purplePTSD.com is growing like crazy, both in terms of readers (Thank you guys and gals!) and the amount of writers that we have slaving away to provide content in May (Shudders). With that in mind, we’ve started a bi-monthly round-table to provide some different content for you guys and also to help create conflict around the (Skype) office.
This week’s Round-Table question is: Which new Viking are you most excited to watch in 2017? Between the draft, undrafted free agents and free agents, there’s lots to choose from. So, let’s see what the fellas came up with…
The Vikings made some interesting and significant acquisitions in free agency and the draft this offseason. They fortified the running game with two potentially exciting and productive players in free agent running back Latavius Murray and rookie running back Dalvin Cook. They recently locked up free agent wide receiver Michael Floyd and drafter a couple more receivers to backfill the passing game. And they acquired two players—free agent Datone Jones and rookie Jaleel Johnson—to fill the in for the potential loss of Sharrif Floyd. Throw in names such as Bucky Hodges and Ifeadi Odenigbo and there is plenty to be excited about as the OTAs near.
But the new player that I am excited about for the Vikings this season is rookie guard/center Pat Elflein from Ohio State. Elflein comes to the Vikings with very high potential to start at either of offensive line position and he has an attitude about the game and physical style of play that help him make a big difference right away. I have been writing for several years that the Vikings needed to rebuild the O-line and this year they have done just that with two new tackles and Elflein somewhere between. The unexciting thing about this player is that the better he is, the less exciting he becomes. If you don’t notice a lineman it is because he is not making mistakes and doing his job. So, believe it or not, the prospect of Elflein not being noticed when he is at work has me excited. (Oh, and perhaps the occasional pancake block thrown in would be kind of fun, too.)
Datone Jones is a prime example of why the Packers should have fired Dom Capers two years ago. They drafted him as a DE in their 3-4, which was a good natural fit for him, but his ability to rush inside was underused. In 2015 as a lineman, his ability to generate pressure exceeded that of 2016’s Brian Robison, Fletcher Cox, Mike Daniels and Jurrell Casey, and that success rate didn’t slow down in 2016 after his move to OLB (he still exceeded all of those but Cox). He just rushed the passer less often, allowing a narrative of decline to manifest itself. Only the Packers could take a good player, move him out of position leading to a dip in production, release the good player, let him go to a division rival, and receive praise for the entire sequence of events. Jones lost a lot of body fat to play at OLB, and will need to gain that weight back (ideally in muscle, but that would require him to achieve a body composition he’s never had in his life). Between Jones, Riley Reiff and Mike Remmers, the Vikings are banking on the idea that players will return to form when returning to the position they’re most comfortable at. 3-4 DE is closer to 3-Tech than it is to OLB, so Jones should be closer to his comfort zone in 2017 than he was in 2016. But barring an unprecedented decline, it’s hard to see Jones not making a major impact on a line that already terrorizes quarterbacks week in and week out.
I’m kind of a dick. If you haven’t noticed. I also like me some Big Ten (When it comes to drafting/adding players), as well. So, I thought I’d go against the grain and pick the player that was pretty much the sole exception for most Vikings Draft analysts “Perfect” Vikings draft, Ben Gedeon the linebacker from Michigan. Now, the main two concerns with Gedeon are that he’s “Slow” and that he’s not great in pass coverage. Now, before I completely change your perspective on junk, remember that future Ring of Honor inductee Chad Greenway was also considered to be slow and a liability against the pass. Greenway was also a Big Ten product, coming out of Iowa. He also just retired. So, let’s compare the two from a measurable standpoint since Gedeon’s measurables seem to be the reason that the Vikings got a – next to the A a lot of people have given them:
Now let’s look at Vikings defensive stalwart for the past decade; Chad Greenway:
Do I really need to say anything else? He’s like Greenway, but better. He’s also very intelligent and played under a scary head coach. So, he’ll fit right into the role that the Vikings wanted to fill. Greenway’s role. While I’ll admit, I’m really, really looking forward to seeing what Dalvin Cook will do, I also really like saying: “I told you so”, so, I’ll save this post for the next two or three seasons and then drop it on everyone like I was dropped on the welcome mat of that church back in ’84.
He’s essentially a younger (Exclusive!), more athletic Greenway. Who wouldn’t want that? Also, I’ll (also) admit that I was very, very excited about Michael Floyd. But if you read my latest article about Floyd and his (and my) history with alcohol, you’ll know why he slipped beneath Gedeon.
Part of me wanted to pick Elflein here, after all, for the second straight year I had our second pick rated higher on my board than our first pick (Alexander over Treadwell last year, Elflein over Cook this year). But the more I think about it, I keep coming back to the defensive tackle out of Iowa, Jaleel Johnson. Johnson was a player I pegged as a potential early round three pick (possibly for the Vikings and I frequently mocked him to us because of his fit and versatility for Zimmer’s defense). And sure enough, when we drafted him I was ecstatic.
Johnson is a player I’ve had the privilege of seeing more tape on than any other day three (and maybe even including round three) picks I’ve scouted. When watching Johnson on tape, I saw versatility and athleticism to play both three tech and the size to possibly even play one tech (6’3″, 320lbs plus could add some size). It’s been funny listening in the pre-draft process to hear people talk about him as ‘solely a pass rusher’ or ‘exclusively a run stuffer’. Normally you don’t have such a split as to what his speciality is, but I honestly think he can step in for Floyd and/or the aging Tom Johnson and perform admirably. He may never be elite at either the pass or the rush (unless he works on his double teams, adds some upper body strength, and gets lower in busting through the line), but I believe he could be average or above average in both, which is somewhat rare to find a DT with that talent and versatility.
His motor is exceptional and he has great explosion off the line, and he never stops working to get through the line. He may not start this year, depending on Floyd’s injury and Tom Johnson’s age, but I wouldn’t count out Johnson quite yet for that starting three tech spot (or possibly the one tech spot should Joseph get hurt). I think he’ll be a good or great player for the years to come and was one of my favorite picks in this draft.
The newest Viking addition that I’m most looking forward to seeing on the field next season is the 6th round pick out of Virginia Tech, tight end Bucky Hodges. With measurables straight out of the create-a-player feature in Madden, the 6’6 257 lbs behemoth ran a 4.57 second 40 yard dash and had a vertical jump of 39 inches at the combine. This rare combination of size and athleticism makes the tight end a mismatch nightmare for defensive backs down the field, which could help improve the Vikings’ deep passing game. I also expect him to be a weapon in the redzone, which has long been the Achilles’ heel of the Vikings offense.
Although he’s never blocked a day in his life and has a lot of technical shortcomings to improve upon, offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur has a history of maximizing the potential of tight ends as receivers. I expect Shurmur to utilize Hodges in ways that make the most of his talents, while concealing his weaknesses. Especially in tandem with fellow receiving tight end Kyle Rudolph, it should be fun to watch the Vikings create problems for opposing defenses in the passing game with their two tight end sets this coming season.
The newest addition to the Vikings that I am/was most excited about was with out a doubt Latavius Murray. Don’t get me wrong in AP’s prime he was amazing to watch, but I feel and apparently every gm in the league with exception to New Orleans agrees with me that was a long time ago. Now the draft really muddles the running back situation a bit, but i am still very excited about the prospect of our running game and offense in general. To finally have an offense that is not telegraphed by our personal is going to be extremely refreshing. Having a running back in the backfield that can actually pass block and catch is something us vikings fans have only dreamed about for the last ten years. Now i’m not expecting the world out of our running game this year although drafting Cook is a very intriguing wrinkle to the backfield rebuilding/re-branding, i’m just very excited to see a vikings offense that is much less PREDICTABLE!