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Lunchbreak: Gannon Says Vikings Have Been 'Smart' in Assembling Team

The 2018 NFL Draft will kick off one month from today.

The Vikings have already made two big moves in free agency, and they currently are slated to have eight picks in the draft, including two sixth-round compensatory picks and a seventh rounder from the Broncos acquired in the trade for quarterback Trevor Siemian.

Chris Tomasson of the *Pioneer Press *recently wrote about the Vikings cap situation and emphasized how much Minnesota would benefit from bringing in rookies who can make an early impact. He opined that if the Vikings had a draft similar to 2015 or 2017, they would likely be in good shape. Tomasson wrote:

In 2015, the Vikings had one of their better drafts ever, getting cornerback Trae Waynes in the first round, [Eric] Kendricks in the second, [Danielle] Hunter in the third and [Stefon] Diggs in the fifth. In 2017, they came up with immediate starters in running back Dalvin Cook in the second round, center Pat Elflein in the third and linebacker Ben Gedeon in the fourth.

Tomasson said the consensus among NFL analysts is that the Vikings "had a strong showing in free agency," during which they signed defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson and quarterback Kirk Cousins, "a potential franchise quarterback who next season will be just 30."

Tomasson spoke to former Vikings quarterback and current CBS analyst Rich Gannon about Minnesota's approach.

Gannon believes Cousins … is a "talented and smart player" who will help the Vikings. He also liked the move on Richardson, a former Pro Bowl selection he expects will "flourish"' with the Vikings.

"I think they've been smart in how they've assembled this team," Gannon said of the Vikings.

Tomasson also quoted NFL Network analyst Charlie Casserly:

"I'm anxious to see what Kirk does with an overall better group than he had in Washington," Casserly said. "And we know what Richardson can do on a good day or a good play. … And going forward, they believe they've got a number of players they can get signed [to extensions]."

PFF: Cousins led all QBs in play-action passing

According to analytics site Pro Football Focus, quarterbacks have averaged a passer rating of 103.5 on play-action passes and 90.1 on non-play-action over the past three seasons.

PFF's Scott Barrett zeroed in on play-action frequency among quarterbacks in the latest installment of the "Metrics that Matter series."

Barrett created a chart contrasting a quarterback's efficiency on play-action versus non-play-action passes since 2015.

According to Barrett's findings, Cousins led all quarterbacks in passer rating on play-action passes with 124.4. Barrett wrote:

*Luckily for him, Minnesota ranked second among all teams in play-action pass attempts last year, and by 35 more than the Washington Redskins, who ranked 18th. Minnesota does have a new offensive coordinator this year (John DeFilippo), who may be less aggressive in calling play-action passes than Pat Shurmur. *

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However, perhaps he opts for a more play-action-heavy approach next season to account for Cousins' strengths. If this is the case, Cousins might be in a better situation than he was in Washington. As we mentioned earlier, team rushing attempts has a positive correlation to play-action passer rating, and Minnesota ranked second in team rushing attempts last year, while Washington ranked 22nd.

Barrett noted that Case Keenum had the biggest difference in passer rating (29.7 points higher on play-action passes), Marcus Mariota led the league in play-action passer rating (122.8) in 2017, and Dak Prescott has posted a 122.0 passer rating on play-action passes since 2016.

Harmon grades Vikings trade for Siemian: 'I like it'

A number of trades between teams have happened over the past week-plus, including the Vikings acquiring Siemian from Denver to back up Cousins.

NFL.com's Matt Harmon delved into trades across the league and used a four-scale grading system to analyze the transactions. Rather than the traditional letter grade system, Harmon simply went with "Love it," "Like it," "Cool with it" and "Not a fan."

He gave the Vikings an "I like it" grade. Harmon wrote:

The Vikings loudly declared who would sit atop their depth chart by signing Cousins to a three-year, fully guaranteed big-money deal. Yet, with all three of their 2017 passers flying the coup, they needed to add further layers of reinforcements. Trevor Siemian saw his play crater after an excellent first month, but showed enough promise to be considered a capable backup when the conditions around him are intact. Few offenses provide better conditions than the Vikings unit. Siemian provides the team a strong depth option who comes with a similar skill set to their starter.

While Harmon said he was "cool" with the trade from the Broncos perspective, he opined that the Vikings got the better end of the deal.

*[Broncos General Manager] John Elway appears comfortable moving forward without Siemian in the mix for the backup quarterback competition, and in that case, it's wise to accrue some value out of Siemian. Another quarterback addition could come to Denver in the form of a draft pick next month.
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