2014 NFL Draft: Minnesota Vikings Spotlight
2014 NFL DRAFT TEAM SPOTLIGHTS: ARI | ATL | BAL | BUF | CAR | CHI | CIN | CLE | DAL | DEN | DET | GB | HOU | IND | JAC | KC | MIA | MIN | NE | NO | NYG | NYJ | OAK | PHI | PIT | SD | SF | SEA | STL | TB | TEN | WAS
This is the 26th of a team-by-team series, analyzing five prospects that each team should consider in the 2014 NFL Draft.
If new coach Mike Zimmer is going to have any better luck than predecessor Leslie Frazier in the NFC North, he'll need to improve a defense that ranked 32nd in the NFL in scoring and coax some consistency out of the quarterback position.
Zimmer and general manager Rick Spielman addressed several notable areas of concern in their first offseason together, convincing veteran quarterback Matt Cassel to return and dedicating millions to intriguing talents on defense, such as Everson Griffen (DE), Linval Joseph (DT) and Captain Munnerlyn (CB). While the foursome could help Minnesota take a step toward respectability, none are proven difference-makers. As such, the Vikings could once again prove overly reliant on superstar running back Adrian Peterson to be competitive in 2014.
Cassel proved serviceable a year ago, which is more that can be said for Christian Ponder, who at this point looks like a bust after being selected 12th overall three years ago. The two-year deal he signed, however, is an indication that the Vikings view him as a stop-gap solution and therefore it is likely that Minnesota will once again be investing an early pick in the game's most important position -- perhaps as early as the first round.
Should Central Florida's Blake Bortles land in Minnesota's lap at No. 8 overall, the Vikings may have a tough decision on their hands. After whiffing on a Ponder at No. 12 overall just three years ago, however, Spielman may be looking for a safer pick in the first round. Given Zimmer's expertise, the club's defensive shortcomings a year ago and the talent at quarterback in the division, taking the best-available-defender could be the way to go.
Minnesota Vikings' 2014 draft picks: 8, 40, 72, 96, 108, 148, 184, 223
Primary needs: QB, LB, SS, DL, OG
General Manager: Rick Spielman, third year
Five draft picks that clicked:
• OT Matt Kalil, third overall, 2012
• TE Kyle Rudolph, 43rd overall, 2011
• OG Brandon Fusco, 172nd overall, 2011
• DE Everson Griffin, 100th overall, 2010
• OT Phil Loadholt, 54th overall, 2009
Five players who should be on the Minnesota Vikings' draft radar:
Player, school (overall rating, position rating)
DT Aaron Donald, Pittsburgh (10, 1): The Vikings invested big dollars ($31.5 million over five years) in Joseph and a first-round pick a year ago in Sharrif Floyd but neither is a premium pass-rusher like Donald, who is earning comparisons from some to Vikings' Hall of Famer John Randle. Like Randle, Donald is a virtual Energizer Bunny, demonstrating rare hustle for an interior lineman. He's explodes off the snap and uses his natural leverage advantage and surprising power to overwhelm blockers and is effective against both the run and pass. Zimmer had the benefit of a talented rotation in Cincinnati and may see Donald as the type of interior pass rusher to help minimize the great quarterbacks of the division.
OLB Kyle Van Noy (56, 5): The Vikings have several intriguing young options at linebacker but could see Van Noy in the second round as a similarly safe pick as Donald in the first. Van Noy isn't as physical as some scouts would like but he anticipates very well, consistently beating linemen to the action and has a nice shoulder dip to slip past would-be blockers to make the stop. The Vikings may love young prospects Audie Cole, Gerald Hodges and Michael Mauti (among others) but Van Noy would offer intriguing flexibility.
QB Zach Mettenberger, LSU (101, 7): With Cassel clearly the starter for 2014, the Vikings may believe that they can wait until the draft's second or even early third day to find their quarterback of the future. Boasting the size, arm strength and experience in a pro-style scheme, Mettenberger is an ideal developmental prospect for Turner's offense -- so much so, in fact, that the Vikings might be willing to invest a higher pick in him than NFLDraftScout.com currently projects for the strong-armed pocket passer. Mettenberger does not possess ideal agility to escape pressure but with quality bookend tackles in Kalil and Loadholt already in place, as well as the running game, security blanket at tight end in Pro Bowler Kyle Rudolph and explosive big play wideout Cordarrelle Patterson, Mettenberger's natural passing ability could be maximized.
OG David Yankey, Stanford (151, 8): Yankey, a junior All-American, entered the 2014 draft amid much fanfare but his stock has settled as scouts pore over tape. Yankey impressed with his versatility in 2013, spending most of his sophomore campaign at left tackle (but seeing action at both guard spots and right tackle) and earned the Morris Trophy as the Pac 12's top offensive lineman. Rather than excel when moved exclusively to left guard last year, however, Yankey's play leveled off and therefore some have questioned his desire. In reality, the sudden death of his father (cardiac arrest) may have played a role in the uneven performance. At 6-foot-6, 315 pounds, Yankey offers balance, agility and power to play inside or out. He isn't an elite prospect but his mass, length (34-inch arms) and experience could be especially intriguing to Turner, who has shown a preference for massive guards in his power-based attack.
DE Aaron Lynch, South Florida (185, 16): Spielman has shown a willingness to bet big on athletes. Lynch looked like a future first-round pick during his time at Notre Dame but, frankly, just went through the motions after his transfer to South Florida. Lynch possesses a prototypical frame at 6-foot-5 with long arms and broad shoulders. He slimmed down with the Bulls, weighing in at 249 pounds after tipping the scales closer to 260 with the Irish and needs to regain his bulk and determined play to stick in the NFL. If he commits, however, Lynch could prove a big-time steal.