Coming into the 2009 draft, many observers listed the Vikings top needs in the draft as being wide receiver, offensive tackle and cornerback. With the selection of CB Asher Allen of Georgia in the third round, the Vikings have addressed all three of those needs with players they believe can make an immediate impact.
Allen, a junior for the Bulldogs, suffered a broken wrist early in the season in a game against LSU. Allen played the rest of the season with a cast on his right wrist. While his willingness to play injured is admirable, Vikings director of college scouting Scott Studwell said it may have impacted the view that some teams had of him entering the draft. He said it didn't affect the Vikings' view of him, but may have with others, which allowed him to slide into the third round.
"I don't know if it affected his draft status," Studwell said. "I think it affected his tackling efficiency somewhat. That problem threw some question marks into people's heads about his physicality. We didn't see any evidence of him shying away from contact, but as a corner, you need to be able to use your hands. It did affect to a certain extent, but this was a player we feel very good about – his cover skills, his willingness in (run) support. We like what he can give us potentially as an inside nickel corner initially and see where it goes from there."
An undersized corner at 5-9½, Allen plays much bigger. He had an impressive 22 reps of 225 pounds at the Combine and showed a willingness to be aggressiveness in run support. The profile on Allen was that he would best fit in a Cover-2 defense, but Studwell said that the Vikings being labeled as strictly a Cover-2 defense is something of a misnomer.
"We have the stigma of being a Cover-2 team, but we play a lot of man (coverage) as well," Studwell said. "He's got very good short-area quickness and man cover skills, which we need in our defense. The mantra for a Cover-2 corner is a bigger, more physical player. He can do that. It will take some time for him to adjust to the physical style of playing outside and supporting the run, but he's done it at Georgia. He's played against a high level of competition for a long time."
The plan initially will be to have Allen compete with Karl Paymah, Benny Sapp, Charles Gordon and Marcus McCauley for the nickel spot, which, thanks to the proliferation of passing in the NFL, could have him on the field for a considerable amount of time – even though he likely won't be a starter early in his career.
"Your nickel corner plays an awful lot," Studwell said. "In time, does he supplant Antoine (Winfield)? We'll just have to wait and see where all that goes. We like his cover skills. He was the next corner on our board and we felt we had to address that area at some point in the draft and we felt good about where we took him."
With the selection of Allen, the Vikings have now added three players that have played in a lot of high-profile games. Both Percy Harvin and Phil Loadholt played in national championship games and Allen played a brutal SEC schedule that featured many of the country's top teams. For the Vikings, getting players that filled predraft needs as well as those that have played on the big stage was part of their process when stacking their draft board. Studwell said the draft fell right so the team could not only add players from strong college programs, but address their most pressing needs at the same time.
"There's always the argument of best player (versus) need," Studwell said. "We feel like we fortunate to get them where we got them. At the same time, they are filling some needs for us. All three of them are good football players and all played against some of the best competition in the country. We're not drafting (Division) I-AA players. These guys have played in big-time games against big-time competition and have shown their worthiness and readiness to come up into our league and play."
Allen expected to compete for nickel CB job
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