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.
Our first defensive player we’ll examine is Nebraska defensive end/outside linebacker Randy Gregory. For some, he’s known as the guy that tested positive for marijuana at the NFL Combine in February. For Gophers fans, Gregory is the guy that couldn’t shed a blocker against the run (more on that later).
There’s a few players like Gregory in this draft that can be projected as a defensive end or an outside linebacker depending on the scheme. The list includes Florida’s Dante Fowler Jr., Missouri’s Shane Ray and Kentucky’s Alvin Dupree. But we’ll focus on Gregory for now since he’s been the most talked about prospect among the bunch, for better or for worse.
Gregory spent a season at Arizona Western Community College before transferring to Nebraska. Gregory initially signed with Purdue out of college but didn’t qualify academically.
By the Numbers:
Sophomore (13 games): 66 tackles (40 solo), 17 tackles for loss, 10.5 sacks, one interception, one forcedfumble
Junior (11 games): 54 tackles (23 solo), 8.5 tackles for loss, seven sacks, one interception, one forced fumble
Gregory returned his only interception his junior season for a touchdown and also had a pair of blocked field goals as a senior. On paper, the stats look great for a Big Ten defensive end. Gregory displayed a little bit of everything at 6-5 and 235 pounds. As raw as he is, he has a knack for getting at the quarterback.
Combine/Pro Day results:
40-yard dash: 4.64 seconds
Bench press (225 pounds): 24 reps
Vertical: 36.5 inches
Broad jump: 10 feet, 5 inches
Gregory was happy enough with his combine results that he only participated during individual drills at his pro day. He ran a similar 40-yard dash time at the combine as Washington linebacker Shaq Thompson, listed at six feet and 228 pounds.
But back to the marijuana issue, however, that has clouded Gregory’s stock since the combine. It appears a few people have docked him for it, and it was a very dumb mistake, but I might be in the minority that won’t drop a prospect off a big board in 2015 for marijuana. Reports that he wasn’t impressive during team interviews would be a bigger concern in my book if I was reviewing Gregory from an off-the-field perspective.
This tweet is also concerning. Can you trust a man that thinks New Orleans is boring?
Idk what the big deal about new Orleans is. Seems pretty boring to me lol wrong time of year maybe??
— Randy Gregory (@RandyGregory_4) April 14, 2015
I will pass on Gregory’s ability as a defensive end, however. He’s not an NFL defensive end. At 235 pounds, he’ll need to gain weight if he wants to become a 4-3 defensive end. The biggest question is how will he move at 250-plus pounds? I’m not sure but Gregory’s range at his current weight is one of his biggest strengths.
As a defensive end with his hand in the dirt, Gregory would give me anxiety as a defensive coordinator against the run. He struggled on run plays because Big Ten offensive linemen could shove Gregory out of the way with ease. Gregory at times would be so focused on pass rushing that he’d run himself of plays, similar to what we used to see from Jared Allen during his final season with the Vikings. He’s still young and raw though, so I’d think that’s correctable at this stage in his career.
The two games that stood out last year watching Gregory against the run were Minnesota and Wisconsin. Here’s a good example of what I mean against Wisconsin. He’s lined up on the left side, couldn’t contain and running back Melvin Gordon escaped for a big gain.
On the flip side, Gregory is a good pass rusher pretty much anywhere you put him. He could use improvement blitzing as a linebacker, but he has a good variety of moves. Gregory’s performance against Miami is a great example of what he’s capable of doing as a pass rusher. Here’s a rep against offensive tackle Ereck Flowers, projected as a first or second round pick, where Gregory bull rushes to the quarterback on the right side. Flowers weighed in at 329 pounds at the combine, almost 100 pounds more than Gregory.
There aren’t too many examples of Gregory dropping back into coverage that I’ve seen, but he has the speed and range to cover tight ends and running backs. It’ll likely become an area of emphasis to improve in coverage wherever he goes because I don’t see him being used more at defensive end than linebacker to start his NFL career. I can see how in certain situations, like Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr on third downs, a team could use him on the defensive line to maximize its pass rush.
Similar to Barr, Gregory should pray that he lands on a team with a defensive-minded head coach or an excellent defensive coordinator that will develop his raw ability. But he’s an outside linebacker. And anyone who tells you otherwise at this stage in his career is wrong.
Verdict: As a defensive end, don’t believe the hype. As a linebacker, he can be the truth if he’s got a solid coach to develop him.
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 start this series with a prospect that many didn’t know about until his pro day, Central Florida wide receiver Breshad Perriman. If you did know him before his pro day, it was likely due to a Hail Mary catch he made to defeat East Carolina last year.
If you knew Perriman before that, it was likely due to the attention Central Florida received two years ago during their Fiesta Bowl run with Blake Bortles at quarterback. If you knew him before that, then you watch a lot of American Athletic Conference football or must be a Central Florida fan.
He’s also the son of Brett Perriman, who was drafted in the second round in 1988 and spent 10 seasons in the NFL.
By the Numbers:
Freshman (14 games): 26 receptions, 388 yards, three touchdowns
Sophomore (12 games): 39 receptions, 811 yards, four touchdowns
Junior (13 games): 50 receptions, 1,044 yards, nine touchdowns
That would be an average of 20 yards per catch in both his sophomore and junior seasons. While he was without Bortles, who went to the NFL last year, Perriman became the first receiver in school history with 1,000 yards since 2006 as a junior. He’s clearly a big play threat with good size at 6-2 and 212 pounds.
Combine/Pro Day results:
40-yard dash: 4.24 and 4.27 seconds
Bench press (225 pounds): 18 reps
Vertical: 36 ½ inches
Broad jump: 10 feet, 7 inches
Perriman had the most talked about pro day this year. His name blew up last month due to a reported 4.24 and 4.27 40-yard dash times. That would’ve tied running back Chris Johnson’s 4.24 as the fastest combine 40-yard dash time. Speed kills, guys.
Bad hands are a killer, too. Look, you didn’t need to see Perriman in tights and a compression shirt to see that he’s fast. On go routes, he was consistently on top of the defender, even if his tape was mainly against AAC opponents. He can fly down the field, but he has a tough time catching the ball.
Per Pro Football Focus, Perriman had a 14 percent drop rate. That’s my problem with the draft evaluation process and draft analysts. You raise a player from a Day 2 pick into the first round, and in ESPN’s Mel Kiper’s case in the top 10 of your latest mock draft, because he ran fast at his pro day. But how much are you docking for all those drops, you know the most important element of playing wide receiver?
The concerning part is that Perriman is open on these drops. If he’s struggling with that against mainly AAC talent, how will fare with a NFL cornerback all over him? It doesn’t mean anything if you can burn by a cornerback but can’t catch the ball. This sounds so obvious but yet it gets overlooked somehow.
Perriman is like a few other big name receivers in the draft, like West Virginia’s Kevin White and Arizona State’s Jaelen Strong, that has raw ability and will need to improve significantly as a route runner. Perriman might be a one-trick pony during his first season as he attempts to put it all together in the NFL but his inconsistency is a red flag for me.
If a team seeks a deep threat in this draft, I’d take Ohio State’s Devin Smith over Perriman. Smith is quick with good hands and does a great job locating the ball in the air on deep passes. While Kiper thinks of him as a top 10 player currently, he’s not a top five wide receiver in this draft in my book. There’s some other solid receivers in this draft to take such a gamble on Perriman, especially if he does actually fall in the first round.
But, hey, speed kills right?
Verdict: Don’t believe the hype.
Cornerback Jabari Price, who was arrested for suspicion of driving while impaired in the hours after the regular-season finale in December, had his charge reduced to careless driving Wednesday.
During a court appearance, Price agreed to do 30 days of electronic home monitoring, according to his attorney, David Valentini. Price, who passed all drug tests leading up to the court date, has also entered into a substance abuse education program and paid a $300 fine, Valentini said.
In the early hours of Dec. 29, a state trooper observed Price speeding while driving southbound on Interstate 35W and pulled Price over. The trooper “detected impairment in the driver,” according to the incident report, and administered a breathalyzer test. Price had a blood alcohol level of 0.13 percent, was arrested on suspicion of DWI at the scene and booked in Hennepin County jail.
While the 22-year-old was able to get the charge reduced to careless driving Wednesday, he is still subject to the NFL’s personal conduct policy and could face a fine or a suspension from the league.
Price, a Florida native who played college football at North Carolina, was a seventh-round pick last May. Price played 14 games for the Vikings as a rookie. He was mostly used on special teams but also played 46 defensive snaps as a reserve. He had 10 tackles in his first season.
The NFL has revealed the 2015 preseason schedule. The Vikings, who have already been announced as one of the two teams playing in the annual Hall of Fame game, will play five preseason games.
They will open against the Steelers in Canton, Ohio. They then host the Buccaneers and the Raiders before finishing the preseason on the road against the Cowboys and then the Titans.
Here is their complete preseasons schedule:
Preseason Week 1 (Aug. 9, 7:00 p.m. CT): vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
Preseason Week 2 (Aug. 14-16): vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Preseason Week 3 (Aug. 21-23): vs. Oakland Raiders
Preseason Week 4 (Aug. 28-29): at Dallas Cowboys
Preseason Week 5 (Sept. 3): at Tennessee Titans
NFL teams have started to exercise their fifth-year options on 2012 first-round picks. The headliner is Andrew Luck, the No. 1 overall pick that year and now the franchise quarterback for the Colts.
The Vikings will soon have to make decisions on a pair of players in Harrison Smith and Matt Kalil.
Picking up the option on Smith, who was a Pro Bowl-caliber safety in 2014, is a no-brainer. The Vikings will have a tougher call on Kalil, who has regressed since making the Pro Bowl as a rookie.
In case you need a refresher on these fifth-year options, they are only available for teams to use on first-round draft picks. In the case of Kalil and Smith, the Vikings have the ability to keep them around through the 2016 season. Their fifth-year salaries — $11.1 million for Kalil and $5.3 million for Smith — would only be guaranteed in the event of injury. So if a healthy Kalil struggles, they can simply cut him before the 2016 league year and won’t have to pay him a dime of that $11.1 million.
The deadline for teams to exercise the option is May 3, the day after the draft wraps up.
I recently chatted with Joel Corry, a former NFL agent who now writes for CBS Sports, for another story I’m working on. While I had him on the phone, I asked him about the fifth-year options for Kalil and Smith. He agrees that Smith is a lock, but he’s curious to see how things play out with Kalil.
“Which Matt Kalil are you exercising the option for: the rookie year Matt Kalil or the one we saw the first part of last year? I guess that’s why it’s a decision,” Corry said. “It would be kind of hard not to since it’s not guaranteed unless there is an injury.
“So maybe you exercise it and take a wait-and-see approach,” he continued. “And if he isn’t what you thought he was — a cornerstone guy who is going to anchor the offensive line — then you don’t keep him after the 2015 season or you try to work out something for a lower salary in 2016 instead. You have more flexibility by exercising it. Because what if he puts it all together and lives up to his potential? Then you’re looking at the franchise tag, which would be more than the option.”
Last year, the first year that the fifth-year options came into play, the Vikings declined to use theirs on quarterback Christian Ponder, another young player who wasn’t living up to his draft status.
The expectation is that things will be different with Kalil and that they’ll exercise his option.
|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||14||Bottom 7th Inning|
|Oakland||4||Bottom 3rd Inning|
|Houston||2||Bottom 3rd Inning|
|New Orleans||28||2nd Qtr|
Poll: How confident are you that the Wild will win its playoff series?