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.
We will begin this series with pick No. 232, the last of the Vikings’ seven selections. The pickings will be slim midway through the seventh round, but recent history shows that it is possible to find a standout. If you watched this year’s Super Bowl, you watched one 232nd pick deliver in a big way.
Before we look at the good, bad and ugly, here is a list of the last 10 players to go 232nd overall:
2014: Ulrick John, OT, Colts
2013: Sam Barrington, LB, Packers
2012: Greg Scruggs, DE, Seahawks
2011: Baron Batch, RB, Steelers
2010: Jammie Kirlew, DE, Broncos
2009: Julian Edelman, WR, Patriots
2008: Keith Zinger, TE, Falcons
2007: Steve Vallos, G, Seahawks
2006: Gerrick McPhearson, DB, Giants
2005: Jimmy Verdon, DT, Saints
The good… The one who stands out here is Edelman, who scored the game-winning touchdown as the Patriots beat the Seahawks in the Super Bowl. Edelman played quarterback at Kent State, but the Patriots projected him as a wide receiver or cornerback. He settled in at receiver and became Tom Brady’s go-to guy with 197 catches for 2,028 yards and 10 touchdowns the past two seasons.
The bad… Kirlew only played one game, and it was with the Jaguars, not the team that drafted him.
The ugly… It’s hard to get too worked up about a late selection like this one. But if you had to pick the worst of the bunch, it would be McPhearson, the only one who never appeared in an NFL game.
Having the Vikings ever picked 232nd? Yes. They have drafted out of this slot eight times. The most recent was defensive tackle Jose White in 1995. In the 1970s, they selected two regulars at 232nd overall in guard Charles Goodrum (1972) and wide receiver Sam McCullum (1974).
Best 232nd pick in NFL history? That honor goes to former Baltimore Colts receiver Raymond Berry. Drafted in 1954, Berry was selected to six Pro Bowls and later inducted in the Hall of Fame.
Big thanks to Pro Football Reference and their invaluable Draft Finder for making our work easy.
In Mike Zimmer’s first season in Minnesota, the Vikings’ front four became formidable once again.
Led by a first-time starter in right defensive end Everson Griffen, the Vikings — who had three new starters along their defensive line — recorded 41 sacks. And the pressure they generated on enemy quarterbacks was one of the primary reasons the Vikings were able to climb all the way to seventh in pass defense in 2014.
But it wasn’t all pretty. The Vikings got gouged for 121.4 rushing yards per game, which was worst in the division and ranked 25th in the NFL. That’s not all on the defensive line, but run defense does start up front.
The Vikings return all but one member of the 2014 rotation after re-signing reserve defensive tackle Tom Johnson — who surprised with 6.5 sacks — and letting backup end Corey Wootton walk. That continuity should be a good thing, and the group should be better off now that players are more accustomed to Zimmer’s techniques.
There is still plenty of room for improvement, though, especially against the run. So you can count on Zimmer continuing to stockpile his style of defensive linemen as he tries to develop a deep, talented rotation similar to what he had during his time with the Bengals.
Projected starters: Griffen and Brian Robison on the ends with defensive tackles Sharrif Floyd and Linval Joseph between them.
Don’t forget about: The Vikings drafted Scott Crichton last spring with one of their two third-round picks with the hope that he would rotate with Robison and maybe one day replace him. In his rookie year, though, Crichton was often inactive and played only 16 defensive snaps, recording two tackles and zero sacks. His lack of activity is no doubt a concern, but it would be foolish to write off a player after one season.
Level of need: Moderate. Most of the group will be back, but that doesn’t mean the Vikings can’t and won’t look to upgrade, especially at defensive end. They could use another speed rusher to spell Griffen, and Robison isn’t getting any younger over on the left side.
Five prospects to remember: Florida DE Dante Fowler, Nebraska DE Randy Gregory, Arizona State DT Marcus Hardison, Mississippi State DE Preston Smith, Norfolk State DE Lynden Trail.
Our best guess: With more pressing needs, the Vikings will probably pass on defensive linemen in the early rounds, though that could change in the unlikely event that a top pass-rushing prospect such as Fowler or Gregory falls into their laps at No. 11. Instead, look for them in the middle rounds to snag a defensive end prospect that Zimmer thinks he can develop into a starter and maybe a defensive tackle sometime during the draft, too.
Former Vikings offensive lineman Brent Boyd, a longtime leading spokesman against the NFL’s handling of disability claims and retirees with concussion-related symptoms, said he’s not happy with the news today that U.S. District Judge Anita Brody gave final approval to a class-action settlement of NFL concussion claims in Philadelphia.
“I’m extremely disappointed in Judge Brody that she didn’t protect NFL retirees,” said Boyd, who has struggled with concussion-related symptoms since played for the Vikings from 1980-86. “I’m disappointed that this is called a concussion settlement, which is a misnomer because most of these concussion symptoms have been carved out of this and guys aren’t being given any help for these symptoms.
“I am disappointed because it’s not a concussion settlement. It’s a Lou Gehrig’s settlement. A Parkinson’s settlement. The guys with all the symptoms of CTE, their families aren’t going to get squat.”
Boyd’s biggest complaint with the settlement is that future diagnoses of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), a progressive degenerative brain disease, isn’t part of the settlement.
“The word that keeps going through my mind is sinister,” Boyd said. “This whole thing is sinister. Does anybody else think it’s sinister that CTE ceases to exist about an hour ago when this settlement was announced? Because from now on, from this point forward, there is no reward for CTE. There is no recognition of CTE and its symptoms. You had to die between, I think, 2006 and when this settlement was announced. And you had to die because they can’t diagnose it until you die.”
Boyd said he’ll huddle with his lawyers to get more details on the next steps in the process.
“As far as I know, this is it,” he said. “That’s something I need to speak to my attorneys about. Leading up to this, I was told that you had to opt out. If you opted out, you would sue again. Your chances of winning were razor thin and it would take years and a whole lot of money to go through that. Most of us don’t have either the time or the money to go through that.”
The plantiffs co-lead counsel’s claimed today that the settlement enjoyed “overwhelming” support of retired NFL players because 99 percent of them didn’t opt out of the settlement when given the chance. Boyd said that’s definitely not the case.
“They’re making it sound like we were in favor of the settlement by not opting out,” he said. “That we approved of the terms of the settlement, which couldn’t be further from the truth. It was very perilous to opt out. Some of us aren’t going to live long enough to fight the NFL. And we don’t have the money to fight the NFL.
“They have skyscrapers filled with attorneys and all the time in the world. It all comes back to a phrase I coined in Congress years ago: ‘Delay, deny and hope we die.’ That’s the NFL’s unofficial strategy for dealing with guys who built this league.”
With the NFL draft just over a week away, we are starting to get a consensus among the draftniks when it comes to whom the Vikings will select with their 11th overall pick.
Iowa offensive lineman Brandon Scherff and Louisville wide receiver Devante Parker still show up in the mock drafts of some notable national analysts. But Michigan State cornerback Trae Waynes is the team’s pick in the vast majority of the latest first-round mocks.
Which probably means there is no chance the Vikings are going to pick him.
No, I see the logic of drafting a cornerback in the first round, and the Vikings have definitely shown interest in Waynes, who many feel is the top cover guy in the draft, in the pre-draft process. If I did a mock, he would probably be the player I would be mostly likely pencil in at pick No. 11.
Which probably means there is no chance the Vikings are going to pick him.
Anyway, let’s take a look at who 10 prominent draftniks are mocking to the Vikings in Round One.
Todd McShay, ESPN: Waynes. “The Vikings could still afford to upgrade their wide receiver depth chart even after the Mike Wallace trade,” McShay wrote. “But the cornerback position opposite Xavier Rhodes is a bigger need. Coach Mike Zimmer ideally wants two corners who can hold up in press-man coverage, and Waynes is the best cornerback prospect in this draft and best-suited for press-man, with very good straight-line speed and technique. In Rhodes and Waynes, Minnesota would have a very good pair of corners.”
Charles Davis, NFL Network: Waynes. “The Vikings continue to make strides, fulfilling the image of coach Mike Zimmer by becoming a very good defensive team,” Davis wrote. “Waynes is an immediate starter and producer.”
Rob Rang, CBS Sports: Waynes. “Given the caliber of receivers Minnesota faces in the NFC North, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see defensive-minded head coach Mike Zimmer push for another long, lanky corner for his scheme, especially should the top talent at the position fall in his lap,” Rang wrote.
Jamie Newberg, Scout.com: Waynes. “I am so tempted to change my Minnesota mock pick to wide receiver Devante Parker but I have gone with Trae Waynes from practically the beginning,” Newberg wrote. “I still have strong feeling that the draft’s top corner will be picked inside the top 10. But by who?”
Mel Kiper, ESPN: Waynes. “Waynes becomes a pretty decent value as the top cornerback in the draft,” he wrote. “The Vikings have a need there and, at a position where I feel like the transition from college to pro is as pronounced as it is at any place on the field, Waynes has the range of skills that add up to a guy who can help out early in his career. The Vikings are in decent shape up front, but they lack both depth and size at cornerback, which is no fun in this division.”
Dane Brugler, CBS Sports: Waynes. “While the Terrance Newman signing was good for depth, the Vikings still have a need at cornerback and could draft the top defensive back on their board with this pick,” Brugler wrote.
Lance Zierlein, NFL Network: Scherff. “Perfect match,” Zierlein wrote. “The Vikings would likely race this pick to the podium if it works out that Scherff is available.”
Doug Farrar, Sports Illustrated: Waynes. “Do the Vikings need a receiver for Teddy Bridgewater?” Farrar wrote. “You bet they do, but this is such a deep receiver class, and head coach Mike Zimmer needs a top-flight cornerback to pair with Xavier Rhodes even more. … Waynes isn’t a perfect cornerback, but he’s aggressive, plays well against top opponents, and he can establish leverage on deep passes. If he can develop more toughness against the run, Minnesota could have one of the better young cornerback duos in the NFL.”
Will Brinson, CBS Sports: Parker. “The Vikings grabbed Mike Wallace via trade but let’s be real. They’re not set at the position,” Brinson said. “Parker could end up being the best wide-out in this draft and he spent time playing with Vikings QB Teddy Bridgewater already. Get him his guy.”
Eric Edholm, Yahoo Sports: Waynes. “Have no illusions: Terence Newman signing with the Vikings does not preclude them from drafting a cornerback high,” Edholm wrote. “Waynes fits the Mike Zimmer mold, and adding another man-cover corner — along with the underrated Xavier Rhodes — allows Zimmer to be very aggressive with the talented defense he’s building there.”
Each day this week, we will break down where the Vikings stand at certain positions heading into next week’s NFL draft. Today, we continue the series with a look at the defensive backs.
The Vikings believe they found their quarterback of the future last year. Now, they might want to consider stopping Green Bay’s quarterback of the here and now.
Aaron Rodgers rules the NFC North with a high-powered passing attack that has toyed with the Vikings for, well, far too long. Although Vikings coach Mike Zimmer is a respected defensive mind and noted DBs Whisperer, he’s also 0-2 against the Packers and 1-5 in the pass-happy NFC North.
In two games against the Vikings last season, Rodgers completed 67.4 percent of his passes with five touchdowns, no interceptions and passer ratings of 138.7 and 109.7. Overall, NFC North QBs threw 10 touchdown passes and just two interceptions against the Vikings. And we won’t even bring up what happened to poor Josh Robinson in Chicago.
Oops. Sorry, Josh.
The Vikings’ secondary has two young potential Pro Bowl/All-Pro performers in cornerback Xavier Rhodes and free safety Harrison Smith. The other two starters — strong safety Robert Blanton and cornerback Captain Munnerlyn, who is better suited as the No. 3 corner — are priority targets for an upgrade.
At No. 11 overall, the Vikings should be in prime position to take the top defensive back available. Most experts believe that player to be Michigan State cornerback Trae Waynes. The top safety, Alabama’s Landon Collins, is rated slightly lower in the first round and could be available if the Vikings were able to trade down and acquire more picks.
Projected starters: RCB Xavier Rhodes, LCB Captain Munnerlyn, FS Harrison Smith, SS Robert Blanton.
Don’t forget about: It’s easy to forget Antone Exum Jr. since he played only 16 defensive snaps a year ago. But 2014 was a developmental year that could help him make a run at an open strong safety competition. Exum played cornerback his last two years at Virginia Tech and was coming off a torn ACL that limited his senior year.
Level of need: High. The Vikings need to generate quality competition with the hope of upgrading left cornerback, strong safety and overall depth. Free agent pickup Terence Newman presents competition for Munnerlyn, but he’ll be 37 on Sept. 4.
Five prospects to remember: Connecticut CB Byron Jones, Washington CB Marcus Peters, Wake Forest CB Kevin Johnson, Fresno State FS Derron Smith, Florida State CB P.J. Williams.
Our best guess: The temptation of adding an elite young corner opposite Rhodes no doubt has the Vikings seriously considering Waynes at No. 11. How could it not, considering the tools needed to climb the NFC North’s Mount Rodgers? If they let him pass, look for the Vikings to take a cornerback within the next two rounds. Jones could be a strong value in the second round.
|Atlanta||0||Bottom 8th Inning|
|NY Mets||1||Bottom 7th Inning|
|Boston||4||Bottom 7th Inning|
|Cleveland||9||Top 7th Inning|
|Chicago Cubs||3||Bottom 7th Inning|
|Washington||2||Top 8th Inning|
|Toronto||2||Bottom 7th Inning|
|St. Louis||2||Top 4th Inning|
|Kansas City||1||Top 4th Inning|
|San Francisco||2||Bottom 2nd Inning|
|Pittsburgh - G. Cole||8:40 PM|
|Arizona - J. Collmenter|
|Houston - D. Keuchel||9:05 PM|
|Oakland - S. Kazmir|
|Texas - W. Rodriguez||9:05 PM|
|LA Angels - G. Richards|
|Los Angeles - Z. Greinke||9:10 PM|
|San Diego - A. Cashner|
|Minnesota - P. Hughes||9:10 PM|
|Seattle - F. Hernandez|
|Houston||106||4th Qtr 9:15|
|LA Clippers||8:30 PM|
|Ottawa||3||3rd Prd 14:13|
|Pittsburgh||1||3rd Prd 13:17|
|New York City||0||2nd Half|
|FC Dallas||9:00 PM|