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Krammer: Five thoughts on the Vikings 2016 draft weekend

By Andrew Krammer

MINNEAPOLIS — After this weekend, the Vikings have just one roster spot open following the addition of eight draft picks and 10 undrafted free agents.

Here are some thoughts on the Vikings 2016 draft weekend:

Mike Zimmer gets his cornerback — By the time the Vikings’ football brain trust settled into Indianapolis for the NFL scouting combine in February, they knew reliable cornerback Terence Newman wanted to return for a 14th season. They were expected to — and did — return all four top cornerbacks from last year’s fifth-ranked scoring defense, including the latest first-round pick, Trae Waynes, who will grab focus this summer as he competes for a starting role. But Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer knows when he says something that will create headlines, often prefacing with ‘here’s a quote for you.’ On an oversized couch one morning at the combine, Zimmer made a remark that didn’t hit reporters’ ears the way it should have. It’s obvious only after the Vikings grabbed cornerback Mackensie Alexander in the second round (54th overall) on Friday night.

“If Waynes is better, then we’d play him,” Zimmer said when talking of Newman. “Maybe we draft a guy in the first round. I’ve always liked drafting corners high, because I think those guys are the guys that help you in today’s NFL. Those are the kind of guys that kind of eliminate offenses a little bit. Them and pass rushers.”

So Zimmer got his cornerback and pairs a first-round pick (Waynes) with a second-round pick (Alexander) in the same way the Vikings added first- (Anthony Barr) and second-round (Eric Kendricks) picks to remake the linebacker corps in 2014 and 2015. The main takeaway here is Alexander, a two-year starter out of Clemson, is viewed as a slot corner immediately and will push veteran Captain Munnerlyn, who enters the final year of his contract this season. Alexander is a potentially cheap replacement in 2017 for Munnerlyn, who is due a $4.2 million base salary this season.

Munnerlyn, 28, sent this Tweet shortly after the Vikings’ pick of Alexander.

Best Nickel in the League #skol #vikings #24 #tryme

— Captain Munnerlyn (@captain_41) April 30, 2016

Two receivers, two sets of expectations — The Vikings used this draft class to address offense after 10 of the first 13 draft picks under Zimmer leaned defense. Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater received two new targets in first-round pick Laquon Treadwell and sixth-round pick Moritz Boehringer, though expectations are about as far apart as their respective hometowns. Treadwell, the Ole Miss product, was once considered the top receiver in this 2016 class, but he was the fourth and final taken in Thursday night’s opening round. Whether or not the Vikings got the receiver they ranked No. 1, they still liked him enough after a pre-draft visit and pro day workout to reportedly spurn the Kansas City Chiefs’ offer to move up from No. 28 for him. They filled a primary need, where Treadwell is expected to fill the split end, or ‘X,’ role, which will likely move Stefon Diggs to flanker, or ‘Z’ receiver. They haven’t had a long-term, productive No. 1 since Randy Moss, and now the focus turns to Treadwell with the most recent candidates, Cordarrelle Patterson and Charles Johnson, still on the roster. The selection makes it even more unlikely the Vikings exercise Patterson’s fifth-year option, which must be done today.

One of the coolest stories of the weekend landed in Minnesota. Boehringer, a native of Aalen, Germany, began watching American football with Adrian Peterson highlights on YouTube. Now he’s Peterson’s teammate. Boehringer impressed teams with his size (6-4, 227) and speed (4.43) during his pro day at Florida Atlantic University this spring. Even though the Vikings got a tip about him shortly after the combine, Boehringer didn’t remain a secret for long. So they spent a sixth-round draft pick (the one acquired from the 49ers for Gerald Hodges) to bring him to Minnesota, where he’ll get his first real taste of everything NFL. He didn’t begin playing competitively until 2013, though the Vikings came away impressed with his intellect during interviews and his pre-draft visit to Winter Park. Boehringer speaks clear English and has the desired measurements. Now he’ll focus on the playbook and his introduction to press coverage, which he didn’t see much of in the German Football League.

Vikings bet on sweet sixteen — Fixing the offensive line was the Vikings’ top priority this offseason, and now they’re betting on the 16 they’ve got under contract. Heavy lifting was done in free agency, signing veterans Alex Boone and Andre Smith while keeping the entire group from last season intact. Above all, the Vikings wanted to make the incumbents sweat by creating competition. They did so to the tune of 16 big men on the current roster, including fourth-round pick Willie Beavers, before announcing the undrafted free agent crop. The most crowded spots are now tackle and guard. Beavers (6-4, 324), a left tackle for Western Michigan, projects as a guard by the Vikings. They’ll move last year’s right tackle, T.J. Clemmings, to left tackle behind Matt Kalil, Zimmer said in a radio interview this weekend. The expectation is Clemmings takes a developmental year while Kalil stakes his worth in a contract season. Boone will plug in at left guard. The rest is up in the air as center John Sullivan returns from two back surgeries, backed up by Joe Berger. Brandon Fusco moves back to right guard and will compete with Mike Harris. And at right tackle, Smith and Phil Loadholt will compete. After a run of Week 1 continuity from 2012-2014, the Vikings will have a different starting five for the second consecutive season.

Tough to crack, is how Vikings view ’16 roster — Less than an hour into the undrafted free agent frenzy on Saturday night, general manager Rick Spielman got the sense it was going to be a tougher draw to Minnesota. Opportunity is the name of the game, and outsiders might not feel the Vikings have many spots up for grabs. “With the depth that I think we currently have, and what we have drafted, it makes it a little more difficult to maybe getting those top-tier guys,” Spielman said. Another move indicated such, when Spielman dealt the Vikings’ third-round pick (86th overall) to the Miami Dolphins in exchange for a sixth-round pick and two 2017 selections. The Vikings might have more roster flexibility next year when, for instance, left tackle Matt Kalil and receiver Cordarrelle Patterson are set to become free agents.

Potential first, production second — Under the duo of Spielman and Zimmer, the Vikings continued the theme of taking chances on players who didn’t steal the show in college. The philosophy comes from the front office’s trust in the coaching staff to develop talented athletes, such as last year’s third-round pick Danielle Hunter, who quadrupled his sacks (6.0) as a NFL rookie from his final season at LSU (1.5). The Vikings made similar moves with Alexander, the second-round corner who had zero interceptions at Clemson, as well as fourth-round offensive lineman Willie Beavers, who ranked as one of the worst tackles in college football by Pro Football Focus. The Vikings like Beavers’ 6-foot-4, 324-pound size and project him as a guard, while admitting he has leaps to make in his technique. “I watched him myself when I went through there game vs. Michigan State,” Vikings director of college scouting Jamaal Stephenson said. “They have a pretty good front and he more than handled his own.” However, fifth-round pick Kentrell Brothers bucked the trend as an undersized prospect who amassed big numbers at Missouri. Brothers was college football’s leading tackler at just under 13 credited per game. Likely slipped because of his projected upside in the NFL as a 6-foot linebacker with a 4.89 time in the 40-yard dash. Though he fared well in agility drills and drew the Vikings’ attention on film, where he had three blocked kicks in 2015. “Yeah, I mean it’s hard not to like him,” Stephenson said. “When you turn on the tape, he makes a lot of plays.”

The post Krammer: Five thoughts on the Vikings 2016 draft weekend appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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