Rather than add my voice to the legion of bloggers speculating on the Vikings' first round pick, I'm going to take the draft analysis a step further and preview players the Vikings might take with the 41st overall pick. And in case you're wondering, I'm getting the ideas for players from NFL Draft Countdown, Draft Tek and FF Tool Box. So for all I know, these guys will all be gone in the first round, or will still be available when the Vikings draft in the third round. If it's the latter, let's all pretend this was a third round preview, ok? Thanks.
April 3: Anthony Gonzalez, WR, Ohio St.
Yesterday: Sidney Rice, WR, South Carolina
Today: Charles Johnson, DE, Georgia
What? You thought that all the candidates for the Vikings second round pick were offensive players? You realize that's not their only weak spot, right? What if they decide to draft Adrian Peterson or Brady Quinn? Think it might be worth it to draft a defensive end then? No? Well, me neither, but that doesn't mean they won't do it, just to spite us. And, so we'll all be prepared for that eventuality, I give you Charles Johnson, a 6'2, 270lb junior defensive end out of the University of Georgia. [Editor's note: Yahoo! didn't feel it necessary to keep track of his stats, so those listed are not accurate. He actually had 19 TFLs and 9.5 sacks last year. Hopefully, Johnson uses Yahoo!'s snub as motivation if he's in Purple next year.]
Johnson projects to be a workmanlike end, able to play the run, collect a few sacks and generally get the job done. His upside is "good", not "great". To put it another way, he's never going to be the focus of the other team's blocking schemes, rather, he's going to be the guy that forces the other team to keep their schemes honest.
Johnson has the strength, build and long arms you look for in a defensive end, and has also demonstrated the ability to be an effective run stopper, but he has average speed (4.87) and there are questions about his burst, specifically his ability to get around left tackles. That shouldn't be too big of an issue for the Vikings, since that's supposed to be Erasmus James' job. And if the Vikings are passing up on a defensive end in the first round, they better be sure James' is going to be ready to be their top defensive end.
James' health might be key to Johnson's success for another reason: he was never the focus of offensive blocking schemes in college, as most teams focused instead on stopping his teammate Quentin Moses. Despite this, he is generally regarded as a better NFL prospect than Moses, who is projected as a third or forth rounder. If the Vikings decide to go with an offensive player in the first round, look for them to target someone like Johnson to help with their anemic pass rush. While Charles Johnson may not ever be a Pro Bowler, he has the ability to be a quality defensive end for a long time.