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.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

All right, now I will be completely nuts, and propose that the Vikings use their 2nd round pick this year, along with maybe a 2nd day pick next year, to try to trade for Jason Taylor, assuming their cap can handle Taylor’s salary for the next couple of years. Yes, this is a go for broke strategy, and Parcells may demand more, but the prospect of fielding perhaps the best front four since the ’70s Steelers should not be dismissed lightly.

The DE rotation in particular would just be crushing on opposing offensive lines, because Edwards, and quite possibly Robison, are going to be better than average pass rushers, assuming Edwards’ performance to date has not been too steroids related. Allen and Taylor would not get worn down, and enter the 4th quarter fresh, especially given the Williams tackles crushing opponents’ running games. Vikings fans could be looking at a team like the ‘00 Ravens, where qb play is not significant to winning a championship. Go for broke!