Saturday, March 28, 2009

A voice of reason

One of things football fans tend to do during the offseason is complain about their favourite (Canadian spelling alert!) team not being active enough during free agency. This is something I've certainly been hearing about the Vikings.

Which is why I think Joe Fischer is right to point out that we shouldn't go out and kick the dog just because the Vikings haven't done much to improve themselves – other than sign their own free agents.

After all, while the Vikings offseason has been "quiet" as far as signing players from outside the organization, it's not like management has sat back and done nothing. It has tried to do some significant things.

But unlike last year, when the Vikings got every player they targeted (Bernard Berrian, Madieu Williams, Jared Allen, even Thomas Tapeh), this year they haven't been as fortunate.

Some players the Vikings were thought to be interested in, like offensive tackles Jordan Gross and Vernon Carey, were re-signed by their own teams before hitting the market.

Management also pushed hard to sign T.J. Houshmandzadeh and made a run at fullback Leonard Weaver. And if we're to believe shadowy anonymous sources, the Vikings were part of a three-way trade that included the Patriots and the Broncos and would have netted them Jay Cutler until some members of the coaching staff inexplicably (or maybe it's not all that inexplicable) had second thoughts about acquiring Cutler.

Quarterback remains a concern and there are some other problem areas, like right tackle. But this is a team that went 10-6 last year. Its defence is emerging into a fearsome unit. It's got Adrian Peterson and if Sage Rosenfels can somehow avoid the interception bug, he should beat out Tarvaris Jackson for the starting QB job and the passing game will be much improved.

If the Vikings can pick up an impact player or two in April's draft, this team should be better than it was in 2008 – even though it couldn't land Houshmandzadeh and Weaver.

It's dangerous to drink too much purple koolaid. But there are plenty of reasons to feel good about this team heading into 2009.

The draft
Judd Zulgad of the Access Vikings blog runs down the number of college players the Vikings will bring in for workouts prior to the draft. He also points out that inviting these guys for workouts means nothing. It could all be misdirection by the Vikings in an effort to hide who they really want to draft.

I watch about as much chess as college football these days. But that's not stopping me from providing some impressions about the invitees. Here are those impressions.

Percy Harvin (WR): Fast and dynamic, but can he play all the time? You don't draft guys in the first round to be part-timers.

Darrius Heyward-Bey (WR): Fast but suspect hands. Sounds suspiciously like Troy Williamson. Stay away.

Kenny Britt (WR): Big and fast. Don't know much else about him.

Eben Britton (OT): Has short arms, which I hear is a no-no for an offensive tackle.

Phil Loadholt (OT): Huge guy who struggles with speed rushers.

Darius Butler (CB): Very fast and a great athlete. Might be the best cornerback in the draft.

Alphonso Smith (CB): The mock drafts I've read say he's projected to be an immediate starter.

Greg Toler (CB): This guy's name is ringing absolutely no bells. Help!

Scott Studwell
We should hear more and more about the draft now. It's a month away and excitement is going to build over whom the Vikings should draft.

The man in charge of preparing the Vikings for this important exercise is director of college scouting Scott Studwell.

I loved Studwell as a player. But the Vikings have not drafted well over the years and I've started to wonder whether the Vikings could do better than Studwell. Either his advice is not being listened to by the people making the decisions on draft day, which has resulted in a lot of bad picks. Or those people are listening to Studwell's advice, which has resulted in a lot of bad picks.

4 comments:

Travis D. said...

I have an unfortunate sense of urgency regarding the current group of players. Our window is closing in two ways - many of our players are getting close to the end of their peak play, and there remains the possibility that the Minnesota Vikings may cease to exist in Minnesota in a few years. This latter reason is why the draft no longer excites me, along with the modern realization that most draft picks end up being "white elephants" that chew up cap room in guaranteed contracts.

As far as Studwell goes, I'm not sure how much sway he actually has in deciding who exactly is picked in the draft. I actually have been very pleased with our drafts in the Childress era. We have arguably been top 5 in drafting quality players at mediocre draft positions since Childress took over.

Hole-in-ones: Peterson, trading our 2008 draft for Jared Allen

Birdies: Greenway, Griffin (for a second rounder), Tyler Thigpen (although we weren't smart enough to keep him)

Par Picks: Ray Edwards, Brian Robison

The jury is still out on Sidney Rice and most of the 2008 class.

In summary, I entirely believe the Childress regime has had KAD (Kick A** Drafts). I don't know what part Studwell has played in this - afterall, he was around the horrendous Tice drafts and Denny's last drafts.

DC said...

Travis:

I often read that the window of opportunity is closing for this Vikings team. But I think that's untrue in some respects. Certainly Pat Williams, Antoine Winfield, and to some extent Ryan Longwell, might only have a couple of productive seasons left, which isn't insignificant given the roles they play.

But many of the Vikings other key players – like Kevin Williams, Henderson, Madieu Williams, Peterson, McKinnie, Berrian – are all 28-29 or younger and probably have four or five productive seasons left in them, which is a lifetime in the NFL. I don't think this team is going to fall apart once Winfield and Big Pat are gone.

I do agree that the drafts during the Childress era have looked much better than pre-Childress. But the success of the 2006 and 2007 drafts really hinges on whether Griffin, Edwards, Cook, Rice, Robison and McCauley become core players in the next couple of seasons. So far only Peterson and Greenway appear to be starters-for-life from those two drafts. And I think you have to get more than one starter per draft to consider a draft a success – at least that's my definition.

Peter said...

I'm surprised you didn't list Maclin and Oher in your post; those two seem to be falling in enough mock drafts that the Vikings are being picked to snatch them up.

I think Oher/Maclin/Britton would be good for round 1, and if Maclin is taken, then Loadholt in round 2. They could possible trade down a few spots and still land Britton (I don't agree with his nay-sayers) if they're ablke to find a trade partner. With no picks in rounds 4 and 6, it would be nice to get a couple extra via a harmless tradedown.

DC said...

Peter:

I didn't list Maclin, etc. only because the Vikings haven't invited them in for a workout. I was only posting comments about players who the Vikings are bringing in.