Today, ESPN North blogger Kevin Seifert chose to highlight Vikings rookie linebacker Audie Cole in his "Rookie Buzz" series.
I've always loved the unheralded guys. And when your team's personnel staff unearths one, I feel good about that. It shows they know what they are doing.
I won't say it's easy to pick a good football player in the first round of the NFL draft because teams regularly blow it (Jamarcus Russell being a recent example). However, a GM's chances of picking a blue chip player is a lot better in round one than in round six or seven. When the management of your favorite football team can find players late in the draft or among undrafted free agents who can contribute, that's a sign of a front office that can evaluate talent.
So far Cole looks like he can contribute. Forget for a moment the two interceptions Cole made last Friday against the Bills. Instead, reflect on what Cole did prior to those passes being thrown. In the first interception, he dropped back into the deep middle portion of the field and snagged a high pass from the Bills Tyler Thigpen. Then Cole jumped a route and stepped in front of a Brad Smith pass for the second interception. When was the last time you saw a Viking linebacker – or corner for that matter – jump a route? I'm drawing blanks.
Seifert also notes that what Cole might lack in straight line speed for a linebacker, he's making up for it with smarts and effort. "When you look back at the two [interceptions] he managed Friday night, you see a player who anticipated throws from two veterans ... and didn't have much doubt about where he should go after he caught the ball," Seifert writes.
This spring when I got the National Football Post's Wes Bunting to chat about the Vikings draftees, he was pretty high on Cole, saying the N.C. State alum reminded him of Ben Leber.
If Cole has the kind of career Leber had, I'll be thrilled. So will the Vikings.