[Editor’s Note: To see Luke’s previous versions, click here]
It’s draft season. Everyone and their mother has a mock draft out now and so do we, BUT the difference here at Cold Omaha is that we have Luke Inman (@Luke_Spinman) on staff. Luke’s seen many of these prospects in the flesh at the Senior Bowl, done his due diligence grinding tape and has keen insight on how the draft prospects line up with what Rick Spielman and the Vikings may do at the end of April.
Luke will be updating his mock throughout the process, so bookmark this vanity link coldomaha.com/mockdraft and let your thoughts be heard in the comment section as we roll along towards the Draft.
Catch Luke’s Prospect a Day series on YouTube.
1st Round (23rd Overall) Josh Doctson, WR TCU
He’s back, baby! My draft man crush slips past wide receiver needy teams like Los Angeles, Detroit, Atlanta, Buffalo, and Houston and into the laps of the Vikings. In the most critical season of Bridgewater’s career, Teddy enters the pivotal year three hoping to make the proverbial leap into the NFL’s elite signal callers.
While running a heavy power-running scheme, Teddy wasn’t asked to push the ball downfield much or take aggressive shots into the teeth of opposing defenses. However, when he did attempt the deep ball, he and his receivers struggled to consistently strike fear into secondaries with a lackluster outcomes.
“man among boys when put in jump ball situations”
In fact, the Vikings passing game ranked among the worst in the league and were downright putrid with passes traveling more than 20 yards.
Enter Doctson who is a man among boys when put in jump ball situations. Between his outstanding ball tracking skills, leaping ability, and insanely long reach used to pluck balls away from his defenders, Doctson is the missing piece the Vikings have long sought after. Doctson game is similar to last years 13th overall pick Devante Parker and ball skills are reminiscent to AJ Green.
If the mission of the 2016 season is to fairly evaluate Bridgewater and see if he’s the long term answer at quarterback, then it’s only fair to surround him with the talent needed to maximize his skill set. It’s a known fact Bridgewater struggles with deep accuracy since coming out of Louisville, however Doctson is a special player that can help bail out his quarterback and give him confidence when it’s time to “just throw it up”.
The offensive line has been patched up and aided thanks to free agency and now the biggest remaining void must be filled in the draft.
(Previous pick: 2.0 & 3.0 Andrew Billings, DT Baylor; 1.0 Josh Doctson, WR TCU)
2nd Round (54th Overall) Ryan Kelly, C Alabama
While safety was in the mix, thanks to an outstanding defensive performance (and vice versa an offensive performance that under performed) the Vikings had two needs heading into the offseason that trumped everything else: wide receiver and offensive line.
It’s my opinion the front office has done an outstanding job of bringing in a long term solution at the left guard position with Alex Boone who adds a newfound tenacity and mean-streak coaches left last season craving. The move allows Brandon Fusco to move back to his most natural position on the right side and compete for his old job with Mike Harris killing two birds with one stone. The general also signed both Phil Loadholt and Andrew Smith to one-year deals offering even more competition and safety nets at a position that was depleted by injuries just a season ago.
Look a little closer though and you’ll see after this year the team will have all three tackles including Matt Kalil likely hitting the free agent market. However retaining even just one of those three would likely be the bare minimum (but re-signing two is much more realistic) while TJ Clemmings gets another year of learning the NFL nuances under his belt as he waits in the wings. Meanwhile, the real untold and untouched position lies at center where John Sullivan continues to try and come back from a nasty lower back injury that have ruined NFL players in the trenches careers.
“outstanding smarts and communication skills“
While fans hold their breath the former Pro Bowler can regain his old form the depth chart has Joe Berger ready to pounce in once again if needed. Berger was actually one of the best centers in the league last year after replacing Sullivan, but at nearly 34 years old a backup plan for the backup must be put into action. Spielman is always in “build for the future” mode and is thinking of way to fill the likely voids. Kelly ranks at the top of a quietly solid class of centers.
Playing for the Crimson Tide Kelly lined up across from some of the nastiest big-bodied interior lineman you will see and performed admirably on a week-to-week and snap-to-snap basis putting together one of the most consistent resumes of his class. With a strong base and powerful arms, Kelly has the ability to absorb defenders without giving up too much leverage. Plus, Kelly showed some surprisingly smooth quickness and light feet when asked to get into the second-level of defenses and seal off linebackers in open space.
But what makes Kelly the cream of the crop is his outstanding smarts and communication skills. Like any great center being able to dissect the defensive looks in a split second and relay the message to his peers is the difference between a great play and a bad one. I think the front-office will undoubtedly draft a center this year, as unlike the fan base, they may know more about Sullivan’s injury and not like what the future holds.
(Previous picks: 1.0 & 2.0 Darian Thompson, S Boise State; 3.0 Karl Joseph, S West Virginia; 4.0 Jason Spriggs, OT Indiana)
3rd Round (86th Overall) Jalen Mills, FS LSU
While he may be the most versatile safety in the league, if I was forced to pigeon hole Harrison Smith to one position in the backend, I would maximize his outstanding instincts and range as a centerfielder through the free safety role. Head coach Mike Zimmer may not agree, however, as he dropped hint after clue at combine interviews that finding someone who could man the coverage duties that he would ideally use Smith inside the box with his run stopping and blitzing skills.
Unfortunately for him this class of safeties is deep with the prototypical in-the-box safeties and not the other way around, leaving options like Jalen Mills limited and scarce. While undersized and thin, Mills has outstanding quickness and recovery speed that was on full display for me down at the Senior Bowl. Mills was electric staying hip-for-hip with the majority of his receivers and allowing little to no separation.
Much like a Trae Waynes and his skill-set, I don’t know if Mills will every be a big interception guy. But his closing speed when in coverage is too fast for his opponents making every throw-and-catch a contested one. Mill’s could likely play a role similar to 49er safety Jimmie Ward as a hybrid free safety and nickel cornerback. This would give Zimmer the athleticism and versatility he covets in the secondary with multiple options at hand, while most importantly giving the head coach free reigns with Smith and his wide range of talents.
(Previous picks: 1.0 Nick Martin, C/OG Notre Dame; 2.0 & 3.0 Rashad Higgins, WR Colorado State’ 4.0 Jeremy Cash, SS Duke)
4th Round (121st Overall) Deion Jones, OLB LSU
Another athletic specimen who was vastly underutilized at LSU. Jones didn’t see the field until his senior season but was clearly one of the fastest on the field as he popped off the tape. J
ones saw time all over the field even including CORNERBACK as a fluid athlete that flies to the ball. Zimmer loves molding his athletic front-seven players and with an ever aging Chad Greenway and hobbled Audie Cole Jones will have a chance to compete for playing time early on as he learns the nuances of the NFL game.
(Previous pick: 1.0 – 3.0 Deion Jones, OLB LSU)
5th Round (160th Overall) Jonathan Williams, RB Alabama
The re-signing of Matt Asiata to just a one-year deal and Adrian Peterson’s flame running low, there are very few guarantees about the future of the running back position, which opens up the realistic possibility of the Vikings nabbing a one of their choosing in the middle rounds.
If that’s the case than Williams is a guy I’m banging the table for with and outstanding mix of balance and power shown throughout his career for the Razorbacks. Williams runs hard as a north and south runner at 225 pounds until he gets into the second and third levels of the defense where he shows off his surprisingly light feet and ability to make defenders miss in the open field.
(Previous picks: 1.0 & 2.0 Jonathan Williams, RB Arkansas; 3.0 & 4.0 Kenyan Drake, RB Alabama)
6th Round (180th Overall from SF) Joe Haeg, OT NDSU
As a former walk on Haeg wasn’t expected to win a starting left tackle job, but he did. He also wasn’t expected to win three national championships and become one of the best FCS tackles in the country, but he did.
Haeg wont be expected to be a consistent contributor in the NFL but, with the help and guidance from Tony Sparano maybe he will as the Vikings set up Plans B, C, and D in case Phil Loadholt doesn’t pan out from injury.
(Previous pick: 1.0 – 4.0 Joel Haeg, OT NDSU)
7th Round (240th Overall from BUF) Glenn Gronkowski, FB/TE Kansas State
It makes me sick to my stomach to fill in another tight end here because it means the injury to Rhett Elison’s knee may be too much to overcome. Ellison was the glue between the cracks in one of the best running games in the NFL as a brusing blocker in power run formations.
Believe it or not losing Ellison will be a huge blow to the way Norv Turner runs his offense. However, brining in baby Gronk is the next best thing in hopes of managing the damage. I got a first hand look at Gronkowski down at the Senior Bowl and he showed off the great gene pool with his blocking skills. However, to make things really worth the while for Rick, Glenn showed off outstanding natural receiving ability when coaches plugged him in as a pass catching TE.
A value late pick here that is an insurance policy for an injured veteran that gives way to great versatility.
(Previous picks: 1.0 Paul McRoberts, WR SE Missouri St; 2.0 – 4.0 Glenn Gronkowski)
7th Round (244th Overall) Anthony Zettel, DT/DE Penn State
No more Jaylon Smith here as a late-round steal as it seems more and more of the league has grown mildly comfortable with his steady progress on his knee. While I still think It’s going to be tough for any general manager in a “win now” mode to draft Smith higher than day-three, I could see the Patriots being the first to pull the trigger at the bottom of round-two where they have back-to-back pick (60,61).
Here however, Spielman finally cashes in on a deep class of defensive lineman grabbing Zettel who would likely have been a fourth rounder in any other draft. Zettel was strong and stout at the point-of-attack for the Nittany Lions earning his keep with 11 tackles for loss and four sacks. Some teams may view him as a defensive end and after a strong combine performance showing off faster speed than anticipated I can’t blame them.
Expect Zimmer to maximize both strengths and use him inside-to-outside based off the down and distance once he works his way into the defensive rotation.
(Previous picks: 1.0 DJ Reader, NT/DT Clemson; 2.0 – 4.0 Jaylon Smith)