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.
The Vikings addressed a need at cornerback with the selection of Michigan State’s Trae Waynes on Thursday. They didn’t trade back into the first round this year, but there’s still some good talent on board for Day 2 of the NFL Draft on Friday.
The Vikings have the 13th pick in the second round (No. 45 overall) and the 12th pick in the third round (No. 76 overall) to try and address their needs at wide receiver, offensive line, linebacker and safety. In no particular order, here are 10 names the Vikings could target in the second and third rounds:
1. Nebraska DE/OLB Randy Gregory: He’s the best player available in the draft and should’ve been a first round pick, but Gregory has character concerns. He tested positive for marijuana at the NFL Combine, causing his stock to drop. Vikings general manager Rick Spielman and head coach Mike Zimmer were pretty adamant about finding high character players in the draft class on Thursday after selecting Waynes, so keep that in mind.
Gregory, who is one of the six players still left in the NFL Draft green room in Chicago, is listed at 6-5 and 235 pounds. He’s too light to play defensive end in the NFL at the start of his career and likely would project as an outside linebacker with the Vikings. He’s probably better suited in a 3-4 scheme though.
2. UCLA ILB Eric Kendricks: He’s an undersized middle linebacker at 6-feet and 232 pounds, but Kendricks has good instincts. He’s a three-down linebacker that could fill a need at middle linebacker in Week 1. The Vikings didn’t have that last year with Jasper Brinkley, who was a liability in coverage. There are questions about his durability, though Kendricks started all 13 games last year. He underwent surgery on his right ankle after the season, which was likely the reason why Kendricks dropped out of the first round.
3. Arizona State WR Jaelen Strong: He’s the best wide receiver available and, like Gregory and Kendricks, had the ability to be a first round pick. Strong won’t be a No. 1 option in the NFL, but he has the ceiling to become a No. 2 wide receiver. He needs to improve on creating separation and route running, but Strong has the size (listed at 6-2 and 217 pounds), strength and down field speed to become a solid offensive weapon.
4. Alabama S Landon Collins: He was considered the best safety in the draft but still remains on the board. Collins had shoulder surgery after the season after suffering the injury against Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl. He started all 14 games last season, however. Collins will likely be suited as a strong safety in the NFL because of how well he plays around the line of scrimmage. He’s good in run support and a good tackler. Collins will need to improve in coverage but could be a good fit with Vikings safety Harrison Smith given the versatility both safeties could bring to Zimmer’s defense.
5. Miami ILB Denzel Perryman: He’s another undersized middle linebacker, like Kendricks, that makes up for his lack of size with instincts. Perryman has a real thick body at 5-10 and 236 pounds. He’s not a quick, but Perryman has good range and recognition for his body build. He’s a thumper too and someone that can stop the run. The biggest concern with Perryman outside of his size is whether he can drop back in coverage and turn into a three-down linebacker.
6. Mississippi State ILB Benardrick McKinney: Oh, look, an inside linebacker with prototypical size! McKinney is listed at 6-4 and 246 pounds and made 36 career starts. He lacks the instincts that you’ll find in both Kendricks and Perryman, though. It’ll be interesting to see how the Vikings view some of the remaining inside linebackers given their limitations. The biggest concern for McKinney is he lacks consistency all around in both pass coverage and run support. But Zimmer loves size and speed at linebacker, as we saw from the first round selection last year in linebacker Anthony Barr.
7. South Carolina OG A.J. Cann: I really like Cann. Listed at 6-2 and 313 pounds, he’s a very physical left guard that can hold his own in both run and pass situations. Cann displays the physicality you want from an offensive lineman, and he handled blitz packages and stunts fairly well on the left side. That was an issue for the Vikings last year with left tackle Matt Kalil and left guard Charlie Johnson, who was released in the offseason. Cann finished with 51 career starts, the second most in school history, and looks like he could be a Week 1 starter in the NFL.
8. Oklahoma/Missouri WR Dorial Green-Beckham: I tried to avoid players with character concerns based on the comments made by Spielman and Zimmer on Thursday and almost added Maryland wide receiver Stefon Diggs to this list over Green-Beckham. He has huge off-the-field concerns with a domestic violence case in 2014 that got him kicked out of Missouri. There isn’t another wide receiver that has the capability of turning into a No. 1 option, however, as Green-Beckham is listed at 6-5 and 237 pounds. He’s still raw and needs to develop as a route runner, but Green-Beckham has the physical tools to turn into a dangerous offensive weapon. The question is whether the Vikings, who brought Green-Beckham to Winter Park for a visit, can trust him off the field.
9. Louisville S James Sample: It’s not exactly the Louisville prospect most Vikings fans wanted (Louisville wide receiver DeVante Parker), but Sample could be a possible fit if the Vikings don’t snag Collins in the second round. He has good size for a safety at 6-2 and 209 pounds, but Sample didn’t have a productive college career. He left Washington to seek more playing time and eventually landed at Louisville for a season. Though he started all 14 games at Louisville, Sample will need time to develop because he didn’t get a chance to play much in college. He’s an all-around solid safety though that can be productive in both coverage and run support. Sample could be a third round target.
10. Hobart (NY) OL Ali Marpet: MAAAAAARPETTTTTTTTTT. I love this Division III product’s last name, but he’s also a good prospect. Marpet jumped on the scene at the Senior Bowl and performed exceptionally well against some good Division I talent. He’ll likely play guard in the NFL, listed at 6-3 and 307 pounds, due to Marpet’s ability as a run blocker. He’ll need to improve in pass protection, but Marpet should be someone to keep an eye on in the third round.
The first round of the draft passed by Thursday night without an Adrian Peterson trade and Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman was as adamant as ever in declaring Peterson would go nowhere.
Now it appears Peterson’s agent, Ben Dogra, is waving a white flag — well, at least on this front.
“One of the things that I appreciate with the Vikings is their resolve to say ‘we’re not trading him,’” Dogra said in an interview with USA Today. “That tells me they value him not only as a football player, but what he’s done for the organization. I actually, as an agent, not only appreciate it — I accept it. But actions speak louder than words. If that’s going to happen, and you want to keep him, then show him a commitment to make him retire as a Viking. And I haven’t had that solution.”
In other words, the Vikings need to show Peterson the money to show him a commitment.
Peterson will make $12.75 million in base salary if he plays for the Vikings this season and he can earn another $250,000 if he meets participation requirements at organized team activities and the mandatory minicamp in June.
He is scheduled to make $45 million over the final three years of his contract, but there is no guaranteed money for the 30-year-old running back beyond this season.
Reading between the lines here — and in this case you don’t need a magnifying glass — it seems Team Peterson would like a new deal that includes guaranteed money in 2016 and perhaps beyond.
In the interview with USA Today, Dogra also expressed regret for some of his actions while trying to create leverage for Peterson in a situation where the running back had none. That included telling reporters at the owners meetings that it would be better for Peterson if he resumed his career elsewhere and also posting some cryptic messages on Facebook.
“My biggest regret would be if I set Adrian in any different light, in a negative manner,” Dogra said. “My job as a representative is to be his advocate. And I understand that may mean myself taking the bullets and facing scrutiny. I signed up for that job. Adrian didn’t hire me to fight for me. He hired me to fight for him. And it’s not my job to be everybody’s best friend. It’s my job to do what’s right by him, and it’s as simple as that.”
With the odds of a Peterson trade slimmer than ever now that the first round of the draft is over, it sure sounds like Team Peterson is regrouping to come up with their next plan of attack.
Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman squashed once and for all (hopefully) the questions about whether the Vikings will trade Adrian Peterson when asked about it a few moments ago.
Asked if they were trying to move Peterson, he said, “No. Not at all. Nothing has changed with Adrian. End of story.”
When asked if anyone had called him about Peterson, Spielman snapped, “I’m not getting into who called or not. Adrian Peterson is under contract as a Minnesota Viking. End of story.”
As for trading back into the first round for the third time in four years, Spielman also shot that down after staying at No. 11 and selecting Michigan State cornerback Trae Waynes.
“I don’t think we’ll be able to,” Spielman said. “We don’t have enough currency, I guess is the best way to put it, to get back into the first round. If I had made a trade down [from No. 11]. I was looking to see what the value was and to see if that would give us more to get back into the first. But when the value wasn’t there and you knew that even with what they were offering, you weren’t going to be able to get back into the first, then I didn’t think it was the right thing to do.”
With the 11th pick in the NFL draft, the Vikings selected Michigan State cornerback Trae Waynes.
The majority of mock drafts in recent weeks had the Vikings selecting Waynes, who played in 36 games over three years with the Spartans. In 2014, his junior year, he picked off three passes and broke up eight passes. He finished his Michigan State career with six interceptions.
Waynes is listed at 6-foot and 186 pounds and he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.31 seconds at the combine, solidifying him as the top cornerback in the draft in the eyes of most analysts. He is a feisty cover man who likes to press at the line, which surely appealed to Vikings coach Mike Zimmer.
The Vikings have one promising young corner in Xavier Rhodes. Now they have added Waynes to a mix that includes Captain Munnerlyn, Josh Robinson and free-agent addition Terence Newman.
Before the Vikings were on the clock, wide receivers Amari Cooper and Kevin White were selected by the Raiders and Bears, respectively. Offensive lineman Brandon Scherff went to the Redskins.
The Vikings aren’t scheduled to be on the clock until the 45th overall pick in the second round. But with General Manager Rick Spielman manning the draft room, don’t go to bed just quite yet.
Here’s more information on Waynes:
Size: 6-0, 186 pounds
Age: 22 (Born July 25, 1992)
Hometown: Kenosha, Wis.
College: Michigan State
On Twitter: @twaynes_15
Key stat: Waynes’ 4.31-second 40-yard dash was the fastest among defensive backs at the combine
At Michigan State: Started 27 games, was first-team All Big Ten in 2014 and a semifinalist for the Jim Thorpe Award (best defensive back in college football). Played in 36 games over three seasons with Spartans, starting 27. Had one year of eligibility remaining. Selected as first-team All-Big Ten in 2014. Was a semifinalist for the Thorpe Award (top defensive back). Was defensive recipient of MSU’s Jim Adams Award (unsung hero). Had three interceptions and 46 tackles in 2014. In 2013 started all 13 games and played in nine games in 2012 as a redshirt freshman.
At Bradford High School in Kenosha: All-state in football as a senior despite missing three games because of injuries. All-county in baseball as an outfielder, and was third in the 100 meters (10.85 seconds) at the 2011 Division I state track meet.
Did you know? Waynes and Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon were teammates at Bradford High School. Carmen Gordon, Melvin’s mother, told ESPN about Waynes, “He’s like my son too.” Gordon was taken at No. 15 by the Chargers.
NFL Network’s Mike Mayock: “He’s a little bit stiff, but most of those long guys are. He’s got great speed and he comes from a college program where they tackle and are held accountable. He is clean on and off the field.”
And finally: Waynes’ parents, Erin and Ron, are middle-school counselors. “[The NFL] was never our agenda in raising him,” Ron Waynes told the Chicago Tribune. “Don’t tell me about the pros, tell me what degree you want to get. And we put him in everything — piano, swimming, drums, wrestling, basketball, soccer, cross-country. Our thing was just be a good person.”
Yep, we got it all figured out. Minutes into the careers of the top 10 players in this year’s NFL draft, we (I) will give my immediate, knee-jerk reaction and then think of a way to destroy any evidence of this blog post a year from now.
Here we go:
7:12: 1, Buccaneers: Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State
Knee-jerk reaction: Don’t like it. Too many character issues. Too immature. On the field, he had all those great comebacks. But usually he had to come back because he put his team in holes with bad decisions. Not saying he won’t succeed. And, believe it or not, he didn’t interview with me or do a private workout in my backyard. And I didn’t make him take a psychological test or do a background check on him. This is a gut feeling. And this guy would scare me. But not nearly as much as it would if there wasn’t a rookie salary cap.
7:20: 2, Titans: Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon
Knee-jerk reaction: He’s better than any quarterback they have, so I like it. You can’t win with the QBs, the Titans have. I would have preferred the loot that allegedly was being discussed before the pick: The 20th pick, a future No. 1, a No. 3 and multiple starters from Philadelphia. That sounds better than a QB who doesn’t overwhelm me. But the bottom line is he’s someone they can build around as opposed to what they have.
7:27: 3, Jaguars: Dante Fowler Jr. DE/OLB, Florida
Knee-jerk reaction: I like this pick, which is why I picked him in my mock over Leonard Williams, the more popular No. 3 selection. He’s a playmaker who disrupts the backfield and plays hard and fast. Will he be great? Who knows. But I like him at No. 3 for a team that needs a difference-maker on defense. Or offense. Or anywhere, really.
7:34: 4, Raiders: Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama
Knee-jerk reaction: Well, I had Kevin White going here because he’s bigger and faster than Cooper. I can’t get out of my old-Raiders mentality. Oakland appears to be getting more competent on draft day. This is a solid pick of the receiver who is most ready to play right away. Good pick of a guy who not only had the good 40 time, but the production and tape to boot.
7:40: 5, Redskins: OT Brandon Scherff, Iowa
Knee-jerk reaction: The guy many thought was going to the Vikings went higher than anyone predicted. But that doesn’t mean he was a reach. That just means all of us on the outside don’t have all the information we think we need to make these calls. Scherff can play guard or tackle. He’s a mauler and he can play and play well right away. Solid pick from a franchise that has been learning in recent years that glitzy moves don’t pay off without decisions like this to make the team bigger and stronger.
7:47: 6, Jets: Leonard Williams, DT, Southern Cal
Knee-jerk: Wow. I didn’t think the Jets would stay true to the whole best-player-on-the-board thing that everybody says they do and then don’t. I had Williams sliding past the Jets to the Bears. The Jets don’t have a need there, but Williams was too good to pass at No. 6. You have to admire them for that.
7:53: 7, Bears: Kevin White, WR, West Virginia
Knee-jerk reaction: Yeah, he’s a talented receiver who’s big with the whole catch radius and ball skills thing. But what about that horrible defense in Chicago. The Bears have ranked 31st in the league in points allowed in back-to-back years. They needed defense, defense and more defense. Don’t like the pick. But won’t say it’s a total botching of the pick. The size of the Bears’ top 2 wideouts are once again a matchup headache for teams that don’t have two big corners.
8:00: 8, Falcons: Vic Beasley, OLB, Clemson
Knee-jerk reaction: The Falcons needed a pass rusher and the best player on the board sure seemed to be this guy. So it looks like a good pick. The Falcons have the QB and the WRs. Now, they have a key piece to knock down the other teams’ QBs and disrupt the rhythm with those QBs’ WRs.
8:06: 9, Giants: Ereck Flowers, OT, Miami
Knee-jerk reaction: We all knew the Giants were going to address their offensive line with this pick. It’s a wise decision when you have a top-10 pick and need help up front. This guy can play left tackle, but has the size and strength to play on the right side if needed. I had the Giants taking this guy. Some would say he went too high, but give the Giants credit for identifying the player they liked regardless of all the chatter.
8:13: Rams: Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia
Knee-jerk reaction: I could regret this in 10 years, but I hate this pick. No way I’d take a running back coming off a torn ACL. No way. They say he’s the next Adrian Peterson. So maybe that makes people less concerned about the knee. But there’s only one AP. He ran for 2,097 yards the year after tearing an ACL. I wouldn’t bet a 10th overall pick on Gurley being great after his injury. Not saying he won’t do it. Just saying I wouldn’t bet a No. 10 overall on it.
AND A BONUS KNEE-JERK …
8:19: Vikings: Trae Waynes, CB, Michigan State
Knee-jerk reaction: I had them taking DeVante Paker, but I like this pick. I like it even more after the Bears took Kevin White, the big West Virginia receiver, No. 7 overall. The Vikings need two big press corners to compete in the NFC North. This guy can start right away opposite Xavier Rhodes. And now Captain Munnerlyn can move inside to the No. 3 corner spot. Good pick.
That’s it for the knee-jerk reactions. Enjoy the draft.
|Cincinnati - M. Lorenzen||6:05 PM|
|Pittsburgh - J. Locke|
|Miami - M. Latos||6:05 PM|
|Washington - S. Strasburg|
|NY Yankees - M. Pineda||6:07 PM|
|Toronto - M. Estrada|
|Philadelphia - C. Billingsley||6:10 PM|
|Atlanta - S. Miller|
|Baltimore - B. Norris||6:10 PM|
|NY Mets - B. Colon|
|Tampa Bay - D. Smyly||6:10 PM|
|Boston - R. Porcello|
|Los Angeles - Z. Greinke||7:10 PM|
|Milwaukee - M. Garza|
|Cleveland - D. Salazar||7:10 PM|
|Kansas City - J. Vargas|
|Detroit - S. Greene||7:10 PM|
|Chicago WSox - J. Samardzija|
|Oakland - J. Chavez||7:10 PM|
|Minnesota - T. May|
|Texas - W. Rodriguez||7:10 PM|
|Houston - S. Feldman|
|Chicago Cubs - K. Hendricks||7:15 PM|
|St. Louis - T. Lyons|
|Arizona - J. Collmenter||7:40 PM|
|Colorado - T. Matzek|
|Seattle - J. Paxton||9:05 PM|
|LA Angels - G. Richards|
|San Diego - A. Cashner||9:15 PM|
|San Francisco - R. Vogelsong|
|San Jose||7:30 PM|