Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Snatching Up All the Quality Free Agents

In case you missed it, the Vikings recently signed sixteen rookie free agents (and also invited a few players with local ties to come try out for a contract). And they did a good job of signing some quality players. NFL Draft Countdown listed their top 50 rookie free agents (based on their predraft rankings) and the Purple cleaned up, signing eight of them, including two in the top ten and Erin Henderson, the brother of starting middle linebacker E.J. Henderson and NFL Draft Countdown's top rookie free agent.

Vikings' Signees on the top 50 Rookie Free Agent List:
#1: Erin Henderson, OLB, Maryland
#6: Drew Radovich, OG, USC
#23. Darius Reynaud, WR, West Virginia
#27. Martail Burnett, DE, Utah
#28. J Leman, ILB, Illinois
#38. Marcus Griffin, S, Texas
#40. Kyle Wright, QB, Miami (FL)
#49. Steven Hauschka, K, North Carolina St.

And while many of these rookie free agents will end up on the practice squad or won't make the team at all, if you're going to bring in rookie free agents, might as well bring in the best, right?

Monday, April 28, 2008

Wrapping Up the Draft: Almost an Unqualified Success

The Vikings' draft was almost an unqualified success. They were able to draft players to add depth at almost all of the positions they needed to add depth at except tackle, and they ignored a position, tight end, where they have depth but don't have any quality players And while I'm not happy that the Vikings didn't draft a tight end that might actually be worth throwing to, the fact that they didn't draft a tackle means they didn't add any depth to the position at which they'll likely need depth the soonest.

After trading their fourth round pick to draft Tyrell Johnson, who was perhaps the top safety in the draft, I wrote that the Purple's trade cost them a draft pick they would need if they wanted to find players at all of their positions of need, specifically focusing on quarterbacks that were likely to be gone by the fifth round. I was wrong that the Vikings wouldn't have their choice of quarterbacks, as Andre Woodson, Josh Johnson and John David Booty were all available to the Vikings in the fifth round (or, at least, were available after the Vikings moved up). I was right, however, about the fact that the Purple traded away their chance to add depth at all the positions they needed to, as they missed the chance to pick up any of the three tackles that were available with their pick in the fourth round and were off the board by the time they went on the clock in the fifth round.

While I liked seeing the Purple pick up the eventual successor for Pat Williams late in the fifth round (Letroy Guion from Florida State) and the successor for Matt Birk (John Sullivan from Notre Dame) and a wide receiver with punt return experience (Jaymar Johnson from Jacksonville State) in the sixth round, I'm not sure that I like the choice of John David Booty as the Vikings' developmental quarterback. While Booty has the accuracy and ability to make all the reads needed in the West Coast offense, he is a pocket passer and doesn't have that good of an arm. His upside is that of a league average quarterback, unlike Andre Woodson and Josh Johnson, who could both turn into stars, as they both have similar accuracy, ability to run an offense and combine that with a good arm and the ability to make plays with their feet. And neither Woodson or Johnson are likely to inspire any awful jokes. If anything, I think Johnson was probably the best developmental quarterback available, due to his speed and arm strength. Like Tarvaris, he played for a 1-AA school, but unlike Tarvaris, he was statisically dominate, completing 68% of his passes in his 3+ years of starting and throwing 43 touchdowns to 2 interceptions his senior year. And he had a good coach with NFL experience in Jim Harbaugh.

So while the Vikings may have answered the questions about who will succeed Darren Sharper, Pat Williams and Matt Birk and picked up a receiver that can return punts, they left open the question as to who will step into the lineup if Bryant McKinnie is suspended for four games or if Ryan Cook doesn't improve and they choose the developmental quarterback with the least upside. So while it's something of a waste of time to try and grade a draft immediately after it's completed, the Vikings choice not to draft a tackle and to pick Booty over Woodson and Johnson mean that the Purple won't receive an "A" from me, but the depth they added at other positions and the fact that Jacksonville gave up more draft picks to move up and draft Derrick Harvey than the Vikings did to trade for Jared Allen means that the Purple's draft was still relatively successful.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Mixed Feelings About Tyrell

I'm of two minds about the Vikings' decision to trade their fourth round pick (117th overall) to move up in the second round and draft Tyrell Johnson, a 6'0", 206lb safety from Arkansas State. I like the addition of Tyrell (yes, I will be referring to him by his awesome middle name and I might even break out his equally cool first name, Marcellous, sometimes), but I'm not sure I like the fact that the Vikings gave up their fourth round pick in order to get him.

First, let's talk about the newest Viking. Tyrell Johnson is big, he's fast and he may just have been the best safety available in the draft. The Vikings clearly need a safety who'll be ready to step in and replace Darren Sharper when age finally catches up to him (even ageless ones, like the soon to be 33 year old Sharper, get old sometimes) and Tyrell Johnson will probably be ready to do so by the end of this year, if not sooner. Tyrell is perfect for the Cover-2, combining the best aspects of the free and strong safety positions, able to both bring the pain and with good coverage instincts, great closing speed and good hands. He's also will be able to step in and help out on special teams right away, yet another reason why he'll fit in well in Purple.

What I don't like about the Vikings' first day at the draft is the fact that they gave up their fourth round pick in order to move up. I understand that the Vikings likely needed to do so in order to select Tyrell, what with safety hungry Chicago, Detroit and Cincinnati waiting to draft Tyrell before the 47th pick. The thing is, the Purple have other needs that they need to address besides safety and even if Tyrell wasn't going to be available to them at the 47th pick, they could have used that choice to draft a wide receiver, tight end, offensive lineman or even a defensive tackle, which are all positions that the Vikings need depth at. Also, by trading away their fourth round pick, the Vikings gave away the chance to add another player at one of those positions, or at quarterback, a position that the Vikings have no plan at aside from Tarvaris Jackson. I like Tyrell Johnson, but I'm just not so sure I like him more than Martellus Bennett and Andre Woodson (or Josh Johnson, or a defensive tackle, etc).

Friday, April 25, 2008

The Second Round--A Left Tackle or Tight End Please

Luckily for the Vikings, whether or not their draft is a success this year won't just come down to whether or not they are able to turn their second round pick into a productive player. The Purple have had quite a bit of success with their fourth round picks over the last few years, drafting Brian Robison and Ray Edwards the last two years and they were also able to find useful players like Mewelde Moore, Ontarrio Smith and Brian Williams in that round.

That being said, their second round pick, being their first, is the one that will be the most visible and the one that is most likely to turn into an impact player. By acquiring Jared Allen, the Vikings eliminated one of their needs (rendering this post moot), but they still have quite a few holes, and the 47th pick should be able to get them a player that will help fill one of them.

At this point, the Vikings' biggest need is on the offensive line, specifically tackle and center. Both Steve Hutchinson and Artis Hicks should be around at guard for a few more years, but the same cannot be said about Bryant McKinnie, Ryan Cook and Matt Birk. Cook is nominally Birk's replacement, but whether the Vikings want to hand him the position without any competition after his struggles at right tackle is a whole 'nother question. I wouldn't be surprised to see the Purple draft a center this year, but that's not a position that most teams draft for in the second round (Let's all just ignore what round Cook was drafted in right now, ok? Thanks). That means if the Vikings are going to address their line in the second round, they're likely going to do so by drafting an offensive tackle.

There are four tackles that I've seen going in the second round of the mock drafts: Sam Baker, (6'5", 309 lb) from USC, Duane Brown, (6'5", 300 lb) from Virginia Tech, Anthony Collins, (6'6" 308lb) from Kansas and Oniel Cousins, (6'4", 315lb) from UTEP. Baker is held in the highest regard, which isn't surprising, considering he held down the left tackle position at USC for four years, earning all kinds of accolades. If he somehow falls all the way to the Vikings, he should be their pick. Brown, Collins and Cousins were all impressive in college as well, but were not at the same level as Baker. They all need to improve their technique, footwork and strength, as well as show greater aggression. Brown seems to the best of the group, but at this point, differentiating between them isn't something I can do--they all have potential and with the right coaching, anyone of them could be a good tackle.

If Baker isn't available and the Purple don't want to use a pick on a developmental tackle, they should look to tight end as the next position to address. As the Eagles and L.J. Smith have shown, a good, pass catching tight end makes the West Coast Offense a lot more dangerous, and Visanthe Shiancoe has not given any one much of a reason to believe he can become a good, pass catching tight end in his five years in the NFL. There are three good tight ends that are projected to go in the second round, Dustin Keller from Purdue, Martellus Bennett from Texas A&M and John Carlson from Litchfield, MN...I mean Notre Dame. I wrote about them earlier, and while Keller seems the most likely to be able to step in and make an impact as a rookie, I think the Vikings should take a long look at Martellus Bennett. He's the perfect height for a tight end (6'7"), has great hands and, while still learning the game since giving up basketball, has all the speed (4.68 forty) and athletic ability that a dominate tight end (he declared for the NBA draft out of high school) should have. I'm not a big fan of Carlson, but I can't tell if its because he isn't an elite athlete for his position, because his stats dropped like a rock after Brady Quinn left or because I tend to judge Minnesotans harshly because I don't want to overrate them because they're from Minnesota. Either way, I'd rather have Keller or Bennett and I think I'd probably pass on Carlson even if he was the only tight end available.

If the Vikings don't like the left tackles and tight ends on the board when they draft, I think, as I just hinted, it's time to grab the best player available at any position, with an emphasis on cornerbacks, wide receivers and safeties, in that order. I would look at cornerback first, because, as the saying goes, you can never have enough corners, especially when your top three corners are two young guys that looked a little too shaky last year in Marcus McCauley and Cedric Griffin and a soon to be 31 year old that missed six games because of injury last year in Antoine Winfield. If the Purple prefer the wide receivers left, they should make sure to draft one with punt return experience, something that no one on their roster currently has any NFL experience with. Earl Bennet (6'1", 205lbs) from Vanderbilt, Eddie Royal (5'11", 182lbs) from Virginia Tech and Donnie Avery (5'11", 186lbs) from Houston all spent time fielding punts in college and might be available with the 47th pick. The last position I'd look to in the second round is safety. While the Vikings need a successor for Darren Sharper, the Purple plan on competing this year and should try to use their highest pick to pick up a player that can impact this season. Michael Boulware provides them the depth they need to cover an injury at safety and there are enough capable safeties in the draft that they can likely find a successor to groom in the later rounds. That being said, if the Purple decide to draft a safety, Tyrelle Johnson (6'0", 198lbs) from Arkansas State would be the best choice. DaJuan Morgan (6'1", 205lbs) from North Carolina State is likely to be the only safety available with the 47th pick, however, and he's a question mark, as he was only a starter as a junior and sat out his senior year because of a hip injury. He has a ton of talent, but is very unproven.

Finally, I would stay away from a quarterback in the second round, because now is not the time to put that kind of pressure on Tarvaris Jackson. If the Vikings want to accomplish their goals next year, they need Tarvaris to be good and bringing in a second rounder will put pressure on him in a way that will likely hurt his ability to play well. If the Purple want to use a 4th, 5th or 6th rounder on a quarterback to develop, that's fine, but their second round pick should be used to address another position. Brad Childress has hitched his fortunes to Tarvaris Jackson and this is the year he finds out if he was right to do so. Let's all hope he was.

Alternate History and Some Solid Links

So you know, while I didn't get a wide receiver profile up at all (sometimes...and I mean sometimes, work comes first), I will be posting a "Second Round Preview" this afternoon. I'm still working on it, but it's mostly written. Before I do that (and I'll hopefully be posting during the draft--that depends a lot on the girlfriend's plans for the weekend), I thought I'd put up some links to articles worth reading (mostly on the Jared Allen trade) and tell you who I'd have wanted the Vikings to draft if they still had the 17th pick. I think it's worth doing, mainly so that when my top choices go well before the 17th pick, I'll feel even better about the Vikings deal for Allen (if that's even possible).

The First Round Draft Board:
1. Derrick Harvey, DE-Florida
Harvey is the best defensive end available that might actually make it to the 17th pick. Absent Jared Allen, he would have been the clear choice for the Vikings, filling their most glaring need with a talented pass rusher.

2. Ryan Clady, OT-Boise State
Clady might be the best offensive tackle left on the board, now that Jake Long has been signed by the Dolphins. I don't think there's a chance he'll make it to the 17th pick, but if I was the Vikings, and he was there, he would have been an easy choice to fill in for Bryant McKinnie during his suspension and then hopefully replace Ryan Cook at right tackle.

3. Chris Williams, OT-Vanderbilt
Williams is going to be a very, very good left tackle, because he's quick, has long arms and very good technique. His weakness is his strength, which he should be able to improve upon once he gets into an NFL strength program, but that's not as big a deal at left tackle, where most of the players he'd be blocking rely on their speed, not their strength. If the Vikings had picked him, they could have shopped McKinnie and been perfectly comfortable.

4. Jeff Otah, OT-Pittsburgh
Otah is seen as having the highest upside of any tackle on the board. The problem, of course, is that he might not realize his potential. He'd be the riskiest pick of any of the tackles for the Vikings, who likely need someone to fill in for McKinnie this year, and who would, ideally, be able to overtake Ryan Cook for the right tackle position. Otah might end up being the best tackle this draft produces, but he also might not be ready to play this year, which is why he doesn't fit into the Vikings' plans as well.

5. Phillip Merling, DE-Clemson
If Merling wasn't coming off of sports hernia surgery, I'd likely have him higher up on my board. He was able to work out for teams before the draft, but I'm not sure I'd want to take the risk, especially because Merling seems to be more of an Udeze type, rather than someone who can consistently get to the quarterback.

6. Devin Thomas, WR-Michigan State
Thomas is the best wide receiver that might be available to the Vikings, and the only one I'd consider drafting in the first round, mainly because he also has the ability to return punts and kicks. He's raw, and there's questions as to whether his great junior year was a fluke, but he's got all the skills and athleticism a wide receiver needs, and can contribute right away as a punt and kick returner. That being said, wide receivers are a risky pick in the first round.

7. Mike Jenkins, CB-South Florida
You can put Leodis McKelvin, a corner back from Troy or Aqib Talib, a corner back from Kansas (if you don't mind the marijuana use) here as well if you'd like, depending on which one is available. All three seem like they will turn into quality corner backs in the NFL, but the Vikings would have needed a player at a different position more, and likely would have been able to pick up a tackle or defensive end with the seventeenth pick, although McKelvin might have been a sleeper choice if he fell to the Purple, because he is a solid punt returner.

Judging the Allen Deal:
Most people thought the deal was a good one, from the folks at Pacifist Viking, to Gonzo at the Daily Norseman. DC at Grant's Tomb was happy, as was the Vikes Geek and Kevin Seifert and Patrick Reusse from the Star Tribune were quite excited about Zygi Wilf shelling out the cash to bring in Allen. Don Banks from Sports Illustrated likes the deal, especially if, as he reports the Vikings don't have to worry about Allen getting suspended for a year if he doesn't get in trouble before September, although Peter King thinks that Allen would still face a suspension if he violates the NFL Player Conduct Policy. Pro Football Reference used their "approximate value method" to evaluate the deal and they found that Allen is likely to out perform any of the players picked with the choices the Purple gave up and will likely out perform all three of them combined.

Quick Draft Links:
Cold, Hard Football Facts had an article breaking down the success rate of various positions, and found some interesting things out, including the fact that defensive ends chosen in the first round from 1978 had the lowest percentage make the Pro Bowl of any position. They had the sixth best rate of starting for five years for the team that drafted them (a 60% rate). Yet another reason to like the Allen trade--the Vikings might have gotten a starter for five years at defensive end, but odds are they wouldn't have been able to get a Pro Bowler with their first round pick.

Brett Favre is going to be on the cover of Madden '09. Maybe this means he'll come back after Jared Allen hurts Aaron Rogers in the first game, only to get destroyed by the cover curse. Or maybe he'll fade away gracefully into retirement. The former is definitely more likely.

Kissing Suzy Kolber is going to be live blogging the draft, so if you're watching, have a laptop and need some entertainment, definitely go there (after checking to see if I've posted, of course...). Also, fellow Viking fan Big Daddy Drew made a case for watching the Draft that I agree with whole heartedly.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Return of the Purple People Eaters

I'll be honest-it took me a while to figure out how to start this post out. And, as you may be able to tell, I failed to come up with anything good. I'm going to cut myself a break here though, since the Vikings just acquired Jared Allen for their first round pick and both of their third round picks and made him the highest paid defensive player in the NFL.

That's right-the Purple now have the best defensive end in the NFL. Yup, that'll go nicely with their two Pro Bowl tackles, two young and talented defensive ends and their Pro Bowl caliber middle linebacker. Obviously Brett Favre knew something we didn't when he retired, because opposing quarterbacks are going to get destroyed when they face the Purple. I don't think I can express how excited I am about being able to finally watch the Purple actually get to opposing quarterbacks, something they haven't really been able to do since I really started following the Vikings in 1998. Heck, my friends and I still have a running joke about Kurt Warner getting in trouble with his "wife" for spending so much time checking out girls in the stands whenever he dropped back to pass against the Vikings in the 1999 playoffs.

But that's all in the past, because a defensive line of Allen, the Williams and Ray Edwards/Brian Robison will be almost impossible to stop. With that kind of pressure, the Vikings secondary is suddenly very good, since they wont have to cover for very long at all. Somehow, I see Darren Sharper's interception totals going up.

Now, I understand people's concerns about this deal. A first round pick and two third round picks is a lot to give up, especially for a player with previous violations of the NFL Personnel Conduct Policy. I discussed the various scenarios that I'd heard in an earlier post, and while I think that Rick Spielman and the Vikings' draft gurus would have been able to turn their third rounders into solid players, the Vikings' success rate with third round picks is very low. Since 2000, the Vikings have drafted Doug Chapman (2000-RB), Eric Kelly (2001-CB), Willie Offord (2002-SS), Nate Burleson (2003-WR), Darrion Scott (2004-DE), Dustin Fox (2005-CB) and Marcus McCauley (2007-CB). Offord was the only one that lasted more than four years with the Vikings, Burleson was the only one that started and McCauley is the only third rounder left on the team. So would I be willing to trade McCauley and Burleson for the right to draft Allen with the 17th pick (which, in essence, is what the Vikings are doing)? I certainly would. And I'd trade Dustin Fox and Doug Chapman for that right in a heartbeat.

And I'm not too worried about the money that the Vikings are shelling out for Allen either. While making him the third highest player in the NFL, with a six year contract worth just under $74 million, with just under $31,000,069 guaranteed is a big deal, the Vikings seem to have the cap room. And I'm willing to trust that Zygi Wilf and the Vikings put an extensive amount of time looking into Allen's claims that he hasn't had a drink since his second DUI in 2006 and his character and believe he's reformed. It is their money after all.

The Vikings now have a Super Bowl caliber pass defense. They already had a Super Bowl caliber run defense and running attack. If Tarvaris Jackson can become a league average quarterback, they are a Super Bowl contender, something they haven't been able to say going into the season in a long time. It's going to be a really fun season, that's for sure.

[I'm going to try and have a profile of the wide receivers the Vikings might draft in the second round up this afternoon, so check back and find out what the Purple might do with the only draft pick they have left in the first three rounds.]

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

How Jared Allen Ruined the Draft

Unlike some Vikings' fans, I wasn't having any trouble getting excited about the draft. I can understand why some Vikings' fans might not be too excited, but I like thinking about and debating various draft prospects, and strategies, even when they're somewhat unexciting, like a left tackle, or a safety. And its hard to get excited for the seventeenth pick, with so many variables built in, unlike last year, when it was just a matter of deciding which of the top seven players you liked best.

That all changed when the news broke about Jared Allen. Once I realized that acquiring Allen was a strong possibility, it became too hard to care about whether Derrick Harvey will fall to the seventeenth pick, or if the Vikings would pass on a stud tackle, like Chris Williams, in favor of a player that fits their need, but has just under gone surgery (Phillip Merling). I don't really want to go through possible second round picks, because I'd rather the Vikings give up their second rounder if it meant adding a proven star at defensive end. It's not easy doing a write up on second round defensive backs that might improve the Vikings secondary when you'd rather have Allen improve the Vikings secondary by consistently getting to the quarterback.

Jared Allen is the piece that can transform the Vikings' pass defense from a lower tier unit (23rd overall in defensive passer rating) into one of the best in the league. That would give the Vikings the best running offense, the best running defense and one of the best passing defenses. All that would need to happen at that point for the Vikings to be a legit Super Bowl contender, is for Tarvaris Jackson to turn into an average quarterback, something that should be easy to do when he's throwing the ball to Bernard Berrian, Sidney Rice and Bobby Wade (I'm serious. If the Giants and their average secondary, average quarterback, good running game and amazing defensive line can win the Super Bowl, so can the Vikings). For the Vikings to be Super Bowl contenders without Allen, they'd need a lot more to go right besides Tarvaris Jackson improving. And that's why I'm not excited about the draft any more and why I'm going to be really angry if the Chiefs aren't reasonable (Someone please explain to me how the #17 pick, the 73rd pick and next year's second round pick isn't reasonable) and the Vikings don't end up with Allen playing right end for them next year.

Monday, April 21, 2008

The Cost of Jared Allen

As you probably know, Jared Allen did not become a Viking prior to leaving Minnesota. Thankfully, he didn't leave because he couldn't reach a deal with the Purple. Instead he was forced to leave due to NFL rules that require restricted free agents to end their visits after 48 hours. In fact it seems that the Vikings were able to reach some kind of preliminary agreement with Allen, for a six year contract that would just need a few details worked out. And yes, I am really enjoying the fact that Zygi Wilf is acting like a big market baseball team, willing to shell out significant contracts to big time players if it will improve his team.

Since the contract doesn't seem to be the problem, the Chiefs' demands are the most likely hang up. It seems they want a first and second rounder, while the Vikings are offering a first and a third. My guess is the Chiefs are hoping to create a bidding war between the Purple and Tampa Bay, where Jared Allen will be visiting later this week. If it does turn into a bidding war (which depends a lot on if Allen is willing to go to Tampa Bay), it is one the Vikings can win, as their picks are all higher than Tampa's. The question is if it'd be worth it for the Purple to give up a second rounder (or even another first rounder, if they sign him to an offer sheet) rather than a third rounder for Allen.

I wrote about Allen on Friday, and he is unquestionably one of the top defensive ends in the league. He's only 26 years old, has 43 sacks in his four years and is good at stopping the run. There's the matter of his two DUI's, but the more I read about him, the less worried I become, and the Vikings don't seem too worried about it either, or they wouldn't have offered him the money they did.

So we know what we'd be getting. The question, what would we be giving up? The following table has all of the Vikings' first, second and third round picks for the last five years.

1st Round

2nd Round

3rd Round


Adrian Peterson (7)

Sidney Rice (44)

Marcus McCauley (72)


Chad Greenway (17)

Cedric Griffin (48), Ryan Cook (51), Tarvaris Jackson (64)



Troy Williamson (7), Erasmus James (17)

Marcus Johnson (49)

Dustin Fox (80)


Kenechi Udeze (20)

Dontarrious Thomas (48)

Darrion Scott (88)


Kevin Williams (9)

E.J. Henderson (40)

Nate Burleson (71)

They've made six first round picks, seven second round picks and four third round picks. Of their first round choices, two are Pro Bowl caliber players (Peterson and Williams), two are starters (Greenway and Udeze), one was a backup and traded (Williamson) and one hasn't played much because of injury (James). Their second round choices have yielded two Pro Caliber players (Rice and Henderson), one starter (Griffin), two average to mediocre starters (Cook and Jackson), one backup (Johnson) and one backup that's no longer on the team (Thomas). Their third round selections have yielded one starter (Burleson) that's no longer on the team, one current backup (McCauley) and one backup that's no longer no the team (Scott) and one player that didn't play a down before being cut (Fox).

So, aside from learning that the 2003 draft was as good as the 2005 draft was bad, what does this exercise tell us about the value of a draft pick? Well, it shows why the Vikings are so hesitant to give up a second round pick. Second round picks have given the Vikings their starting quarterback, middle linebacker, left tackle and a starter at corner back and wide receiver. The best the Vikings have been able to do in the third round is Nate Burleson, who gave them a season with 1000 yards receiving, but was only with the team for three years, and was mediocre for two of them. The other players are backups and only McCauley, who the jury is still out on, is left on the team.

It also shows that, if the Chiefs refuse to make a deal, signing Allen to an offer sheet might be worth it. While the Purple would lose their first round picks in 2009 and 2010, they would still have their second round picks, which have produced almost as many good players for the Purple as the first rounders. Of course, it would only be justifiable if the Vikings believe they are going to be really good this year and next year, since they've shown the ability to turn top ten picks into superstars (aside from the travesty that was the Troy Williamson pick). The other thing an offer sheet provides them is the ability to leverage the Chiefs into accepting a first and third rounder for Allen, since they seem to be placing a premium on getting something for him now, rather than down the road.

If the Vikings can get Allen for a first and third round pick in this year's draft, they need to do so. If not, the difference between giving up a first and second round pick this year and a first round pick the next two years isn't as big as it seems. Adding two more quality players, along with Allen, to this year's team could be enough to get the Vikings deep into the playoffs and the players that they'd be giving up the chance to draft in first round of the 2009 and the 2010 draft won't necessarily be better than the ones the ones they'd be able to draft this year with their first and second round pick. If the Chiefs won't budge, then it might be worth it to sign Allen to an offer sheet that the Chiefs can't match after the draft and load up this year. Of course, the viability of that plan depends a lot on whether Tarvaris Jackson can turn into a real quarterback, because if not, the Purple will have a very hard time finding a viable replacement for him without their first round picks in 2009 and 2010.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Solving Our Problems: Jared Allen

In case you somehow managed to miss the news, the Chiefs are shopping Jared Allen. That's right, Jared "lead the NFL in sacks despite missing two games" Allen is available for the right price, and the Vikings seem to have the best chance to acquire him.

Now, before we go any further, let's all take a deep breath, center our selves, and think about this analytically. Now, obviously, adding an elite pass rusher is the Vikings' main goal at this point. So, is Allen an elite pass rusher? Let's go to the stats and find out. Allen has 43 sacks in 61 career games, including 15.5 last season, where he missed the first two games due to suspension (don't worry, I'm going to get to that later). That means he has a sack rate of 11.28 sacks per 16 games. His worst year, 2006, he had 7.5 sacks, a number that would have lead the Vikings last year. And Kansas City had the third highest adjusted sack rate last year, bested only by the Patriots and the Giants. The Vikings were 28th. Allen is also good against the run, averaging over 56 tackles a year, a number dragged down by his rookie total of 30 tackles, and one which still would have been the 8th best on the Purple. And while he may still be the focus of opposing blocking schemes, he'll also be paired with the Williams and young pass rushers Ray Edwards and Brian Robison, which means that offenses will get to decide which player sacks their quarterback, but they won't be able to stop the Vikings from getting to him.

Now that we've come to the conclusion that Jared Allen is, in fact, an elite pass rusher (yeah, I know, a tough decision), it's time to consider the cost of acquiring him. The Chiefs have placed their franchise tag on him, which means that, technically, the Vikings could sign him right now. In order to do so, however, they'd have to give up two first round picks, one from this year, and one from next year. Obviously, they aren't going to do that, which means that, in order to trade him, the Chiefs have to accept something less than two first rounders. Rumor is that the Vikings are considering offering their first round pick this year and their second round pick next year for Allen. If the Chiefs prefer picks from this year's draft, that means that they'll likely have to accept a third round pick instead of a second rounder. The Vikings have the 17th, 47th, 73rd and 82nd picks. Ideally, they'd be able to convince the Chiefs to take the 82nd pick, along with the 17th, but, due to Tampa Bay's interest, they may have to deal the 73rd pick instead. Tampa has the 20th, 52nd and 80th pick, but only have 5 total draft picks this year, which makes each of their picks more valuable to them, and the Vikings can easily outbid them, as their picks are all higher than the Bucs'. Are a first and third round pick worth trading for an elite pass rusher? In a word--Yes. Odds are the Purple would be using one of those picks (if not both) on a defensive end anyway, and it's much better to get a proven commodity than have to take a chance on an unknown, when the proven commodity is very, very good.

Even if the Vikings reach a deal with the Chiefs, they're still going to have to reach a deal with Jared Allen. Rumor is that he wants Dwight Freeney money, which means a contract that is around six-years, for $72 million and $30 million guaranteed. To put that in context, the Purple were willing to offer an inferior end, Justin Smith, $20 million in guaranteed money and a six year contract for $45 million. Is Allen worth the cash? Well, yes, and no.

Yes, because Allen is only 26 years old, and likely to continue to be effective for the length of the contract and because that's the going rate for elite pass rushers. No, because Allen's already managed to pick up two DUI's in his four years, which is the reason why he served a two game suspension last year (which was originally four games). He says he has stopped drinking, which I'm willing to believe, but I'm not the one guaranteeing him $30 million dollars. I'm not sure how the Vikings can square trading for Allen with their "Culture of Accountability", nor am I sure if guaranteeing $30 million to a player who has already had his second strike is a good idea. The Vikings are supposedly considering trading Bryant McKinnie because of the fight he was allegedly involved in (remember, he hasn't been convicted of anything yet). And while it was McKinnie's fourth arrest, unlike Allen, he hasn't been found in violation of the NFL conduct policy for the second time yet. A third violation would likely mean a year long suspension, and the Vikings might not be able to recover the money they guaranteed Allen, and they certainly wouldn't be able to recover the draft picks they gave up to get him.

So, do I make this trade if I'm the Vikings? I think so. I have no problem with giving up a first and a third rounder this year (or a first rounder and a second rounder for next year) for a talent like Allen. Nor do I have a problem with paying a player like him the money he wants. If I'm the Vikings though, I'm making damned sure that he is telling the truth about learning from his past mistakes. Because I have a problem with the Vikings signing a player with two DUIs that hasn't made a change to their lifestyle. And that's what this deal hinges on--can the Vikings trust Allen to be a model citizen? If so, he's the answer to their problems. If not, this trade isn't worth it. So, do you trust Zygi, Spielman and Childress to make the right call on Jared Allen's character?

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Links: New Schedule, Draft News and Gus Ferrotte

With the draft next Saturday, there's been a lot going on in the world of the NFL. The schedule was released on Tuesday to the kind of fanfare that was meant to remind you that the NFL is the undisputed king of sports. ESPN spent two hours breaking down the schedule, picking out games to watch, making predictions about teams strength of schedule and generally wasting everyone's time. I understand blogs about NFL teams and NFL focused sites writing about the schedule. But a two hour special on ESPN!? There wasn't a baseball game they could show? Or maybe some more draft speculation? What about the Strong Man Competition? Do they still have the rights to that? Seriously folks, trying to divine any meaning from the NFL schedule right now is pretty much a waste of time. I'm not the only one that feels that way either.

And now that I've trashed those who wrote about the schedule, if you want some thoughts on it, Gonzo broke it down at the Daily Norseman, wwtb? wrote about it at Pacifist Viking, and the writers at Access Vikings spilled some pixels analyzing it as well.

(And if you're wondering, I think the Vikings' schedule looks rough to start with, has some challenges in the middle and gets easy at the end. I fully expect them to be in the drivers seat for a playoff berth or division title coming down the stretch. And I fully expect them to blow it. They're finishing 1-2 or 0-3 if they have a shot at the playoffs. It's what the Vikings do.)

For those who prefer reading about something that is actually relevant sometime soon, there are a host of articles on the draft, and, of course, a ton of mock drafts.

Michael Lombardi, who is described in his bio at SI.com as a veteran of 22 years in NFL personnel offices, has an interesting article on how teams actually look to mock drafts for information. It's kind of crazy to think that without them, Jerry Rice may have spent his Hall of Fame career in a different uniform.

Pro Football Talk has an article about how teams are changing the tables they use to assign draft picks value due to the rising costs of top 5 draft picks. Those value tables are a large reason why there have been so few teams willing to trade up, as they assigned values to top picks that no team was willing to pay. I don't know whether the new tables will lead to more trades, but it certainly seems to make them more likely.

For those of you who would like to see the Vikings take a quarterback in the first three rounds, Football Outsiders has an interesting article on Chad Henne. Personnally, I don't think it would be a good idea to draft a quarterback that high, but as Gonzo wrote, it's probably a given that the Purple will draft a quarterback.

I probably shouldn't tell you this, since I've been relying on these videos for my own profiles, but if you're interested, SI.com has video of their top 200 draft prospects.

There's also been some new (negative) information that's come out recently about players the Vikings might be considering drafting in the first round. Malcolm Kelly ran an awful 4.63 forty at his workout, and then threw the Oklahoma staff under the bus, though he's going to have another work out. And Aqib Talib and Mario Manningham didn't help their draft prospects by admitting to smoking pot in college, which is why I didn't end up profiling either of them.

L.A. has a new stadium proposal. If L.A. builds a new stadium, it's not going to look good for the Vikings chances of staying in Minnesota, unless they get a new stadium build. That being said, Grant's Tomb thinks that the Purple aren't going anywhere. Which works for me.

Finally, the Vikings signed Gus Frerotte to be their back up quarterback. The ideal back up quarterback for a young starter, like Tarvaris Jackson, is a veteran that is content with the role, can mentor the young quarterbacks on the roster and can step in and provide decent play for a game or two. Frerotte's got the first two down, but his play on the field will likely be Bollinger/Holcombe bad. So, not the best signing, but since neither Sage Rosenfels or J.P. Lohsman are available, he was probably the best available option.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Solving Our Problems: Second Round Defensive Ends

If the Vikings don't take a defensive end in the first round, they're going to have to consider taking one in the second round. Whether there will be one worth drafting with the 47th pick, is a whole 'nother question. There are three defensive ends who look like second round picks, Calais Campbell, a junior from Miami, Quentin Groves, a senior from Auburn, and Cliff Avril, a senior from Purdue. Don't be surprised to see Lawrence Jackson from USC go in the second round as well.

Calais Cambell- 6'8", 282 LBs, Miami

Campbell looked like a top 15 pick after his sophomore year, where he dominated the ACC, racking up 10.5 sacks and 20.5 tackles for a loss. He was living up to his hype as the favorite for the Ted Hendricks award through his first 5 games, with 4.5 sacks and 7 TFL. He fell off dramatically after that, only getting 1.5 more sacks and 5.5 more TFL through the last 6 games. His size, reach, athleticism, tackling, motor and quickness all scream "First Rounder", but his fall off in production, tendency to play too high and mediocre showing at the Combine (5.04 forty, 7.45 second 3 cone drill) mean he'll likely fall to the second round. How far he'll fall is the question, but he'd be a good choice for the Purple if they think his junior year was the real Campbell.

Quentin Groves-6'3", 250 LBs, Auburn

With the recent revelation that he had heart surgery, Groves is now damaged goods. He is the all time sack leader at Auburn, has the speed, quickness and strength to be a force coming off of the edge, but he also had a heart condition serious enough to warrant surgery. Any team looking to draft him had better trust their medical staff to check him out properly before drafting him, that's for sure. Groves might not be the best fit for the Purple, since, at 250 pounds, he's small for a 4-3 defensive end, and would likely have trouble going one on one every play with the much bigger NFL offensive tackles, especially since he has a limited repertoire of moves. He'd be a much better fit at outside linebacker in a 3-4, but with his speed and quickness (he ran a 4.57 forty and a 4.42 20 yard shuttle), its not unreasonable to think he could be a poor man's version of Javon Kearse (Kearse is only 263 lbs). He wasn't as quick in the 3 cone drill, running it in 7.31 seconds (6.90 seconds was the best time), so he might not be as quick as he'd need to be to play as an undersized defensive end.

Cliff Avril--6'3", 252 LBs, Purdue

Like Groves, Avril has the skills and speed to be an undersized speed rusher, but would likely be better as a linebacker. Unlike Groves, however, Avril's didn't start playing defensive end until part of the way through his junior year. Once he moved, however, he flourished, racking up 6 sacks his junior year and 6.5 sacks as a senior. He also caused six fumbles in his two years and had 30 tackles for a loss. He's exceptionally quick, running the fastest 3 cone drill by a defensive lineman (6.90 seconds) and his time would have put him in the top ten amongst running backs and linebackers as well. Avril has the burst to get by offensive linemen, and while he will likely struggle against NFL tackles that he can't get by with his quickness, he has some good pass rush moves, and can use his hands to keep blockers off his body and get separation. He has trouble against double teams as well, but that shouldn't be much of a problem on the Vikings' defensive line. He's decent against the run, but had some problem bringing down the bigger backs he faced.

Lawrence Jackson, 6'5", 268 LBs, USC

Jackson's a hard working end from USC that has injury and consistency concerns. He plays the run well, and when he's hot, he can be a pass rushing force. He has the quickness you want in a defense end, running a 4.40 2o yard shuttle and a 7.08 second 3 cone drill (both were top ten amongst defensive lineman at the combine), but his motor is questionable, and he seems to disappear for long stretches of time. When he's playing well, he keeps separation, displaying good pass rush moves and fights through blocks. When he isn't, he can be controlled relatively easily. He was on a lot his senior year, racking up 10.5 sacks and 17 TFL, but it needs to be mentioned that he also shared the line with a dominant partner, possible top 5 pick, Sedrick Ellis. Jackson has also been compared by scouts to Kenechi Udeze, which isn't bad, but isn't exactly the highest compliment for a pass rusher.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Solving Our Problems-Second Round Tight Ends

Unless anyone has any requests for profiles, I'm going to move on to the second round, which will likely be the most interesting round for the Vikings. I could see them drafting a defensive end, an offensive tackle, a corner back, a safety, a tight end or a wide receiver. I could also see them taking a quarterback, but if they picked one that high, it'd be an admission that the Tarvaris Revolution was a failure, something I doubt they're ready to do. I wouldn't be surprised to see them take a quarterback in the later rounds, however, and see if they can catch Brady lightning in a bottle.

But I digress. One of the positional needs the Vikings could address in the second round is tight end. The passing game Brad Childress runs becomes a lot more potent with an effective tight end, something the Vikings did not have last year. Visanthe Siancoe only caught 27 passes for 323 yards and 1 touchdown, dropped some key catches, and generally didn't provide the value that the Vikings wanted from the position, with only a -10.9% DVOA and 0.5 DPAR. Luckily for the Purple, there are three good tight ends who might be available to them in the second round, Dustin Keller from Purdue, Martellus Bennett from Texas A & M and John Carlson from Notre Dame.

Dustin Keller, 6'3", 242 LBs, Purdue

Keller is a great athlete, with the strength you'd want from a lineman (2nd best bench press at the combine) and the body control and speed of a receiver. He's a little small for a tight end, but he's about the same size as Chris Cooley, so his height isn't that big of a deal. He has great speed for a tight end, running the fastest forty by a tight end at the combine (4.55 seconds) and has the agility and change of direction that you'd want out of a receiver, with a 4.14 second 20 yard shuttle, best amongst tight ends and better than all but three wide receivers. He's also shown the ability to make big plays after the catch, using his speed, strength and agility to break tackles and make defenders miss. He doesn't run the best routes though, and his hands are good, not great, as he didn't bring in every catch he should have. Still, he caught 68 passes for 881 yards and 7 touchdowns his senior year. His blocking needs a lot of work, however, as he doesn't attack defenders so much as catch them, and his cut blocking is sub par. Keller also has had some nagging injuries in college, but he was always willing to play through pain, showing off some of the intangibles that you want, and his work ethic and leadership skills are top notch.

Martellus Bennett, 6'7", 248 LBs-Texas A & M

Bennett might have the highest upside of any tight end in the draft. He's tall, has long arms and is still developing, having only recently dropped basketball (he declared for the NBA draft out of high school) to focus on football. Bennett has good hands and adjusts well to the ball, even if he still catches too many balls with his body, rather than his hands. Despite being raw, the combination of his height, good hands and good speed (4.68 forty, 7th amongst Tight Ends) allowed Bennett to have a productive junior year in 2007, catching 49 passes for 587 yards and 4 touchdowns. He isn't easy to bring down either, and he can get low and run over defenders or run right through arm tackles. His routes still need a ton of work, as he tends to round off his breaks, and isn't explosive going into or out of his routes. He is quick off the line, however, even when chipping a linebacker or end, which isn't surprising, as he is already a quality blocker, able to take on defensive linemen and linebackers, and he can still get better at it as his strength and technique improve. He's shown the work ethic that you want out of a raw player as well, and if he continues to improve in the NFL, he could be an elite tight end.

John Carlson, 6'5", 256 LBs, Notre Dame

Carlson, a Litchfield, MN native, would be the local favorite if chosen by the Vikings, but he had the least impressive season of the tight ends profiled here. After a junior year in which he caught 47 passes for 634 yards and 4 touchdowns, his senior year was disappointing. He only caught 40 passes for 372 yards and 3 touchdowns. How much of that was the massive decline in the players on Notre Dame's offense (including the graduation of Brady Quinn) and how much was due to his own poor play is the main question surrounding Carlson. He's got the height, long arms, athleticism, good hands and strength to be a very good tight end in the NFL. He isn't as fast as you'd like, however, only running a 4.72 forty at the combine. NFL safeties and linebackers won't have any trouble keeping up with him in the open field at that speed, even with his ability to run quality routes. He has good hands, but has a tendency to drop the ball because he doesn't secure it before starting to run with it, even though he isn't much of a threat in the open field. Also, he doesn't use his leverage that well in blocking, and needs to improve his technique. He should improve, because he is a hard worker and a leader, serving as a captain his senior year, but the question is whether his ceiling is high enough.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Solving Our Problems: Mike Jenkins

[With Free Agency all but over, it's time to take a look at who the Vikings might select in the first round with the #17 pick. Today, we're previewing Chris Williams, an offensive tackle from Vanderbilt. Previously, I previewed Derrick Harvey, a defensive end from Florida, Chris Williams, an offensive tackle from Vanderbilt, Malcolm Kelly, a wide receiver from Oklahoma, Phillip Merling, a defensive end from Clemson, Ryan Clady, an offensive tackle from Boise St, Jeff Otah, an offensive tackle from Pitt, Limas Sweed, a wide receiver from Texas and Devin Thomas, a wide receiver from Michigan State.]

This is going to be my last profile of possible first round picks (barring any requests). Mike Jenkins is a 5'10", 197 pound cornerback out of the University of South Florida who has experience returning kickoffs, returning seven kickoffs for an average 30.4 yards and one touchdown. If the Vikings draft him, however, he may not play either role for the Purple, as his most natural position in the NFL might be Free Safety, a position the Vikings need a long term answer at.

Jenkins played four years at USF, during which he demonstrated his athleticism. He ran a 4.38 forty at the NFL Combine, and he was able to use that speed on the field, matching receivers stride for stride. He also demonstrated great skill at jamming receivers, using his upper body strength and long arms to constantly knock receivers of their routes. When receivers are able to get into their routes, he has a nose for the ball, which he combines with his long reach to get around the receiver and knock the ball away, though this also leads to pass interference penalties, which he received in five of six mid season games his senior year. He isn't great at jumping routes, however, and his hands are only adequate, which is why he never had more than 3 picks in a season. He's also susceptible to pump fakes and ball fakes, but is able to use his speed to recover.

That susceptibility is one of the reasons he might fit in better as a free safety. He can also get turned around in single coverage, which he has the speed and change of direction to recover from, but it isn't ideal as a corner. His speed and quick recovery seem ideal for the free safety position. Playing free safety would also help to cover up his struggles at stopping the run. Jenkins isn't the type to mix it up in a crowded running lane, nor has he displayed the ability to cut off running lanes. His tackling, while fine for bringing down wide receivers, isn't up to consistently bringing down running backs, and he can get run over.

Also, Jenkins has experience playing free safety, as he started games there as a freshman. He is also well known for having a good work ethic and being well respected by his teammates and so shouldn't have any trouble learning a new position or adjusting to the NFL corner position. There is one major behavioral red flag, however, as he was arrested for misdemeanor charges of disorderly conduct and resisting arrest without violence after a fight erupted outside a bar he was attending a party for former USF linebacker Stephen Nicholas. Despite not being violent, police used a taser on Jenkins and he was briefly suspended from the team. There hasn't been any further offenses, and Jenkins coaches vouch for his character, but the arrest has to be factored in to the Vikings' decision.

Jenkins will likely be the best corner available to the Purple at #17. He has the speed and coverage abilities to play corner, and could possibly be a successor to Darren Sharper at free safety. The Vikings need for such a player isn't as pressing as it is at other positions, however, which means that while Jenkins would not be a bad pick, it's very likely that there will be good players available that would fill more pressing needs.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Solving Our Problems: Devin Thomas

[With Free Agency all but over, it's time to take a look at who the Vikings might select in the first round with the #17 pick. Today, we're previewing Chris Williams, an offensive tackle from Vanderbilt. Previously, I previewed Derrick Harvey, a defensive end from Florida, Chris Williams, an offensive tackle from Vanderbilt, Malcolm Kelly, a wide receiver from Oklahoma, Phillip Merling, a defensive end from Clemson, Ryan Clady, an offensive tackle from Boise St, Jeff Otah, an offensive tackle from Pitt and Limas Sweed, a wide receiver from Texas.]

Devin Thomas is one of the more interesting prospects available in this year's draft. He's a 6'2, 215 pound wide receiver and kick returner from Michigan State whom no one outside of East Lansing had heard of prior to this season. That's not all surprising, considering that he only had 6 catches for 90 yards in his first season with the Spartans. When Michigan State fired John L. Smith and replaced him with Mark Dantanio for Thomas' junior season though, something clicked for the receiver.

One year wonders are not a good bet in the NFL draft (and neither are first round wide receivers). That being said, its still hard not to give Thomas a long look because of his senior season. It was that good. Thomas set a school record with 79 receptions, seven 100 yard receiving games and 2590 all purpose yards (2nd all time in the Big Ten), set a Big Ten record with 1135 return yards, and had 8 touchdowns and 1260 yards receiving. He also carried the ball 27 times for 177 yards. It wasn't a good year, it was a great one. And Thomas seems to have the skills needed for the NFL. He ran the sixth fastest forty by a receiver at the Combine (4.40 seconds) and uses that speed on the field, as demonstrated by his 21 catches for more than 20 yards and his two runs for more than 20 yards. Thomas has good hands as well, and isn't afraid to go over the middle or take a hit to make the catch. And he is a legitimate returner who knows how to read his blocks and follow the wedge, skills that he also uses to gain yards after the catch.

Like you'd expect from a one year wonder, Thomas is raw. While he gets into and out of his breaks quickly, he doesn't run his routes that well, and doesn't have the precision that is needed in the NFL. He also has a tendency to try and do too much with the ball by dancing rather than heading up field. His blocking is good, but not great, and he has trouble blocking safeties and linebackers that are his size or bigger.

While he's raw, the questions about Thomas mainly focus on his lack of production in college. He was so good his junior year that one has to wonder why he didn't do anything his sophomore year. A change in coaches and offense helps to explain it, but it doesn't explain it all. Was it because he had trouble adjusting to Big Ten talent after playing a year of JuCo football? Was it an attitude problem? He got into ten games as a sophomore, but he didn't make an impact at all, and that's very troubling. Before drafting him, a team has to figure out what changed for Thomas between his sophomore and junior year and whether its effects will last only one year as well as all the other questions that have to be figured out before drafting a player. It's not a good thing to have to worry about, especially for the Vikings, who have enough needs in other places that they can try and pick up a player with similar upside at a different position.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

In Case You Missed It: ESPN on the Vikings

ESPN did a profile on the Vikings on Sportscenter today and I managed to record it and put it on youtube. They discussed the Purple's offseason moves, their chances for next year and their draft needs. And apparently they believe the Vikings still have a chance at acquiring Donovan McNabb. Maybe it's just me, but I just don't see it...

Solving Our Problems: Limas Sweed

Limas Sweed is widely considered one of the top wide receivers available in the draft, along with Malcolm Kelly, DeSean Jackson and Devin Thomas. And its no surprise why, either, as he stands 6'4" and weighs 212 pounds. He has the prototypical body for a wide receiver, has the speed you want (he ran a 4.48 forty at the Combine) and produced big numbers the three years he was healthy.

In his first three years at Texas, Sweed caught 105 passes for 1609 yards and 17 touchdowns. His first touchdown at Texas was a catch to beat Ohio State the year that Texas won the National Title, and he considered to show a knack for making the big play, until his senior year was cut short after only 6 games due to a wrist injury that he had all season. His numbers were clearly effected, as he only caught 19 passes for 306 yards and 3 touchdowns.

After undergoing surgery to fix his wrist, Sweed seems to be back to 100%. He showed that he still has the speed, acceleration and strength that served him so well at Texas during workouts at the Combine and the Texas Pro Day. Sweed isn't just a physical specimen though. He has soft hands and combines them with his strength to hang onto passes despite having defenders draped all over him. He isn't afraid to go across the middle, and can easily over power corners that try to jam him. If the corner plays back, he uses his speed to eat up the cushion and blow right by. He also can change direction quickly, and is particularly adept at running the comeback route, a skill that would serve him well with the Vikings.

Aside from the comebacker, Sweed isn't known for his route running. He has a tendency to get caught up in hand battles with corners down field instead of running his route and also cuts his routes short at times. He isn't smooth going into or coming out of his breaks because he doesn't drop his hips as low as he needs to. Sweed also has some problems when jammed because he sometimes seems to forget his goal is to get past it, rather than overpower the corner. His ability to stay focused on the task at hand (running his route, getting off the line) isn't what you would want it to be and also manifests itself in dropped passes, as he'll try to start running before securing the ball.

At 24 years old, Sweed's ability to concentrate and his route running might still improve. He has a great work ethic and was considered a leader by the Longhorns. That being said, I'm not sure he's worth the risk. Problems with on field concentration are particularly worrisome, in my opinion, especially for receivers, who have the highest first round bust rate of any position. He has all the other skills, but so did a lot of receivers chosen in the first round who never panned out.