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Monday Morning Mailbag

Posted Apr 30, 2012

Do you have a comment or question? Send it to the vikings.com Mailbag! Every Monday during the offseason we’ll post several comments and/or questions as part of the vikings.com Monday Morning Mailbag feature. Although we can’t post every comment or question, we will reply to every question submitted.

To submit a comment or question to the mailbag, send an email to Mike Wobschall at wobschallm@vikings.nfl.net. Remember to include your name and town on the email.

 

I just have one question. What was the deciding factor for the Vikings organization passing up on CB Morris Claiborne with the 4th overall pick? The Cowboys seemed to get a lot of credit with drafting him at #6.
-- Mitchell S.
Cottage Grove

I wasn't in the Vikings draft preparation meetings or in the war room on draft day, so I can't say why the Vikings ultimately made the decisions they made. But I agreed with taking Kalil over Claiborne, and I’ll explain why.

Taking Kalil allowed the Vikings to solidify their offensive line, and essentially check that off their “to do” list this offseason. With Kalil in the fold, left tackle is set and now the team can move Charlie Johnson to left guard. Of course the team is set with John Sullivan at center, and then at right guard there will be robust competition for the starting job among Joe Berger, Chris DeGeare, Brandon Fusco and Geoff Schwartz. At right tackle, Phil Loadholt comes back as the starter and is in a contract year. Had the Vikings taken Claiborne, yes they would've gotten a great cornerback. But they would still have questions marks in the secondary, including at safety. Selecting Kalil solved an entire problem, whereas taking Claiborne would not have done the same thing. Along with Kalil, the Vikings also took Harrison Smith, Josh Robinson and Robert Blanton to help the secondary. Had the Vikings taken Claiborne, the collection would not have included Smith and probably not Robinson, either. It would've included a second-tier left tackle instead, and that combination of players is inferior to Kalil, Smith and Robinson.

I believe that we drafted seven future starters in this draft: DB Robert Blanton, WR Greg Childs, TE Rhett Ellison, LT Matt Kalil, CB Josh Robinson, S Harrison Smith and K Blair Walsh. I think they will move Blanton to safety to play alongside Smith. What draft picks do you think will develop into starters? What rookies do you think will be able to contribute right away?
-- Stephen W.
Wichita, KS

Having seven starters emerge from this draft class would be a tremendous outcome for the Vikings and it would represent a huge step forward for this roster. I’m not saying it’s an unrealistic outcome, but it would be nearly the best-case scenario. I agree that Blanton will be moved to safety, and while I believe Childs has the potential to be a big-time playmaker in the NFL, WR Jarius Wright projects as a more immediate impact player in my eyes.

It’s hard to identify the players who will contribute right away, largely because definitions of “contribute” can vary from person-to-person. But in terms of the draft picks who will be able to contribute significantly right away, I would point to Blanton, Ellison, Kalil, Robinson, Smith and Wright. If nothing else, Blanton and Ellison could be special teams performers, although they each have a good shot to contribute at their positions as well. Kalil will be the starting left tackle from Day 1, Smith will start at safety from Day 1, Robinson will compete for time at cornerback and punt returner, and then I’m optimistic on Wright being able to contribute as a slot receiver immediately.

Do you think that we could utilize WR Jarius Wright as an outside receiver? We all know that he is great in the slot, but Percy Harvin plays that spot well. Wright definitely has the speed to play on the outside.
-- Alan H.
Washington, NJ

While I understand Wright may be versatile enough to play on the outside and certainly has the speed to do so, I have a different theory for where and how he can contribute to this Vikings offense as a rookie. Wright’s presence on the roster allows the Vikings the flexibility to deploy Harvin in more creative ways. If the Vikings want to use Harvin in the backfield as a runner – either to help Toby Gerhart carry the load should Adrian Peterson not play early in the season or to help Gerhart take wear and tear off of Peterson – they can use Wright as a replacement for Harvin in the slot and they won’t lose much. I’m not saying Wright can do what Harvin can do right away – remember, Harvin was AP Offensive Rookie of the Year – but I am saying Wright plays a lot like Harvin and has many of the same explosive and sudden qualities.

On top of that, should Harvin have a setback with migraines or sustain any other injury, Wright will provide great depth for the Vikings in the slot. Grabbing Wright with a 4th-round pick was one of my favorite moves in this year’s draft.

Though I am pleased with the Vikings draft selections to help the secondary, I am still concerned with the level of inexperience that exists. I do believe that in time the Vikings will have a strong secondary, but I would be pleased if they considered adding a veteran player who could provide the experience and/or leadership to guide the incoming rookies. My question then: Do you see that happening? Perhaps the Vikings might consider S Melvin Bullitt, who is still young but also understands the system to which new defensive coordinator Alan Williams runs. Do you think he is of value, and has there been any word that the Vikings might pursue him?
-- Richard R.

Earlier in the offseason I wrote about the possibility of the Vikings adding Bullitt to the secondary given the team’s need at his position as well as the connection he has with Williams. Even though the Vikings selected Harrison Smith in the 1st round and DB Robert Blanton – whom I believe will play safety in this defense – in the 5th round, you can argue that adding a veteran presence at safety yet this offseason could be a prudent move for the Vikings.

Also, keep in mind the Vikings added two veteran cornerbacks several weeks ago via free agency in Zack Bowman and Chris Carr. Bowman and Carr aren’t perennial Pro Bowlers who will transform the Vikings secondary into world beaters, but they are exactly what Richard referenced – veteran players who can add experience and leadership to the group. Bullitt would bring the same thing to a group of young, inexperienced safeties, so it wouldn’t surprise me if this move was at least considered by the Vikings before training camp.

With the Vikings not taking an offensive guard during the draft, do you think they are looking at the undrafted free agents who fell through the cracks? If so, who is out there that you are hearing about? Or are they looking at bringing in free agents to try to make some more competition on the offensive line?
-- Mike M.
River Falls WI

I don't know any names of guards the Vikings are bringing in to compete for time. I like what the Vikings have right now at the position with Joe Berger, Chris DeGeare, Charlie Johnson, Brandon Fusco and Geoff Schwartz.

We had an amazing draft. My question is: Will S Harrison Smith play strong safety or free safety? He has very good ball instincts, but is also a very good tackler if put in the box. Also, who do you envision playing alongside him?
-- Ruben
Stockton, CA

The free safety and strong safety positions are interchangeable in the Vikings defense, so I'm not sure which label Smith will have. But you hit the nail on the head in that Smith is very good in coming near the line of scrimmage to support the run, so the most accurate characterization might be to say Smith will play more strong safety. I anticipate the Vikings will use that strength of Smith's to their advantage.

As of now, I see Robert Blanton, Mistral Raymond and Jamarca Sanford competing for time at the other safety position.

I am obviously on the outside looking in, but I was keeping up during the draft as much as possible and have an observation to submit. It seems that this year's draft, more than any others I can remember in recent history, presented to us the general public a much more clear and intended plan for who the Vikings were looking for, and the positions they wanted to address. It really made me feel more confident in and proud of our leadership to see them pick players the way they did. I understand everyone goes into the draft with a plan but most of the time it seems that the plan disappears amidst the changes and twists that happen once it starts. Each of our picks though, gives me the impression that we actually meant to do that...like our plan started and carried through the whole draft. Kudos to our management staff! I think they did an exceptionally great job this year drafting players AND boosting fan confidence at the same time. SKOL VIKINGS!!!
-- Dares O.
Burleson, TX

Agreed. Dares is a loyal fan, so receiving this note from him is good news to me. To be fair, I write off criticisms of draft selections at this point quickly because we haven’t seen these guys line up on the field yet. So we must also temper our excitement for the same reason. But I agree with Dares that there’s now a sense of a clear voice and clear direction when it comes to player acquisition for the Vikings, and in my view the reason for this feeling is that Rick Spielman was promote to General Manager.

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