Hi kids, how are we doing? Pardon my scarcity the past couple weeks, but work took me to Alaska for a couple weeks. Between teaching, jet lag, and checking out the sights and a fantastic restaurant/micro brew scene in Anchorage, I didn't have a lot of spare time.
Anyway, I'm back. For better or worse. So pick your side on that one.
Since there's only one game left to play in the 2015 NFL season, and our beloved Purple and Gold aren't playing in it, we turn our attention to the seemingly endless mock drafts and the speculation they contain. Because after Sunday, real, meaningful football doesn't occur again until July, some five plus months away.
Yay. Le sigh...
Anyway, SB Nation's draft guru, Dan Kadar, has a new mock draft out, and in it, he projects a solid pick for the Minnesota Vikings:
23. Minnesota Vikings: Jack Conklin, OT, Michigan State
Minnesota has some obvious needs on the offensive line, especially at guard. Although Conklin was a guard for the entirety of his career at Michigan State, he has the power move inside to guard if needed. For Minnesota, he could start there, or push Matt Kalil off the left tackle spot.
Now, let's put things in context, at least from my point of view. I think OL is the biggest area of need coming into the draft for the Vikings, other than maybe safety. Conklin isn't my top offensive lineman, that's reserved for Laremy Tunsil (Ole Miss), Ronnie Stanley (Notre Dame), and Taylor Decker (Ohio State WOOOOOOOOOOOO). But according to Dan, Tunsil and Stanley are long gone (first and third overall) and he has Decker going at 20 overall to the New York Jets.
I completely agree that both Tunsil and Stanley go off the board very early, and the Vikings have no shot at either one. Not sure if I see Stanley going as high as third overall, but definitely a top 10 pick; 5-7'ish feels more his range right now. I do like Decker over Conklin, though, and not because he's an OSU kid--I just think he's better. And depending on how the board falls, I can easily see Decker being there at 23 and the Vikings snatching him up. The only upside for Conklin over Decker is that although Conklin was a tackle at MSU, scouts feel he is good enough to transition to guard in the NFL, and could slide into that job on the Vikings line. Does that also translate to 'not athletic enough to be a tackle in the NFL?' I don't think so, but I don't know.
But that said, Mike Harris played pretty well, and I don't think the Vikings are going to replace Brandon Fusco with a rookie, even though Fusco struggled mightily at times in the switch from RG to LG. However, Harris is an unrestricted free agent, and could leave for another team. I am of the opinion the Vikings will make him a priority to re-sign, though, and predict he remains in the fold. And really, really smart people agree with me, so there.
So, let's assume Phil Loadholt and John Sullivan both come back--not a given by any means, but let's just play out the hypothetical--and Kalil is signed to an extension, which probably happens. You've got a pretty decent starting five as the band gets back together with Kalil, Fusco, Sully, Harris, and Loadholt on the line, with really solid depth as Joe Berger moves back to super sub, and the Vikings get a guy like Conklin in the first round. The offensive line is, for all intents and purposes, fixed. At least on paper. You've got a quality starting five, and solid depth to back them up. Minnesota has shown patience in letting first round picks mature and develop, as that was the plan for Teddy Bridgewater until Matt Cassel got hurt, and for CB Trae Waynes this past season. So it's not out of the realm of possibility for the Vikings to draft a guy like Conklin, and do with him what they wanted to do with Teddy, and what they did do with Waynes.
With Loadholt and Sullivan north of 30 and coming off significant injuries, there's no given one or both WILL be back, so in that scenario OL is the number one priority going away. In that scenario, Conklin (or Decker, who played both LT and RT at OSU) could slide in and compete for the RT spot immediately.
Other options to consider:
Wide Receiver: Lots of chatter amongst Vikings faithful that WR is a bigger priority than offensive line. I don't disagree that it's a need, especially if the Vikings part ways with Mike Wallace. Michael Thomas (Ohio State WOOOOOOOOO) and Josh Doctson (TCU) are guys people like to project to the Vikings here. As an OSU fan, I love Thomas, but it's a lukewarm pick for me, at best. Doctson would be the better pick if WR is the route here, but with the way things have worked (or haven't worked, actually) for Cordarrelle Patterson, I wouldn't be surprised if the Vikings are a bit gun shy about using a first round pick on a WR again. Oh, Dan has Thomas gone at 16 overall to Detroit to replace Megatron, and Doctson has fallen out of his first round. The #1 overall WR, Laquon Treadwell, is long gone at 7.
Safety: The only player that Dan has at safety going in the first round is Jalen Ramsey of Florida State, but he's off the board early. I'm a big Vonn Bell fan (three guesses as to where he played college ball), but unless he really wows scouts at the NFL Combine or his pro day, Bell feels like a second or third round pick right now. I don't see a Harrison Smith-type player there at 23 for the Vikings, but another OSU defensive back--CB Eli Apple, is projected to be on the board. Can I see a scenario where the Vikings take another CB, re-sign Terrence Newman and move him to safety for a year to address the need short term, and go with a CB depth of Xavier Rhodes, Waynes, Captain Munnerlyn, and a kid like Apple? I do, but I still think OL should be the priority. CB depth overall is really solid, especially with the way Waynes played when he was on the field, but to address the need at safety without sacrificing overall CB depth is a possibility. Also, this joke:
Do you like apples? HOW DO LIKE THAT APPLE WOOOOOOOOOOO
would be used by me to the point of you wishing death upon me and my family. Or, at a minimum, loss of Internet access. Permanently. So you better hope it doesn't come to fruition. Fruition...fruit...apple...HOW DO YOU LIKE THEM APPLES?
See what I mean? Also, I just trademarked that joke. No one else can use it unless you pay me royalties.
Eli Apple joke, copyright Ted Glover.
Running Back: There's only one running back worth going after in the first round, and that's Ezekiel Elliott of...say it with me...Ohio State. Just so we're clear, I think Adrian Peterson is still on the roster in 2016, for a couple reasons--a) he had one hell of a year, and b) when the Vikings re-negotiated his contract, it was with an eye on two years, not one. That said, I understand the sentiment of moving on from AP and turning this offense over to Teddy.
Bridgewater is a lot more comfortable throwing out of the shotgun, and Peterson is more comfortable running out of a traditional offense. Elliott ran extremely well out of a spread formation at OSU, and with a combination of Elliott and Jerrick McKinnon, I think the offense overall will be more effective. Take note that I am NOT saying Elliott/McKinnon are better than Peterson individually. I am saying the offense will be more diverse and harder to defend when you can run and pass effectively from one formation, and a running back by committee headlined by Elliott and McKinnon would be a very solid running back tandem. Are we good here? Good.
Wildcard possibilities: Shalique Calhoun, DE/OLB, Michigan St, or Shaq Lawson, DE, Clemson. Defensive end and linebacker really aren't needs, unless you're of the opinion guys like Brian Robison and Chad Greenway won't return. Still, with the way Danielle Hunter and Eric Kendricks played this past season, these are depth needs, at best, so is adding depth in the first round aomething you want to do? I don't think so, which is why DE or LB here is a longshot. But Mike Zimmer is a defensive guy, and if either one of these guys are still on the board, as Dan projects them to be, you can argue they are the best players available remaining, regardless of position. So although this seems like a remote possibility, I'm not discounting it 100%.
TL;DR--Ted wants the Vikings to draft an Ohio State player, damn it.