Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Vikings weekly wrap – better late than never edition

Prior to April's NFL college draft, I set up a couple of interviews with the National Football Post's college scouting guy Wes Bunting. One of them was so I could publish a post on what Bunting thought of the Vikings draft and each of the team's picks.

Well, work got hectic and now it's been over a month since the draft took place and I still haven't got a post up on this. But today is the day.

I think this is still relevant information, even if it's a month late. None of these draft picks has even participated in training camp yet. We have no idea what they can and cannot do. To get some comments on the Vikings draftees from a guy who eyeballs hundreds of draft prospects each year can give fans some insight into what these players might become. I did this with Bunting back in 2009 at the old Grant's Tomb blog and his comment's have turned out to be pretty spot on (except for how Asher Allen turned out).

I found his thoughts on some of the less ballyhooed picks – Audie Cole, Blair Walsh and Robert Blanton – to be the most interesting. Let's see if you agree.

Bunting's thoughts on the Vikings draft
"I didn't think they were one of the clear winners. But they got the best offensive tackle in the draft. I felt they got a solid safety, but I don't think Harrison Smith was worth a first round pick. That was my biggest complaint. I thought their draft was solid."

Matt Kalil (Offensive tackle, 1st round – 4th overall)
"He's a guy who can come in and play tackle right away. He needs to get stronger, but at the same time he can be one of the better left tackles in the NFL once he hits his prime in two or three years. I don't know what else you could ask for.

He's 6'7 and only 295, so he's got the frame to get bigger. He's going to mature physically. He's a good athlete. He can change directions. He can bend. He's got a little stiffness to his game, but he's 6'7 – you're going to get that with any offensive tackle. He's tough to beat on the edge, he can pass protect, he's got long arms and he can re-direct on contact."

Harrison Smith (Safety, 1st round, 29th overall)
"I think there is some tightness and he doesn't get in and out of his breaks very well. He's not initially explosive when asked to get over the top on a deep pass. I think he's a good run support player who can check tight ends at the line. But if he's asked to hold up in man [coverage] – and at some point in zone coverage it turns into man because you've got to make a play on the football – I don't think that's his strong suit. If you're taking a safety in the first round he should be able to hold up in the pass game. Maybe they didn't think he's be available in the second round. I think he'll be OK. I don't think he'll ever be a plus pass defender."

Josh Robinson (Cornerback, 3rd round – 66th overall)
"He's a better athlete than a corner at this stage. There have been a lot of fast guys that haven't been good corners and flopped. At the same time, there's some physicality to his game. He will strike you and there is some initial burst. He's a little raw with his footwork and has a tendency to slow his feet and pop upright when he's asked to turn and run. But as a "click and close" guy, which he will do in a Cover Two and come up and tackle, I think he'll be a good fit. But I think he's an outside only player. He's not a guy who could play in the slot."

Jarius Wright (Wide receiver, 4th round – 118th overall)
"I like Wright. I think he can play in the slot early and I think he can play on the outside. He can run those deep crossing patterns and get in and out of his breaks. He needs to catch the football better. But I think he was the best Arkansas wide receiver."

Rhett Ellison (Tight end, 4th round – 128th overall)
"I think he is more of a tight end/H-back/fullback hybrid. He can catch the football and they can line him up all over. He can play some fullback for them. At the same time they can put him on the line. He can get off the line and be a solid number two tight end. If you want to play him as an H-back, he can do that. He's not just a one-trick pony. He can offer a lot – catch the football and block."

Greg Childs (Wide receiver, 4th round – 134th overall)
"He was just banged up with injuries [in 2011]. If he's healthy, he can start as the strongside receiver, as the "Z" [receiver]. He's got deceptive speed. Injury was the biggest thing with him. He's a good football player. When you watch him as a junior, he was one of the best wide receivers in the SEC. He doesn't separate a ton though. He's never going to separate a ton in and out of his breaks. I think [former Viking, current Seattle wide receiver] Sidney Rice played a little faster and was a little bit better of a vertical threat. This guy is more of strider. It takes him a lot longer to get going. I thought there was a lot of similarities between him and Alshon Jeffery [who went in the second round to Chicago]."

Robert Blanton (Cornerback, 5th round – 139th overall)
"I thought he was at his best when he was in press coverage and got his hands on people. I think he is more of a nickel safety where you can bring him down and have him beat on the big tight end and be physical. That would be where he'd be at his best. He's not a guy you want to trust in space. Much like Harrison Smith, he doesn't get in and out of his breaks well. But if you can bring him down and get him physical with the tight end, he can hold his own in man coverage. He's one of those hybrid nickel players.

Blanton was good when he could be physical and press because he could manhandle college receivers. But against more athletic receivers? He had a tough time matching up against USC and those athletes, and those are the type of athletes that are in the NFL."

Blair Walsh (Kicker, 6th round – 175th overall) 
"He was the only senior kicker that was given a draftable grade coming into the season. He was really solid as a freshman and had great years as a sophomore and a junior, then he lost his confidence as a senior. He missed eight or nine kicks last year. He missed one in the bowl game that could have wrapped it up. He's a strong-legged kid who looks the part. He had three great years of production in the SEC and for whatever reason just lost his groove as a senior. That caused him to fall. He still got drafted. If he can get his confidence back he'll be a good player. But that's definitely a concern."

Audie Cole (Linebacker, 7th round – 210 overall)
"I think he's a guy who could end up starting as a strongside backer. He reminds me of Ben Leber, to be honest. He's not dynamic in any area of the game. He'll play special teams from year one. But ultimately will end up as a good football player. You're not going to mistake him for Derrick Brooks, though. He's at his best when the play is in front of him and he can click and close. He's going to be tighter when asked to turn and run in coverage. But on third down you will probably want to get him off the field anyway – like any strongside linebacker."

Trevor Guyton (Defensive end, 7th round – 219th overall)
"He could be that strongside player in a 4-3 [defense] as a defensive end on first and second down. You could kick him inside and play the three technique. He played in the 3-4 [defense] front at Cal. He's got some get-off and some natural power. But he's not really sudden when asked to stack and shed."


  1. Dear KAB readers:

    Memorial Day is now over. Let's get some discussion going regarding Wes Bunting's comments about the Viking draftees.

  2. I was encouraged by the comments on Cole. I wouldn't mind getting the next Lever out of him. Seems like the negative stuff he came up with was a bit forced for a strong side guy.

    Since the Vikings are at least a. Year (likely two) away from making any noise, perhaps we'll see Cole and Brinkley grow into good, smart players by then. Of course, Kevin Williams may be gone by then, and Jaded Allen may start slowing down... It might be another 10-ish years before everything falls into place for a strong push, but at least we know the Vikes will be here in 10 years!

  3. Another thing occurs to me: seems the team did a lot to help the CB position through the draft & free agency, but not much for safety. Sure, they took a consensus round 2 guy in round 1, but nothing else? I wonder if they're waiting for camp or preseason to pull the trigger on another safety. Or maybe with so many other needs (OL, CB, WR) they accepted they couldn't fix everything (S, LB) in one offseason.

    Still kinda of weird they've invested so much in TE though. I guess the team now has their poor man's Gronk&Hernandez along with Kleinsasser 2.0

    Lastly, sorry for all of the typos. I feel like RaiderJoe over at football outsiders. It's hard to post from a phone!

  4. PP:

    I really thought the Vikings would sign a free agent safety like Melvin Bullit from the Colts. The guy fit their free agency MO – he was young, coming off an injury-plagued year and he would have been willing to sign a cheap, one-year deal. He's even got extensive experience in the Cover Two. Apparently the Vikes are going to roll with Harrison Smith and Jamarca Sanford, or Mistral Raymond or Husain Abdullah (if he doesn't retire) or Robert Blanton.