The Minnesota Vikings’ draft went from immediate need to future need to stocking for the future with their draft picks.
General manager Rick Spielman’s draft focus was on 2016 and beyond, just like he said it would be prior to the draft. But, while the Vikings talked about key measurables and analytics prior to the draft, they used the numbers as a guide that wouldn’t overrule their gut.
Doctson’s measurables: 6-foot-2, 202 pounds, 9-7/8 hands, 31-7/8 arms, 76-5/8 wing span, 14 reps on the 225-pound bench, 1.58 10-yard dash, 2.62 20-yard, 4.5 40-yard, 41-inch vertical, 10-foot-11 broad jump, 4.08 short shuttle and 6.84 three-cone.
Treadwell in the same categories: 6-2, 221 pounds, 9½ hands, 33-3/8 arms, 80½ wing span, 12 on the bench press, 4.63-second 40-yard dash, 33-inch vertical and 9-9 broad jump (he didn’t participate in all the drills at the combine).
Doctson has bigger hands, shorter arms, short wing span, but he’s faster, has a much better vertical and broad jump. The comparisons most often made for Treadwell are Dez Bryant, and Rick Spielman made the comparison to former Lions great Herman Moore. Neither are particularly fast, but Treadwell’s strength lies in his ability to battle for the ball in intermediate routes.
The other top receivers weren’t necessarily good fits for the Vikings. Will Fuller has the speed (4.23-second 40-yard dash) but is two inches shorter than Treadwell and Doctson, has the same vertical as Treadwell, shorter arms and, most importantly, more dropped passes. Corey Coleman has drawn comparisons to Percy Harvin, but the Vikings have a capable slot receiver in Jarius Wright. Coleman has the vertical and short-area quickness, but he doesn’t have the height or arm length of Treadwell.
When it came to addressing immediate need, Treadwell and Doctson appeared to be the primary targets and the Vikings liked the fact that Treadwell plays with an ultra-competitive, almost defensive-like, mindset. He’s also turning just 21 in June with plenty of upside to complement the production he has already amassed.
Wisely, Treadwell is leaning heavily on Cris Carter’s knowledge of the game as a mentor.
“There’s many different things that he knows that I don’t know that I would love him to tell me,” Treadwell said. “But every time I go, he tells me bits and bits and bits. It just keeps me wanting to talk to him and get more information out of him.”
After filling their most pressing – and perhaps only immediate – need, the Vikings started to work on the future and didn’t let measurables dictate the selections then either.
With Captain Munnerlyn in the final year of his contract and Terence Newman signing another one-year contract, Mackensie Alexander presented strong value in the second round. He’s only 5-foot-10-3/8, but that is still taller than Munnerlyn, who might get replaced after this season by Alexander. In fact, Munnerlyn tweeted his “try me” acceptance of the challenge after the Vikings picked Alexander.
And then his willingness to work with Alexander.
One thing is certain with Alexander: The Vikings didn’t use analytics on interceptions when taking Alexander. He has none of them in his college career.
He is this, however: Physical, aggressive, sticks with his man and is best in man coverage, which the Vikings use often.
He either rerouted or jammed his coverage assignments away from an FBS-best 40 passes in 2015, according to nfldraftreport.com. On 59 tosses targeted into his area, he allowed just eight receptions (13.56 percent) for 117 yards, no touchdowns and just two first downs.
While his height was one negative fans quickly attached to, defensive backs guru (and head coach) Mike Zimmer calmed the concerns.
“Maybe there is a misinterpretation of size, but 5-10½ is prototype and he is 5-10.3 so he is not a little guy,” Zimmer said. “He is a smaller defensive back compared to some of the 6-footers. Terence Newman is 5-10.4.”
Alexander doesn’t lack for confidence, either, confidently calling himself the best cornerback in the draft at the NFL Scouting Combine. And that’s often a great attribute for cornerbacks, who need to have supreme confidence in their abilities even after they are beaten. Munnerlyn possesses that same bravado, and it’s possible Alexander is Munnerlyn’s successor to set up a young, ascending cornerback trio for the future with Xavier Rhodes, Trae Waynes and Alexander.
Even in their fifth-round selection, linebacker Kentrell Brothers, the Vikings eschewed the speed measurable and eventually decided the value was too good to pass up on a linebacker some analysts considered a second-round value. Linebackers coach Adam Zimmer reiterated that he likes tall cornerbacks, and Brothers isn’t that at 6 feet. He isn’t the fastest either, but Adam Zimmer was bullish that time and again Brothers’ instincts trumped his speed on tape. One-tenth of a second lost in speed is quickly overshadowed by a quick first step in the right direction.
For months prior to the draft, Spielman talked about the increased use in analytics, but speed certainly wasn’t the priority when assessing talent. In fact, Spielman used personal experience to demonstrate why speed shouldn’t dictate how teams line up their draft boards. If it were that easy, he wouldn’t compile his extremely detailed draft board with thousands of scouting miles and millions of dollar invested.
When Spielman was trying to find work as a player in the NFL, his brother Chris was working his way into one of the best linebackers. Rick was trying to gravy-train workouts in front of scouts with Chris. Rick would consistently beat Chris in the athletic measurables. In fact, during one drill in which they were trying to cover 10 yards with three standing leaps, Chris came up short. Rick was set to make his third jump and easily surpass the 10-yard mark when Chris leveled his brother mid-stride and said that was enough of the drills that were only tangentially related to football.
Perhaps that was the first lesson to Rick about measurables not telling a complete story. Chris found a long NFL career as a player. Rick would transition to NFL front offices shortly thereafter and work his way into his current role running the Vikings’ personnel department. Now he understands that a 40-yard dash doesn’t always accurately portray the speed needed to play in the NFL, and height isn’t the only factor that determines the catch radius of a receiver.
Lessons learned long ago still apply. If a prospect shows he has the “it factor” on film, prospect can turn to productive player. That’s exactly what the Vikings are hoping with their draft in order to keep the roster stocked for the future.