Thursday night in New York City the Minnesota Vikings made the most noise in what was billed as a pretty vanilla first round.
The Vikings brass got an unexpected surprise with their first pick, stuck with the script on a second pick, and made a big move for a third pick.
Defensive tackle Shariff Floyd was the big surprise of the evening. Mr. Floyd was supposed to be a top 5 pick. Then, after he did not go in the top 5, the draftniks were certain some team would get a great value in the middle of the first round. It was such a Pipe Dream that the Vikings would land him with their 23rd pick that we did not even think to include him in the Pipe Dream Category of our NFL Draft Preview. Somehow, the breaks went our way and he dropped all the way to us with the 23rd pick. You almost wonder if, when something like this happens, where a top pick starts to drop, if other GMs start to over think it. That crowd mentality where it is like, well, if they are not taking him, maybe there is something we missed in our evaluation. Supposedly, the knock on him is that he has short arms. Seriously, kid lost $10+ million last night because he has T-Rex arms. Talk about a bummer for him.
What is truly odd is that wingspan is really not that important of a measurable for a defensive lineman, particularly an interior lineman. It is more important that you have a strong base…check…quickness…check…and have strong hands…check. If you watch the highlights, Floyd does a great job of maintaining his gap presence and eating up blockers. Coming into college, he was a defensive end and that quickness is still there even though he plays inside now. Plus, he has a little nasty to him that all great defensive linemen need to have. And, that nastiness is only going to increase after more than two-thirds of the league passed on him in last night’s draft. Even though it was a bit of a no-brainer, the Vikings did not over think it and truly nailed this pick.
With their second pick in the first round, the Vikings stuck to their script and selected Xavier Rhodes, a defensive back from Florida State who was also supposed to have been drafted. This former wide receiver plays with a chip on his shoulder. He is very strong against the run and should be a perfect fit in the Vikings Cover 2 system. With his size and ball skills, he should be a very good Antoine replacement, if not something more.
Rhodes is still a bit slow in recognizing routes and jumping plays, though the Vikings Cover 2 should help him in that regard. Plus, he is very strong against the run, can blitz off the corner with the best of them, and should only improve his coverage skills. Following Antoine’s departure, the Vikings’ foolishly thin secondary, I think Orlando Thomas was on the depth chart somewhere, needed a boost. So, it was not a shock that the Vikings selected Rhodes. And clearly the Vikings believed that corner back was a bigger position of need than ILB. Particularly with SEC stud and BR-favorite Alec Ogletree still on the board at 25, the move to get a corner back might be a little controversial. But, shoring up the secondary was deemed the greater priority, so that makes this the right choice.
It is the Vikings third pick of the first round that caused so much stir at the draft on Thursday night. For the second consecutive year, the Vikings traded back into the first round to take a player they wanted. Last year it Vikings moving back to draft All-Dude safety, Harrison Smith. The price for that move was their second and fourth round picks. This year, the big move was trading with New England and the Hoodie to take play maker Cordarelle Patterson. The price was the Vikings’ second, third, fourth, and seventh round picks.
Now, that may seem like a lot. In fact, it probably is a lot. But, the Vikings had 11 picks in this year’s draft. Trading four picks, even second and third round picks, for a guy that graded out as one of the top receivers in this draft, is not a bad deal. At worst, Patterson is a better than average return man and a change-of-pace wide receiver who makes explosive plays at or near the line of scrimmage. Think a Diet Percy Harvin. At best, he takes the role former played by Percy and runs with it. His height and jumping ability, which are ideal, make him more of a true wide receiver than Percy was, but he also has that burstability (patent pending) in small spaces.
The knock on Patterson is that he is not a great route-runner. This is where having a veteran like Greg Jennings is so critical. Jennings is one of the best in league at laying down tracks. And, he has already shown he is a solid teacher of that elite skill (see Cobb, Randall and Jones, James). If Patterson can learn from Jennings like Cobb and Jones did in Green Bay, watch out, this kid could be special.
Normally, this is the spot where we would preview the Day 2 action. However, because of the Vikings big move for Patterson, the Vikings do not currently possess a pick on Day 2. Though, as they have already shown, they are not afraid to make a move. Depending on what happens, I would not be surprised to see them package up their fourth, fifth, and a seventh round picks to get back into the 2nd or 3rd round. Particularly if they are as high on a guy like Te’o or the Honey Badger as the whispers around town suggest they are. Either way, if it is even half as fun as last night was, it should be a blast.