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: MAAAAAAPRETTTTTTTTTT. 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.
Rick Spielman has gained such a reputation for wheeling and dealing on draft night that when the Vikings ended up staying put at No. 11 last night and taking CB Trae Waynes, it almost felt like a letdown.
You mean that’s it? No accumulation of picks? No assets to jump back into the first round, like the Vikings have done each of the past three seasons?
But while trading is fun and can be lucrative in terms of stockpiling picks or being bold to get a star, the downsides of those types of gambles are also numerous. The Vikings gave up four draft picks in 2013 to get Cordarrelle Patterson late in the first round. He’s very much a work in progress, while two of the players New England picked up in the deal were big factors in the Patriots’ Super Bowl team last season. And in 2006, the Vikings traded up to get Tarvaris Jackson. We all know how that worked out.
On the flip side, trading down obviously is a gamble, too, because you’re giving up a draft position of power for more (but lesser) picks. If you can do it seamlessly (as the Vikings did in 2012 by swapping one spot with Cleveland while picking up a ransom in return), there’s very little risk. But if you wind up with a bunch of inferior players when you could have nabbed a star, you look foolish.
The safe thing is keeping your pick and taking the best player available. Waynes might not electrify the fan base, but it’s important to remember, too, that some of the Vikings’ best first-round draft picks of the past couple of decades came in their original draft slots: Randy Moss at No. 21 in 1998, Chad Greenway at No. 17 in 2006, Adrian Peterson at No. 7 in 2007 and Percy Harvin at No. 22 in 2009.
If you can make a good draft night trade, by all means do it. But if it’s not there — which it sounds like was the case Thursday — forcing it for the sake of making a trade is far worse than being prudent and simply adding what should be a very good player.
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 while 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.”