It's draft day. Well, for most of the NFL at least. But as the Vikings prepare to dip into the talent pool starting in round 2, I have a few thoughts. First, no tradeups please. I think this draft has a sweet spot in rounds 3 and 4 that I don't want to sacrifice. Secondly, let's not get paralyzed by need picks that can lead to missing out on better talent for the sake of an OK player at a position of need. Focus on talent, right?
We start off at pick 48, which as we all know is round 2. Here I am actually hoping to trade back. But as has been the case the past few drafts, I think the Vikings are open to it but find no trade partners. I don't see big value picks at positions fitting the top two needs (3-tech DT and OL) so I am sitting and waiting for someone to fall. Someone always does. So do the Vikings like the guy enough?
Round 2, pick 48 overall: Zach Cunningham, ILB/OLB, Vanderbilt
"Are you nuts? We don't need a linebacker!!! (yes, we do) "And any linebacker we use this high a pick on will only play 2 downs!!!" (not necessarily)
Look, I get the consternation. But if Cunningham falls to 48 we have a definite BPA candidate here, and it does intersect with what I would call the third biggest need for this team. Also, I understand the whole nickel situation. But did anyone pay attention to what Indy did last year to keep Zimmer's defense in base? Why did they work to do that? To keep the defense's weak link on the field.
What if that weak link becomes a premier athlete who can blitz and drop in coverage? I think Cunningham would finally give the Vikings three ultra-athletic linebackers and provide position flexibility. Many sites list him as an inside linebacker. But others list him as OLB. I would envision his movement skills and length being a weapon for Zimmer at WLB. Big upgrade to the LB corps, which has had injury issues. I want talent. If you are good enough, the discussion changes about who comes off the field. And let's stop overstating how many snaps we're talking about in base. And focus on winning first down.
Round 3, pick 79 overall: Isaac Asiata, OG, Utah
The reason I would have been looking to move down from pick 48 was to try to get Dorian Johnson (guard from PIT) near the end of round 2. Obviously if Johnson is around here I take him. But I like Asiata as well to complete the offensive line overhaul. Part of me would like a guard/tackle combo like Dion Dawkins but I am not confident either he or Moton would last to this pick. And I am happy with this bruiser giving some life to the run game. We laugh about Sparano wanting OLs who can "dent people." But it's not a bad thing. Tony, we just wanted you to find someone who can dent people who can actually play football. Asiata can. And a big need is also addressed without a reach,
Round 3, pick 86 overall (thanks Miami!): Jaleel Johnson, DT, Iowa
This is probably the biggest need pick in this mock, as I believe 3-technique DT is the biggest need (for 2017 by a hair over guard but by a mile when you look at all the DT contributors leaving this roster in 2018: Jones, Floyd, Tom Johnson. But even in 2017, when Johnson can play part of a rotation with those guys, he provides a good base 3-technique who doesn't specialize just against the pass (Datone Jones, Brian Robison) or run (Stephen). I think this man is talented enough to be a disruptor for the lion's share of snaps and then concede to Jones in nickel situations. And then take over the spot full time in 2018. Scouts love this guy for the leverage he plays with, as well as his refined pass rush and recognition. And who wouldn't love the comp to former Hawkeye Mike Daniels? I am feeling relieved right now. Three biggest needs addressed and I like the value at all three (because round 3 is loaded).
Round 4, pick 120: Josh Reynolds, WR, Texas A&M
There's no question the WR corps is missing some depth. But it's also missing a deep threat. I see Reynolds as that. So does Pro Football Focus, who lauds him for his ability to break away from coverage, track the ball in the air, and make the contested catch. I think he is a playmaker with good athleticism to help in all parts of the field, but particularly on vertical routes. Which I think is where Sam Bradford excels with accuracy.
Round 4, pick 128 (thanks again Miami!): Marlon Mack, RB, South Florida
I would be keen to see if Samaje Perine fell here. I like his physicality to help the team get out of its short-yardage funk last season. But a nice consolation prize is Marlon Mack, a better all-around athlete than Perine who would represent a shot at finding a stud long-term RB and give you an option with Murray's contract next year if he underwhelms. "Explosive" is the common theme when reading about him. He lasts til round 4 because he needs to refine things technique-wise. But the Vikings lost a home run hitter in AP. This guy has potential to restore that mention to some degree if the Vikings can coach him up.
Round 5, pick 160: Jeremy Sprinkle, TE, Arkansas
I couldn't pass up a chance to get fantastic value because of the depth of this TE class. A huge man with big hands and gadget arms, I think he's initially your move tight end to give the Vikings a versatile trio. But he has the arm length and some tape to make you think he can become a combo TE if he's coached up. Very intriguing possibilities with a good athlete this size. Catch radius is fantastic. And we know from the Vikings' pursuit of Jared Cook that they are looking for another TE, and likely one with better athleticism than what they have in Rudolph and Morgan.
Round 6, pick 199: Chase Roullier, C, Wyoming
I keep seeing projections of him going round 7 and I don't see that happening. I like him as a prospect to be groomed this year and compete for the starting center job next year. Strong and versatile per PFF, with good run-blocking grade. Obvious concerns about level of competition but we see that get laughed at every year. And guys, it's round 6.
Round 7, pick 232: Nate Hairston, CB, Temple
Not much to say here other than the team looked for their best remaining grade on a DB. And again, late rounds guys.
So what is missing?
I really really really like this safety class and I am not happy I didn't get to dip into it. But in the end that was a bit of a luxury for this team. Sendejo is OK. And we still should see what Kearse can bring to the table in year 2. Every time I analyzed the various players I thought would be available at each pick, I couldn't justify the safety over a similar talent at a higher need.