Minnesota Vikings Draft Picks: Results, Analysis and Grades
Welcome to the 2014 NFL draft, Vikings fans! The draft is the most important team-building tool—and Minnesota has plenty of building to do. The Vikings come into this draft with turnover in the coaching staff and an eye on a quarterback for the future. If there's a year to hit on draft picks, this is it.
Stay right here for coverage of all trades and picks the Vikings make on Thursday night, Friday night and Saturday afternoon. Check back after every move for instant analysis and grades. We will have everything you need to know about the new additions to the Minnesota Vikings.
1st Round, 9th Overall:
The Vikings haggled the Browns for a fifth round pick to move back a single spot. If Justin Gilbert was their target, they would not have done the deal. It's all a bonus for Minnesota, who needed extra picks.
With the ninth pick, Minnesota addressed their need for a linebacker with pass-rush value.
Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA
Anthony Barr burst onto the scene as a junior, his first year playing on the defensive side of the ball. His football IQ and ability to take to coaching are evident in the way he took to a new position and thrived. By most accounts, he did not take the next step as a senior.
My initial reaction is that Mike Zimmer has a task ahead of him, but the rewards of having Anthony Barr on the roster could be huge. Few linebackers have the natural athleticism of Barr, so freeing him up to utilize his speed as a rusher is the key.
Barr is a pure speed-rusher who can fly around the corner. He combines that with flexibility to dip around the corner and finish past tackles. He's also fast in the open field, closing in a hurry when he plays over the top.
His technique is a big issue. It is the biggest task moving forward. His hand usage, leverage, and repertoire of rush moves all come up short. He struggles to play off blocks in the running game, which makes him more of a one-trick pony than anything.
From all angles, Barr certainly brings something different to the table than anything the Vikings currently have in linebackers. His athleticism and pass-rush ability will be a big boon for a defensive scheme that likes to bring pressure packages.
1st Round, 32nd: Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
General Manager Rick Spielman continues to wheel and deal. For the third consecutive draft, Minnesota has traded back into the first round.
With the final pick of the first round, they addressed their biggest need with a controversial prospect.
Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
After an abysmal pro day, Teddy Bridgewater was the fodder for the criticisms of anonymous scouts. His interviews were reportedly also disappointing. Minnesota didn't mind.
Bridgewater is one of the most polished quarterbacks in this draft class. His footwork, eye level, and composure in the pocket are uncommon for a quarterback prospect. He also shows proper anticipation to make throws into tight quarters.
On top of that, Bridgewater is an improving commodity. He had statistical jumps in numerous categories from his sophomore to junior seasons. He also showed moderate improvement in deep accuracy, which is one of his biggest limitations.
The most concerning part of the Bridgewater pick is durability. He was nicked up at Louisville and has a lean frame. There are factors that negate those issues for him. He knows how to protect himself, and his pocket movement should limit the number of times he gets sacked.
At the end of the day, the Vikings had to have their quarterback of the future. Everything about Teddy Bridgewater tells me he can start for a long time.
3rd Round, 72nd Overall: Scott Crichton
As predicted, the Vikings went back to the defensive side of the football in the third round. Mike Zimmer is all about defensive line rotation, so going after a versatile end was always a likelihood.
Scott Crichton, DE, Oregon State
Scott Crichton is not the most awe-inspiring defensive end in the draft. He's going to do a job for Mike Zimmer that is vital however.
The best way to describe Scott Crichton's style of play is to compare it to a jackhammer. There aren't many defensive ends who play with a controlled violence in the way Crichton does. Oregon State lined him up all over their defensive line and let him wreak havoc in a number of ways.
Athletic limitations dictate what Crichton is as an end. He's not about to bend around the corner and speed rush in the way a sack artist would. There's some stiffness to his body type that's limiting, but he has grown his game in a way that hides his deficiencies.
Strength is the hallmark of Crichton's game. He's a bully at the point of attack, always playing under the chin of blockers. His functional strength is phenomenal. Crichton is always a handful for opposing blockers. In every way, he wears out offensive lines. He is a high effort player and a hard worker. That's what teams look for in a third round pick.
I think with Crichton/Barr, this whole multiple defensive fronts concept can be implemented. Specifically 4-3/3-4 #Vikings— Master Tesfatsion (@MasterStrib) May 10, 2014
The versatility of Crichton is very interesting. He thrives from the edge or from the inside. His selection is an indicator of the multiplicity Mike Zimmer is after with his defense.
3rd Round, 96th Overall: Jerick McKinnon
The end of the third to early in the fourth round always looked like the sweet spot for the Vikings to target a running back. They made a surprise selection when they went ahead and took one.
Jerick McKinnon, RB, Georgia Southern
This player has one of the more interesting paths to a draft selection. He was quarterback out of high school and recruited to play both offense and defense. McKinnon spent his collegiate career in a wishbone offense as both a quarterback and running back.
Obviously playing in the offense he did means a big transition to the NFL game. McKinnon will have to learn new terminology, new blocking schemes, and new reads as a back. There is so much unknown related to his fit as an NFL back in terms of a traditional running scheme. He just hasn't played in that kind of offense.
The draw to Jerick McKinnon is his athletic potential. Per NFL.com, he ran a 4.41 40 yard dash at the combine and posted a vertical jump just over 40 inches. Every timed measurement from the combine puts McKinnon near the top of the list for running backs.
His ability to catch passes will move to the forefront. He only caught three passes as a senior, most of that down to offensive scheme. McKinnon must have proved his pass-catching ability to the Vikings in workouts and at the Senior Bowl, because that's where his initial value comes from.
5th Round, 145th Overall:
With their first pick on the final day of the draft, the Vikings took their third offensive player. The one they added fits the mentality of the offensive line and could become a starter down the road.
David Yankey, OG, Stanford
The mentality that is most appealing with David Yankey is the nastiness he brings to the table. He's a mean run-blocker who loves to bury opponents. He throws his weight around in the box, often tossing defenders out of his way.
Yankey comes from a factory for offensive linemen at Stanford. If any program knows how to develop offensive line prospects, it's David Shaw's. Yankey played left tackle for the Cardinal as a sophomore then bumped inside to left guard as a junior. Per NFL.com, he started 42 games in his Stanford career, so experience is not an issue. He played in a pro-style offense no less.
The guard spot is where David Yankey will end up as a pro. It's a fit for his ability to win in short-areas and his overall physicality as a run blocker. Stanford had him pull and lead up the hole as a blocker on a regular basis. That's where he wins as an offensive guard.
He dropped this far in the draft because of athletic limitations. Yankey has feet like cinder blocks and balance issues. He has some technical work that needs to be done. That's why he won't be rushed into the lineup for the Vikings, but could be groomed to replace Charlie Johnson at left guard.
6th Round, 182nd Overall: Antone Exum, CB/S, Virginia Tech
Minnesota twice traded back to get to this point. Adding two seventh-round picks by doing so is a wise move due to the variability of draft boards. The players the Vikings liked in the fifth-round are likely to still be around in the sixth-round. Add in that late-round picks are more likely to miss than hit, and it makes sense to accumulate a number of them.
The Vikings finally addressed the secondary with their first sixth-round pick.
Antone Exum, CB/S, Virginia Tech
If Antone Exum had been in the 2013 NFL Draft, he would have surely been drafted well before this. Shortly after he decided to return to Virginia Tech, he tore his ACL. The Vikings may be a perfect place for him to regain full health.
Exum was out most of 2013 with a torn ACL, but #Vikings are pretty confident in their rehab program (with good reason).— Ben Goessling (@GoesslingESPN) May 10, 2014
Exum's skills are centered around blunt physicality. He's an aggressive defensive back who will attack the ball in the air and try to separate the ball from receivers. He plays with the optimal mentality for a defensive back in every way. His instinctiveness, aggression and ball skills should lead to big plays.
The experience level of Exum is also promising. He started four seasons for the Hokies, with his final season cut short. That experience consists of time at cornerback and safety. He plays both with effectiveness.
Everything about Antone Exum's fit with the Vikings makes sense for a transition to strong safety. If able to return to full health and back to the form of his junior season, he could win the starting job next to Harrison Smith.
6th Round, 184th Overall: Kendall James, CB, Maine
Minnesota did the defensive back double by addressing the cornerback position in the sixth-round.
Kendall James, CB, Maine
James is an athletic prospect in the mold of a smaller cornerback. Per NFL.com, he measured in at the combine at 5'10" 180-pounds. That puts him on the shorter, lighter end of the cornerback spectrum.
The Vikings may not have been the only team after James' services.
I know the Packers liked Kendall James, interesting that the Vikings scooped him up. Some NFC North gamesmanship perhaps?— Jeff Risdon (@JeffRisdon) May 10, 2014
Kendall James is a terrific athlete at the cornerback position. He has the speed, agility and leaping ability to stick with NFL receivers and play the ball in the air. He could provide coverage versatility with skills for work in zone coverage as well as man-to-man.
The knock on James is obviously his size. At 180-pounds, he's not about to compete with many receivers at the line of scrimmage in press coverage. He is more of a niche cornerback. That niche is most likely as a slot cornerback who can provide depth defensively and special teams value.
7th Round, 220th Overall: Shamar Stephen, DT, Connecticut
The Vikings tried to address their defensive line once more by selecting a talented defensive tackle who fell to the final round.
Shamar Stephen, DT, Connecticut
Shamar Stephen was one of UConn's best player in 2013, though that may not be saying much. He did take a big step forward as a senior, vaulting himself into position to be drafted.
Power is what Stephen's game is built on. He comes off the ball with tremendous force and will rock offensive linemen onto their heels with his functional strength. Stephen played on the nose primarily for the Huskies, where his strength was best put to use.
He uses that power to reset the line of scrimmage as a run defender. When he was able to keep his pads down into contact, he would control opponents and throw them aside to make tackles. He has potential as a nose tackle who can plug up the line of scrimmage.
Rushing the passer is not his forte. He has shown flashes of an effective bull-rush, but was mostly ineffective in passing situations for the Huskies. Stephen could fill a niche for Minnesota. That's all that should be expected from a seventh-round pick.
7th Round, 223rd Overall: Brandon Watts, OLB, Georgia Tech
Minnesota continued to pile on defensive prospects. More linebacker competition is the goal with this pick.
Brandon Watts, OLB, Georgia Tech
All reports paint the picture of a player who is less than the sum of his parts. Watts has sufficient athletic ability for a pick in the last round. That type of upside is needed at this point.
Watts is a linebacker with coverage potential, which makes sense for the Vikings. The roster doesn't have a rangy linebacker with tremendous coverage value, so Watts could be viewed as a developmental linebacker who can grow into that.
In a disappointing senior season, Watts just didn't show natural linebacker traits. He played too hesitant, indicating issues with his reads. More than anything, he just didn't get to the football enough. When a linebacker isn't getting to the ball at the whistle, that is very concerning.
Looking at the big picture, a seventh round pick won't be relied upon at all. The goal is to make the team for Watts, and everything after that is a bonus for Minnesota.
7th Round, 225th Overall: Jabari Price, CB, North Carolina
The final pick of the Vikings' draft class is a secondary pick, which is only fitting considering the need for help on the back end.
Jabari Price, CB, North Carolina
Price is another undersized cornerback drafted by the Vikings, at least in terms height. Per NFL.com, he only measures in at 5'10". The silver lining is that Price has decent length and enough bulk for the position at 200 pounds.
His build matches his playing style. Price is a physical, aggressive cornerback who wants to mug receivers at the line of scrimmage and reroute them right away. He then has the long speed to recover and limit separation for receivers.
Initial impressions are that Price is worth taking a shot on because of his playing style. Teams are always looking for a cornerback who wants to get into the grill of a receiver. Price wants to do that.
As the third draft selection into the secondary, Price will have a fight to make the roster. He should be expected to make the team or land on the practice squad.