It’s been a difficult season plus for Vikings fans. Not only was their team awful, not only did they lose their best player to a devastating knee injury, but the worst thing that has happened is the continued push for a new stadium, and the resistance it is receiving from the government.
I am not going to even get into this at all, because I have no idea the intricacies of what is really going on, but I will say I have written a lot of articles and some of the best conversations I’ve had about what I’ve written is with Vikings fans. They are passionate, and loyal, and I hope for their sake they can figure things out and keep the Vikings where they belong.
With all the negatives out of the way, let’s see if the draft ended up being a positive for them with my 2012 Minnesota Vikings Draft Grade.
It started with a clever little move from picking third in the draft down one position to picking fourth and adding three more day three picks for it. That’s a nice little haul, and if the Vikings are lucky enough to hit on one starter out of those three picks in addition to getting the guy they would have taken at three anyways, that is a great way to start the draft.
Then, with that fourth pick in the draft, the Vikings took Matt Kalil, to protect the blindside of one Christian Ponder.
When it comes to pass blocking there are few, if any with the smoothness and technique that Kalil offers, with perfect knee bend, exceptional pad level, and fantastic balance. Comes out of his stance and allows himself to get set and take on defender in a quick, seamless motion. Has a good initial burst, and good hip placement that allows him to take on smaller quicker defenders. If Kalil gets his hands on you, he can mirror you and keep you off the QB with relatively little issues. Most importantly is he reads the blitz well and can make the calls for that side of his line as an extension of the QB.
Enough quickness and a nasty streak to be an above average run blocker on the blind side as well. Good movement off the line and staying low and strong enough to move larger interior lineman and get to the second level, where he shows the range to make blocks on smaller/quicker defenders.
Isn’t elite at getting to and maintaining second level blocks on DB’s more of a screener than a mauler. Can fall asleep because he is so smooth on initial contact, where he rarely gets beat, and allow a secondary move/attack by a pass rusher to beat him at times.
Then the Vikings moved back into round 1 and grabbed the safety they desperately needed in Harrison Smith.
Smith is a well built, strong safety. He has good range on reaching underneath routes and plays in front of him. Looks smooth playing in the box or deep, so he has interchangeable qualities, and is a physical, good tackler.
The biggest issue with Smith is on over the top coverage, where he tends to get upright and leggy in his coverage, causing him to give up to much separation and get beat.
He is a multi faceted talent, but looks to me to be more of a box safety, and not the rangy all over field safety that is becoming more and more in vogue in the league. If he can learn to keep his base and not get himself out of sorts in coverage, he has a chance to be a very good safety in the league.
One of the better picks in this draft, and a guy I honestly liked more than Smith, was Josh Robinson.
Robinson is a small framed athlete with explosive athleticism and unbelievable speed. Excellent movement in space, great at turning his hips and finding the ball, then driving to it to make a play on it. Is a willing tackler, even if he is slightly undersized.
Needs to get stronger, can’t press his man on the line, and can negate his speed with technique flaws too often.
Robinson will come in and right away compete for a starting position, and should have no problem fitting into the Vikings zone scheme, where he will be the most effective.
With playing in the zone he can use his great ball skills, and quick reaction to jump routes, and only have to worry about what is in front of him.
In round 4 the Vikings finally started to address their offensive deficiencies with the curios pick of Jarius Wright.
I am not saying I don’t like the pick, in fact I like any type of weapon for Ponder, but it was curious in as much as he has a similar game to Percy Harvin.
He is a dynamic athlete from the slot, and one of the quickest players coming out in the draft. He possesses an excellent release off the line, with the ability to get deep into coverage in a hurry.
Loves going over the middle, and is dangerous with the ball in his hands.
All the good aside, he is undersized, can really only work out of the slot consistently, and needs to get stronger to ensure he doesn’t get pushed off his routes to often.
Again, I like the pick; I just have to see him and Harvin on the field together to really understand what they are doing.
With the second of three picks in round 4 the Vikings selected another weapon for the offense in H-Back Rhett Ellison.
Ellison is a versatile player and will be used as more of an H-Back, TE/FB hybrid, as opposed to lining up as a TE.
He has good hands, catches everything around him, and can stay in and block when needed.
He isn’t overly athletic or strong, doesn’t possess great run after the catch ability, and isn’t the best route runner.
Ellison will be used everywhere in the Vikings offense, and could be used effectively with Kyle Rudolph in order to really open up the middle of the field.
With the last of the round 4 selections the Vikings took another Arkansas product in WR Greg Childs. Childs is a big, tall, rangy WR prospect with great body control and good hands.
He plays as an oversized possession receiver, who can make a catch in traffic, and could once go up and get the ball in a crowd. The issue?
Childs is recovering from patella tendon surgery and was not the same guy after surgery. He wasn’t fast to begin with, but now lacks the suddenness and quickness he once had.
All the questions on Childs stem from his injury. Before the injury he had all the makings of a Plaxico Burres type possession receiver, but now, is he even going to be a solid possession guy? He was the most talented of the receiving trio from Arkansas before the injury, but let’s see what he looks like before we judge too much.
In round 5 it was back to addressing the secondary, and that was done with another Notre Dame prospect in Robert Blanton.
Blanton is a strong, rangy, zone scheme corner back. Has good instincts when the ball is in front of him and can come up and tackle.
Isn’t the most athletic guy and won’t be able to stick with many WR’s in man coverage. Could come in and fit into the zone scheme of the Vikings, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see him move to safety.
Will be on special teams and could become an eventual starter, but looks to be more of a solid dime back and good back up at two or three positions.
The Vikings took a kicker in round 6, Blair Walsh, coming off a really awful season, but before that was rock solid.
In the seventh round they added two more defensive players in Audie Cole, a line backer and Trevor Guyton, a defensive lineman.
Cole moved inside as a senior and it may have cost him on draft day. I went back and watched some old Cole tape from his junior year and he looked much more comfortable lined up as a strong side linebacker in a 43 scheme.
He has the tools to back up multiple positions and should make the roster in Minnesota as a strong back up and special team’s player.
Guyton on the other hand is someone I am surprised fell that far.
He was a strong five technique in Cal’s 34 defense that can play any of the line positions.
More of a brute strength guy than a football player as he relies on his strength far too often and loses the ball and gets himself out of position needs to learn to play under control and find the ball and pursue it.
He isn’t a starter right now, but is a definite rotation guy as he learns to play with better technique.
Overall: It was a hodgepodge of interest for the Vikings. They addressed all of their glaring needs, but did so in a strange order in my estimation.
They passed on higher upside guys for guys with the ability to come in and play right away, and also drafted some carbon copies of players they already have.
I like what they did, I just don’t love it, and that’s why I give them a Good draft, and won’t be surprised to see this draft fall to either side of the ledger once we grade it three years from now.
Check out what I think of the rest of the NFC North Drafts: