Access Vikings

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.

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NFL Draft Truth or Hype: Louisville WR DeVante Parker

Posted by: Master Tesfatsion Updated April 20th at 3:06pm 300687611

We’ll take a daily look at some of the most talked about prospects in the 2015 NFL Draft and tell you whether they’re worth the hype or not.

We’ve already looked at one wide receiver, Central Florida’s Breshad Perriman, during this series. We shift our attention now to another high-profile receiving prospect that many Vikings fans want, Louisville’s DeVante Parker.

He’s been linked with the Vikings in a number of mock drafts, mainly due to his ties with quarterback Teddy Bridgewater at Louisville. Of course, rarely does the most popular pick among mock draft analysts actually turn out to be the team’s selection on draft night, but it’s nice to dream, right?

Parker is listed at 6-3 and 209 pounds. He’s viewed as one of the best wide receivers in this draft. His father, Anthony Shelman, played running at Louisville from 1991-94.

By The Numbers:

Freshman (11 games): 18 receptions, 291 yards, six touchdowns

Sophomore (13 games): 40 receptions, 744 yards, 10 touchdowns

Junior (12 games): 55 receptions, 885 yards, 12 touchdowns

Senior (seven games): 43 receptions, 855 yards, five touchdowns

Parker missed seven games due to a foot injury last year, but he was extremely productive once he returned to earn second-team All-ACC honors. He snagged 33 touchdowns in 43 games and tied the school’s single season touchdown record as a junior. He was, without a doubt, a playmaker in college.

NFL Combine/Pro Day results:

40-yard dash: 4.45 seconds

Bench press (225 pounds): 17 reps

Vertical: 36.5 inches

Broad jump: 10 feet, five inches

Parker didn’t post any eye-popping measurements at the NFL Combine, but there wasn’t too many surprises either. It was interesting to note that his vertical was the 19th best among wide receivers at the combine.

The Film

He may not be good at jumping in compression apparel, but the film shows that he’s really good at jump balls and challenging catches.

 

 

There are many things that I like about Parker. He’s also really good at racking up yards after the catch and using his thin frame to slip away from tackles. And most importantly, Parker is a flat out playmaker. It doesn’t matter if it was Bridgewater or Kyle Bolin behind center, you had to account for Parker.

And if you didn’t, he made you pay.

 

And this is when I’ll upset a lot of people, though I do like Parker and think he’ll have a solid career in the NFL as long as he stays healthy. I just don’t think he’s a No. 1 receiver in the NFL.

*Gasp*

Let me explain!

First off, Parker needs to gain weight. He’s not strong enough to handle press coverages in the NFL. When you watch his highlights, Parker faced a lot of cornerbacks playing about five yards off the line of scrimmage. Parker took advantage of it, running a lot of underneath routes and gaining more yards after the catch. It likely explains why he’s second among receivers in this draft averaging 4.21 yards per route run, per Pro Football Focus.

 

Whether it’s due to his foot or just his thin frame, Parker had a tough time gaining separation against press coverages.

 

Parker also needs to work on his route running. He tends to get sloppy at times with his routes, but that’s an area pretty much everyone-not-named Amari Cooper will need to work on at the next level.

There’s only three wide receivers I think that have the capability of becoming a No. 1 receiver – Cooper, West Virginia’s Kevin White and Oklahoma’s Dorial Green-Beckham. Cooper is the best receiver in this draft by far. White and Green-Beckham have the potential to become No. 1 receivers, but it will take time for both to develop.

I have Parker as my fourth best receiver in this draft, behind Cooper, White and Arizona State’s Jaelen Strong, who will also be a solid No. 2 receiver in the NFL. While I like Parker, I gave Strong the slight edge because of his hands, toughness and physicality. He’s raw but had two good seasons at Arizona State with a terrible quarterback. Strong, like Parker, will need to work on his route running.

Parker is without question worthy of a first round pick. He’s a top 20 talent in this class that should get picked in the middle of the first round and will have a long career. I’m just not buying that he’s a No. 1 receiver in the NFL, and I don’t think the Vikings should take a receiver in the first round unless Cooper magically falls at No. 11.

Verdict: He’ll be the truth as a No. 2 receiver. Will Parker develop into a No. 1 receiver? Don’t believe the hype.

Offseason program starts, Peterson a likely no-show

Posted by: Matt Vensel Updated April 20th at 9:28pm 300663381

Year Two of the Mike Zimmer era is unofficially underway as the Vikings begin their offseason workout program at Winter Park today. For now, the workouts are voluntary, and Zimmer and his staff can’t actually coach players on the field until a couple of weeks from now.

Running back Adrian Peterson is not expected to show up for the start of the program. He may or may not still be disgruntled, but it’s kind of a moot point here. Peterson usually has not participated in the voluntary portion of the offseason program. He was in the house at times a year ago out of respect for Zimmer, showing support to the then-rookie head coach.

The key dates are June 16-18. That’s the mandatory minicamp. He can be fined for skipping that.

Peterson also has a $250,000 workout bonus in his contract that he would forfeit by skipping the offseason program. But a league source with access to player contracts told me that Peterson’s bonus is tied only to his participation in organized team activities and the mandatory minicamp. So Peterson skipping the start of the offseason program this week would have no bearing financially.

So what exactly might Peterson be missing?

In the first two weeks of the program, known as Phase One, players can work with the strength and conditioning staff and watch film with coaches. Quarterbacks can throw to uncovered receivers.

In two weeks, Phase Two begins and Zimmer and his staff can coach players on the field — with substantial restrictions, though — during that three-week period.

Phase Three is when the Vikings can practice via the OTAs. The June minicamp wraps up the program, then players get a few weeks of vacation time before reporting to Mankato in July.

Vikings draft positional primer: the running backs

Posted by: Matt Vensel Updated April 20th at 11:01am 300657101

Each day this week, we will break down where the Vikings stand at certain positions heading into next week’s NFL draft. Today, we begin the series with a look at the running backs.

The Vikings plan on having Adrian Peterson back in their backfield in 2015, but that hasn’t stopped them from doing their homework on this deep and talented class of running backs, one about which General Manager Rick Spielman has been raving.

The Vikings say they won’t trade Peterson — and we believe them — but that should not preclude them from taking another back after the first night of the draft.

Georgia’s Todd Gurley and Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon are vying to be first running back off the board — and also the first one to be drafted in the first round since 2012.

Gurley ripped through SEC defenses before a shredded ACL ended his season in November. Gordon, meanwhile, led the Big Ten, a conference with several running backs who could be drafted this year, with 2,587 rushing yards and 29 touchdowns.

Size and explosiveness set those two apart from rest of the pack, but some NFL draft analysts believe there might be as many as a dozen starting-caliber runners in this class.

With Peterson having turned 30 last month, the Vikings could look to the future and select another youngster to complement Peterson and 2014 third-round pick Jerick McKinnon. He showed flashes during his rookie season, but they could use another between-the-tackles banger to perhaps develop as Peterson’s eventual replacement.

Projected starters: Peterson will start at tailback with Zach Line at fullback.

Don’t forget about: Matt Asiata rushed for only 3.5 yards per carry in 2014 and his plodding pace drives some fans crazy, but Asiata is the kind of contributor worth keeping around. He rushed for nine touchdowns last season, fumbled only once and is a good pass protector. So it’s no surprise the team brought him back.

Level of need: Low, unless they end up dealing Peterson. With Peterson, McKinnon and Asiata on the depth chart, along with DuJuan Harris, Joe Banyard and Henry Josey, the Vikings have a diverse and competent group of runners. But if there is a back in this class that they absolutely love, they would and should consider drafting him.

Five prospects to remember: Boise State RB Jay Ajayi, Minnesota RB David Cobb, Northern Iowa RB David Johnson, Alabama RB T.J. Yeldon, South Dakota State FB/RB Zach Zenner.

Our best guess: The Vikings will stick to their guns and keep Peterson around for at least one more season. So they won’t be players for Gurley or Gordon unless one or both are still on the board in the second round — which seems unlikely. But coach Mike Zimmer wants a team that can run the rock, so don’t be surprised when the Vikings draft another running back, perhaps as early as the third round.

NFL Draft Truth or Hype: Arizona State safety Damarious Randall

Posted by: Master Tesfatsion Updated April 17th at 2:41pm 300332321

We’ll take a daily look at some of the most talked about prospects in the 2015 NFL Draft and tell you whether they’re worth the hype or not.

We’re breaking off from the rotation. Instead of flipping back to an offensive prospect, we’re sticking with defense for two consecutive days. There’s a lot more interesting defensive prospects in this draft, and we’ll focus on Arizona State safety Damarious Randall.

This is a public service announcement sponsored by Just Blaze and the good folks at Roc-A-Fella Records (not really). I went to Arizona State, and I’m pretty sure I mention that obnoxiously on Twitter in every other tweet. I do not miss a single snap of Arizona State football and schedule my Saturday travels for Vikings road games around Sun Devil football.

But yes, I am still capable of objectively analyzing Arizona State’s draft prospects – from wide receiver Jaelen Strong to Randall.

Now, back to Truth or Hype. Randall checks in at 5-11 and 196 pounds. He attended two junior colleges, initially attempting to become a baseball player but switched back to football after a shoulder injury.

The draft process has been very kind to Randall, who has seen his stock jump from a Day 3 pick, to a sure Day 2 selection and now with some mock drafts having him going late in the first round.

By The Numbers:

Junior (12 games): 71 tackles (48 solo), 5.5 tackles for loss, three interceptions, three pass defended, three forced fumbles

Senior (13 games): 106 tackles (87 solo), one sack, 9.5 tackles for loss, three interceptions, nine pass defended, two forced fumbles 

He tallied up a ton of tackles in a blitz-heavy scheme at Arizona State. Randall earned first team All-Pac 12 honors last year in what was statistically a good season for him. He also returned an interception for a touchdown in each season.

NFL Combine/Pro Day results:

40-yard dash: 4.46 seconds

Bench press (225 pounds): 14 reps

Vertical: 38 inches

Broad jump: 10 feet

Randall had a good performance at the Senior Bowl and followed it up with good measurements at the NFL Combine. He had the third fastest 40-yard dash and tied for the third best vertical. Randall posted these numbers while putting on some good weight after the season.

The Film

This is where I’m shocked that Randall has been considered as a late first round pick as of late. As I’m writing this, NFL Network’s Mike Mayock moved Randall as the best safety in this draft. He’s done well on the draft preparation circuit, but the film doesn’t justify a first round pick.

Randall has good range and ball skills in coverage. It’s likely why he’s excelled so well at events like the combine and pro day. Plus he’s really aggressive, as evident against USC, either in pass coverage or as a blitzer.

 

And that’s the downside to Randall. There were too many moments where he either made a big play or gave up a big play depending on whether he guessed right or wrong.

He lacked discipline and wasn’t the most assignment sound player on the field. Randall has good instincts, but he just lacks the consistency you’d want from a safety. He was taking a lot of these chances knowing that ASU liked to blitz and didn’t have help if he whiffed on a gamble.

 

Randall also isn’t good against the run. It’s strange because he makes good tackles on passing plays but takes pretty bad angles fitting the run. The worst game Randall had at Arizona State was against Oregon State (here are the cutups from Draft Breakdown).

 

Randall lacks the ideal size for a safety and could possibly be viewed as a nickel cornerback by some teams. He has a lot of upside and the team that picks him must believe it can make him more disciplined in coverage and improve his tackling angles against the run. It certainly is capable, but what made Randall good in college is that almost reckless style of play. His aggressive coupled with his instincts created some pretty impressive highlights during his tenure at Arizona State.

But he’s not a first round prospect, and I don’t even think Randall should go in the second round. He’s third rounder with a lot of potential. At worst, Randall will be a really good special teams player. The lack of depth at safety in this draft will likely force a team to take a gamble in the first or second round on Randall though.

Personally, I wouldn’t pull the trigger until late in Day 2.

Verdict: Hype.

NFL Draft Truth or Hype: DE/OLB Vic Beasley

Posted by: Master Tesfatsion Updated April 16th at 3:13pm 300141781

We’ll take a daily look at some of the most talked about prospects in the 2015 NFL Draft and tell you whether they’re worth the hype or not.

We shift our attention back to defense and another one of these defensive end/outside linebacker prospects in this draft, Clemson’s Vic Beasley.

Listed at 6-3 and 246 pounds, Beasley was a consensus All-America selection two years ago as a junior. Beasley played basketball in high school, which seems to be a big plus in today’s NFL. His father, Victor, also played wide receiver and defensive back at Auburn from 1982-84.

By The Numbers:

Freshman (nine games): one solo tackle

Sophomore (seven games): 14 tackles (12 solo), eight sacks, eight tackles for loss, one forced fumble

Junior (13 games): 41 tackles (31 solo), 13 sacks, 23 tackles for loss, four forced fumbles

Senior (13 games): 34 tackles (28 solo), 12 sacks, 21.5 tackles for loss, two forced fumbles

Beasley broke Clemson’s career sack record with 33 in 48 games (25 starts). He also finished fourth in school history with 52.5 career tackles for loss. Not only could Beasley get in the backfield, but he also finished with seven forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries that were both returned for touchdowns and 11 pass breakups.

NFL Combine/Pro Day results:

40-yard dash: 4.53 seconds

Bench press (225 pounds): 35 reps

Vertical: 41 inches

Broad jump: 10 feet, 10 inches

I wish I had emojis on this blog because we need flames for each one of Beasley’s measurements. He led all defensive linemen and linebackers with his 40-yard dash time, tied for the most reps on the bench press and finished in the top three with his vertical and broad jump at the combine. He’s freakishly athletic and fast at 246 pounds.

These basketball players, man.

The Film

The speed shows on tape as well. Beasley is consistently one of the first players off the line of scrimmage and a key reason why he was able to get in the backfield so often in college. The other thing that stood was how, amazingly enough, Beasley was able to rack up so many sacks using the same exact move. Seriously, it’s the same exact move each and every time.

 

 

It’s a credit to his speed and flexibility really, but that won’t work as consistently in the NFL. Beasley needs a counter move, particularly when he tries to bring inside pressure. There were so many examples where Beasley would get washed on the play trying to spin back inside. It just wouldn’t work, but that’s just how college football is today. There aren’t too many coaches teaching players properly, in my opinion, and they’re only trying to work around their flaws rather than actually improving their weaknesses. I’m excited to see which coach lands Beasley and teaches him how to use his hands.

Outside of his pass rush, Beasley looked smooth dropping back into coverage against running backs. He needs to work on shedding tackles against the run. He was pretty inconsistent in that facet. Here’s an example against Georgia last year where Beasley got dominated on the touchdown run by Todd Gurley.

 

Granted, that happened to a lot of people when Gurley was healthy, but it seems like Beasley surprisingly isn’t as powerful as the combine measurements would suggest. It’s one thing to rep 225 pounds with your back on a bench, and it’s another when there’s a 300-pound offensive lineman shoving you out of the way. Maybe it goes back to his hands again, but I’m not exactly sure.

Having said all this though, I think he could honestly play either defensive end or outside linebacker in the NFL, unlike Nebraska’s Randy Gregory. His stock soared after the combine, and I’m buying into the hype. If Beasley can add a few pounds and develop counter moves as a pass rusher with his hands, he’s going to be a pretty good defensive player.

On a side note, this honestly seems like a player Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer would love to have on his team. Imagine pairing Anthony Barr with Beasley and the defensive line the Vikings already have? The flexibility and athleticism with Beasley and Barr would keep Zimmer up all night in the summer scheming blitz packages.

That would be scary.

Verdict: Truth.

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Baltimore - LP: W. Chen 1 FINAL
Boston - WP: J. Masterson 7
Chicago Cubs - WP: J. Arrieta 5 FINAL
Pittsburgh - LP: A. Caminero 2
NY Yankees - LP: C. Sabathia 1 FINAL
Detroit - WP: A. Simon 2
Cincinnati - WP: A. DeSclafani 6 FINAL
Milwaukee - LP: W. Peralta 1
Cleveland - LP: C. Allen 3 FINAL
Chicago WSox - WP: D. Robertson 4
Minnesota - LP: K. Gibson 1 FINAL
Kansas City - WP: E. Volquez 7
San Diego - WP: O. Despaigne 14 FINAL
Colorado - LP: J. De La Rosa 3
Oakland - WP: D. Otero 6 FINAL
LA Angels - LP: M. Shoemaker 3
Houston - WP: T. Sipp 7 FINAL
Seattle - LP: D. Farquhar 5
Milwaukee 82 FINAL
Chicago 91
New Orleans 87 FINAL
Golden State 97
NY Rangers 2 FINAL
Pittsburgh 1
St. Louis 0 FINAL
Minnesota 3
Anaheim 5 FINAL(OT)
Winnipeg 4

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