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A.J. Terrell, CB, Clemson
Terrell played at Clemson, Alexander’s (and Jayron Kearse’s) alma mater. Terrell fits the Zimmer mold too. He’s not as large as Xavier Rhodes, Rhodes weighed in at 210 lbs and Terrell at 195 lbs, but his other measurements are similar. Terrell and Rhodes both stand 6’1” and Terrell ran a 4.42 40-yard dash when Rhodes ran a 4.43. However, Terrell had a much shorter vertical leap at this weekend’s NFL combine.
During Terrell’s three seasons with the Clemson Tigers, he recorded 101 total tackles (74 solo, 27 assisted), six interceptions, 13 passes defended and one touchdown. The Tigers record during Terrell’s tenure was 41-3 with two national championship appearances and one national championship title. Terrell scored the first points of the 2018 CFP Championship game on a pick six. Terrell also collected third-team All-ACC honors in 2018 and first-team honors in 2019.
Watching tape on Terrell, you see why he is one of the top defensive backs in this year’s draft. He has incredibly smooth feet and hips, and mirrors receivers very well. This is one characteristic that Mike Zimmer has shown that he cares about in his defensive backs, both Rhodes and Waynes were extremely fluid in their college days.
Terrell also sticks to receivers extremely well. It’s often hard for young defensive backs to stay with receivers after cuts, but Terrell is very pesky and stays with his man more often than not. Staying close to receivers he can use his length to knock down balls at the catch point or at the very least take guys down right where the catch is made and prevent run after the catch.
One of the things that always impresses me about corners is when they know how to use the boundaries to their advantage. Terrell does this very well, and knows how to steer guys out of bounds on deep shots to the sideline. However, he can get a bit grabby in situations where he doesn’t run the guy off and this can lead to pass interference penalties.
Where Terrell really struggles is using his strength. He has good upper body strength, but lacks in his lower half. This means that he can hold his own in press coverage, but can have issues with being the aggressor on open field tackles. He certainly plays hard and isn’t afraid to bang into guys, but he doesn’t wrap up often enough and lack of leg drive means guys get second chances to break his tackles.
My final concern with Terrell is with his low vertical leap. It makes sense with the slighter lower body, but he had times where he was “big bodied” by tall players on jump balls. He’ll face this even more in the NFL with being asked to cover tight ends who are converted power forwards. Of course, some of this can be negated with good technique and splitting hands using his length, but it could limit him from becoming a true shutdown guy one day.
If the Vikings want to get Terrell, they will either have to make a move to get him, or hope that he falls to them at 25th overall. It is possible that he gets there, but teams that are already sold on him aren’t going to be scared away by a low vertical. Terrell also has tons of experience in high leverage situations with Clemson’s recent CFP success, which could mean a lot to a playoff team like the Vikings looking for a plug and play guy.
Terrell could be a good, cheap way to help shore up the Vikings cornerback situation. However, I think it likely that Spielman and Zimmer feel the true answer is already in-house and targeted a different, bigger need in the first round.
Projected Draft Position: Mid-Late 1st
Best Traits: Smooth and quick feet, Sticks to receivers, Using the field to his advantage
Biggest Drawbacks: Strength, Jump balls, Grabby on deep routes
Ross Blacklock, DT, TCU
Blacklock spent four years at TCU, but only played two seasons for the Horned Frogs after redshirting his first season and tearing his achilles tendon before the start of his sophomore campaign. Despite only playing two seasons, Blacklock 67 total tackles (39 solo, 28 assisted), 15.5 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks. He also won freshman All-American honors and Big 12 Co-Defensive Freshman of the Year in 2017.
When you watch tape on Blacklock, the first thing you notice is his power and drive. He’s always winning the battle at the line of scrimmage, and has the flexibility to get low and leverage offensive linemen backwards. You’ll see him get a ton of double teams to try to negate this, but that gives his second level players the opportunity to make more plays.
His pass rush is where he really shines. He has the athleticism to rush the outside of linemen, and is sufficiently quick to setup blockers and juke them out of position. He then can use his power to push past the blockers weak point.
Again, because of this power, teams were willing to double team him to keep their quarterback clean. This worked at the collegiate level, but slotting him in next to Danielle Hunter would be really hard on any offensive line. It could become a game of pick your poison.
Blacklock has a great motor for a big guy. He doesn’t seem to be carrying a ton of extra weight around, and it means he can give his all every play. He’s thick and has functional strength, but he’s not going to be lumbering around the field after a quarter or half.
Where Blacklock needs work is on the mental side of things. He has the physical tools to be effective, but he needs to learn to keep his eyes moving, and process the play. Too often he gets tunnel vision on his man and runs past the ball. He’s a bit boom or bust that way, but he could be coached on how to take on a block and throw his man allowing him to either make the play or at least clog up the lane with bodies.
He also is only one season removed from a very serious injury. Achilles injuries with big men are no joke. It’s what the Vikings lost Phil Loadholt to. Blacklock looks like he is over it and his explosive self again, but it’s still a red flag going forward. You never want to count on a guy and then have to scramble at a position that is as important as defensive tackle.
If the Vikings want to get Blacklock, they’ll have to potentially move up a few spots or hope he falls to them at 25. It’s possible that teams will see the achilles injury as enough concern to let him slide. With more sure fire, at least health-wise, options available, teams looking to have a plug-and-play guy might pass up Blacklock.
However, I don’t think Blacklock will stay on the board until 25, and even if he does, I don’t really think the Vikings should take him. Of all the Vikings needs, defensive tackle is the one that they have the most talent at. It is also one of the needs that is deepest in this year’s draft. It just seems like such a gamble, if you’re into gamble taking a gamble, check out sports betting in Indiana, to take a somewhat unpolished guy who’s only a year removed from a major injury with your first round pick when you have so many needs.
It is very possible the Blacklock is the best player available when the Vikings pick at 25, but they might then consider moving back and stocking up more picks. We all know Rick Spielman loves to do that.
Projected Draft Position: Mid 1st- Early 2nd
Best Traits: Power, Motor, Fluidity
Biggest Drawbacks: Slow play processing, Tunnel vision, Injury history
AJ Dillon, RB, Boston College
Dillon, a 6’0” 247-pound monster, just had himself an excellent combine. He ran a 4.53 40-yard-dash, put up 23 reps on the bench and had a crazy 131” broad jump. His 3-cone time could have been better, but it won’t scare too many off.
Over three years at Boston College, Dillon collected 4382 rushing yards, 38 rushing touchdowns, and 5.2 yard per carry average. He was the ACC rookie of the year in 2017 after picking up 1589 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns as a freshman. In his junior year, he collected All-ACC first team and Third-team AP All-american honors.
When you watch tape on Dillon, the first thing you see is how well he moves for a guy carrying his weight. He’s not a burner, but he still can make tacklers have to take wide angles in space. After they get to him, they have to try to cut him down which is tough to do for smaller corners and safeties. Basically, if you want to stop him, you have to do it at the line of scrimmage.
Even if he does get stacked up at the line, it’s unlikely that he’ll take a loss due to his leg drive and downhill running. Now, that’s only if he knows where he’s going, puts his head down and goes. If he tries to go off-script, he doesn’t have the foot speed to make much happen when tacklers get to him while he’s trying to make a move. He also is mostly a between-the-tackles runner and can look a bit lost running on the edges.
He also isn’t a threat to catch passes out of the backfield. While at Boston College, he only caught 21 passes for 236 yard and two touchdowns. So, it would be hard to get him on the field for passing downs. However, if he can learn to catch passes he could become a passing down threat due to how well he can hold up in pass protection. His technique in blocking isn’t perfect, but his size makes him like an extra lineman.
If the Vikings want to draft Dillon, they would likely have to spend a third or fourth round pick on him. Of course, they would only do this if there is some sort of plan in place to replace Cook, or perhaps somebody else in the backfield.
CJ Ham is a restricted free agent this year, and is just coming off a pro-bowl selection. Now, fullbacks aren’t going to demand a super high salary, but Ham deserves to be paid more than he was getting. I could see Dillon as a halfback/fullback hybrid to get him on the field more.
Of course, Ham also brings good pass catching ability to the position, but I think Dillon could get there in that aspect of his game. Ham also isn’t nearly the runner that Dillon is. There’s a trade-off, but a case can be made for the Vikings to keep Cook and Mattison while still drafting a back like Dillon to fill Ham’s role.
Projected Draft Position: 3rd-5th round
Best Traits: Power, Speed, Motor
Biggest Drawbacks: Pass catching, Quickness, Off-script running