No one has benefited from the NFL draft in their life more than ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. Every April he comes out of hiding, like a belated 1980’s Wall-Street villain version of Punxsutawney Phil, to make his picks and helm the NFL’s draft for the four-letter network. Granted, he’s typically way, way off, but that doesn’t matter when you’re hungry for any sort of credibility, especially in what amounts to a crap shoot (Both in terms of guessing what teams will do, and whether or not those moves end up panning out). Take NFL Network’s May Mayock (Their version of Mel Kiper Jr.), for example. It seems like after every pick he’s more and more embarrassed and thus needs to be more and more sure that he knows whose about to get picked, the camera often pans over to the player that Mayock has up next on his board annnnnd… A punter, it was the punter.
So, I’m not the biggest fan of those who make their living as Mock Draft experts. However, I do believe that there is a lot of validity to draft analysis, or rather, prospect analysis. Kiper Jr. is more well known for his mock drafts, at least as far as I’m concerned, but those clearly stem from a year of watching NCAA football and analyzing players. Something that I would say is my biggest weakness as a site owner/Vikings writer, as I can’t bring myself to support my Alma Mater’s sports teams, perhaps due to the self-inflicting pain that they seem to bring upon themselves over and over, including as recently as a few months ago (And that pain is named Fleck). But, because of my general disdain for the Gophers, I’ve never been able to get into college football and thus my knowledge is pretty lacking when it comes to the next generation of NFL players.
However, the draft is still a few weeks away and free agency is mostly done (With the exception of Adrian Peterson’s eventual landing spot, which I believe is more and more looking like it’ll be back on the Vikings, as I laid out on Tuesday). So, I guess beggar’s can’t be choosers when it comes to Vikings news in early April (That should be our new tag-line! purplePTSD.com, “Beggars Can’t be Choosers since 2015”), especially when the player that Kiper Jr. believes the Vikings will draft with their first pick (48th overall) is my favorite type of player… A wide receiver! And my favorite kind of receiver at that… One with crazy amounts of potential!
Let’s see what Kiper Jr. says, at least according to Daily Norseman:
The Vikings got only one catch out of their first-round pick from last year (Laquon Treadwell), and so they could use another wideout. Smith-Schuster had an inconsistent season, but he has No. 1 potential. He had 20 touchdowns the past two seasons.
Now, in my articles/thoughts behind Peterson perhaps ending back in Purple and Gold I have said that the lack of pure play-makers on the Vikings offense could lead them to resign the 32 year old back. I’ve also talked in-depth about the fact that the Vikings have been reducing their overall needs bit by bit since the blood-letting that began at the beginning of training camp, reducing their “Obvious” pick in the draft and thus expanding their options. No longer is it as obvious that the Vikings will go offensive line, or running back, and if you know Vikings general manager Rick Spielman you’ll know that he’s a guy that loves having options in the draft. So, while it’s really, really hard to predict this sort of thing, especially when it comes to the middle of the second round, it’s worth discussing as not many people on the local scene (Outside of myself, of course) have floated the idea that the Vikings would pull a Matt Millen of sorts and draft a wide receiver yet again with their first overall pick after what is looking more and more like a swing and a miss in 2016.
University of Southern California’s JuJu Smith-Schuster would immediately replace Captain Munnerlyn as the player with the best first name on the team, something that they’d been missing since he defected back to the Carolina Panthers in that aforementioned blood-letting. Let’s also take a look at some of his measurables courtesy of MockDraftable.com, the BEST freaking draft site ever, in my humble opinion… As a guy who just admitted that he does zero draft research… But that’s all the more reason to love MockDraftable.com! While they’re not paying me to say this (Yet), they are a great way to cram on different players before hopping on a podcast, writing an article or telling Dave from accounting to shut his mouth (Ugh. Dave’s the worst).
Now to look at other players that he compares to:
Other comparisons are to Anquan Boldin, which would make him a more physical/across the middle receiver than the Vikings have on their roster right now. Sure, Boldin was a burner when he was first in the league, too, but he was more of a physical player than a pure down the field type wide receiver (At least when compared to an Alshon Jeffery, who the Vikes targeted only a few weeks ago). While I wouldn’t be against this move, the fact that Smith-Schuster is more potential than week one starter doesn’t seem like he’d be a good fit for what the Vikings need this season. They don’t have the luxury of waiting for yet another young wide receiver to develop, they need someone who can come out and contribute sooner rather than later. I think that’s what they expected when they did draft Treadwell last season and his failure to do so has changed a lot of things for the Vikings, including, again, their attempt to go after Jeffery in free agency. That (mostly attempted) move was something that seemingly came out of nowhere and then made a lot of sense the more you looked at it, just like the idea of the Vikings using their 48th pick on a wide receiver and the fact that Seth Rogen is a movie star.
While I’ve made my preference to Ohio State’s Curtis Samuel known, as well, he is more of a hybrid running back/wide receiver than a pure wide receiver., especially a down-the-field ball hawking wide receiver. It’s that flexibility, along with his ability to return kicks, that ended up putting him on my radar. So, let’s take a quick look at how he stacks up to Smith-Schuster, who sounds like a publishing company. Keep in mind, the more dark space the better…
It looks like Samuel had a blazing fast 40 yard dash time, and a decent vertical jump. He doesn’t appear to be as quick as I’d hoped, coming in with some poor scores on both the 3-cone and 20-yard shuttle drills. However, the fact that he’s in the 96th percentile in speed is something that the Vikings really shouldn’t overlook, especially when pretty much every receiver on their 53-man roster can’t break a 4.55. Now, the rest of his graph looks pretty crummy, but that’s due to his lack of size. While you can’t simply overlook size when it comes to a wide receiver, I do believe that for what they need Samuel would help accomplish multiple things for this Vikings offense/special teams as he has shown that he can score from nearly anywhere on the field thanks to his speed/yards after the catch. The Vikings passing offense in 2016 never really had enough time to get the ball down the field, so bringing in a YAC back/receiver would make more sense than a larger, down the field guy (The moves they’ve made at the tackle position(s), notwithstanding).
For the sake of argument and just to wet your whistles a bit, take a look at Moritz Boehringer’s graph and tell me that he isn’t the solution to everything that ails the Vikes:
So, while I’m never really against the Vikings adding a skilled position player in the draft, especially a wide receiver… I’m still not certain that the answer at the position isn’t already on the team, or at least their practice squad. Boehringer has the size, speed and hands to really transform this offense either as a wide receiver or hybrid receiver/tight end (As I wrote a little over a week ago). He’s even the project player that Smith-Schuster would apparently be, and that’s the only reason that he isn’t starting week one. I do have faith, however, or maybe it’s just that I really don’t believe that Smith-Schuster is the answer (Despite the fact that I had no idea who he was before Mel Kiper Jr. brought him up).
Then there’s the line of reasoning that the play-maker that the Vikings offense does need has been, and should be, a player that comes out of their back-field (As that’s how the team has been most successful). Considering the depth of the running back class this year and the fact that some recent mock drafts having in-human monster Leonard Fournette dropping out of the first round completely; I think that if they’re going to invest in a skilled player with their first pick, that running back position should be the way to go. Just for fun, let’s seal this piece with the graphs of both Fournette and troubled Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon, who the team and coach Mike Zimmer have been linked to recently. While this information will come up in a subsequent piece about the Vikings options, I figured it’d be nice to be able to quickly judge a human being whose hopes and dreams are on the line and also can be dismissed in less than five seconds… Yay, technology!