, that's enough to get Alshon Jeffery. How much will his contract be? I'm not sure, but less than that. Let's say it's $11,000,000 or something for accounting purposes.

Sidenote: I don't think he'll hit the market, but this is what we have right now, so I'll go for it.

That gives us $8.6 million to play with even after we spent big on Jeffery, paid a modest amount for Iloka and re-signed most of the outgoing free agents while accounting for depth. Let's get another weapon. We'll get one in the draft, too, and then worry about having too many receivers.

Marvin Jones has "lost" value to a lot of people, especially fantasy folk, because he hasn't produced a 100-yard game this year and only has four touchdowns on the year, losing his spot early in the preseason (before very quickly regaining it) to Mohamed Sanu.

800 yards isn't bad, and Jones can be an excellent backup to Stefon Diggs insofar as he can create in third down situations and in compressed fields. He has fantastic hands and a large catch radius, all while playing physically at the catch point. With him, Diggs and Jeffery, I'll be happy.

Generally speaking, his production should net about $2.8 million but I'm expecting more because of his age and athletic profile, so $3.1 million seems right to me.

The remaining $6M+ (because $600,000 comes off the books thanks to the Top 51 rule) will be a useful addition to the $3M buffer we already created and will give the Vikings the flexibility they need if they encounter injuries throughout the season (or provide excellent rollover cap space and ammo for a Super Bowl run in 2017).

Roster so far:

Offensive Depth Chart

QB

Teddy Bridgewater

Shaun Hill

Taylor Heinicke

HB

Jerick McKinnon

Matt Asiata

Bryce Brown

Jarryd Hayne

FB

Zach Line

Blake Renaud

WR1

Alshon Jeffery

Charles Johnson

WR2

Stefon Diggs

Adam Thielen

Isaac Fruechte

WR3

Marvin Jones

Jarius Wright

Cordarrelle Patterson

TE

Kyle Rudolph

Rhett Ellison

MyCole Pruitt

James Hanna

LT

Matt Kalil

Jeremiah Sirles

LG

Brandon Fusco

Joe Berger

C

John Sullivan

Zac Kerin

Nick Easton

RG

Mike Harris

Austin Shepherd

Isame Faciane

RT

Phil Loadholt

T.J. Clemmings

Defensive Depth Chart

RDE

Everson Griffen

Danielle Hunter

Justin Trattou

UT

Sharrif Floyd

Tom Johnson

Toby Johnson

NT

Linval Joseph

Shamar Stephen

Kenrick Ellis

LDE

Brian Robison

Scott Crichton

Zach Moore

B.J. Dubose

SLB

Anthony Barr

Edmond Robinson

Alex Singleton

MLB

Eric Kendricks

Audie Cole

WLB

Chad Greenway

Brandon Watts

Terrance Plummer

LCB

Trae Waynes

Sterling Moore

Jabari Price

Crezdon Butler

SS

George Iloka

Antone Exum

Johnny Lowdermilk

Josh Robinson

FS

Harrison Smith

Anthony Harris

Terence Newman

RCB

Xavier Rhodes

Captain Munnerlyn

Marcus Sherels

*SCB

Captain Munnerlyn

Jabari Price

Sterling Moore

Marcus Sherels

Specialists

P

Jeff Locke

K

Blair Walsh

LS

Kevin McDermott

PR

Marcus Sherels

KR

Cordarrelle Patterson

And the moves we've made so far.

Move

Player

Impact

Cap Space

-

-

$                               -

$  20,269,256.00

Trade

Adrian Peterson

$    11,000,000.00

$31,269,256.00

Cut

Mike Wallace

$    11,500,000.00

$42,769,256.00

Extend

Phil Loadholt

$                               -

$42,769,256.00

Extend

Matt Kalil

$      7,000,000.00

$49,769,256.00

Extend

Harrison Smith

$    (3,722,000.00)

$46,047,256.00

Draft

Rookies

$    (7,000,000.00)

$39,047,256.00

Buffer

-

$    (3,500,000.00)

$35,547,256.00

Re-sign

Chad Greenway

$    (3,500,000.00)

$32,047,256.00

Re-sign

Audie Cole

$    (2,666,000.00)

$29,381,256.00

Re-sign

Terence Newman

$    (2,362,500.00)

$27,018,756.00

Re-sign

Josh Robinson

$    (1,575,000.00)

$25,443,756.00

Re-sign

Mike Harris

$    (1,900,000.00)

$23,543,756.00

Re-sign

Rhett Ellison

$    (2,800,000.00)

$20,743,756.00

Re-sign

Adam Thielen

$        (600,000.00)

$20,143,756.00

Re-sign

Zach Line

$        (745,000.00)

$19,398,756.00

Re-sign

Marcus Sherels

$    (1,300,000.00)

$18,098,756.00

Re-sign

Matt Asiata

$    (1,750,000.00)

$16,348,756.00

Re-sign

Kenrick Ellis

$        (585,000.00)

$15,763,756.00

Re-sign

Justin Trattou

$        (585,000.00)

$15,178,756.00

51 rule

-

$      6,544,760.00

$21,723,516.00

Retire

Austin Wentworth

$          600,000.00

$22,323,516.00

Sign

Bryce Brown

$        (585,000.00)

$21,738,516.00

Sign

Jarryd Hayne

$        (450,000.00)

$21,288,516.00

Sign

James Hanna

$        (585,000.00)

$20,703,516.00

Sign

Sterling Moore

$        (900,000.00)

$19,803,516.00

Sign

Crezdon Butler

$        (585,000.00)

$19,218,516.00

Sign

George Iloka

$    (3,600,000.00)

$15,618,516.00

Sign

Alshon Jeffery

$  (11,000,000.00)

$4,618,516.00

Sign

Marvin Jones

$    (3,100,000.00)

$1,518,516.00

51 rule

-

$      4,587,647.00

$6,106,163.00

Rough Draft

Now to the draft! I haven't really studied these players, nor do I have a good feel for the position they'll be available at, but I'll use Draftek to figure out who will be available at what spots.

At pick 23 I won't trade down or up. Instead, Draftek tells me that receiver Josh Doctson, receiver Michael Thomas, linebacker Jaylon Smith, linebacker Scooby Wright, linebacker Darron Lee, offensive lineman Germain Ifedi, safety Darian Thompson, safety Vonn Bell, and safety Jayron Kearse are available.

I'll admit to lacking creativity and go with who Draftek selected, Jaylon Smith. With the news that Jaylon Smith may not have nerve damage at all, his torn knee ligaments are much smaller problems than initially thought. His recovery will have variable recovery time, but the earliest would be June, in which case he would participate in virtually all offseason activities. At the latest, he'll recover by early September and join the team partway through the season, not getting playing time until perhaps November.

Here's CBS' scouting report:

STRENGTHS: He is a greased up athlete with natural twitch and flexibility, showing balance, burst and excellent speed in pursuit. Scouts are enthralled with Smith's explosiveness and it isn't difficult to understand why.
He reads plays quickly and keeps his eyes glued on the ball to collect himself in space and burst toward the ballcarrier with excellent closing speed. Shows tremendous secondary quickness to unhook himself from blocks and make up ground in a flash.

He might be the nation's most forceful tackler, generating incredible power to knock ballcarriers back. Smith is every bit as fast and fluid as he is powerful, however, slipping by (or leaping over) would-be blockers in the running game and dropping effectively in coverage.

It is the ability to play back in coverage and rush the passer that makes Smith such an exciting prospect, as proponents of the 4-3 and 3-4, alike, will see him as a true three down defender.

WEAKNESSES: Smith lacks elite take-on strength for the position and can be late to stack-and-shed.

IN OUR VIEW: In today's ultra-specialized NFL, defenses routinely substitute powerful linebackers on running downs and faster, more agile defenders on obvious passing plays. Teams won't have to swap Smith out, however. Along with injured UCLA outside linebacker Myles Jack (also a projected top 10 pick), Smith is the most versatile and pro-ready linebacker in the country.

With the pick received from the Adrian Peterson trade, pick 51, I'll trade down. It looks like there could be a run at receiver and though that's tempting to partake in, I'll trade with Kansas City for picks 59, 123 and a future fourth. It seems like a lot for eight spots, but that's the trade chart I guess.

For pick 54 I'd love to pick running back Paul Perkins but I suspect that he won't fit in as well into the Sparano running game as well as I'd like him to nor would he present the kind of complementary threat to Jerick McKinnon. Instead, I'll trade down for a final time, this time to Cleveland because that would fulfill some unusual prophecy. We'd get picks 65 and 96 and swap picks 118 and 129.

With pick 59, I'll take safety Karl Joseph. Injury robbed him of a stock-building year, but many expected him to declare a year ago and get drafted relatively high. He's a phenomenal player who can be a ball-hawk or a run-thumper. This is very high in the Draftek order, but I like him here because of how well he's played and his improvement in 2015 before the injury. CBS has a limited scouting report that I'll quote, but I'll lead with Silver and Black Pride's report:

Strengths:

There are a few words that accurately describe Karl Joseph: playmaker, ball-hawk, leader. He has become one of my favorite players to watch among the 2016 NFL Draft class because of his aggressive playing style. Though he is just 5'11", 197 pounds, he hits like a freight train. He flies to the football consistently and shows impressive pursuit.

Joseph is the team captain of West Virginia and when he makes a play, it sparks the entire defense. He is the leader of the defense which is an important quality in a safety.

In his first three seasons, Joseph was a force in run defense but struggled in pass coverage. Through three games, he has made a significant leap in his coverage skills and already has four interceptions.

Joseph is a four-year starter and has a lot of experience playing against top competition, including last season against Alabama when led the team with 18 tackles.

Weaknesses:

Joseph's biggest weakness is his size as he is an undersized safety with a thin frame. While I do not think his size will impact his performance in the NFL due to his aggression and physicality, injuries could be a concern against bigger and faster competition. Joseph has yet to suffer a major injury in his four years at West Virginia, but the NFL is a whole different ball game.

Final Verdict:

Karl Joseph checks the box on everything I look for in a safety. He is physical, aggressive, a tackling machine, a leader, and of late has shown excellent coverage skills. I would project he is drafted in the 10-20 range next April. If the Raiders end up in the middle of the first round, Joseph could be a wise pick for them and immediately upgrade their secondary.

This is what CBS said last June:

Pound-for-pound one of the most physical players in the country, Joseph doesn't have ideal size, but he plays much bigger and tougher than he looks. He loves violent contact and times his hits well to jar the ball loose, accounting for eight forced fumbles over his career.

Joseph has quick reflexes to make explosive decisions and movements, shooting out of a cannon with an aggressive play style and never attacking half-speed. He strikes through his target and is a big hit waiting to happen, but he doesn't consistently wrap and will take wild angles at times.

IN OUR VIEW: Although he has room to develop in coverage, Joseph enters the 2015 season as one of the best senior safety prospects in the country.

For pick 65, I'll take another receiver. This time it's Oklahoma's underrated receiver Sterling Shepard. Aside from leading Matt Harmon's Reception Perception work (cataloging how often a receiver gets open based on the All-22), he's drawn raves from scouts despite his size. CBS:

STRENGTHS: Coordinated athlete with electric feet off the line of scrimmage and at the top of his route to gain separation and give his quarterback a target. He has quick eyes to make snap decision, tracking the ball well to make tough grabs look easy. He displays quick feet and movements at the line of scrimmage to avoid press and works well in tight spaces with his shifty moves and quick eyes.

Shepard is a nightmare to cover because he possesses the straight-line speed to beat defenders over the top, as well as the quickness and balance to change directions in a flash. He shows soft, reliable hands to pluck the ball outside of his frame, as well as the awareness and toughness to "body catch" when necessary to protect the ball.

Brings additional value with punt return experience.

WEAKNESSES: Shepard has an undersized frame that makes him often out-matched vs. physical corners. Quicker than he is fast.

IN OUR VIEW: Shepard has shown toughness throughout his career and frankly, he'll need to continue to play with this chip on his shoulder to enjoy similar success at the next level.

I could see him rotating with Jarius Wright early on in an attempt to learn Marvin Jones' role. The future of the team for the next four years will hopefully involve all five of Alshon, Stefon, Marvin, Sterling and Jarius. The idea is to challenge teams for having the best receiver corps in the league over those four years.

For pick 86, I'll take Austin Hooper and gamble that the team could do better with four tight ends than three. I really like Kyle Rudolph, but his inability to grow within the offense is frustrating and his constant injuries are a worry. Hooper will take some time before he can see the field because he'll have to add to his build, but he has good speed and is a fluid player who can block well. While CBS (scouting report in a second) thinks he's more of a "move" tight end, sort of in the mold of Rhett Ellison, I think he can do quite a bit.

STRENGTHS: Possesses an athletic, lanky frame with broad shoulders and long limbs that should be able to withstand another 10-15 pounds of muscle without a significant loss of quickness. Surprisingly effective in-line blocker given his age and build.

Possesses long arms and strong hands to latch onto the chest plate of opponents, showing tenacity and strength to lock on and sustain blocks. Slips off the line and shows good awareness and enough agility to adjust to moving targets and make the block, turning and sealing defenders with good core strength, knee bend and awareness of where his teammates.

Accelerates smoothly and possesses good balance and agility to generate separation as a route-runner. Collects the ball easily, showing good hands, as well as the hand-eye coordination to pluck from outside of his frame. Determined runner after the catch, lowering his shoulder and spinning through would-be tacklers for additional yardage. Intriguing prospect whose best football still lies ahead of him.

WEAKNESSES: Not yet the sum of his parts and may need a year in an NFL weight room before seeing significant time on the field. Accelerates smoothly but doesn't possess ideal initial quickness, often being the last of Stanford's "linemen" off the ball.

Questionable straight-line speed to challenge down the seam and is forced to swing his arms, at times, to maintain balance. Quite effective in a complementary role for the Cardinal but was never the featured target.

With pick 96, I'll finally take a running back to pair with McKinnon and it will be another player who fell because of injury. Between the two Arkansas running backs, Alex Collins is currently the more popular of the two, but I think that Jonathan Williams is not only better, but a much better fit for the offense. Eric Galko has a great piece on him that was published shortly after the injury. From that piece:

Despite the near-identical stat lines, Collins and Williams play two very distinct styles. Collins relies on an explosive first cut and general quickness to elude defender, as opposed to Williams' approach of running between tackles and overpowering would-be tacklers with his size and strength.

And from CBS:

STRENGTHS: He runs light for his 224-pound build with the body strength to run through arm tackles, lowering his pads and driving his legs to pick up tough yards between the tackles. Shifty feet and clean lateral burst to juke and quickly regain his momentum.

WEAKNESSES: Has a bad habit of running upright. Foot surgery leaves 2015 status in doubt, and the injury will lead to extensive medical checks.

IN OUR VIEW: He was set to enter the 2015 season as one of the top senior running backs on the NFL radar, but his August foot injury leaves Williams' long-term status uncertain.

I expect him to work out at the combine and perform well.

For pick 129, I'll pick a lineman I wouldn't have expected to be here. Spencer Drango, one of the top offensive linemen in college football. Here's what CBS says:

STRENGTHS: Plays with a wide base with easy natural quickness in his kick-slide, positioning himself to stonewall rushers with brick hands. Relies on timing and awareness and is rarely caught on off-balance with a quick-thinking approach that limits his mistakes.

WEAKNESSES: Very few holes to his game, but Nov. 2013 back surgery is a bright red flag and definitely something to monitor. If healthy and there are no long-term concerns, he has the overall ability to compete to be the top tackle drafted.

COMPARES TO: Zach Martin, Cowboys -- Drango has an impressive NFL skillset as the game appears to come very easily to him, but he projects best inside at the next level.

IN OUR VIEW: Although his transition from Baylor's spread offense to pro-style will be a sizeable challenge, Drango has the skills to fight for first round status this season.

That's quite a comparison, but obviously his "drop" from when CBS wrote the report in May to the 129th pick in this mock is indicative of something. He, like Cyril Richardson, earned Big 12 Offensive Lineman of the Year for two consecutive years, and was an Outland Trophy finalist. Richardson is currently a practice squad/reserve member for the Bills, so success in Baylor's system doesn't necessarily translate, but I think his skillset is worth exploring even if it's nearly the opposite scheme in Minnesota.

With pick 139, I'll add to the cornerback depth by selecting Minnesota's own Eric Murray.

STRENGTHS: Murray, who lines up as the boundary corner, doesn't stand out in one particular category, but he is very well-rounded with good size, speed and physicality for the position. He plays with confidence and is well-versed in press, off and zone coverages, showing off his versatility as a reliable run defender and blitzer.

With only one career interception, Murray doesn't receive much attention on a national level, but he has 18 passes defended over his 26 starts the past two seasons and is lauded by Minnesota coaches for his work ethic and competitive drive on and off the field, also excelling on special teams.

CBS' scouting report isn't far off, and he should be great dime depth. His athleticism isn't great but as a special-teamer and run defender, he's pretty astounding.

I'll get back to the offensive line at pick 148, where I'll take center Evan Boehm. If John Sullivan's injury is truly career-ending, Boehm should be NFL-ready (and if not, I have a lot of faith in Zac Kerin, and it should be a good competition between the two):

STRENGTHS: Unlike many of today's collegiate centers who enter the NFL a little lighter and weaker at the point of attack than preferred, Boehm sports the powerful, thick frame well-suited to winning battles at the line of scrimmage. Frankly, he looks like a Coke machine with arms, legs and helmet. The vast majority of the snaps he makes in this scheme are shotgun, but there is little finesse to Boehm's game as he routinely drives opponents off the ball with impressive upper body strength and leg drive.

He locates opponents quickly when blocking at the second level, taking efficient routes to the action and latching on. He sustains blocks well, keeping his feet moving on contact and demonstrating the tenacity scouts love.

Boehm slides well laterally in pass protection and anchors well, bending his knees and showing the core strength and flexibility to handle bull rushers. A former high school wrestling champion, Boehm's comfort in close quarters and understanding of leverage are clear on tape.

WEAKNESSES: Boehm isn't a dynamic athlete. He'll also occasionally drop his head on contact and given that he doesn't have elite height, this leaves him a bit vulnerable to swim moves.

Around this time of the draft, the Vikings typically pick a hyper-athletic, undersized linebacker who's good on special teams. It just so happens that in this mock, Deion Jones is available at pick 162. Here's what CBS says about him (and in fairness, they wrote this in October and have him in the second round):

STRENGTHS: Numbers don't do his play justice as the tape shows a highly active and instinctive linebacker with the athletic range to be a three-down player. Jones has above average reactive athleticism to trust what he sees, work off blocks and drive to his target to secure the tackle.

He also does a nice job in coverage with decisive, smooth strides to stick with tight ends, even lining up at cornerback on some snaps.

IN OUR VIEW: Jones, who also plays on special teams coverages, doesn't have any obvious flaws and is considered one of the smartest players on the team ? his NFL arrow is pointing north.

Whew!

The Vikings also typically select a pass-rusher early on. I did not do that, so I'll take Jamal Palmer here at pick 208, He's technically not available in the mock (he went at pick 206) but I think this late in the draft we can allow some minor wiggle room. I can't find a good enough scouting report on him to convey how much I like him, but I remember attempting to do some preseason scouting in college this last summer with some members of draft twitter and we looked at Shawn Oakman. Instead, we were impressed by Jamal Palmer, who did a fantastic job generating pressure and setting the edge.

I couldn't find anything about him that broke him down (just yet) but the reason (in my head, anyway) he didn't generate buzz throughout the season was an early October ACL tear.

Finally, we go back to the offensive line and pick a guard, this time I'll take Boehm's teammate Connor McGovern at pick 212. CBS:

STRENGTHS: McGovern's strength is his strength. He will emerge as one of the strongest prospects in this draft class regardless of position and possibly the strongest of all linemen. McGovern is a weight room warrior, bench pressing over 500 pounds and 225 pounds 40 times. He also broke school records in the squat (690 pounds five times) and reportedly squatted 785 pounds.

More important, he can translate that strength to the football field. For his size and with all that bulk, McGovern can surprisingly move well and can get to the second level. He does have good, nimble feet. McGovern gets out of his stance well and can drive defenders off the ball. He shows good awareness in zone blocking.

In pass pro, McGovern sets quickly and can slide his feet to mirror and stay in front of defenders. He's best in phone booth, where he can eat up defenders in tight quarters.

WEAKNESSES: Has more difficulty with the speedy and quick players, particularly on the edge. He does have some stiffness, which is not surprising considering his strength. McGovern is not a truly natural bender.

IN OUR VIEW: McGovern could be a late-round steal for someone. While he does have a future on the interior, McGovern has shown he can play both tackle spots in a pinch, which will only increase his value in the NFL. He has the size and strength that should translate well in the NFL power game on the inside.

These are the players I'll take in UDFA:

Position

Player

School

QB

Marquise Williams

North Carolina

HB

Tra Carson

Texas A&M

FB

Glenn Gronkowski

Kansas State

WR

Kolby Listenbee

TCU

OT

Shon Coleman

Auburn

DT

Montravious Adams

Auburn

DT

Eddie Vanderdoes

UCLA

CB

Arjen Colquhoun

Michigan State

That UDFA class is simply too phenomenal to exist but if Draftek lets me have them, I will take them.

My opinions on all of these players may change as I actually look into them over the course of the offseason, but for now, here's the final roster, with all the new additions bolded:

Offensive Depth Chart

QB

Teddy Bridgewater

Shaun Hill

Taylor Heinicke

Marquise WIlliams

HB

Jerick McKinnon

Matt Asiata

Jonathan Williams

Tra Carson

Bryce Brown

Jarryd Hayne

FB

Zach Line

Blake Renaud

Glenn Gronkowski

WR1

Alshon Jeffery

Charles Johnson

Adam Thielen

Kolby Listenbee

WR2

Stefon Diggs

Sterling Shepard

Isaac Fruechte

WR3

Marvin Jones

Jarius Wright

Cordarrelle Patterson

TE

Kyle Rudolph

Rhett Ellison

Austin Hooper

MyCole Pruitt

James Hanna

LT

Matt Kalil

Jeremiah Sirles

Spencer Drango

LG

Brandon Fusco

Joe Berger

Evan Boehm

Connor McGregor

C

John Sullivan

Zac Kerin

Nick Easton

RG

Mike Harris

Austin Shepherd

Isame Faciane

RT

Phil Loadholt

T.J. Clemmings

Shon Coleman

Defensive Depth Chart

RDE

Everson Griffen

Danielle Hunter

Justin Trattou

Jamal Palmer

UT

Sharrif Floyd

Tom Johnson

Toby Johnson

Eddie Vanderdoes

NT

Linval Joseph

Shamar Stephen

Kenrick Ellis

Montravious Adams

LDE

Brian Robison

Scott Crichton

Zach Moore

B.J. Dubose

SLB

Anthony Barr

Edmond Robinson

Alex Singleton

MLB

Eric Kendricks

Audie Cole

Terrance Plummer

WLB

Jaylon Smith

Chad Greenway

Brandon Watts

Deion Jones

LCB

Trae Waynes

Sterling Moore

Jabari Price

Crezdon Butler

Arjen Colquhoun

SS

George Iloka

Karl Joseph

Antone Exum

Johnny Lowdermilk

FS

Harrison Smith

Anthony Harris

Terence Newman

Josh Robinson

RCB

Xavier Rhodes

Captain Munnerlyn

Marcus Sherels

Eric Murray

*SCB

Captain Munnerlyn

Jabari Price

Sterling Moore

Marcus Sherels

Specialists

P

Jeff Locke

K

Blair Walsh

LS

Kevin McDermott

PR

Marcus Sherels

Sterling Shepard

Stefon Diggs

KR

Cordarrelle Patterson

Marcus Sherels

Stefon Diggs

Sterling Shepard