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: Michigan State CB Trae Waynes

Posted by: Master Tesfatsion Updated April 23rd at 6:04pm 301135081

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.

I’ve been so obsessed with the edge rushers in the draft that I haven’t analyzed a single cornerback in this series yet. Well, that changes now starting with Michigan State cornerback Trae Waynes.

It seems as if 90 percent of the mock drafts (rough estimate) pairs Waynes and the Vikings with the 11th overall pick. He’s viewed as the top rated cornerback in the draft by many people at six feet and 186 pounds. Could he fill the need for the Vikings of a lockdown cornerback alongside Xavier Rhodes?

By the Numbers:

Redshirt Freshman (nine games): five tackles, (two solo), ½ sack

Redshirt Sophomore (14 games): 50 tackles (35 solo), three interceptions, five pass defended, 1.5 tackles for loss

Redshirt Junior (13 games): 46 tackles (34 solo), three interceptions, eight pass defended, one sack, two tackles for loss

Waynes started 27 games in his final two seasons at Michigan State and earned first-team All-Big Ten honors last year. He received second-team All-American honors from Athlon Sports, Sporting News and the Walter Camp Football Foundation.

NFL Combine/Pro Day results:

40-yard dash: 4.31 seconds

Bench press (225 pounds): 19 reps

Vertical: 38 inches

Broad jump: 10 feet, two inches

Waynes had the fastest 40-yard dash time at the NFL Combine among cornerbacks and finished tied for fourth on the bench press. Waynes appeared to have fared well during the draft evaluation, especially with the impressive 40-yard dash time.

The Film

You can immediately tell Waynes is an aggressive corner that can hold his own in man-to-man coverage. It’s clear that’s where he’s comfortable at, and Michigan State heavily relied on his man-to-man ability at the boundary cornerback position. Per NFL.com, he gave up just two touchdowns in the last two seasons.

 

I like his physicality, though at times he’s overaggressive and puts him out of position, and how he was capable of playing on an island every week consistently. Waynes was always around the ball too. Though his technique might be off, Waynes was capable of making a play if a quarterback tested him.

 

The biggest knock on Waynes is his aggressive play can lead to penalties. In both examples, you can see Waynes grabbing and making contact with the receiver while the ball is in the air. Sometimes that’ll be called for pass interference, as Waynes witnessed firsthand in college.

He also at times can appear a little sloppy in his mechanics. There were a lot of plays where Waynes took an unnecessary step that slowed him down or put him out of position. I was surprised he ran the fastest 40-yard dash time at the combine because there are some plays where Waynes’ speed doesn’t translate on the field.

 

There aren’t too many eye-popping plays you’ll find with Waynes, which could be why some have knocked whether he’s really the best cornerback in this draft. But I don’t want to see flashy plays from a cornerback. I just need him to get the job done, and Waynes got the job done in college. I think he’ll have the ability to get the job done as well in the NFL, especially if someone like Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer gets his hands on him to clean up his technique. It’s clear to see why a lot of mock drafts have the Vikings picking Waynes. He has the length, aggressive and speed that fit well in a Zimmer defense.

The margin between Waynes and some of the other top cornerbacks is narrow, but I think he’ll be a solid cornerback in the NFL and worthy of a first round pick.

Verdict: Truth

NFL Draft Truth or Hype: Iowa OL Brandon Scherff

Posted by: Master Tesfatsion Updated April 23rd at 1:15pm 301077881

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.

The first offensive lineman we’ll review is Iowa’s Brandon Scherff, who by many accounts is the “safe pick” in this year’s draft.

Pro tip: There is no such thing as a safe pick in the NFL Draft.

For some reason, there’s always an offensive lineman that receives this label in a lazy attempt for those that actually don’t want to analyze the position.

Anyway, Scherff is regarded as the top offensive lineman in this draft and could be off the board early in the first round. He’s listed at 6-5, 319 pounds with an arm length just over 33 inches.

By the Numbers:

Redshirt Freshman: Appeared in 11 games at left guard with three starts

Redshirt Sophomore:  Started seven games at left tackle but missed final five games with a broken fibula and a dislocated ankle

Redshirt Junior: Started all 13 games at left tackle

Redshirt Senior: Started all 13 games at left tackle

Scherff made the switch to left tackle during the spring of his redshirt sophomore season, and he started in every game during his last two seasons. He was the Outland Trophy winner, given to the nation’s best interior lineman, and named first-team All-America last year.

NFL Combine/Pro Day results:

40-yard dash: 5.05 seconds

Bench press (225 pounds): 23 reps

Vertical: 32.5 inches

Broad jump: 8 feet, 11 inches

Scherff only participated in the 40-yard dash and the bench press at the NFL Combine. His 40-yard dash time was the fourth fastest among offensive linemen, while Scherff didn’t crack the top 10 on the bench press. He measured his vertical and broad jump at Iowa’s pro day.

The Film

It’s difficult to judge an offensive lineman through stats or any sort of combine measurements. There aren’t stats that can measure an offensive lineman’s production efficiently, and I don’t think a team will need to see Scherff run 40 yards down the field at any point in his career.

So we turn to the tape, and it shows that Scherff is a good run blocker. That was clearly his strength in college, and he moved well enough to get to the next level consistently to block linebackers. Here’s a good example against Maryland (Scherff is the second player on the left side).

 

Scherff is athletic, but he struggled with his balance or never squared up at times when moving on his run blocks. It just appeared in some of those instances Scherff grazed the defender when you expected a nice, clean block.

My biggest concern is against the pass, where Scherff will need to improve in the NFL. Iowa is a team that relied on the run, but Scherff had a difficult time protecting the quarterback. He’s not as aggressive as you’d expect someone of his size to be in protection.

 

There’s a debate on whether Scherff is an offensive tackle or a guard in the NFL. He appears to be a guard, and I think people are trying to say he’s a tackle to justify such high praise. Scherff will be a solid guard that can produce against the run.

Everyone calls Scherff the safe pick, but it’s a little risky drafting a guard that high. I just find it hard to pick an offensive guard that high in the first round when you can find some value in Day 2, such as Duke’s Laken Tomlinson or Hobart’s Ali Marpet, that could even turn out better than Scherff.

Verdict: Hype

History of the draft picks: No. 232 overall

Posted by: Matt Vensel Updated April 23rd at 3:09pm 301071781

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.

Vikings draft positional primer: the defensive line

Posted by: Matt Vensel Updated April 23rd at 1:08pm 301051941

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 Viking Brent Boyd not happy, rips concussion settlement

Posted by: Mark Craig Updated April 23rd at 7:46am 300973551

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.”

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