Vikings draft rewind: The other options

The Vikings feel good about their draft, but who else was there that would have made sense? Draft analyst Dave Te-Thomas takes a second-guessing look at the draft, pointing out options he would have considered with the Vikings' picks and detailing why with his unique analysis.

The Vikings vice president of player personnel Rick Spielman said that the team had placed "red dots" on close to 80 draft eligible players, citing reasons related to their physical health or something in their background that Minnesota would not consider taking them under any circumstance. From the looks of his first and last selections, maybe Spielman ran out of "red dots" for his draft board. The Vikings took gambles with those picks by selecting players with trouble in their background, hoping they are more mature now.
The team had needs at right offensive tackle, cornerback, wide receiver and center entering the draft. From the look of their selections, Spielman was able to fill three of those areas with their five draft choices last weekend. Heading the list of new Vikings is Percy Harvin, an electrifying receiver with a bit of a tainted past off the field and injury concerns on it.
Harvin had reportedly tested positive for marijuana at the NFL Combine, but the Vikings staff spent a considerable amount of time with the receiver prior to the draft and are convinced that his past troubles are behind him. Harvin was in such demand during the second part of the first round that several teams were trying to trade up with Cleveland (17th, 19th and finally with the 21st pick) in order to snatch Harvin.
The Vikings might have gotten the best value during the draft's first day proceedings when Phil Loadholt, a massive offensive tackle, was still around by the time the 54th pick rolled around. He should take over right tackle duties by the start of training camp, giving Minnesota perhaps the biggest tackle tandem in football, along with 6-foot-8 left tackle Bryant McKinnie.
The arrival of cornerback Asher Allen in the third round could see Cedric Griffin eventually move inside to safety or signal the beginning of the end of Antoine Winfield with the Vikings. With 2007 draft bust Marcus McCauley harder to find than Waldo last year, Allen brings good physicality to the cornerback position.
The Vikings traded up in the fifth round in order to snatch Jasper Brinkley, giving up a seventh-rounder along with their own fifth to Washington in order to grab the inside linebacker. Brinkley was projected as a first day pick prior to the 2007 season but blew out his knee and was slow to recover until the end of the 2008 campaign. If he returns to the form he showed as a junior, he could push another linebacker out of the lineup or to another position..
In the seventh round, it is like playing the old card game, "Go Fish," but the Vikings found a hard-hitting, undersized safety in Jamarca Sanford that they feel can play either the strong or free safety slots. He's had some off-field issues, but nothing too serious recently.
Below is my take on how the Vikings fared last weekend. In my comments on those selections, I also let you know what I feel that the team Should Have Done (where I totally disagree with their pick) or Could Have Done (another option available to them with that selection). It's just one man's opinion, but while we all sit back and wait for training camp, let the second guessing begin;
Wide Receiver-Florida
Could Have Taken
Hakeem Nicks
Wide Receiver-
North Carolina
Harvin is a multi-talented player whose presence on the field will certainly force the defense to account for him on every play. He is a deep threat with great ability to compete for the ball in a crowd and is also quite effective running out of the backfield. He's not been the most durable receiver out there and some teams were more concerned about his foot problems than how he did in the drug tests. He is shorter than ideal for a split end, but has good strength for a player his size and uses his hands well to defeat the press. His suddenness coming out of his stance will see him consistently gobble up the cushion and his acceleration and burst is most effective when utilized on the team's screens, as he shows that straight-line charge to instantly break free and the hip swerve to elude. He shows nice feet getting in and out of his cuts. Thanks to his above average lateral agility and balance when changing direction, he is very effective at locating and running through the cutback lanes when utilized as a ball carrier. With Harvin in the lineup, along with Bernard Berrian, the deep passing game will be quite exciting, if the team can live with Sage Rosenfels' inconsistency on deep tosses. Sidney Rice and Bobby Wade should round out the receiving unit that will have a nice combination of size and speed for the multiple-receiver sets, but Harvin's arrival should see inconsistent Aundrae Allison's time in a Purple uniform come to an end. If Harvin had been selected before the Vikings came up, Minnesota more than likely would have gone to "Plan B" and taken another player they coveted, Arizona offensive tackle Eben Britton.
Harvin Reminds Me Of…ERIC METCALF-ex-San Diego/Cleveland…It is hard to find a present-day comparison to Harvin among NFL players. Some compare him to the Saints' Reggie Bush, but he is not really much of a returner and is a better big-play threat than the New Orleans multi-purpose back. Harvin has the vision and moxie that Metcalf showed, as both are fearless going for the ball. He might not be the greatest route runner, especially getting to the deep ball, but on bubble and slip screens, he is a fan favorite, as he can turn those short throws into big gains better than any other player in this draft.
Offensive Tackle-Oklahoma
Could Have Taken
Sean Smith
Cornerback/Free Safety-Utah
Actually, Loadholt was another tackle the Vikings had targeted with their first-round pick. They doubted that he would last until they picked in the second round, but when he was there, they had their selection card into Commissioner Roger Goodell's hand in a nano-second. Marcus Johnson never panned out and Ryan Cook left them wanting more, leaving right tackle as a pressing need. Even though he played left tackle in college, scouts feel that Loadholt will quickly adjust to the right side, where he won't have to be exposed on an island so much. He is stout at the point of attack when he plays with a wide base and is starting to show good confidence in his reach to separate and pin the defender at the point of attack. He excels at combating an opponent in a phone booth, where his huge frame and outstanding wing span will see him generally engulf his man. He has just marginal-to-adequate foot quickness to slide and is not really an explosive hip roller, but he is a physical drive blocker who uses his body mass effective to simply push and move defenders off the line. If Loadholt had been off the board, the Vikings would have seriously considered Utah cornerback Sean Smith, as they were looking to add a physical pass defender who can match up to the bigger receivers that are featured in the NFC Central Division.
Loadholt Reminds Me Of…MAX STARKS-Pittsburgh…Loadholt might eventually develop into a left tackle, but like Starks, his lack of lateral range and explosion off the snap would make him a better fit on the right side or in the interior, as he is best when playing in a phone booth rather than working on an island. For a team that plays smash-mouth football, he could be an ideal fit, as you need bus fare to get around his massive frame. He just appears too stiff in his hips to trust him with protecting a quarterback's blind side at this stage of his game.
Could Have Taken
Jonathan Luigs
Offensive Center-Arkansas
The Vikings were looking for a physical cornerback to compliment starters Cedric Griffin and Antoine Winfield, as they felt present backups Charles Gordon, Karl Paymah and Bennie Sapp were easily replaceable. Allen is not the biggest pass defender you will find, but like Winfield, he does a nice job in run support and plays a very physical style of game. He has very good straight-line speed and legitimate cover skills, along with the loose hips to turn and run with receivers. He accelerates smoothly and generates the burst to close quickly out of his cuts. He should be able to handle the nickel role early due to his agility, and he is a secure open-field tackler who flashes some pop, considering his size. He adds a bit of a bonus, as he's a natural kickoff returner who sees the field well and can accelerate through the pack. Another option would have been to take Jonathan Luigs-Arkansas to compete with John Sullivan at center. With Loadholt in the fold, look for Sullivan's competition to come from a possible return of Ryan Cook to that position, now that he's out of the running for the right tackle job.
Allen Reminds Me Of…LITO SHEPHERD-New York Jets…Like Shepherd, Allen is a solid shutdown cornerback, thanks to outstanding timed speed and a good understanding for route progression. He has excellent timing and leaping ability competing for the ball in flight and brings added value in his role as a kickoff returner. He makes good adjustments on the move and is an efficient cut tackler who knows how to lower and drive with his shoulder to take the blockers out of action. He will need to continue adding more bulk to his frame, but that should not impact his exceptional acceleration. Like Shepherd, he is smart enough to play a variety of roles in the secondary and his versatility will be a plus earlier in his pro career.
Middle Linebacker-South Carolina
Should Have Taken
Marcus Freeman
Outside Linebacker-Ohio State
or James Casey-Tight End-Rice

The Vikings must have really liked what they saw on film, as they traded up eight spots to grab Brinkley in the fifth round. With E.J. Henderson and David Herron already in the middle, unless Brinkley is fully recovered from 2007 knee problems, he will more likely be stashed on the developmental squad. Brinkley is much better defending vs. the run than the pass. He is just too apprehensive in the zone and fails to locate the receiver on the switch-off. His range is just too limited to be effective here. He struggles to settle in the zone and react to the ball in flight. His lack of awareness certainly does not help, but he is simply not the type that can consistently get to the right spot in his drop point. The Vikings might have been better off adding depth at the outside linebacker spot, with Marcus Freeman of Ohio State a nice choice. Or, I would have brought in a versatile offensive player like James Casey, who has played tight end, slot receiver, fullback and quarterback in his two seasons at Rice after giving up a pro baseball career.
Brinkley Reminds Me Of…CARLOS POLK-Dallas…Like Polk, Brinkley's pass coverage deficiencies will leave him performing as a two-down linebacker at the next level. He gives good effort on the field, but is best served in a 3-4 alignment where he would not have to handle making calls, as he has just an adequate mental grasp for those duties. He plays much better in the box than when giving chase, as he does a good job of keeping his shoulders square and exploding through the holes. There are just too many holes in his game (mental aspect, pass coverage) for a team to get excited over him.
Strong Safety-Mississippi
Could Have Taken
Jamie Thomas
Offensive Guard/Center-Maryland
Sanford is a physical downhill tackler who will push Eric Frampton for backup time at free safety, but also can play the strong-side. He is shorter than ideal and has a few off-field issues, but he is an impact hitter whose 287 career tackles was tops among Southeastern Conference active players last year. He has a good feel for the ball, showing awareness in zone assignments. He does a nice job of keeping the play in front of him. He shows no hesitation stepping into the box to make plays in run force. He is quick to locate the ball when working through trash. He is not the type that will get over aggressive, but does hit with authority. He breaks on the ball well and gets a good jump from the hash.
Sanford Reminds Me Of…CHARLIE PEPRAH-Green Bay…Sanford packs a punch behind his tackles, staying low in his pads and driving hard with his legs to take his opponent down cleanly. He is also active with his hands, doing a nice job of jamming and rerouting slot receivers and tight ends in the short-area passing game. He does not have the natural hands to go for the interception and needs to do a better job of tracking the ball in flight. He is best when playing the zone, as his instincts and field vision lets him see plays develop quickly in front of him. His lack of size is a big drawback, but in a sub package, he could bring nice value playing the slot receivers, as he hits like a mini linebacker.

Viking Update Top Stories