During Vikings Entertainment Network’s week-long coverage of the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine there were plenty of the NFL’s power brokers making statements with regard to the Vikings. Here is a collection of the best, with some commentary after each one.
“My big concern about Johnny Manziel, when I saw him, is how he got banged around by Duke in the Chick-fil-A Bowl. If you get hit like that, if you get hit square like that by NFL players, you’re not going to last very long.” – Mike Florio, Pro Football Talk
Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III is a mobile quarterback who is excellent at using his legs to make plays. But he takes a lot of hits and has already sustained a significant injury due at least in part to this style of play. Then you have Seattle’s Russell Wilson, who is a mobile quarterback who likes to use his legs to make plays, too. Wilson, though, uses his legs to get in a better position to throw the ball, whereas RG3 is often times using his legs to pick up yardage on the ground. There’s room for both styles in the NFL, for sure, but many would argue leaning more toward the Wilson side is the way to go.
The question is: Where will Manziel fit on the spectrum between RG3 and Wilson in terms of how he uses his athleticism to make plays outside the pocket?
“You can’t buy a championship in the League. That’s why you need to draft well.” – John Clayton, ESPN
We hear Vikings GM Rick Spielman say every year that the draft is the lifeblood of the NFL. It’s easy to want to be aggressive in free agency because the top players on the market are typically household names and known commodities. But the keen observers and the best franchises know that you build a winner through the draft.
“You want young guys because young guys you can fit into your salary cap and then you augment them with what you can find in free agency,” Clayton continued. “If you really look at the numbers since 2006, most of the teams that spent over $100 million in contracts in unrestricted free agency either win maybe one more game or lose more games than they did the previous season. “
“I think you need to get younger, faster, stronger in the secondary. I think Super Bowl 48 proved that.” – Sal Paolantonio, ESPN
The NFL is a copy-cat League, and I expect talent evaluators and roster-builders to really take a look at how Seattle has built its defense and how it has attacked prolific offenses such as the Broncos.
“Look at the Seattle Seahawks,” Paolantonio said. “Here were the Denver Broncos, they scored 606 points during the regular season, most of any offense in the history of the National Football League, and this defense just tore them up. Seattle came in younger, faster, stronger and tore them up. If there’s any lesson that any coach takes a lesson from what happened at Met Life Stadium during the Super Bowl, that should be the lesson.”
“I’m gonna tell you right now, I’d take him with the first pick, let alone the eighth pick. That’s how I feel about Khalil Mack.” – Mike Mayock, NFL Network
Paolantonio says to get younger, faster and stronger, and a good way to do that is to follow Mayock’s advice and draft Mack. A good way to get younger, stronger and faster would be to draft Mack. Spending such a high pick on an outside linebacker is unusual, particularly for a team that runs a defense with a four-man front. But Mayock explained that going the unusual route is appropriate because Mack is such an unusual prospect – a prospect who, despite playing at a small school, dominated big-school competition and a prospect who has the versatility any defense can use.
“Khalil Mack can play anywhere in the front,” Mayock said. “Here he is, a kid from the University of Buffalo, if you put the tape on against Ohio State, he dominates Ohio State like nobody I’ve ever seen dominate them. He’s explosive off the edge, he’s tough, he’s twitchy, he’s got a little edge about him. When I watch him on tape, I feel like he’s pissed off at the world. And I like that.”
“No, I’m not gonna say that because the free agency class…no, absolutely not. When you look at this draft class, one of the top four or five guys will end up being a star quarterback, maybe to that level. It’s hard to say. I don’t see a guy right now to that level, so to answer your question, I’d probably say no.” – Pete Prisco, CBSSports.com
This is a chilling statement for Vikings fans to read because of the priority that the organization has placed on adding competition to the roster at quarterback. But it’s a good statement to take to heart because it helps battle the conditioning that has taken place among football observers where it’s just assumed every offseason that solutions to quarterback problems do exist. Maybe there are some years where a long-term solution does not exist, and it’s more prudent to address other areas of the roster rather than forcing a square peg into a round hole.
“The best thing that Norv Turner does is he takes regular quarterbacks and makes them better than functional.” – Ian Rapoport, NFL Network
As chilling as Prisco’s statement was for Vikings fans, Rapoport’s sentiments on the issue should be just as reassuring. Turner’s track record working with quarterbacks that others had given up on is actually very good, particularly when you look at Brian Hoyer in Cleveland last year and Alex Smith in San Francisco in 2006.
“I would be worried about the Vikings quarterback situation, obviously it’s been an issue over the last couple years. I’m less worried because Norv is now in position to really help things,” Rapoport said. “Norv really makes it simple, he makes quarterbacks understand what he wants, they will be aggressive too…it could be some fun.”
“I think this free agency class matches up really well with what the Vikings need.”—Gregg Rosenthal, NFL.com
It’s already been discussed above by John Clayton that teams are wise to take a more cautious approach in free agency and instead focus on the draft. But when it comes to assess and act on the free agency market this offseason, Rosenthal thinks the Vikings are in good shape.
“Defensive tackles, and defensive linemen in general, there’s a lot of them. Whether it’s a guy like Jason Hatcher, who could be a short-term fix, or a guy like BJ Raji, who’s a little younger and could be longer. There’s five, six, seven defensive tackles, it’s usually not like that.
“The other position I think is really deep is cornerback, and I think the Vikings could use another cornerback, as well. Brent Grimes is a guy I think would be interesting, Vontae Davis, maybe he gets out on the market. You look at the names, and maybe none stand out well above the pack, but there are seven, eight, nine guys…Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is another one.”
“The one thing I would try to do is I would try to add one person to the receiving corps. And that one person is Julian Edelman.” – Peter King, Sports Illustrated and MMQB.com
On the other side of the ball in free agency, King has another idea in adding a productive and tough slot receiver in Edelman, who had 105 receptions for the New England Patriots last season.
“I have come to the conclusion that a really good slot receiver, and honestly, at least one, more than one because they get hurt, they get beat up. I think what’s really, really important for them (the Vikings) to do is to make sure your quarterback is comfortable in the intermediate and short areas of the field. To do that, in my opinion, my number one target would be to get the best slot guy on the market.”