I am in a weird state of apathy with the Vikings. On paper they seem like a legit contender, but the 8-7-1 record makes me think they’re a long way away from contending. My head tells me that’s stupid though, because the entire defense is back save for Sheldon Richardson, and it’s one of the best units in the NFL. On offense, they have a good quarterback, good running back, and the best WR tandem in the league. But my heart tells me something was off last year and they need to find their mojo. With big contracts to core players they weren’t very active in free agency, so that mojo had to be found in the draft. Minnesota needed to hit on some key needs at key positions to shake me out of my apathy and get me back on the bandwagon.
Basically, GM Rick Spielman needed to find me somebody to love. Didn’t he, Mr. Mercury?
Can anybody find meeeeeeeeeee.........somebody to love?
Ooh, each morning I get up I die a little
Can barely stand on my feet
(Take a look at yourself) Take a look in the mirror and cry (and cry)
Lord, what you’re doing to me (yeah yeah)
I have spent all my years in believing you
But I just can’t get no relief, Lord!
Somebody (somebody) ooh somebody (somebody)
Can anybody find me somebody to love?
The SMR by a former lieutenant that doesn’t have a military obligation in front of me before I can write it follows.
Blue Chip Stocks
Garrett Bradbury, Latest in the Long Line of Offensive Line Saviors: In the days leading up to the draft, it seemed pretty certain to almost everyone that the Vikings were going to take an offensive lineman. I thought there was a chance that if a top defensive player fell, they might take that guy and then get back into the back end of round one, but they weren’t leaving round one without an offensive lineman. Although a couple of notable defensive players were still on the board at 18, the Vikings stayed put and took what a lot of people think is the best interior lineman in the draft. Word that is floating around out there is that Bradbury will come in and play center, and Pat Elflein will move to left guard. I have a few reservations about it which we’ll discuss below, but right now the Vikings offensive line looks like this, probably:
LT: Riley Reiff
LG: Pat Elflein
RG: Josh Kline (maybe Samia?)
RT: Brian O’Neill
That is an offensive line that can be really good, I think, and will be a marked improvement on last season. These guys aren’t sexy first round picks, but we know all too well what happens if you don’t have at a good offensive line. I love this pick, and I love Bradbury as a player. He’s got very few flaws in his game, he was All-ACC and Rimington Award winner as a center last year, and he is damn near perfect for a zone blocking scheme that OL coach Rick Denison wants to run.
Bradbury is a guy that can be a starter for 10 years in this league, and it’s going to be fun watching him in purple.
Irv Smith, The Guy Who Is Totally Not Replacing Kyle Rudolph: The Vikings fanbase seemed to be somewhat split on this pick, and I’m not sure why. Smith isn’t the best pure receiving tight end in the draft, and he’s not the best pure blocking tight end in the draft. But he just very well may be the best combination blocking-receiving guy in the draft, and he is going to be a weapon in this offense. Before the draft I argued that the Vikings needed a WR more than a tight end, unless they got one of T.J. Hockenson, Noah Fant, or Smith. They got Smith, and he is going to be a guy that will have to be accounted for over the middle, and that will only make things more difficult for defenses when trying to figure out what to do regarding Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen. He’s got the chance to be, essentially, a slot guy and play a lot more like a WR3 than a tight end. I’m really looking forward to seeing how the Vikings will utilize him.
Alexander Mattison, which sounds like Hamilton, which makes me want to say Burr, SIR: After 122 trades down in the third round, the Vikings stopped at pick 102...the last pick of that round, and grabbed this ball of hate when he totes the rock in Mattison. I admittedly knew very little about him when his name was announced, but after watching some video...I really like the guy. He runs with authority, and led the Mountain West in rushing last year. He’s also caught 55 passes in the last two years, and has the versatility the Vikings have looked for in running backs in recent seasons. If there’s a dent in his armor it looks to be in pass protection, but that was the knock on Dalvin Cook, and the Vikings really did a good job of coaching him on that. There’s no reason to think Mattison can’t improve there, either.
I honestly don’t know what’s not to like about these first three picks. They Vikings got protection and a legit receiving weapon for Kirk Cousins, a solid RB2 candidate to compete to take over for Latavius Murray, and these are guys that fit almost perfectly for the Denver Mafia offense. There will be no excuses for failing to make the playoffs in 2019, from GM Rick Spielman to future second lieutenant long snapper Austin Cutting.
Dru Samia, the new ‘SOD’: Samia is a guy a lot of folks had pegged as anywhere from a late second round pick to a mid third round pick, and the Vikes moved up in the fourth round to get him. I thought he was a great value pick, and might be the steal of the draft for the Vikings if he pans out. Both him and Bradbury play with a pissed off edge that the Vikings o-line needs, and at times Samia can just dominate guys. If he can be developed and can channel that aggression, I can definitely see him being a starter for a long time on the Vikings line.
No one: I say this every year, but it bears repeating. More than 250 guys who were drafted, and even more who became undrafted free agents, got a call that could change their lives forever. I want to congratulate each and every one, and I hope they all become Hall of Fame players. To me, there’s nothing better than seeing the moment a guy is told he’s being drafted, whether it’s the first round or the seventh, regardless of team. They’re all cool.
Buy: Making trades to get a fifth round pick back. You knew it was gonna happen, I mean it’s Rick Spielman. I’m not saying Spielman has an addiction to trading, I’m just saying he might need a wallet sized 12 step program card to carry around. I wasn’t surprised he traded down in the third, and when he made the second trade with Seattle I think it was, he got that fifth round pick back, and I liked the move. And heck, even making four trades in that round got them a ton of late round ammo that could have potentially been used to move back up in to either the fourth or fifth round. So, yeah, I understand the thinking behind the moves.
Sell: Making four trades in the third round to get seven picks in round six and seven. But four? Four trades? And then you grab a virtually unknown kid that was a late round projection? This third round is going to be debated about for awhile, and this is nothing against Mattison, at all. I like him and think he’s going to be good. That said, no one was projecting him to go that high, and there was a lot of talent that went off the board from 81-102. It feels like the Vikings could have traded down and still recouped that fifth round pick, made a pick at 92 or 93, and then grabbed Mattison later. Then you didn’t even use those late round picks to possibly move up in the fourth or fifth round? Really?
Buy: Drafting a kid from a service academy is a feel good story. Taking a flyer on a kid that’s about to graduate from the Air Force Academy is pretty cool, since no one from there has been drafted since the 1980’s, I believe it is. When it’s a long snapper, a position that generally isn’t on the draft radar, adding an extra helping of longshot to a story already full of it is neat to see.
Sell: Drafting a long snapper with a potential military obligation in front of him is stupid. But I mean COME ON MAN, it’s a long snapper who’s gonna be a dumbass second lieutenant in a month, and he owes Uncle Sugar two years. Drafting a long snapper was a WTF move to begin with, but drafting one that has to go play Air Force is freaking idiotic. Every administration is different, and the DOD policy that let cadets who were drafted to adjust their service to be able to play was changed in 2017, and no one who has been drafted since then has gotten a waiver to play. They’ve all had to fulfill their military obligation first. And frankly, I approve. You came to a service academy to get a free engineering degree and in exchange you agreed to serve on active duty for a minimum of two years. Fulfill your obligation.
Okay, so now that I’ve got the obligatory lieutenant joke out of the way...Seriously, Cadet Cutting, congratulations. Serving your country is really rewarding at times, and choosing the rigors of a service academy over a typical college life is something I couldn’t have done. Beer and girls seemed a lot more appealing than getting yelled at, rolling my underwear and t-shirts and starching them, and polishing boots. WOC school and OTS were bad enough for me; I couldn’t imagine putting up with that for four years.
Kudos to you on your upcoming commission, and I hope they can work something out so you can get a chance to play right away and go to training camp. Also, I see that you already got the ‘oh you’re in the Air Force so you must be a pilot’ question, haha. Well, the world needs acquisition officers, too.
Buy: This was a great year to trade down and accumulate picks, or use for ammunition to trade back up in earlier rounds. Jay Glazer even said so:
Btw, this was the year to move down and stockpile picks!! For all of you upset your team kept moving down, they were actually smart football decisions— Jay Glazer (@JayGlazer) April 27, 2019
There was a lot of talent available this year, and starting talent to be had into the later rounds. Rick Spielman realized that, and his four trades in the third round got him a saddlebag full of ammo to make more moves later. I was really looking forward to Spielman wheeling and dealing, and ending up with two or three picks in the fourth round.
Sell: Keeping so many sixth and seventh round picks. Only...he really didn’t, other than the fourth round trade with Seattle (again) to move up and grab Samia. Not using those seven picks in the final two rounds to move up in the fifth round is puzzling to me. There aren’t a lot of jobs available on the Vikings roster, and they seemed to address those needs in the first four picks. I mean...they drafted a long snapper in the seventh round.
Buy: Keeping Pat Elflein at center. Elflein has been the Vikings starting center since he was drafted in 2017, and had a promising rookie year. Last year, he was one of the worst centers in the NFL per Pro Football Focus, but I think he gets the benefit of the doubt for last year. He had two off-season surgeries, one for a broken ankle and one for his shoulder, and never really got to participate in any real off-season conditioning. As soon as he was cleared he was thrown right to the wolves, and to no one’s surprise, he really struggled. I think a full off-season spent NOT rehabbing will get Elflein closer to his promising rookie season. And with the center responsible for calling blocking assignments and adjustments at the line of scrimmage, having a veteran doing it gives me a better feeling than a rookie.
Sell: Keeping Pat Elflein at center. There is an argument to be made for moving Elflein to guard, though. At Ohio State (GO BUCKS WOOOOO) Elflein was originally a guard, and was the starting right guard his sophomore and junior season, although he did start three games at left guard. As a guard in his junior year, he was a second team All American and a first team All Big Ten. Elflein’s strength is pulling and getting to the edge or out to the perimeter on a screen, and at OSU I honestly think he’s one of the best players I’ve ever seen that can do that. That’s easier to do from the guard spot than center, and if Bradbury can handle center and the added responsibilities that come with it, you could make an argument that Elflein would be more well suited for guard.
All in all, I thought it was a good weekend for the Vikings. They addressed their biggest needs early, and I really like not only the potential starting offensive line, but the depth now, too. The position battles there are going to be fascinating to watch when the Vikings get to training camp, and I’m going to love watching Bradbury and Samia in purple.