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Lunchbreak: Ike Taylor's 'DB Sleepers' in 2017 Draft

Since 2009, the Vikings have drafted at least one cornerback in ever NFL Draft. Will 2017 mark the ninth consecutive year that Minnesota will select a corner?

Experts agree that this year's draft class boasts considerable depth at the cornerback position.

NFL Media analyst Ike Taylor, a fourth-round pick in 2003 who started 140 of the 174 games he played in 12 seasons with Pittsburgh, put together a list of five "DB sleepers."* *He included two cornerbacks, two safeties and one player who could possibly play either position.

Taylor broke the list into two main groups: "light sleepers" and "deep sleepers." In the first category, Taylor highlighted Colorado's Chidobe Awuzie, whom he projects to leave the board between the late second round and the fourth round; and Iowa's Desmond King, whom Taylor could see being picked anywhere between the third and sixth rounds. Taylor wrote:

King is an old-school, physical player who excelled as a cornerback at Iowa, winning the 2015 Jim Thorpe Award and earning All-America honors. But he doesn't have ideal height (5-10) or burner speed, and most project him as a safety at the next level. He has the instincts and is very knowledgeable, but he can't let his ball-hawking eyes get the best of him on Sundays. Some defensive backs can get in trouble but make up ground with speed. King can't do that. If King has an assignment on pass plays, he can't get caught peeking.

In the deep sleepers grouping, Taylor included San Diego State cornerback Damontae Kazee, St. Francis (PA) safety Lorenzo Jerome and Clemson safety Jadar Johnson.

Taylor opined that teams will overlook Kazee because of a small frame (5-foot-10, 184 pounds), but he said that teams should pay attention to the talented corner. He wrote:

While some prefer taller corners, Kazee's height isn't his issue. He tracks the ball well and has a receiver's mentality – consequently, he recorded the second-most interceptions in the FBS two years in a row. Kazee reminds me of Asante Samuel, who was drafted five spots before me in 2003; Kazee plays off-coverage well, as he likes to watch the play develop. I see him as a starter in the right system. The lack of speed and size will hinder him in the draft, but if you pop in the tape, he looks as good as just about anybody in this class. I like Kazee over a lot of others, pound for pound.



Tom Johnson 1 of 3 most-improved DTs in 2016

In a recent article, Pro Football Focus put together a list of the three most-improved players at every position, comparing 2016 grades to the previous season.

Vikings defensive tackle Tom Johnson made the list of most-improved interior defenders. Also included were Abry Jones (Jacksonville) and Cullen Jenkins (Washington).

After receiving a 48.0 in 2015, Pro Football Focus gave Johnson a grade of 72.7 after the 2016 season. According to coaches' tallies, Johnson finished the year with 26 tackles, six tackles for loss, 2.0 sacks, a pass defended, 51 quarterback hurries and an interception.

PFF's John Gatta wrote the following of Johnson:

He is no different from the other two interior defenders above him, in that his improvement in play was a result of his increased production in the run game. Known more as an interior pass-rusher, Vikings fans hope he can break his up-and-down trend and put it all together for his best season yet in his upcoming contract year.



Thielen one of fantasy football's top WRs in 2016

According to's senior fantasy analyst Michael Fabiano, Adam Thielen was one of 2016's top fantasy football receivers in per-target points.

Fabiano took a different approach to ranking players, because he said that traditional scoring doesn't take into consideration injuries and missed games. He wrote:

So, let's take a deeper look into the numbers to see how our heroes performed when the football was in their hands. In the case of the wide receivers, we examined how well players performed on a per target basis with notes on snap percentage as well. This exercise helps us find which wide outs did the most with their opportunities to produce points, and which ones needed lots of chances to be relevant.

According to Fabiano's assessment, Thielen tied with Julio Jones (Atlanta) and Jordy Nelson (Green Bay) for sixth place with a 1.37 FPPT.

Thielen was second in snap percentage (75) and targets (91) behind Stefon Diggs in Minnesota last season, but he was far more productive with the ball in his hands. Of course, 26 percent of his fantasy points came in just one game (Week 16).

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