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.
Heading into the draft, we will give the recent history at each of the Vikings’ seven draft slots.
As one would expect, the 45th pick of the NFL draft has yielded some pretty good players over the past decade. Three Pro Bowlers were selected with that pick near the middle of the second round. There have also been some disappointing picks, including one “next big thing” at wide receiver.
Before we look at the good, bad and ugly, here is a list of the last 10 players to go 45th overall:
2014: Paul Richardson, WR, Seahawks
2013: Kevin Minter, LB, Cardinals
2012: Alshon Jeffery, WR, Bears
2011: Rahim Moore, S, Broncos
2010: Zane Beadles, G, Broncos
2009: Clint Sintim, LB, Giants
2008: Jordon Dizon, LB, Lions
2007: Dwayne Jarrett, WR, Panthers
2006: LenDale White, RB, Titans
2005: Lofa Tatupu, LB, Seahawks
The good… Jeffery, Beadles and Tatupu all made it to at least one Pro Bowl. Jeffery made it there most recently, in 2013, when he caught 89 passes for 1,421 yards and seven touchdowns. But we fought off recency bias to remember that Tatupu went to three Pro Bowls in his first three seasons and was a first-team All-Pro in 2007 before injuries took a toll. He’s the best of the bunch — for now.
The bad… I was tempted to put Moore here due to his costly gaffe in the 2012 playoffs, but he has become a good player. So instead, the bad distinction goes to Jarrett, whom some labeled as the next Keyshawn Johnson. He caught just 35 career passes for 428 yards and one touchdown.
The ugly… Dizon never cracked the starting lineup for the Lions in his first two seasons and then after suffering a knee injury during the 2010 preseason he never played another NFL game.
Having the Vikings ever picked 45th? Yes, three times. In 1962, they drafted linebacker Roy Winston, who started 158 career games. In 1981, they selected linebacker Robin Sendlein. In 1996, they took defensive tackle James Manley, who never played a game for the Vikings or anyone else.
Best 45th pick in NFL history? There have been many memorable players selected with the 45th pick, such as running back and 10,000-yard rusher Ricky Watters and former Pro Bowl linebacker Wayne Walker, who also happens to be the least accurate field-goal kicker in NFL history. But there is only one Hall of Fame in this group: former Raiders tight end Dave Casper. We’ll give him the nod.
Big thanks to Pro Football Reference and their invaluable Draft Finder for making our work easy.
Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph has played just 17 games over the last two seasons due to injuries. He’s hoping his luck will change this season.
Entering his fifth season, Rudolph said his goal this offseason is to play in all 16 regular season games this year. That’s only happened once during Rudolph’s second year in the league in 2012. He’s attempted to become more durable with an emphasis on stretching.
“I think this is the first time in my career I haven’t felt like I’ve come back in April in the best shape,” Rudolph said. “I’m in great shape. I can go out there and run, but at the same time, I’m not peaking in the middle of April or in June when we’re out there running around in shorts. You look great running around but then halfway through the year you’re on the decline.”
Rudolph hopes the offseason change will allow him to peak during the season rather than Phase 2 of the NFL offseason schedule. He was expected to become a big weapon in offensive coordinator Norv Turner’s offense last year, but Rudolph needed sports hernia surgery after Week 2. He missed seven games and never returned to form after the injury.
Fresh off a five-year contract extension worth $36.5 million during training camp last year, Rudolph had just 24 receptions for 231 yards and two touchdowns last year.
“We can say all we want right in April, but the only way I’m going to put this behind me is going out there in September and playing until January.”
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.
|Kansas City - J. Guthrie||5:10 PM|
|Cleveland - T. Bauer|
|Toronto - D. Hutchison||5:10 PM|
|Boston - C. Buchholz|
|Chicago WSox - J. Samardzija||6:05 PM|
|Baltimore - U. Jimenez|
|Tampa Bay - J. Odorizzi||6:05 PM|
|NY Yankees - C. Whitley|
|Washington - A. Cole||6:10 PM|
|Atlanta - J. Teheran|
|NY Mets - R. Montero||6:10 PM|
|Miami - D. Phelps|
|Milwaukee - K. Lohse||6:10 PM|
|Cincinnati - J. Cueto|
|Pittsburgh - J. Locke||7:05 PM|
|Chicago Cubs - T. Wood|
|Seattle - J. Happ||7:05 PM|
|Texas - R. Detwiler|
|Detroit - A. Sanchez||7:10 PM|
|Minnesota - M. Pelfrey|
|Philadelphia - S. Gonzalez||7:15 PM|
|St. Louis - M. Wacha|
|Colorado - K. Kendrick||8:40 PM|
|Arizona - A. Bradley|
|LA Angels - J. Weaver||9:05 PM|
|Oakland - S. Gray|
|Houston - R. Hernandez||9:10 PM|
|San Diego - T. Ross|
|San Francisco - M. Bumgarner||9:10 PM|
|Los Angeles - C. Kershaw|
|San Antonio||9:30 PM|