2011 Draft Revisted

Most NFL/Draft experts are quoted as saying that it takes 3 years to fully be able to grade a draft. As we have come to the end of the 2013 season for the Vikings, I am going to take a look at the Vikings 2011 Draft

With their first round pick, the Vikings drafted Florida State QB Christain Ponder. At the time, many draftnicks considered this a reach. Rumors were circulating weeks before the draft that the Vikings had interest in Washington QB Jake Locker. Many feel this was a panic pick after a run on QB’s (Cam Newton, Blaine Gabbert, and Locker went in the first 11 picks). Ponder was pushed into the starting lineup in Mid-October after the Donavan McNabb expierment failed. The Vikings would go 1-7 with Ponder and he would finish his rookie season with 13 TD’s and 13 Int’s

In 2012, Ponder started out very effectively. Through 5 games he had 7td’s and 0 int’s He would struggle mid season but would rebound at the end of the year to help lead the Vikings to the playoffs, but was injured and did not play in the playoffs against Green Bay.

During this season, Ponder was either very inconsistent, ineffective or hurt. Being benched in favor of Matt Cassell, then Josh Freeman, then Matt Cassell again. It is expected Ponder will be traded in the offseason.

FINAL GRADE
F
Ponder has been ineffective most of his Vikings tenure. The 2013 was more or less over after 3 weeks due to his miscues. He has showed at times he can make the NFL throws, however this pick has set the franchise back 3 years (much like the Tavaris Jackson pick). This is one of the bigger draft blunders in Vikings history

Kyle Rudolph was picked in the 2nd round to be the eventual replacement to Jim Kleinsasser and Vistanthe Shiancoe. His rookie season he caught 29 passes for 340 yards and 2 td’s. In his second year (and first year of starting) he made the Pro Bowl on the heels of 9 td’s on 33 catches. He was also named Pro Bowl MVP. His 2013 season was ruined by incosistent QB play and a late season injury

FINAL GRADE
B+ – It’s almost not right to grade the Rudolph pick with all the incosistent QB play the Vikings have had his 3 years in the leauge. He has show with good QB play (see the 2013 Pro Bowl) that he can be one of the leauges top tight-ends. I expect big things out of Rudolph in 2014.

Ballard was drafted to team with and eventually replace longtime DT Kevin Williams. He had characther flaws and tested positive for pot while in college so his draft stock slipped. He played on a rotational basis in 2011 and 2012 and ended up with 1 sack in 2 years. Ballard left training camp in 2013 for personal issues (claimed football was no longer fun for him) and has yet to return to the Vikings

FINAL GRADE
F – Ballard had a lot of promise and potential, and the pick was considered a steal,  however he burned out. Yet another dissapointing pick in 2011

Burton was expected to be in the CB rotation for the Vikings and was to be added depth. However, he rarely played and when he did he was burned in the backfield often. He was cut in the 2013 pre-season.

FINAL GRADE
F – You are probably starting to notice a pattern here. The Vikings did a good job of addressing needs in the 2011 draft, however most of the picks didn’t work out. Burton played 5 games for the Bills this year before being cut and picked up by the Bengals.

Love was initially drafted as developmental offensive line depth. He was innactive all of the 2011 season, most of the 2012 season and was suspended 4 games of the 2013 season for NFL’s policy on performance enhancing drugs. He was then cut by the Vikings upon his return and picked up by Jacksonville.

FINAL GRADE
F – It’s hard to give an F grade on a developmental 6th round draft pick, however for the fact he never was active in a game in his Vikings career and was suspended 4 games; the grade is justified.

The Raymond pick was one of the few decent spots in the Vikings later picks. Though he hasn’t been a great DB/S, he has been serviceable at times. He has a tendency to get burned and has trouble wrapping up and making tackles.

FINAL GRADE
C – Though he hasn’t been a Pro Bowl saftey, he has been good enough and has had his bright spots. For a 6th round pick they could have done a lot worse.

Fusco has played in 30 career games starting 33 of them. Fusco struggled a bit his first two years, but really has come on in year 3. He doesn’t make plays that are part of highlight reels, but he makes a lot of key blocks and does the dirty work. He is solid in the run game and in pass protection. A true 6th round gem.

FINAL GRADE
B – To get a starting offensive lineman in the 6th round is rare, so the Vikes get a passing grade here. Fusco was a solid starter in 2013 and should improve even more in 2014

Homan was cut in the 2011 preseason, picked up by Tampa Bay, then retired due to concussions.

FINAL GRADE
F - Once again, its hard to give a pick this late an F, especially someone who had to retire due to concussions. However, because he had never played 1 down with the Vikings, once again the grade is justified.

Reed was another project pick the Vikings hoped they would get a good return on. He was able to hang with the team until preseason this year and was cut. He bounced around with the 49ers and Jaguars since

FINAL GRADE
F – (see Ross Homan)

The Vikings drafted Burton to add some depth at WR and to give fellow draftee Christain Ponder some weapons. He was a hell of a pre-season player in in his career but never made much of his limited regular season reps with the Vikings. He was cut in the 2013 preseason and picked up by Jacksonville. He finished his Vikings stint with 15 receptions, 149 yards, and 1 td

FINAL GRADE
D- – Burton is giving a passable grade for the fact he was a 7th round pick, but ended up with some playing time and a TD for Minnesota. He was a player that had promise, however he didn’t know what to do with it.

FINAL 2011 DRAFT GRADE
D + -
This will go down as one of the Vikings worst drafts in a long time. The only real locks to be on the team in 2014 are Fusco and Rudolph and Rudolph is the only player that really saves this draft from being a complete player. With drafting Ponder, the Vikings passed up QB’s like Andy Dalton and Collin Kapernick. You can entirely fault the Vikings with some of their later picks as no one past round 5 (Richard Sherman, Seahawks) has made a Pro Bowl. In fact, Sherman is the only round 5 player to make a Pro Bowl.

 

QB or not QB

It is well known that the Vikings are currently looking for their next headcoach, howeverm they are also going to be in need of a quarterback for 2014. There are some options out there, so let’s take a look:

Current Roster:
Currently the Vikings roster consists of Matt Cassell, Josh Freeman, and Christain Ponder. Ponder has fallen out of favor with coaching, ownership, and appears to be headed out the door as GM Rick Spielman has finally admitted he made a mistake in drafting Ponder. Josh Freeman was signed earlier in the season for $2 million, played one horrendus game against the Giants, and hasn’t been seen since. Cassell however has played well at times, leading the Vikings to vicotry against the playoff bound Eagles, the Lions, and close games against Green Bay and Baltimore. His stat line was:

CMP%
YDS
TD
INT
Rating
60.2
1,807
11
9
81.6

While that isn’t exactly setting the world on fire, Cassell was serviceable. He started growing a repoire with Greg Jennings, Jarius Wright, and Cordarelle Patterson. Cassell is signed to a 2-year deal but he has the option for the 2nd year. He has a high probability to start next season and possibly groom a rookie QB to be a future starter. With capable QB play from Cassell, the Vikings could be in contention for at least a Wild Card spot, if not a division title.

The Draft:

Teddy Bridgewater – Louisville
It has been reported earlier this week that Bridgewater will declare for the NFL draft. The likely hood of Bridgewater being avaialble at the 8th pick is unlikely, however the Vikings could move up in the draft. Bridgewater is the clear cut #1 rated QB in the upcoming draft. Though he has the ability to pick up yards being mobile, he is a pure pocket passer built in the Andrew Luck mold. He can make the downfield throws, play well in the clutch and has good ball security. The Vikings reached on Ponder in 2011 as QB’s were coming off the board. Trading up for Bridgewater is the sure fire way to land a the franchise QB of the future

Blake Bortles – UCF
Bortles has been climbing up the draft boards lately, and his performance in the Fiesta Bowl may have pushed him to the #2 rated QB in the draft. Bortles is built like a typical NFL QB, is accurate, and has a strong arm. Some of the knocks on Bortles is he hasn’t played against tough competition at UCF, he is a bit inconsistent on short throws, and he is still young. He could go back to UCF one more year as he is only a red shirt junior, though with Zach Mettenberger getting hurt, and Marcus Mariotta returning to school, the time to come out is now for Bortles.

Johnny Manziel – Texas A&M
Manziel seems to be the most controversial QB coming into the draft. He can play in the big games against top competition, and had a great game in the Chick-fil-A bowl against Duke. He doesn’t quite have the height as a typical QB (then again neither does Russell Wilson or Drew Brees, and they are doing ok) and his technique is a bit off. He has a bit of attitude/swager to him that may both help him and hinder him in the NFL. In most circles he is the #2 or #3 rated QB in the draft, and most likely will be one of 2 QB’s that will be available when the Vikings draft at #8

 

Derek Carr – Fresno State
Carr’s draft stock has slipped a bit after an ugly bowl game against USC. He will have time to make that up in private workours and next months scouting combine. He can make all the NFL throws and has the arm strength but needs a bit of work on his pocket presence and progress through his reads. Carr is most likely the QB that will be available when the Vikings go on the clock, and could very will be a great fit for Minnesota

Free Agents

It is highly unlikely the Vikings will go to free agency for their QB. There isn’t going to be much available. Derek Anderson, Michael Vick, Josh McNown, and Chad Henne round up the the free agent QB class. These are all veteran retreads but wouldn’t serve the Vikings well.

 

Final Verdict

The Vikings best and most likely option will be to re-sign Matt Cassell and have him go into 2014 as the starter while grooming Bortles or Carr, unless they put all their chips on the table and trade up for Bridgewater.

HC Rumors/Vikings Interview Tracker

Keep it here for all the Vikings Head Coach interviews and rumors.
Last Updated 12/30  6:16pm

Jack Del Rio and Adam Gase (Broncos coordinators)
http://profootballtalk.nbcsports.com/2013/12/30/report-denver-coordinators-on-vikings-radar/

Darrell Bevell and Dan Quinn (Seahawks Coordinators)
https://twitter.com/JasonLaCanfora/status/417797398753447936

Todd Bowles (Arizona Cardinals DC)
https://twitter.com/AlbertBreer/status/417809643465744384

 

Frazier out…Who is in ?

As most of you are probably aware, the Vikings relieved Leslie Frazier of his coaching duties today. So no the question is who will be the next head coach of the Minnesota Vikings ? Let’s take a look at some of the potential candidates:

Adam Gase – OC, Denver Broncos
Reportedly Gase is one of the candidates on top of the Vikings wish lists for head coach. He is in his 1st year as OC for the Broncos, and helped them shatter the NFL offensive record books this season. Personally, I think Gase is a product of having Peyton Manning as his QB. I could coordinate an NFL record breaking offense with Manning on my team. Gase will also be interviewing with the Cleveland Browns this week.

Jack Del Rio – DC, Denver Broncos
Del Rio is also reportedly on the Vikings radar for an interview. Delo Rio was a former Linebacker with the Vikings in the early 90′s. He was interim head coach for the Broncos this season for 4 games, and posted a 3-1 record. Del Rio also has prior head coaching experience with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Jay Gruden – OC, Cincinnati Bengals
Gruden, brother of ESPN broadcaster and former coach John Gruden, has been coordinator for the Bengals since 2011. He has helped WR AJ Green and QB Andy Dalton become franchise players for the Bengals. Gruden also has experience head coaching in the Arena Football League with Orlando from 1998-2000 and 2004 to 2009. Gruden will be persued by multiple teams but is an attractive option for the Vikings based on what he has done in Cincinatti. The Vikings have some key offensive players in place (Patterson, Rudolph, Peterson, Jennings) that , with a capable QB, could do some damage. Gruden is very offensive minded and could have the Vikings offense leading multiple categories in 2013.

Other candidates include: Lovie Smith, Ken Wisenhunt, David Shaw and Bill O’Brien

Frazier: Fired or not ?

For my first entry in a long time, I though I would discuss the status of head coach  Leslie Fraizer. There has multiple reports before and after today’s game that he will be fired, and others that he will be kept. Lets take a look at a few reason why each could/should happen

Why he should stay:

1. Regardless of how fast the season went downhill, the team continued to play, and making some games rather close against Green Bay and Baltimore, and won games against Detroit and Philadelphia down the stretch. They team very easily could have quit on Frazier, especially with the QB circus we trotted out on the field

2. The Vikings will play 2 seasons at TCF Bank Stadium. Firing Frazier and finding a coach that want’s to coach 2 season in a college stadium may be a tall order and isnt necessairly the most attractive of options

3. The players love him. Adrian Peterson and Greg Jennings have both publically stated that they want Frazier back next year. Peterson is a very respected player in the organization and is the face of the franchise. He doesn’t necessarily have pull, but his opinion is very respected

Why he should go:

1. The QB circus. Minnesota seemed to waver on who they wanted at QB this year. Starting with Ponder, then Cassell, Josh Freeman, Ponder again, then Cassell again. The Freeman expirement was a $2 million waste as he only played one game. The Vikings also finally admitted they swung and missed on draft Christian Ponder. Cassell was servicable at times, and, had he played all season, the Vikings may have been a contender in the division.

2. Miss-usage of players. Cordarrelle Patterson was a beast the 2nd half of the season, however, was underutilized during the first half. Linebacker Audie Cole proved to be a spark in the defense down the stretch before getting hurt, however, rode the bench most of the season. Though there are other working parts in regards to player evaluation and who plays, Frazier is the head coach and decisions run through him.

Do I think Frazier will be fired ? I think its almost a certantity that he will. We will find out Black Monday.