Analysts assess Vikings' first-round talents

The Vikings' three first-round picks created plenty of opinions heading into the draft. We look back at the comments on Sharrif Floyd, Xavier Rhodes and Cordarrelle Patterson from Mel Kiper Jr., Mike Mayock, Greg Cosell and Dave-Te' Thomas. Which prospect has the biggest question marks about them?

Former Vikings coach Dennis Green wasn't a fan of outside opinions. His mantra on them was, "Opinions are like (a low-class body part), everyone has one."

The high tide on opinions comes during draft season, when fans, media and analysts are all trying to get a handle on players they didn't know much about less than a year ago. Four of the more respected draft analysts have been doing their work and watching the film on the prospects over the last several months.

With hours of film study, analyzing the numbers and talking to people around the league, here are the opinions of several draft analysts – Mel Kiper Jr. of ESPN, Mike Mayock of NFL Network, Greg Cosell of NFL Films and Dave-Te' Thomas of the NFL Draft Report – on the Vikings' three first-round draft picks.

SHARRIF FLOYD

The defensive tackle was expected to be a top-five pick, but for whatever reason he fell to the Vikings with the 23rd pick and most figure him to be an ideal three-technique defensive tackle (the spot Kevin Williams plays) in the Vikings' Tampa-2 defense.

Floyd drew high praise from Cosell during a "film room" session for the Philadelphia Eagles website before the draft.

"I put on the tape and I've got to tell you, he was off the charts. … He was an explosive athlete," Cosell said. "He's what I call a tackle-for-loss player. He got into the backfield and made plays in the backfield. I think he's arguably the best player in the draft, not just the best defensive tackle.

"The style of player is similar (to Warren Sapp) because he's a three-technique with great penetration ability and he gets into the backfield. That's what Sapp did in his prime."

Not only was Floyd not the first player taken in the draft, but he wasn't even the first defensive tackle selected. Sheldon Richardson went 13th overall to the New York Jets and Star Lotulelei went with the next pick to the Carolina Panthers.

"Lotulelei to me is the second- or third-best defensive tackle in the draft. Sharrif Floyd is the best defensive tackle prospect in the draft, and Sheldon Richardson is another physical freak from Missouri," Mayock said before the draft. "Those three guys are potential top-10 picks … Sharriff Floyd might be one of the best two or three players in this draft from where you can line him up."

XAVIER RHODES

The ranking in the cornerback class depended on what teams were looking for. There were players considered better pure "cover cornerbacks," like Dee Milliner and D.J. Hayden, but as far as the big-bodied, physical cornerbacks that the Vikings desire, Rhodes was considered the best.

"He's a big, strong, tough kid," Mayock said. "… Most of (the cornerbacks) are what college coaches call boundary corners; they play into the boundary. Typically a boundary corner in college football is speed-deficient but smart, tough and instinctive."

Rhodes ended up running a very respectable 4.43-second 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine, helping solidify himself as the best option among the big cornerbacks – he is 6-foot-2, 210 pounds – and helping people believe he is a good option against big receivers like Calvin Johnson and Brandon Marshall in the NFC North.

"Rhodes, who is a big, physical kid, played a ton of press-man at Florida State, played the boundary primarily – to the short side of the field," Cosell said. "I like Xavier Rhodes. Does he have at times some footwork issues that can be cleaned up? Absolutely, but I think in today's NFL – his size, his bulk, his body weight – I think he's the corner that fits in the NFL."

CORDARRELLE PATTERSON

By now, Vikings fans seen the reports on receiver Cordarrelle Patterson. Nearly all of them list him as physically gifted but raw as a route-runner. Those are sentiments from the analysts.

"Patterson is raw. I don't think he can help you necessarily as much as his talent indicates as a rookie," Kiper said.

Yet, before the draft Kiper didn't think Patterson would be available to the Vikings at No. 23, much less at No. 29 where they eventually selected him.

"I don't think Cordarelle Patterson drops all the way down there to Minnesota. If they want to try to get him, they're going to have to try to move up into that middle of the first, early first."

The high praise wasn't something shared by Thomas. When writing his report on Patterson, he compared Patterson's ability to get the ball in traffic to that of Dwayne Bowe and talked about his elusiveness in terms of being a bigger Percy Harvin. But, overall, the NFL scout was concerned with Patterson's work ethic and route running.

"I look at Cordarrelle Patterson and I see another Troy Williamson. He's not a great route runner," Thomas said. "He's a very good athlete, but I have a lot of problems with ball players who don't dedicate themselves to their craft. That was one of the reasons why he ended up going to junior college, because he thought he could just coast through everything."

Mayock saw Patterson as a top-10 talent, but he, too, had questions about his character.

"How far is he going to drop with character and those concerns. I don't know the answer to that yet, but he's in the first round," Mayock said before the draft.

"Tavon Austin is going to be gone (before the Vikings pick) and Cordarrelle Patterson, who to me along with Austin is one of the two most explosive offensive players in this draft with the ball in his hands, has a bunch of character/maturity questions attached to him. I've got a feeling Patterson is going to slide a little bit and the Vikings are going to have to make a choice at 23 or 25 whether they want to get one of the most exciting players in the draft or whether they pass on him, especially given the fact that they did that a few years ago with Percy Harvin and he was very difficult to handle in their building."

Vikings general manager Rick Spielman said he believes receivers coach George Stewart is the best in the NFL, and it was clear that Stewart and Patterson established a good relationship before the selection was made. Now it's up to Stewart to develop Patterson and up to offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave to find the best way to use Patterson's gifts.

"He's far better at this point with the ball in his hands than he is as a route-runner. He's very explosive in the open field with the ball," Cosell said. "As a route runner, he's not explosive at all. He's a clear case that if you draft him in the first round, you'd better work him. You'd better have a wide receivers coach that stays on his rear end and works him because he needs to learn how to run routes, he needs to learn how to eat up cushions and create separation, not give away routes."


John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.

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