Monday Morning Mailbag


Monday Morning Mailbag: Grading The 2014 NFL Draft

Posted May 12, 2014

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How do you think the Vikings did in the first round, snagging Anthony Barr and an extra fifth-round pick and then trading up for Teddy Bridgewater? I love the picks and hope they can contribute on game days ASAP!
-- Gabe M.
Coon Rapids, MN

The Vikings should be considered one of the draft’s big winners in the first round. For the third straight year, they came away with multiple first-round picks, an impressive accomplishment. Also, for the second time in three seasons, the Vikings moved back one spot with the Cleveland Browns and still selected the player they targeted all along, taking Anthony Barr at No. 9 and collecting an extra fifth-round pick after trading back from No. 8. The Browns took cornerback Justin Gilbert and obviously felt like they needed to move up one spot to secure him – credit goes to the Vikings for creating that notion. Then the Vikings closed the first round by aggressively trading up to No. 32 from No. 40 with the Seattle Seahawks and taking quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, one of the most exciting prospects in the entire 2014 class.

The NFL is a passing League, and in the first round the Vikings added a player who can make a difference defending the pass (Barr as a pass rusher) and creating passing offense (Bridgewater).

During the interview of Teddy Bridgewater on the draft stage, he said he had met with the Vikings numerous times prior to the draft. What were some things that stood out about him that interested us enough to trade up to draft him? I'm really excited to see him playing in purple! Welcome to Minnesota, Teddy!
-- Jason S.
Appleton, WI

I have to think there are many traits Bridgewater possesses that appealed to the Vikings, but I will articulate three of them right here. First, he’s a winner. Bridgewater was 27-8 as a starter at Louisville, including winning his final two bowl games and leading the Cardinals to a 12-1 record last season. Secondly, he takes care of the football. Bridgewater completed 68.4% of his passes at Louisville and had  a touchdown-interception ratio of 31-4 last season. Thirdly, he is tough. I watched tape of Louisville’s game against Florida in the Sugar Bowl a year ago, and on the first play Florida linebacker Jon Bostic, now a member of the Chicago Bears, blasted Bridgewater after he threw a pass, lacerating his chin and sending his helmet flying across the field. Bridgewater bounced up immediately and didn’t miss a beat the rest of the game, shredding the Gators defense while going 20 of 32 for 266 yards and two touchdowns. Those three reasons, plus many more, are why the Vikings felt compelled to move back into the first round to select Bridgewater.

Anthony Barr is largely considered a 3-4 linebacker. So do you think Coach Zimmer is going to switch to a 3-4 defense or just try to transition Barr into 4-3 linebacker? Also, what did you think of the Vikings picking defensive end Scott Crichton in the third round?
-- Dustin F.
Burlington, NC

My sense is the Vikings will remain a 4-3 defensive team, but they could employ some odd-man front concepts as soon as this season and I wouldn’t rule out a switch to the 3-4 at some point. For now, though, I anticipate Barr playing outside linebacker in a 4-3 scheme, which means he’ll have to learn how to play in a stacked position at times after playing almost exclusively on the edge of UCLA’s defense the past two seasons. Given Barr’s ability to learn so quickly how to play linebacker in UCLA’s scheme and given the presence of coach Zimmer to help him here in Minnesota, I don’t see the transition being a problem.

As for Crichton, he’ll be a great addition to the Vikings defensive line. He brings explosive athletic ability as well as versatility because he’ll train as a defensive end but can slide inside to play defensive tackle in sub packages. Crichton is also a scrappy player, illustrated by the fact that he is the all-time leader in forced fumbles (10) at Oregon State.

The Vikings had another successful draft, especially early on with the first three-to-four picks. Why, though, didn’t GM Rick Spielman try to pick up a middle linebacker in those later, developmental picks for more competition? Are Audie Cole and Michael Mauti really better than anything the Vikings could’ve picked up in the draft after CJ Mosley went to Baltimore?
-- Jeff N.
Littleton, CO

The Vikings didn’t add an inside linebacker because there wasn’t one available at the top of the board when they were on the clock and/or the Vikings didn’t perceive that position as more of a need than others. Granted, the Vikings have no returning starter at MIKE linebacker. But let’s also keep in mind that Cole, Mauti and free agent signing Jasper Brinkley are on the roster to compete for that job. Also, the Vikings could have plans to move Chad Greenway to the middle and they might also anticipate playing many of their defensive snaps in sub packages, which decreases the need for a true 4-3 MIKE linebacker if there are two outside linebackers suited to play in those sub packages.

Is there any chance that Vikings Offensive Coordinator Norv Turner throws in some wildcat plays with Jerick McKinnon taking the snaps? A lot of his highlights are at that position.
-- Ian P.
Eden Prairie, MN

I wouldn’t rule it out. One of Turner’s strongpoints as a play designer and play caller is that he knows his players and he knows how to put them in positions to succeed. If Turner believes using some sort of direct-snap gadget scheme will help the offense move the ball and score points, then he’ll consider employing that tactic. Yes, McKinnon may have those skills, but so too might other players on the roster. My sense that Turner may use some version of the wildcat has less to do with the selection of McKinnon and more to do with the fact that he is creative and flexible in the players he uses and how he uses them.

With the pick of Antone Exum, will he be a safety or a corner? Do you think he will make the team and if so, do you think his ACL tear is going to affects how he plays for us?
-- Steven U.

I asked Spielman the first question on Saturday night, and it sounds like the Vikings will start training Exum as a safety. My sense is that coach Zimmer is going to play a lot of man coverage, even with safeties, and Exum’s experience playing cornerback at Virginia Tech will be an advantage for him at safety when the defense calls for man coverage. Ultimately, though, Exum must also be a standout special teams player if he’s going to make the Vikings roster. As for the injury, I have no reason to suspect it will prevent him from putting his best foot forward. Spielman said during his press conference on Saturday that Exum has been cleared by the Vikings medical staff and that he (Spielman) has full confidence in the staff’s opinion on the matter.

We drafted offensive guard David Yankey in the fifth round, and signed offensive tackle Antonio Richardson as a rookie free agent. I saw both of them as second-round talent. Any idea on why they fell that far? Also, I think that Yankey could start right away at left guard. Your thoughts?
-- Steffan L.
Aarhus, Denmark

I don’t know much about Richardson yet, but I am quite familiar with Yankey from watching tape and I was surprised he fell as far as he did. While some mock drafts had Seattle taking him at the end of the first round, I thought he projected as a late Day 2 selection, at worst. But the Vikings got him in the fifth round, and got tremendous value in doing so. Yankey has experience starting at both guard and tackle in college, and that versatility will serve him well with the Vikings because there will be fierce competition this offseason and training camp for spots on the depth chart at both guard and tackle. It’s too early to wager any guesses as to whether Yankey can be a Day 1 starter because he hasn’t even stepped onto a NFL field yet.