Each day this past week, we have broken down where the Vikings stand at certain positions heading into next week’s NFL draft. Today, we conclude the series with a look at the linebackers.
When it comes to analyzing the Vikings’ current roster and guessing breaking down what they’ll do in the 2015 NFL draft, no position is more intriguing and confounding than linebacker.
On the one hand, they have promising youngsters they really like as Chad Greenway’s eventual heir apparent (Gerald Hodges) and Jasper Brinkley’s replacement (Audie Cole, Casey Matthews or dark horse candidate Michael Mauti).
On the other hand, the temptation of linking them to a dynamic, three-down playmaker to use alongside potential All-Pro Anthony Barr seems too irresistible.
University of Miami linebacker Denzel Perryman has been called a sideline-to-sideline tackling machine who could be available in the second round. Washington’s versatile Shaq Thompson, who could play three downs inside and eventually replace Greenway as an outside starter, is a first-round possibility, but more likely a target if the Vikings trade down from No. 11.
But would it be all that bad if the Vikings stood pat?
When Cole was asked to start at middle linebacker at Green Bay as a rookie in 2013, he had 18 tackles and a sack in his NFL starting debut. When asked to start outside in last year’s finale, he had 14 tackles. He also has ideal size and strong instincts.
Meanwhile, in a start against the Jets, Hodges made one of the top two defensive plays of the year, leaping for a one-handed interception and returning it for a touchdown 12 seconds into the game.
The Vikings also like Mauti, haven’t fully given up on Brandon Watts and quietly signed Matthews, who started 11 games in Philadelphia a year ago.
So the Vikings certainly are prepared to stand pat. But can they resist the temptations?
PROJECTED STARTERS: SLB Barr, MLB Cole, WLB Greenway.
DON’T FORGET ABOUT: Matthews’ signing wasn’t a big splash or much of a ripple. But don’t be surprised if the 26-year-old former Eagle ends up being Brinkley’s replacement. He made 11 of his career 16 starts at inside linebacker in Philly’s 3-4 defense last year.
LEVEL OF NEED: Medium with an asterisk. There are intriguing youngsters throughout the depth chart. But if a dynamic playmaker is sitting there on Day 1 or 2, it will be difficult for the Vikings to take a pass. The second round appears to be the hot spot for temptation.
FIVE PROSPECTS TO REMEMBER: Clemson’s Vic Beasley, Washington’s Shaq Thompson, UCLA’s Eric Kendricks, Miami’s Denzel Perryman, TCU’s Paul Dawson.
OUR BEST GUESS: Unless Beasley falls to them (very unlikely) or they trade down, the Vikings won’t be tempted on a linebacker until the second round. But we think they’ll look elsewhere in Round 2 because they invested mightily in that position last year (Barr) and already have young players they really like.
We’ll take a daily look at some of the most talked about prospects in the 2015 NFL Draft and tell you whether they’re worth the hype or not.
We analyzed Michigan State cornerback Trae Waynes on Thursday. Now let’s focus on Washington cornerback Marcus Peters. …Well, I should say ex-Washington cornerback.
Peters was kicked off the team in November and his character has come into question during the draft. He was suspended twice last season before head coach Chris Petersen ousted Peters from the team for throwing a tantrum on the sideline and being late to meetings. In 2011, he failed a drug test for marijuana and in 2013 he was suspended a quarter in Washington’s bowl game for an undisclosed infraction.
He comes in with a lot of baggage, but Peters’ talent suggests he’s one of the best cornerbacks in this class.
By the Numbers:
Redshirt Freshman (13 games): 44 tackles (26 solo), three interceptions, one touchdown, 11 passes defended, two tackles for loss
Redshirt Sophomore (13 games): 55 tackles (44 solo), five interceptions, nine passes defended, one forced fumble, one touchdown, one sack, 3.5 tackles for loss
Redshirt Junior (nine games): 30 tackles (25 solo), three interceptions, seven passes defended, four tackles for loss
Peters definitely has better stats than Waynes in a pass happy Pac-12 conference. He finished with 11 career interceptions and 27 passes defended in 35 games. He had just 22 starts however due to his character issues and run-ins with Petersen and his staff.
NFL Combine/Pro Day results:
40-yard dash: 4.53 seconds
Bench press (225 pounds): 17 reps
Vertical: 37.5 inches
Broad jump: 10 feet, one inch
Peters’ 40-yard dash time was outside of the top 10 and over two-tenths of a second slower than Waynes, who led all defensive backs with his 40-yard dash time (4.31 seconds). He was in the top 10 with his bench press and vertical, but Peters didn’t post any eye-popping measurements.
Though Peters was constantly in trouble, there’s enough snaps to get a good idea of what kind of cornerback he was in college. Listed at six feet and 197 pounds, Peters played with an edge at the position. He’s very confident, some may say cocky, and did a really good job knocking receivers off their routes in man coverage.
A really good example of that last year was Peters’ battle with Arizona State wide receiver Jaelen Stong, who I consider the third best wide receiver in this class. It was a great matchup to watch all game (that included winds strong enough to knock out the ESPN feed and derail both passing attacks), and Peters did about as well of a job on Strong as any other corner last year.
Peters seems like one of those prospects that can run faster on the field than he can in a 40-yard dash. He’s got some wheels on him and good instincts to provide some eye-raising plays in coverage or in the backfield. It’s what made Peters so good as a blitzing cornerback
Peters will need to polish his technique, but he’s no different than some of the other top cornerbacks in this draft.
But which Peters will you see at practice and during the heat of the moment? These prospects are trained and programmed to say the right things during the interview process, so it’s not a surprise Peters has gone on a media tour touting that he’s a changed man. It’s what he should be doing to bump his stock up and get more money on his rookie contract. I can’t hate on that.
It makes me a little weary to take Peters in the first round, despite his talent, because of the character concerns. There isn’t too much that separates Peters from Waynes, LSU cornerback Jalen Collins, Wake Forest cornerback Kevin Johnson and I’ll even in Connecticut CB Byron Jones. They all have the ability to play corner in the NFL and will be considered in the first round.
If we’re just taking into context what he’s capable of doing on the field though, Peters would probably be ranked as the top cornerback over Waynes. He’s the real deal, but he needs to control his emotions first and foremost. If a team thinks it has the proper infrastructure in place to take on a player like Peters, say like the Seahawks, I’d pull the trigger. But Peters is definitely not for every team.