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: 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.

NFL announces that Peterson will be reinstated on Friday

Posted by: Mark Craig Updated April 16th at 5:24pm 300141141

One day after Vikings running back Adrian Peterson was eligible to be reinstated, the NFL issued a 211-word statement today that announced his return, effective Friday, while warning him to continue his counseling and not step out of line again.

The Vikings, meanwhile, quickly released a 23-word reaction that was a simple nod of recognition of the news and a welcome back for the 2012 NFL MVP.   The team knew this day was coming soon and already has expressed its support of Peterson with public comments from ownership, the front office, coaching staff and players in recent months.

Here is the statement from the NFL:

“Adrian Peterson of the Minnesota Vikings was advised today that effective tomorrow he is reinstated as an active NFL player and may participate in all scheduled activities with the Vikings.

“In a letter from Commissioner Roger Goodell, Peterson was informed that he is expected to fulfill his remaining obligations to the authorities in Minnesota and Texas, as well as the additional commitments Peterson made during his April 7 meeting with the commissioner regarding maintaining an ongoing program of counseling and treatment as recommended by medical advisors.

“Beyond the requirement to comply with his court obligations and plan of counseling, Peterson was reminded that his continuing participation in the NFL depends on his avoidance of any further conduct that violates the Personal Conduct Policy or other NFL policies. Any further violation of the Personal Conduct Policy by Peterson would result in additional discipline, which could include suspension without pay or banishment from the NFL.

“Peterson was suspended without pay last November 18 for the remainder of the 2014 NFL season for violating the NFL Personal Conduct Policy in an incident of abusive discipline that he inflicted on his four-year-old son last May. Peterson pled no contest on November 4 in state court in Montgomery County, Texas to reckless assault of the child.

Here is the Vikings’ statement:

“The Minnesota Vikings have been informed by the NFL that Adrian Peterson has been reinstated. We look forward to Adrian re-joining the Vikings.”

Those final eight words essentially are all the Vikings feel they need to say about their plans for Peterson amid a flurry of trade speculation that will only heat up as the draft approaches in two weeks.

The Vikings’ offseason training program starts on Monday. It’s unlikely that Peterson, who has expressed some reservations about returning to Minnesota, will participate in the voluntary workouts and OTAs. The first mandatory gathering is the team’s mini-camp on June 16-18.

Peterson hasn’t played since last year’s season opener in St. Louis. He rushed for 75 yards on 21 carries, caught two passes for 18 yards and didn’t score in a 34-6 win at St. Louis.

The following Friday, he was indicted in Houston on felony charges related to the injuries he caused while disciplining his 4-year-old son with a switch. The Vikings deactivated him for Week 2, announced the following Monday that he would return and changed course two days later when the NFL stepped in amid an outcry from the public and the team’s corporate sponsors.

Peterson was placed on the newly-created commissioner’s exempt list. He was moved to the suspended list on Nov. 18 after pleading no contest to a misdemeanor charge of reckless assault of his son.

Peterson ended up back on the commissioner’s exempt list on Feb. 27 when U.S. District Judge David Doty overturned an arbitrator’s ruling that sided with the league over Peterson. Rather than reinstate Peterson then, the league moved him back to his original list while it appealed Doty’s decision.

Peterson’s agent, Ben Dogra, told reporters at last month’s NFL owners meetings that it would be “in Peterson’s best interests” to play elsewhere. But General Manager Rick Spielman has said the team has no interest in trading the 2012 league MVP and are standing behind a contract that has three years left on it and includes $12.75 million this season, a league-high for a running back.

Vikings work out Old Dominion basketball player Richard Ross

Posted by: Mark Craig Updated April 15th at 2:12pm 299871601

It appears several NFL teams  are interested in Old Dominion basketball player Richard Ross as a future NFL football player, presumably at tight end. Count the Vikings among the teams sniffing around the athletic 6-6, 236-pounder.

According to a source close to the situation, the Vikings sent tight ends coach Kevin Stefanski to conduct a private workout at Old Dominion today. Ross’ basketball teammates also showed up to watch and wonder if perhaps an ODU basketball player will become the first ODU product to be drafted by an NFL team.

Ross, who averaged 8.2 points and 5.6 rebounds per game as a senior this past season, hasn’t played football since high school. Of course, he wouldn’t be the first college basketball player to transition to NFL tight end. The Chargers’ Antonio Gates made that a popular possibility years ago.

The Vikings reportedly were one of the NFL teams that met with Ross at ODU’s pro day. Ross didn’t work out at the time because his basketball team was still in the NIT tournament.  According to the Virginia-Pilot, Vikings quarterbacks coach Scott Turner was there to watch ODU quarterback Taylor Heinicke.

The Vikings’ interest doesn’t necessarily mean they’re planning to use even a late-round draft pick on Ross. The team also spends a lot of time preparing for the mad dash of signing undrafted rookies as soon as the draft is over.

Those close to the situation say the Vikings have had their eye on Ross for a while. But he probably will have more private workouts scheduled with other teams before the draft.

NFL Draft Truth or Hype: running back Todd Gurley

Posted by: Master Tesfatsion Updated April 15th at 12:29pm 299848001

We interrupt your daily Adrian Peterson chatter to examine a prospect that could be the next Peterson. Yes, we’re talking about Georgia running back Todd Gurley, who had a strange season last year.

If you never caught Gurley’s eye-popping highlights, you definitely knew his name last year when he was suspended four games for exchanging autographs for cash. Once he returned from suspension, Gurley tore his ACL against Auburn.

Up until that point, Gurley was a Heisman candidate and one of the most dynamic players in the country at 6-1 and 222 pounds.

By the Numbers:

Freshman (14 games): 222 carries, 1,385 rushing yards, 17 touchdowns, 16 receptions, 117 receiving yards

Sophomore (10 games): 165 carries, 989 rushing yards, 10 touchdowns, 37 receptions, 441 receiving yards, six touchdowns

Junior (six games): 123 carries, 911 rushing yards, nine touchdowns, 12 receptions, 57 receiving yards

Gurley averaged 6.4 yards per carry in three seasons. He was the second freshman to rush for 1,000 yards in school history. The first was some guy named Herschel Walker in 1980.

He also returned two kickoffs for touchdowns during his career and ran the seventh-fastest 60-meter hurdles time in school history at 8.12 seconds.

Gurley’s pretty good.

Combine/Pro Day results:

40-yard dash: N/A

Bench press (225 pounds): N/A

Vertical: N/A

Broad jump: N/A

But Gurley’s health is the biggest concern among NFL teams at the moment. He’s still recovering from ACL surgery and didn’t participate at the NFL Combine or Georgia’s pro day. Gurley didn’t even get his knee examined by doctors at the combine so it wouldn’t slow down his recovery time. Gurley will return to Indianapolis this weekend for a medical re-check, which should give teams a better idea if there are any red flags with his knee.

The Film

When healthy though, Gurley was in a league of his own among running backs in college football. Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon was really good in college. Gurley was great. This wouldn’t even be a comparison if Gurley was healthy.

Georgia football games were must-see-TV when Gurley played. Every time Gurley touched the ball, you thought he was going to score a touchdown. Before the injury, he truly was a special talent that had great size, speed and power. He could run between the tackles, but Gurley was so dangerous when he bounced outside and turned the corner. Gurley wasn’t scared of contact. Per Pro Football Focus, Gurley led the nation forcing a missed tackle on every 3.3 rush attempts.

 

His biggest area of improvement is pass protection. Based on what I saw, Gurley seemed to pickup outside blitzes fine. But he could use some work protecting between the tackles.

 

It’s only five games from this season, and nobody knows at the moment how his knee feels, so there’s a lot of uncertainty on whether Gurley will return to form. It doesn’t help him that it’s a really good draft for running backs and teams can find value in Day 2 or 3. Some other names I do like that will get picked after the first round are Boise State’s Jay Ajayi, Northern Iowa’s David Johnson and Minnesota’s David Cobb.

But I love Gurley. Even as he recovers from ACL surgery, I’d still pick him in the first round and ahead of Gordon. Yes, I know, he’s a running back and that position shouldn’t warrant a first round selection. But he’s going to be special. And, yes, I’m banking on his medical exam this weekend coming back clean.

Verdict: TRUTH.

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Chicago WSox - LP: Z. Duke 1 FINAL
Detroit - WP: J. Soria 2
San Diego - WP: J. Shields 5 FINAL
Chicago Cubs - LP: B. Schlitter 4
Philadelphia - LP: S. O Sullivan 2 FINAL
Washington - WP: M. Scherzer 7
Milwaukee - LP: J. Nelson 3 FINAL
Pittsburgh - WP: V. Worley 6
Atlanta - WP: C. Martin 8 FINAL
Toronto - LP: B. Cecil 7
Miami - LP: B. Hand 1 FINAL
NY Mets - WP: B. Colon 4
Baltimore - LP: B. Matusz 2 FINAL
Boston - WP: K. Uehara 3
NY Yankees - WP: D. Betances 5 FINAL
Tampa Bay - LP: K. Jepsen 4
LA Angels - WP: C. Ramos 6 FINAL
Houston - LP: C. Qualls 3
Cleveland 2 Top 10th Inning
Minnesota 2
Oakland - LP: D. Otero 4 FINAL
Kansas City - WP: W. Davis 6
Cincinnati - LP: J. Cueto 1 FINAL
St. Louis - WP: M. Wacha 6
Colorado 1 Top 4th Inning
Los Angeles 3
Texas 1 Bottom 4th Inning
Seattle 0
Arizona 3 Bottom 3rd Inning
San Francisco 0
Ottawa 2 FINAL(OT)
Montreal 3
NY Islanders 3 FINAL
Washington 4
Chicago 2 2nd Prd 5:44
Nashville 2
Calgary 0 2nd Prd 14:10
Vancouver 2
San Jose 0 FINAL
Red Bull New York 2

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