With the 2015 NFL draft looming on April 30, the Vikings have been busy doing their homework on draft prospects. Here is a list of their interactions, reported by us or others, with certain prospects. Note that this is far from a complete list, as there are surely meetings the Vikings have kept quiet.
Devin Gardner, QB/WR, Michigan: East West Shrine Game meeting
Jay Ajayi, RB, Boise State: Pro day meeting
David Cobb, RB, Minnesota: NFL combine meeting
Zach Zenner, RB, North Dakota State: East West Shrine Game meeting
Sammie Coates, WR, Auburn: NFL combine meeting
Stefon Diggs, WR, Maryland: Pro day meeting
Dorial Green-Beckham, WR, Missouri: Winter Park visit
Tyler Lockett, WR, Kansas State: Senior Bowl meeting
Devante Parker, WR, Louisville: NFL combine meeting
Devin Smith, WR, Ohio State: NFL combine meeting
Gerald Christian, TE, Louisville: NFL combine meeting
Maxx Williams, TE, Minnesota: Winter Park visit
Jamon Brown, OT, Louisville: East West Shrine Game meeting
T.J. Clemmings, OT, Pittsburgh: Winter Park visit
Shaq Mason, G, Georgia Tech: Senior Bowl meeting
A.J. McCann, G, South Carolina: Winter Park visit
Terry Poole, OT, San Diego State: East West Shrine Game meeting
Vic Beasley, DE, Clemson: NFL combine meeting
Bud Dupree, DE, Kentucky: NFL combine meeting and pro day meeting
Dante Fowler, DE, Florida: NFL combine meeting
Randy Gregory, DE, Nebraska: Pro day meeting
Marcus Hardison, DT, Arizona State: Pro day meeting and Winter Park visit
Za’Darius Smith, DE, Kentucky: East West Shrine Game meeting
Lynden Trail, DE, Norfolk State: Winter Park meeting
Stephone Anthony, MLB, Clemson: Pro day meeting
Paul Dawson, MLB, TCU: Winter Park visit
Benardrick McKinney, MLB, Mississippi State: NFL combine meeting
Denzel Perryman, MLB, Miami: NFL combine meeting
Shaq Thompson, OLB, Washington: NFL combine meeting and Winter Park visit
Quandre Diggs, CB, Texas: NFL combine meeting
Byron Jones, CB, Connecticut: Pro day meeting
Marcus Peters, CB, Washington: Winter Park visit
Damarious Randall, S, Arizona State: Winter Park visit
Josh Shaw, CB, USC: East West Shrine Game meeting
Cedric Thompson, S, Minnesota: Winter Park visit
Trae Waynes, CB, Michigan State: Winter Park visit
Deadspin had a fun post on Thursday asking readers, “If you could go back and change the outcome of a single play in any historical sporting event, which one would it be, and why?”
For a Minnesota sports fan, this opens up a floodgate of “what-ifs” and painful memories. Nevertheless, we thought it would be an interesting exercise to put that question out to you, but limit it to only plays that happened in games involving Minnesota teams.
Some obvious candidates come to mind: Gary Anderson’s missed field goal in the NFC Title Game following the 1998 season; Brett Favre’s interception late in the NFC Title Game following the 2009 season. Darrin Nelson’s dropped pass in the 1987 game. Drew Pearson.
Joe Mauer’s “foul ball” in the 2009 ALDS might be another pick. Even though he ended up walking after Phil Cuzzi made the wrong call on his would-be double, fans still might have a burning desire to know how that inning would have played out otherwise. Corey Koskie’s hit in the 2004 ALDS against the Yankees, a ground-rule double that likely would have scored the go-ahead run and could have given the Twins a 2-0 series lead had it stayed in the park?
Or perhaps Anaheim’s goal in double-overtime of Game 1 of the 2003 Western Conference Finals against the Wild? If that doesn’t go in, maybe Minnesota wins the game and the series is completely different?
We’re missing tons of other candidates, so as you ponder this question and leave your answer in the comments, obviously don’t feel like you have to pick only the ones we mentioned. But remember: It’s just one play that we’re looking for here.
Even the more pessimistic among Twins fans — after badmouthing an outfield defense and bullpen that look worrisome, at best — generally concedes that the starting rotation, an eyesore for much of the past four season, should be better than it was last year (mild praise) and downright functional if some things go right.
Most of the true optimism is saved for an offense that finished 7th in MLB in runs scored in 2014 and could keep the team in games, but the rotation is emerging in conversations as a strength — partly by default, and partly because Phil Hughes, Ervin Santana, Ricky Nolasco and Kyle Gibson all have the potential to be above-average, while Tommy Milone as the fifth starter is better than Milone or (fill in the blank) as a No. 3 starter, as the pecking order has gone in recent years.
Here’s the problem, though: even if the Twins’ rotation is upgraded, there are still a lot of questions. Can Hughes — very good in 2010, 2012 and 2014, not so good in 2011 and 2013 — avoid the every-other-year swoon? Will Santana, at age 32, avoid a decline? Will Nolasco, who looked better this spring by all accounts, put an ugly 2014 behind him? Can Gibson take another step? Can Milone be effective outside of Oakland?
There is enough skepticism from the outside to make us wonder if the rotation is truly a strength or if it merely looks better by comparison to previous years. The Washington Post ranked the Twins’ rotation 28th out of 30 in MLB, though admittedly didn’t offer much by way of explanation beyond doubting it has been upgraded enough beyond last year’s MLB-worst 5.06 ERA.
If the second-best thing about your team — better than the defense, better than the bullpen, not as good as the offense — is still bad enough that a major publication ranks it among baseball’s worst, it’s enough to make us wonder if it is really a strength.
One thing is for certain: the Twins will need it to be a true strength if they are going to come anywhere close to .500 this year.