With the 2016 NFL Draft just over six weeks away, NBC analyst Cris Collinsworth released his first mock draft Tuesday morning.
Collinsworth, a three-time Pro Bowl wide receiver with the Cincinnati Bengals, has the Vikings selecting Kansas State guard Cody Whitehair with the 23rd overall pick.
Collinsworth said Whitehair, a four-year starter at Kansas State who played all along the offensive line in college, projects as a guard in the NFL.
Whitehair isn't flashy, but he can play any position along the offensive line. He's moved around to help his team, which I like. With only seven offensive linemen active in most NFL games, position versatility is a must. Whitehair should be a better guard than tackle, but he will compete at either position. He has good feet getting to the second level or in position for stretch runs, along with a substantial punch. Whitehair's pass protection at tackle is just okay, but he should get better once he moves back inside and gets away from that two-point stance. He likes to grab, but that won't get called often inside at guard. The Vikings have to get better along their offensive line, and this is a good step.* *
Collinsworth projected an intriguing trade at the top of his mock draft, as the Los Angeles Rams moved up to the top spot from No. 15 after trading with Tennessee.
View images of the Vikings new offensive line coach Tony Sparano.
Sparano has chance to make immediate impact
Thanks to a flurry of moves, Michael Rand of the Star Tribune thinks new offensive line coach Tony Sparano will be in the spotlight this season.
Minnesota was the only team in the NFL to have the same five starters along the offensive line in 2015 – left tackle Matt Kalil, left guard Brandon Fusco, center Joe Berger, right guard Mike Harris and right tackle T.J. Clemmings.
The Vikings signed free agent guard Alex Boone and re-signed Harris. With Phil Loadholt and John Sullivan working their way back from injuries and the other starting linemen returning, Rand said Sparano's expertise will be counted upon to mold a successful group.
The competition factor and the short-term nature of many of those deals strike me as approaches designed to see how much Sparano can improve a unit that allowed the most pressure on Teddy Bridgewater of any QB in the league last year (per Pro Football Focus).
If it works, and Sparano can upgrade a weakness into a line that is more solid, the Vikings can attempt to retain the pieces they want going forward while also knowing that a plug-and-play approach might work as long as Sparano is here.
Griffin in the secondary mix
ESPN.com's Ben Goessling recalled Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer mentioning the Vikings might look to add a safety when Zimmer spoke last month at the NFL Scouting Combine.
The Vikings have since re-signed Andrew Sendejo and announced the signing of Michael Griffin on Monday, **reuniting** him with defensive backs coach Jerry Gray. Goessling **evaluated*** *what the signing of Griffin could mean.
*Time will tell whether the 31-year-old is the kind of safety Zimmer envisioned, but in Griffin, the template for what the Vikings are looking for could be there. *
"He's played both strong and free [safety]," general manager Rick Spielman told Goessling. "He's always been a very athletic safety. He's had a couple Pro Bowl years. I know this staff likes to take guys like that, that maybe had a history, and kind of revamp their careers. He's still young enough. Just watching tape on him, he still can move and has range on the back end."
Spielman said the Vikings also like some of their young safeties -- Anthony Harris and Antone Exum among them.