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2014 Draft Sleepers Who'd Fit Perfectly with the Minnesota Vikings

Bill HubbellContributor IApril 20, 2014

2014 Draft Sleepers Who'd Fit Perfectly with the Minnesota Vikings

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    Michael Conroy

    Each spring every professional football team heads to the NFL draft hoping to find gold. And we're not talking about the shiny, polished gems you find in the first two rounds. Those guys were All-Americans and more than likely standouts at the combine. They don't always work out, but they're pretty easy picks at the time.

    No, what we're talking about is what the New England Patriots did in 2000, when they used their sixth-round pick, the 199th overall choice, on a quarterback out of Michigan named Tom Brady. (What did the football world think of Brady at the time? Vikings fans will chuckle to hear that a guy named Spergon Wynn was taken 16 spots ahead of Brady.)

    Now obviously getting a Tom Brady, or the likes of, in the sixth round doesn't happen much, but it's the example always used to prove how important every pick is each year. 

    In 2012, the Washington Redskins grabbed a nobody running back out of Florida Atlantic in the sixth round named Alfred Morris. In 2011, the Seattle Seahawks used a fifth-round choice on cornerback Richard Sherman.

    NFL scouts and player personnel can pore over all the game tape there is and interview players over and over, but the truth is, sometimes you just can't tell who's going to succeed at the next level and who isn't.

    Just two years ago, Vontaze Burfict entered his senior season at Arizona State as one of the most highly regarded linebackers in the nation. An uneven senior season ended with Burfict being benched for his team's bowl game, and then he came off like an immature crybaby at the combine.

    He didn't get drafted. Signed as a free agent by the Cincinnati Bengals, followed up a phenomenal rookie season by leading the league in tackles and being named All-Pro in 2013.

    You just never know.

    The late rounds have been pretty kind to the Minnesota Vikings over the last six years, finding the likes of John Sullivan, Jamarca Sanford, Brandon Fusco, Blair Walsh and Audie Cole in the sixth and seventh rounds.

    That's not to say that there aren't sleepers to be had in every round. For some reason or another, some players are just cut out to succeed in the NFL, and others aren't.

    Here's a look at some players who would fit the bill as sleepers for the Vikings in the 2014 draft.

Billy Turner, OT/OG, North Dakota State

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    Michael Conroy

    Billy Turner, the 6'5", 315-pound offensive lineman out of North Dakota State might not qualify as a "sleeper" per se, but as a kid who's probably looking at a position switch and who didn't play at the highest level of college football, we're counting him as one.

    One of the home run picks in the 2013 draft was the Detroit Lions grabbing guard Larry Warford in the third round. Warford was the fourth guard chosen last year, but he looks like a player who could be a Pro Bowler for years to come.

    Turner probably isn't ready to start from day one like Warford was, but he certainly looks like a talent who could develop into a Pro Bowl-type guard.

    Turner was a four-year starter at three-time FCS national champion North Dakota State. He played tackle in college but projects as an athletic guard with a very high ceiling at the next level.

    His adjustments are obvious: He'd be switching positions and adjusting to a much higher level of competition, but his positives are too great to ignore. He plays with a mean streak and has a dominant initial hit. He would help solidify the middle of the Minnesota offensive line.

Logan Thomas, QB/TE, Virginia Tech

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    Michael Conroy

    It's very easy to look at Logan Thomas, the 6'6", 248-pound quarterback out of Virginia Tech and see another Josh Freeman. Big, athletic quarterback with a rocket arm who doesn't quite know where the ball's going all the time.

    Given just that, the Vikings might want to stay away from Thomas.

    And after the "Joe Webb as receiver" experiment didn't exactly pan out, Minnesota might shy away from another quarterback who might project elsewhere at the NFL level.

    But here's the deal: What many NFL teams see when they evaluate Thomas is a very large, very gifted athlete who has the potential to be the next Jimmy Graham.

    Graham, of course, is the Saints all-world tight end who played college basketball at the University of Miami, before catching just 17 passes in his one season of football while taking graduate classes.

    Thomas was a high school quarterback in Virginia who was ranked as the No. 1 tight end recruit in his class. Thomas spent his freshmen year as a tight end, but he moved back to quarterback as a sophomore and had a fantastic season.

    Thomas was uneven to say the least over his next two seasons and now finds himself outside of the top six or seven quarterback prospects.

    Where Thomas could be particularly appealing to the Vikings is if they don't select another quarterback in the first two rounds. Minnesota could then give Thomas a look at quarterback and also work him at tight end as well.

    Thomas would be an ideal candidate to put on the practice squad for a season and is a player who could take the league by storm as a tight end if he doesn't pan out as a quarterback.

Marcus Williams, CB, North Dakota State

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    Phelan M. Ebenhack

    A second North Dakota State guy?

    Well, they did win three straight FCS National Championships.

    Hard-core Minnesota sports fans don't need a lengthy introduction to Marcus Williams, the 5'11", 195-pound safety out of North Dakota State.

    Williams was an All-State football player at Hopkins High School and a starting guard on Hopkins' 31-0 state champion basketball team in 2009.

    While Williams was the only starter on that Hopkins hoop squad not to go on to play Division I basketball, he had a star-studded career playing football at North Dakota State and was clearly there best defensive player his last two seasons.

    Williams had 21 career interceptions for the Bison and acquitted himself nicely playing with the big boys in the East-West Shrine Game.

    Williams was able to overwhelm his competition at the FCS level with his athleticism, but he'll need to refine his coverage skills at the highest level. Mike Kaye of Bleeding Green Nation, comments that Williams doesn't backpedal and will need to learn to do so.

    Williams would certainly be a player who'll have an adjustment period in the NFL, but he's such an outstanding athlete that you'd have to bet on him being able to make the transition.

    The Vikings clearly need more athletes in their secondary, as their interception numbers have been anemic over the last five seasons.

    Williams has the feel of a player who you'd look at a few years down the road and wonder, "How'd they get him in the seventh round?"

Brock Vereen, Safety, Minnesota

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    PAUL BATTAGLIA

    Vikings fans need no introduction to Brock Vereen, the 6'0", 200-pound strong safety who played collegiately at Minnesota.

    Vereen was never quite a star at Minnesota, managing just four career interceptions, but he was a kid who got better every season and has a very high football IQ that will translate at the next level.

    Vereen's biggest strength has always been his smarts and awareness. He graduated from high school with a 4.4 GPA and received a scholarship offer from Stanford, but he went to Minnesota instead. Vereen is a high-character guy who is a leader, evidenced by both his playing and his behavior.

    Vereen has seen his stock rise after performing phenomenally well at the combine, running a 4.47 40-yard dash and doing 25 reps in the bench-press drill.

    So what you have with Vereen is a very underrated athlete who will have zero problem with the intellectual part of the game. That's a commodity that every NFL team is looking for with today's complicated schemes on both sides of the ball.

    Vereen, who's older brother Shane is a running back with the New England Patriots, is the type of player who could challenge for a starting spot immediately with the Vikings and could be a steal with a fourth- or fifth-round pick.

De'Anthony Thomas, RB, Oregon

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    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Before Darren Sproles was traded by the New Orleans Saints to the Philadelphia Eagles in March, there was speculation that the Vikings might be interested in reuniting Sproles with his old coach, Norv Turner, who's the Vikings' new offensive coordinator.

    Sproles was a guy who was considered by many to be too small coming out of college to make it in the NFL. In Turner's hands, Sproles became one of the best change-of-pace backs in the league over the last decade.

    At just 5'9", 175 pounds, De'Anthony Thomas, the waterbug out of Oregon, looks too small to be an NFL player.

    In Turner's hands, Thomas could turn into the next Sproles.

    Thomas is an electric talent who is a legitimate threat to score every time he gets his hands on the football. Joining an offense that already boasts Adrian Peterson and Cordarrelle Patterson, Thomas would add another exciting option for Turner to work into the playbook.

    Obviously with Peterson around, Minnesota wouldn't need Thomas to log a lot of carries. And he's way too small to be much help in pass blocking. But Thomas could be a devastating addition used out of the slot and out of the backfield. If you get the ball in Thomas' hands with space around him, he could be magical.

    With the loss of Toby Gerhart to free agency, Minnesota is in need of another running back in its stable, but with Jerome Felton, Matt Asiata and Zach Line already on hand, they don't need another big body who can block and get a yard or two.

    Thomas would look great in purple, and Norv Turner could find plenty of ways to get him the ball.

Telvin Smith, OLB, Florida State

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    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    At just 218 pounds, how does Telvin Smith out of Florida State expect to play linebacker in the NFL?

    That's a question that might make many NFL general managers take pause, and it could lead to Smith being taken later than his projection, which ranges anywhere from the second to fourth round.

    Smith would be an outstanding addition to the Vikings' linebacker corps because he has everything Minnesota lacks at the position, namely speed and athleticism.

    Dane Brugler of NFLDraftScout.com (via CBSSports.com) describes Smith as a "rangy athlete with loose hips and springs in his legs." But linebacker?

    It's Brugler's next sentence where things get really interesting. He says, "closes quickly with a violent attitude and explosive first step."

    It's no secret the Vikings have been too slow at linebacker and lack players who can make the splash plays that so many linebackers around the league are able to pull off.

    Smith is a player who has the frame to add at least 15 pounds of muscle. He's a speedy player who can both blitz and make plays in coverage. He blows people up, and the Vikings defense needs a player like him desperately.

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