Minnesota has holes to fill on both offense and defense. One of the more popular points being debated is the team selecting a potential franchise quarterback with the eight overall pick. Blake Bortles, Johnny Manziel and Teddy Bridgewater are the top names being considered for this pick. Finding an upgrade over both Matt Cassel and Christian Ponder is a must heading into next season for Minnesota.
Another area of need is for the Vikings to locate a stud linebacker. The team didn’t re-sign Erin Henderson, who finished second on the team with 112 tackles last season. The top names in play here are Anthony Barr, C.J. Mosley and Ryan Shazier. Barr will likely be available, but Mosley and Shazier are slated to be selected later in the first round, which opens the debate that the Vikings might trade down to obtain one of them plus additional picks. If they still covet Khalil Mack, he will not be available at the eighth slot, so they would need to trade up to obtain his services. It’s not out of the question, but would he be worth the additional picks they would have to give up for his services?
Finally, the Vikings could also use this pick to further solidify their depth in the secondary. They did use their first rounder last year on corner Xavier Rhodes, and they added slot corner Captain Munnerlyn this offseason, but they did struggle against opposing pass games last season. They struggled enough, that selecting either Darqueze Dennard or Justin Gilbert is not out of the question with the eight pick.
Blake Bortles would be a nice fit in Norv Turner’s offensive schemes. Minnesota having an ace running back like “All Day” Adrian Peterson opens up the play action game. In this setting (play action), Bortles would be the ideal pick. He has a big frame and a strong arm on all intermediate passes. His game falls off on the deep routes, as he tends to lose accuracy on his throws beyond thirty yards. It’s a fixable issue and he is coachable. He lacks speed, but he makes up for it with good agility and patience in the pocket. He must learn to check down his receivers, as the one check and throw system he played under at UCF isn’t a good quality at the next level, again, it’s fixable and he is coachable.
Johnny Manziel makes a strong argument for this selection. His durability is a big concern, but aside from that, his game has the best upside at the next level. He has a cannon arm and excellent accuracy. He can make the hard throws on the run, not to mention simply take off if the defense gets overly aggressive. Manziel makes good reads, and he quickly checks all options for an open receiver. He has a very aggressive leadership demeanor, and his level of competitive nature would certainly create plenty of excitement in Minnesota. It’s possible that Manziel could bulk up prior to the opening week of the regular season, which would eliminate the durability concern.
Teddy Bridgewater didn’t have an impressive pro day by any means, but that does not negate what he accomplished on the field during his days at Louisville. He also has good speed, and a solid arm both in strength and accuracy. But, much like Manziel, durability is a big concern with Bridgewater, along with his undersized hands. He would be a project pick, which might not bode well for Minnesota, who needs a prospect that can come right in and start from week one of the regular season.
Anthony Barr was originally recruited as a fullback/running back at UCLA. He clearly has excellent speed and agility, but he makes neck snapping hits as well. He can float sideline-to-sideline, and would make an immediate impact in run support. His skills set and abilities will allow the Vikings to utilize him as either an interior or exterior linebacker. There is a debate going that perhaps the Vikings could use Barr in a Chris Doleman type role by placing him at defensive end, but Barr would be better suited and utilized as a linebacker at the next level. Barr would bring an immediate increase to their defensive production next season.
C.J. Mosley has the same qualities as Barr, but he’s actually faster from sideline-to-sideline, and he can be better utilized in short zone coverage’s. Mosley is very fluid against the run, and he’s fast enough to excel as a pass rusher too. He carries an injury risk, which is why he continues to drop in most mock drafts. That concern will have to be weighted versus his potential output if he can remain healthy.
Ryan Shazier is another prospect with the same abilities, but his thin frame and durability is a concern. Both of these prospects would bring an upgrade to the Vikings linebacking core, but neither would be worth the eighth overall pick in the draft. Minnesota trading down could be an option if the team values adding picks along with a talent like Mosley or Shazier, over Bortles, Barr, Dennard, Gilbert, or Manziel.
Darqueze Dennard is one of the premier corners in the upcoming draft. He has good speed, sticks to his assigned receiver like glue, provides good run support for a corner, and his footwork will keep him from getting beat often off the snap. Dennard has a good leaping ability and he plays through the play, he doesn’t quit on a play if beaten. He would create an excellent duo with Xavier Rhodes next season.
Justin Gilbert is a bit faster than Dennard. He also has a solid leaping ability, and utilizes excellent footwork to keep tight coverage on assigned receivers. He also provides excellent run support, he works great in space, and he makes great adjustments mid-route. Gilbert is another corner that would create a solid duo with Xavier Rhodes.
A bonus debate here would be drafting an offensive tackle such as Jake Matthews or Taylor Lewan. The team has needs at guard, which they can likely find with their second round pick, but adding one of the “big three” offensive tackles would certainly increase their offensive production next season.
Minnesota Vikings fans, who would you like to see your team select with the eighth overall pick and why? I like Barr, Dennard or Gilbert, but any pick that can help further increase Minnesota’s level of play next season is welcome!
You can interact and debate this pick on twitter @TheeSethJC, or in the comments section below. Thanks for reading and have fun debating this pick!