With the Super Bowl quickly becoming a distant memory, all focus is now on the upcoming NFL Scouting Combine, scheduled for February 23-26. The Scouting Combine is an intense competition that measures potential football players in every conceivable way. It tests physical attributes as well as mental attributes, and players can be interviewed by teams as well. A complete scouting profile of a player emerges after the combine that includes their statistical output at the college level, as well as participation in special bowl games, like the East/West Shrine Game and the Senior Bowl. In any case, I’ve just been starting my own draft research, and once the combine is over I’ll have a much better idea of where players rank. But never-the-less, I’m going to attempt a couple of mock drafts on this blog leading all the way up to draft day on April 25th.
The Vikings have 8 draft picks so far this year with an extra pick in both the 4th and 7th rounds due to trades in last year’s draft, and then no pick in the 6th round due to a trade with the Arizona Cardinals last year for CB AJ Jefferson. There is a chance the Vikings could get a compensatory pick or two depending on what happens after free agency hits on March 12th, but for now we’ll mock up a potential draft with only these 8 picks. To keep it simple, I won’t utilize any trades, or deal with potential off-season contract issues (like extending Percy Harvin, or restructuring Kevin Williams and Jared Allen). If you read my Season in Review post from last month, that should give you a pretty good idea of my thoughts on the current state of the Vikings. But in a nutshell, the teams biggest immediate needs are Wide Receiver and Linebacker. But we also need some help on the defensive line, specifically Nose Tackle, and we could always use more depth in the secondary at Cornerback and Safety. I wouldn’t be opposed to an upgrade at the Guard position on the offensive line or some depth at Tight End either. As a resource, I’m using the overall player rankings from NFL.com, CBSSports.com, ESPN.com and Walterfootball.com to help guide the selections. So, with that in mind, here is my Pre-Combine Mock Draft.
Round 1 – Pick #23: WR Keenan Allen, California
Allen is a tough player to rank right now. In 2011 he burst onto the scene as a Sophomore racking up 96 receptions for over 1,300 yards and 6 TDs. But last season in 2012, he had about half of that production. Most scouts think this can largely be attributed to a nagging knee injury that kept him out of the last 3 games of the season, and poor QB play. But he has the size, 6’3″ 205 lbs and speed, 4.5 40-yard dash to be a big-time receiver in the NFL. He’s ranked as high as 12th overall, and as low as 24th overall. Some say he compares to WR Jordy Nelson of the GB Packers. We need a big, fast, dominant WR on the outside to pair up with Percy Harvin and to give Ponder another security blanket in the passing game, and Allen could be that guy.
Round 2 – Pick #54: OLB Chase Thomas, Stanford
I watched some scouting film of Chase Thomas the other day, and while it was mostly highlight-reel kind of stuff, he still looked very good. He’s got elite pass rushing abilities as a weak-side linebacker, but does better against TEs and RBs than Tackles. He has good coverage abilities and speed. He’s got a knack for creating turnovers, and could be a playmaker in the NFL. He could likely be an upgrade over current starter Erin Henderson, and would see a lot of time in coverage in the base nickel defense in our pass-happy division.
Round 3, Pick #85: DT Brandon Williams, Missouri Southern St.
There are several tackles with the last name of Williams that could pair up with our own Kevin Williams to potentially reform the “Williams Wall” of old. But here, I like Brandon Williams’ size, and scouts speak about his versatility to line up at either DT spot. He’s a better run defender than pass rusher, which is exactly what we need. He compares well to Brandon Thompson.
Round 4, Pick #101: WR Kenny Stills, Oklahoma
If we use the way-back machine, some die-hard Viking fans maybe remember a safety named Kenny Stills. That would this particular Kenny’s father. Kenny the Younger is a mid-round, depth selection that lacks elite deep speed and size, but had great hands and knows how to get open and corral balls. He should add some depth to a poorly depleted WR corp. He compares well to Andre Roberts.
Round 4, Pick #119: CB Tharold Simon, LSU
Simon is a tall, lanky CB who, according to scouts, has fluid hips and moves well. He’s a playmaker, but lacks some of the polish of other NFL-ready CBs. He’s a player that could be groomed to take over the outside CB spot opposite Chris Cook when Winfield likely retires after the 2013 season. He compares well to Cary Williams.
Round 5, Pick #150: OLB Jelani Jenkins, Florida
Jenkins had a great 2011, but followed it up with an injury plagued 2012 and wasn’t able to show much on film or the stat sheet. That combined with an “undersized” label will likely cause an otherwise talented player to drop to the 5th round. But his speed will make him a decent fit as a coverage LB. He may not be able to come in and start right away, but he should be a contributor on special teams and would provide good depth.
Round 7, Pick #199: S Bradley McDougald, Kansas
A converted receiver, McDougald is still learning the position of free safety. But he has the size, speed and athleticism to excel at the NFL level. There are also some character concerns as he was suspended in high school, and had to turn himself into police in September for outstanding traffic tickets. But for a 7th round flier, the Vikings could do a lot worse!
Round 7, Pick #215: OG Sam Brenner, Utah
A scary neck injury in 2011 that left him motionless on the field for 15 minutes, may scare teams off of Brenner. But the guy has no lack of toughness as he was back out on the field only 5 weeks later. He had a successful 2012 season that was injury-free. According to scouts, he would do well in a zone-blocking scheme, which the Vikings run on occasion. He has experience at both guard and tackle, but has prototypical size for guard.
And there you have it. My Pre-Combine 2013 Mock Draft. Like I said above, this will likely change dramatically once we get measurables on these players after the Scouting Combine, but for now I’d be pretty happy with this draft. It would give us two new starters at positions of need, and give us lots of added depth to fill some of the weaker areas.