Matt Vensel is in his first year at the Star Tribune after covering the Ravens for the Baltimore Sun for six years. He is a Pittsburgh native and a Penn State grad. Follow him at @mattvensel.
Mark Craig has covered the NFL for 23 years, and the Vikings since 2003 for the Star Tribune. He is one of 44 Pro Football Hall of Fame selectors. Follow him at @markcraignfl.
Master Tesfatsion is the Star Tribune’s digital Vikings writer. He is a 2013 graduate of Arizona State and worked for mlb.com before arriving in Minneapolis. Follow him at @masterstrib.
Vikings cornerback Captain Munnerlyn wouldn’t stop tweeting about his offseason workouts on Twitter over the last few months. It was clearly on his mind to improve physically after a down season in his first year with the Vikings.
Munnerlyn said he started his workout program right before the Super Bowl, earlier than when he’d normally begin to train. He felt he lost a step last year and wasn’t in the best shape physically.
“I didn’t play my best football,” Munnerlyn said. “I pulled my hamstring early, started on the [Physically Unable to Perform] list. I just wasn’t myself. I’ve gone back to the drawing board, and I’m excited again. I’m ready to play.”
He said he’s dropped 10-12 pounds and regained his speed. He revamped his diet, calling it the “LeBron James Diet” where he cut out red meat another other food items he enjoyed eating.
Munnerlyn, a seventh-round pick out of South Carolina in 2009, inked a three-year deal worth just over $11 million with the Vikings last offseason. He felt the increase in salary changed him mentally last offseason.
“I’ve joked with the guys about last year saying, ‘I got a little new money last year and kind of got new to me,’” Munnerlyn said. “…It was a little different. I wasn’t used to that. I wasn’t use to it. But now I’m back to the drawing board, back to my roots.”
Munnerlyn said he’s out to prove he can once again be used as an outside cornerback and a nickel back. Among his doubters include Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer, who said at the Senior Bowl in January that Munnerlyn played out of position last season. Listed at 5-9 and 195 pounds, Munnerlyn has been knocked as just a nickel cornerback throughout his career mainly due to his size.
“I just don’t see myself as a nickel back,” Munnerlyn said. “That’s just me. I see myself as an every-down corner. I want to be on the field every single down. But if the process work out and I’m just a nickel, I’m going to be the best nickel I can be. I’m going to be the best nickel in the NFL, that’s how I look at it.”
At 32, Chad Greenway is a young man in every walk of life except the path he’s on. In NFL years, the Vikings outside linebacker and his knees are old. But they’re smarter this time of year, which Greenway believes will translate into the three of them staying productive throughout another season.
Earlier today, Greenway and several teammates were at Winter Park starting the second week of the team’s offseason conditioning program. For Greenway, it’s the early stages of working his way toward the NFL benchmark of 10 seasons. And it comes after Greenway gave himself extra time to recover from rib, wrist, hand and knee injuries that cost him four games a year ago. The only four games he has missed since a torn ACL wiped out his entire rookie season in 2006.
“The longer you play, the longer it takes you to recover,” Greenway told reporters allowed to watch today’s workouts. “So you take that time to get your body to get back to as good as it’s going to be, I guess. You just have to take it at your own pace. But we’re working pretty hard here.
“I don’t run as much as I used to. I ride more bike this time of year. I run when I have to. Get in top shape the way I can do it without pounding the body, especially the knees. But that’s just part of the deal. It’s hard on you so eventually you’re going to break down.”
Greenway was asked what his plans are beyond 2015. He laughed.
“I knew that was coming,” Greenway said. “I don’t know how it’s going to go. I’ll tell you I’m enjoying everything with the idea of, ‘Who knows?’ We’ll see. Ten years is sort of that is sort of that unwritten … everyone wants to get there. We’ll see what happens.”
Ten years with the same team is even more unusual.
“I’m certainly proud of that,” he said. “It’s not something a lot of people can talk about, being at one place for 10 years. Not only having the staying power to play at that level, but also having an organization want to back you for that long. To immerse myself in the community more and more and knowing that we’re going to be staying here post-football is nice to know.”
Some other highlights from Greenway:
On Year 2 in coach Mike Zimmer’s program:
“It’s a lot better. First of all, one less mini-camp. Second of all, your head isn’t spinning as much now from this staff and what their expectations are and what’s in the playbook at how it’s going to come at you. I think we’ll be moving a lot faster as we get going.”
On whether he knows if his role will change:
“Not at all. I’m going out there obviously expecting to play every snap and help the team win. Whatever happens, happens. We just want to find a new way to win.”
On having to take a pay cut for the second straight offseason:
“It’s a non-issue. We were able to work through it and created a good environment for us.”
On talking to Adrian Peterson recently:
“I talked to him a little while ago and kind of shared some thoughts with him. I think everyone is in support of him and trying to come back and try to be a part of this group. We’ll see how it all shakes out.
“We had a good conversation. When you play with a guy going on nine years, you have a great relationship, and I do with him. He said his piece and I just heard him out. Obviously he brings a lot to our team and we’d love to have him back this offseason and start working with him.”
On whether the ACL he tore as a rookie has given him problems since 2006:
“Yes. Consistently. I’ve had it scoped a couple of different times since then. That’s been documented that I’ve missed time for that in the offseason. It’s ongoing and it’s always been my biggest issue is my knees. I had one in college and one in the pros. It’s just something you learn to deal with and that’s ultimately at the end of the day, after my 10th season, that will be the deciding factor for me [trying to play an 11th season]. Do I want to continue to punish my body? We’ll see how it goes.”
Rick Spielman is known for his daring draft-night trades. In the past three years, he has traded back into the first round to select safety Harrison Smith, receiver Cordarrelle Patterson and quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. The jury is still out on the talented Patterson, but trading up to draft Smith was a smart move and a year into his career it looks like Bridgewater could be a pretty good one, too.
We could see another Vikings trade Thursday night. But this year, a trade-down seems more likely.
For starters, the Vikings only have seven draft picks and Spielman likes to come out of the draft with nine or 10 rookies. The Vikings are also picking at No. 11 overall, a draft slot that could be prime position for a trade-down if a talented wide receiver or pass rusher does not go in the top 10.
So what might need to happen for the Vikings to trade down Thursday night? How far might they be willing to drop? And who would they target then? In the final edition of “Off the Board,” I’ll stack the board for a possible scenario and take a guess at someone the Vikings could get in a trade-down.
1. Buccaneers: Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State. Winston remains the favorite to go first.
2. Titans: Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon. As I said in the previous installment, I believe Mariota will likely go second. The question is to whom? We’ll keep the Titans in this slot and give them the QB.
3. Jaguars: Dante Fowler, DE/OLB, Florida. The Jaguars need a pass rusher to help take their defense to the next level. I’m not sure who they prefer, but Fowler is the top one for many analysts.
4. Raiders: Leonard Williams, DE, USC. The Raiders need receiver help, but they can put that off for a round or two and instead grab Williams, whom some feel is the best prospect in this draft.
5. Redskins: Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama. Wide receiver isn’t a glaring short-term need for them, with DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon around. But Cooper may be too good to pass up.
6. Jets: Randy Gregory, DE/OLB, Nebraska. After addressing the cornerback and wide receiver positions in free agency, the Jets are free to add Gregory to a defense that should be good in 2015.
7. Bears: Kevin White, WR, West Virginia. The Bears get a big WR to replace Brandon Marshall.
8. Falcons: Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia. If you believe the draft buzz, Gurley’s stock is on the rise. And it would make sense if the Falcons wanted to balance out their offense with a runner like him.
9. Giants: Danny Shelton, NT, Washington. The Giants add this beefy nose tackle to the mix.
10. Rams: La’El Collins, OT, LSU. The Rams took an offensive lineman last year in Greg Robinson. Their offensive line still has holes that need to be addressed. Collins could slot in somewhere.
11. Saints (trade with Vikings): Vic Beasley, DE/OLB, Clemson. The Vikings, with players such as Michigan State cornerback Trae Waynes, Iowa offensive lineman Brandon Scherff and Louisville wide receiver DeVante Parker still on the board, pick up a 2015 fourth-round pick from the Saints to drop back two spots. The Saints, in need of playmakers on defense, then select Beasley.
12. Browns: DeVante Parker, WR, Louisville. Welp, there goes Parker. The Browns need help at wide receiver and are expected to use one of their two first-round picks on that position.
13. Chargers (trade with Vikings): Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin. The Vikings trade down again, picking up a pair of third-day picks to do so. And the Chargers get their new back in Gordon.
14. Dolphins: Trae Waynes, CB, Michigan State. And there goes Waynes, too. The Vikings have interest in Waynes, but we don’t know for sure just how strong their interest is. Still, despite Waynes and Parker being gone, there should still be players that interest the Vikings at No. 17.
15. 49ers: Arik Armstead, DT, Oregon. They take Armstead, who doesn’t appear to be a fit here.
16. Texans: Breshad Perriman, WR, Central Florida. A pick before the Vikings are back on the block, the Texans take this speedy but raw wide receiver to help them replace Andre Johnson.
17. Vikings: Brandon Scherff, OL, Iowa. After trading twice and dropping down six spots — and picking up three 2015 draft picks in the process — the Vikings are still in position to draft Scherff. Or, if they prefer, they could address their defense with Washington cornerback Marcus Peters or Missouri defensive end Shane Ray. Since left guard is their most glaring need still, we will give them Scherff. And the Vikings will now have nine other selections to take care of business in this draft.
OK, your turn. Leave a comment to tell me who you would want the Vikings to pick in this scenario.
Heading into the draft, we are giving the recent history at each of the Vikings’ seven draft slots.
We continue this series with pick No. 76, the third of the Vikings’ seven selections. Immediate expectations should be high for this pick. In the past four years, two of the 76th picks – Keenan Allen in San Diego and Will Rackley in Jacksonville – have started 14 games as a rookie. Last year’s 76th pick – Detroit center Travis Swanson – started five games and has now officially replaced longtime veteran Dominic Raiola.
Before we look at the good, bad and ugly, here is a list of the last 10 players to go 76th overall:
2014: Travis Swanson, C, Lions
2013: Keenan Allen, WR, Chargers
2012: Brandon Brooks, G, Texans
2011: Will Rackley, G, Jaguars
2010: Chad Jones, DB, Giants
2009: DeAndre Levy, LB, Lions
2008: Brad Cottam, TE, Chiefs
2007: Jason Hill, WR, 49ers
2006: Anthony Schlegel, LB, Jets
2005: Karl Paymah, DB, Broncos
The good… There are some choices. Allen helped prove that good receivers can come from beyond the first round when he had eight touchdowns and a 1,000-yard season as a rookie. Brooks has started 30 games the past two years. But the winner is Levy, who has started 82 of 89 games, including 10 as a rookie, and remains a starter for the Lions.
The bad… Again, there are choices. Paymah started only seven games in his six-year career, although two of them came in 2009 while helping the Vikings reach the NFC title game. Cottam started eight games and lasted only two years with Kansas City before his career ended. Hill had only 78 catches in a seven-year career with three teams. But we’ll go with Schlegel, who made it only one year with the Jets. He played just one more year in Cincinnati and was done after five career starts.
The ugly… Not really a choice here. Jones not only didn’t play for the Giants in 2010, he didn’t play for any NFL team. Ever.
Having the Vikings ever picked 76th? Yes. Three times. Neither defensive back Bob Hall (1966) nor receiver Eddie Hackett (1971) ever played for the Vikings or the NFL. Linebacker Mike McGill (1968) played through the 1972 season.
Best 76th pick in NFL history? There isn’t a Hall of Famer or an historically great player who jumps out. In fact, going back to the beginning of the draft in 1936, only two players picked 76th overall have gone on to make first-team All-Pro. And those two guys — Bills defensive end Ron Snidow, drafted in 1963, and Seahawks linebacker Fredd Young, drafted in 1984 – made first-team only once. Other choices are 49ers receiver John Taylor (1986) and quarterback Chris Chandler, who played 18 seasons for multiple teams and (look away, this is going to sting) upset the 15-1 Vikings in the NFC title game during the 1998 season. But our pick is running back Ahman Green. Unfortunately for the Seahawks, who picked him in 1998, Green’s four Pro Bowls and the majority of his 9,205 rushing yards and 60 touchdowns came in Green Bay.
Big thanks to Pro Football Reference and their invaluable Draft Finder for making our work easy.
Heading into the draft, we will give the recent history at each of the Vikings’ seven draft slots.
We continue this series by taking a look at the Vikings’ 110th overall selection in this year’s draft. There’s one name that stands out among the rest, but he’s a running back that’s no longer in the league. Outside of that, there hasn’t been too much talent produced from this pick
Here’s the list of the last 10 players to go 110th overall:
2014: Maurice Alexander, DB, Rams
2013: Ryan Nassib, QB, Giants
2012: Ladarius Green, TE, Chargers
2011: David Arkin, OG, Cowboys
2010: Darrell Stuckey, DB, Chargers
2009: Victor Butler, LB, Cowboys
2008: Shawn Murphy, OT, Dolphins
2007: John Bowie, DB, Raiders
2006: Leon Williams, LB, Browns
2005: Brandon Jacobs, RB, Giants
The good… Jacobs retired last year, but he had a solid career with the Giants. He rushed for 5,094 yards and scored 64 total touchdowns in nine seasons. The Southern Illinois product was also a two-time Super Bowl champion with the Giants in 2007 and 2011.
The bad… Arkin made just one appearance in three seasons with the Cowboys. He’s currently on the Colts.
The ugly… There are a lot of whiffs listed, but Dolphins cut Murphy a year after he was drafted. He only appeared in one game in his short-lived career. The Dolphins traded up to get Murphy, who is the son of seven-time MLB All-Star Dale Murphy.
Having the Vikings ever picked 110th? The Vikings have only made one selection with the 110th pick. They drafted linebacker Kivuusama Mays out of North Carolina in 1998. Mays played just seasons in the NFL. He made 27 appearances with the Vikings and finished the 1999 season with the Packers.
Best 110th pick in NFL history? The Raiders selected defensive end Greg Townsend in 1983, and he went on to have a successful 13-year career. He tallied 109.5 career sacks, which is the 22nd most in NFL history.
|Kansas City - WP: J. Vargas||6||FINAL|
|Cleveland - LP: C. Kluber||2|
|Toronto - LP: M. Castro||5||FINAL|
|Boston - WP: K. Uehara||6|
|Tampa Bay - LP: B. Gomes||1||FINAL|
|NY Yankees - WP: J. Wilson||4|
|Washington - LP: D. Fister||4||FINAL|
|Atlanta - WP: E. Stults||8|
|NY Mets - WP: C. Torres||3||FINAL|
|Miami - LP: S. Cishek||1|
|Milwaukee - LP: J. Nelson||6||FINAL|
|Cincinnati - WP: J. Marquis||9|
|Pittsburgh - LP: V. Worley||0||FINAL|
|Chicago Cubs - WP: J. Hammel||4|
|Seattle - WP: T. Walker||3||FINAL|
|Texas - LP: Y. Gallardo||1|
|Detroit - WP: D. Price||5||FINAL|
|Minnesota - LP: T. Milone||4|
|Philadelphia - WP: C. Hamels||4||FINAL|
|St. Louis - LP: J. Lackey||1|
|Colorado - WP: T. Matzek||5||FINAL|
|Arizona - LP: C. Anderson||4|
|Houston - WP: P. Neshek||9||FINAL|
|San Diego - LP: J. Benoit||4|
|San Francisco - LP: T. Lincecum||3||FINAL|
|Los Angeles - WP: C. Frias||8|