Alexander Mattison Jersey

Minnesota is clearly going all in on upgrading what was a decent offense in 2018, selecting center Garrett Bradbury in the first round of the NFL Draft and then taking tight end Irv Smith Jr. and running back Alexander Mattison in the second and third rounds, respectively.

At 6-foot-2, 237 pounds, Smith didn’t play much in 2017 at Alabama because he was stuck behind current Tampa Bay Bucs tight end O.J. Howard. But given a chance to play in 2018, Smith racked up 44 receptions for 710 yards and seven touchdowns, and the Vikings are planning to use his speed and athleticism all over the field.

“We believe Irv is a perfect fit for our new scheme in terms of a mismatch guy,” said Vikings Director of College Scouting Jamaal Stephenson, via the New Orleans Advocate. “He’s a guy we can move around. He can play wide, in tight, in the backfield. He has a lot of versatility and is a great kid.The Vikings selected running back Alexander Mattison with the final pick in the third round of the NFL Draft on Friday night after making four trades in the round to acquire more draft picks.

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The 5-foot-11, 221-pound Mattison played three seasons at Boise State and rushed for 2,829 rushing yards and 33 touchdowns.Less than two months after losing a running back in free agency, the Vikings added a versatile piece to their backfield Friday night.

Minnesota used the 102nd overall pick — the final selection of the third round — on Alexander Mattison, a Boise State junior running back who led the Mountain West Conference in rushing in 2018.

Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman believes the 5-foot-11, 221-pound Mattison will bring a blend of power and speed to Minnesota’s backfield.

“One of the areas we thought we needed to make sure we covered was at running back, and a different type since we lost Latavius Murray [in free agency],” Spielman said. “Alexander Mattison is a big back that is very productive, can catch the ball very well out of the backfield.

“I know his ability to go forward on contact, a lot like Latavius did for us. I know his ability to catch the ball. I know his ability in pass protection, and I know we have to have multiple backs in this offense,” Spielman later added. “We wanted something that was similar to a Murray type, and we felt that Alexander can definitely do that.”

Mattison chatted with the Twin Cities media shortly after learning he was a Viking, and said his mindset on the field is to be “fast and physical.”

“I think my versatility [is key]. I also think I’m a smart football player, and I make great decisions when I’m on the field and am very instinctive,” Mattison said. “Along with that, [my] versatility kind of pays off, and that makes me the back that I am.”
You saw him run wild on the Blue, hurdling hapless defenders or steamrolling them on his way to the end zone. But there were times when Alexander Mattison heard that such dreams were impossible.

Growing up in San Bernardino, California, a city that often appears on those “most dangerous” lists, life was not easy. His family at times did not have a stable living situation. But now the former Boise State running back is on the verge of hearing his name announced at the NFL Draft.

“It’s pretty crazy to think about maybe being an inspiration, and it’s something I take pride in,” Mattison said. “I heard it when I was younger — ‘You’re never going to make it out’ — but here I am. It is possible, no matter what you do.”

Irv Smith Jersey

Irv Smith Jr. came off the board for the Minnesota Vikings with the No. 50 overall pick in the second round of the 2019 NFL Draft, filling another major need on the offensive side of the ball and an athletic playmaker over the middle of the field. That said, it seems to have created a situation where Kyle Rudolph may now be on the block with Smith being the future of the position in the Twin Cities.

“Smith (6-foot-2, 242 lbs) does not possess the height that some of his counterparts do. However, he does have similar skillsets. Smith was lined up all over the field for the Crimson Tide,” 247Sports’ Josh Edwards wrote about the prospect. “He is not as fast as Noah Fant but he is a better blocker. He blocks with good leverage. He does have some issues with allowing the ball to get too far into his body, which leads to drops. He also had an issue fumbling the ball. The tight end shows soft hands and the knowledge of sitting in the soft spot of the opponent’s zone.”Here are some of the initial reactions to Smith being the latest member of the Vikings.

This is what the draft is all about when reaction videos like this drop. So many kids dream of this day and players worth tireless days and nights just to get their names in the conversation. Smith now joins the Vikings after being one of Alabama’s most explosive playmakers in a passing game that was cranked up far more than years prior with Tua Tagovailoa at quarterback. It is hard not to feel happy for any player that sees his dream come true, let alone if he becomes a Viking or not.

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“Irv Smith’s dad, Irv Smith Sr., played tight end for New Orleans, San Francisco and Cleveland from 1993-98 and caught 183 passes for 1,788 yards. #Vikings took junior at No. 50 in second round” – Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press

We love a good story that comes out of nowhere, but Smith seemed destined for NFL Draft stardom given his lineage and time playing for Nick Saban at Alabama. The Vikings will take any explosion they can out of him.

“Jamaal Stephenson on whether he sees Kyle Rudolph and Irv Smith Jr. working together in ’12’ personnel: “‘I’ll let the coaches talk to you guys about how they plan to use these guys. I can just tell you he’s athletically kind of what we’ve been looking for.'” – via Sam Ekstrom

People will immediately assume that Rudolph is on the way out, but these two still fit together and bring different traits to the table. Stephenson feels he may not be qualified to place him, but he backs up the profile and what they were wanting to add at the position.

“Jamaal Stephenson, the #Vikings directory of college scouting, talked extensively about Irv Smith Jr.’s versatility and production as a receiver. As a run blocker, “OK…work in progress” but willing and a big body.” – via Viking Update’s Tim Yotter on Twitter

In our profile, we wrote he is “a willing and solid blocker,” so it seems that the projection was on point for what he brings to the table as a prospect. Don’t expect him putting his hand down right off the bat.

“Irv Smith Jr. ‘I don’t believe a safety or linebacker can cover me one-on-one.”‘ – via Chad Graff of The Athletic

And this is why the Vikings targeted him. He is a mismatch over the middle of the field that is basically a wide receiver playing tight end, a la what Jordan Reed was for Kirk Cousins when the two played together with the Washington Redskins.

Speaking of Cousins, his reaction on social media said, “Welcome to the team @swervinirvin_ …happy for you and your family, now lets get to work!”

EAGAN, Minn. (AP) – The Minnesota Vikings selected Alabama tight end Irv Smith Jr. with the 50th overall pick in the second round on Friday night, adding another potential field-stretching pass-catcher for quarterback Kirk Cousins.

Smith became the fourth Alabama tight end drafted in the last eight years, with O.J. Howard the most recent in 2017 by Tampa Bay with the 19th overall pick in the first round. Smith is the son of former NFL tight end Irv Smith, who played the first five of his seven seasons in the league with New Orleans.

The Vikings have one proven tight end in Kyle Rudolph, a two-time Pro Bowl pick and ninth-year veteran who’s long been a reliable receiver.

The Vikings picked North Carolina State center Garrett Bradbury in the first round on Thursday night.

Garrett Bradbury Jersey

A sentiment uttered out of frustration by quarterback Kirk Cousins the day the Minnesota Vikings’ playoff dreams were put to bed in December summed up a major issue from a lost season.

Minnesota’s struggles in 2018 can’t be tied to the offensive line alone, but the unit’s well-documented issues need to be remedied if the Vikings want to take the next step.

The Vikings can use the 18th overall pick in a variety of ways, many of which would be hard to argue against. They can give Cousins a dynamic pass-catching tight end, or perhaps select an elite defensive lineman who falls past the middle of the first round. There are multiple scenarios in which the Vikings can still get the offensive line help they need while addressing a different concern with their first pick.

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However, N.C. State center Garrett Bradbury is the perfect fit for Minnesota at No. 18. The elite prospect can be a difference-maker on the interior. He is a match on multiple fronts, from how his athletic traits fit the Vikings’ zone-blocking scheme to the positional flexibility he provides with their current personnel.

Bradbury was in an outside-zone scheme at N.C. State that required him to work into the second level, run laterally and move quickly. At the NFL combine, Bradbury recorded the fastest three-cone time (7.41 seconds), as well as the third-fastest 40-yard dash (4.92), among offensive linemen.

His strength and movement skills strike comparisons to former Vikings guard/center Nick Easton and many of the traits found in last year’s second-round pick, Brian O’Neill. Drafting a player with a skill set this vast is critical to the Vikings’ zone-running scheme and can create a more explosive attack in areas like the play-action game.

The Minnesota Vikings picked Garrett Bradbury 18th overall in the 2019 NFL Draft. Here’s what Stephen White had to say about the North Carolina State center ahead of the draft:

When it comes to first-round offensive line prospects, most of the time people focus on the offensive tackles. Sometimes there are guards in the conversation, but a lot of times those “guards” are actually college tackles who project to kick inside on the next level. In fact, there have been at least two offensive tackles taken in the first round in every draft since 2007.

You know the offensive line position that people seem to overlook when talking about first-round prospects?
“There’s a point of emphasis on specific traits we’re looking for to run what they’re going to run on offense,” Vikings general manager Rick Spielman said at his pre-draft press conference on Tuesday. “When you can get on the same page with the coaches where we recognize that this guy is a good player, but he may be a very good starter in this scheme but may not be a really good starter in another scheme, you have to marry that up, and that’s why it’s so important for us on the personnel side to understand what the requirements are for these players at their position.”

Going into the draft with some fluidity on the offensive line is important. Bradbury’s versatility would allow Minnesota to better utilize its current personnel.

The 6-foot-3, 306-pound lineman made his biggest impact as a college prospect at center, winning the Rimington Trophy (given to the nation’s top center) as a senior, but he also has experience playing guard. In the NFL, Bradbury projects as a fit at either position.

The Vikings have three options to start at left guard in Week 1 between Brett Jones, Danny Isidora and Aviante Collins. Bringing Bradbury into the mix allows the Vikings the option of moving Pat Elflein back to guard, where he played for three seasons in college, and sliding Bradbury in to fill his spot. Bradbury could also be a candidate to fill the hole at left guard while newly-signed Josh Kline holds down the spot to the right of Elflein.

“You have to have the versatility, especially when you’re playing offensive line,” Bradbury said at the combine. “I truly consider myself an interior offensive lineman. Whatever the team needs me to be, that’s what I’m going to be.”

There are, of course, other ways the Vikings can fill holes on the offensive line. Minnesota could opt to go for a tackle at 18 if one of the top prospects is available (though many mocks have Jonah Williams, Jawaan Taylor, Andre Dillard and Cody Ford gone by then), and add him to the mix with O’Neill and Riley Reiff. Or they could move their drafted tackle to guard.

Tom Compton Jersey

The Hope Fieldhouse project in Rosemount received another large donation last Friday from Rosemount native and NFL player Tom Compton. Compton—who was born in Rosemount and played football for the Irish—spent last season with the Minnesota Vikings and recently signed with the New York Jets for his eighth NFL season. Compton donated $75,000 to be spread across three years and the facility’s fitness center will be named after him. His donation comes on the heels of a $50,000 gift from the Kirk and Julie Cousins Foundation a few weeks ago from the current Vikings quarterback and now former teammate of Compton, as well as another $50,000 from Minnesota Energy Resources.

Hope Fieldhouse will be a 42,000 square-foot facility that will be by the Community of Hope Church on the corner of Biscayne Avenue and 145th Street. It will feature four basketball courts (three high school and one college-sized) that also hold six volleyball courts and can be divided even further, a fitness center, walking track, locker rooms, concessions and other spaces that will host other wellness-based vendors.

After the donation from Cousins, Hope Fieldhouse was nearly completely funded and a loan has been approved. They plan on breaking ground this spring and be open within five months.

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“The first I heard about it was from my friend growing up, Josh Shoaf, we went to school together, played football together, and he had reached out to me about what they were trying to get done and as soon as he told me about it I was immediately intrigued and wanted to help out as much as I could because I think it’s a great idea,” he said. “So he was kind of the catalyst in all that.”

He also said that he’s well aware of the space needs facing Rosemount having grown up there and experienced them himself.

“I feel like that’s been a need in Rosemount for a long time,” Compton said. “Just having enough field space for youth sports is huge and especially with our weather here, having something indoors is always nice. It just made sense.”

Compton also said there is a possibility in the future of him and Shoaf holding camps and clinics at Hope Fieldhouse.

Tom Compton has been one of the most successful Coyotes in the NFL, as the 6th round pick of the Redskins in 2012 is about to embark on his eighth NFL season. He started 14 games for the Vikings last year and signed with the Jets in the offseason. He’s also played for Washington, Atlanta and Chicago, and was part of the 2016 Falcons team that fell to New England in the Super Bowl.

Tyler Starr spent parts of two seasons with the Falcons after his seventh round selection in 2014, and played in one game in 2015.

That’s the Division I era for USD, but their D2 history is ripe with draftees.

Mitchell’s Ordell Braase was the second Coyote ever drafted, taken in the 14th round in 1954 by the Colts and parlaying it into a 12-year career that saw him play in two Pro Bowls, win three NFL championships in the pre-Super Bowl era and appear in Super Bowl III, when the Colts were famously upset by Joe Namath and the Jets.

Four years later the Coyotes had three players all taken in the ’58 draft, including Wayne Haensel, who went to the Giants in the 25th round (yes, the draft used to go on forever). Haensel never played in the NFL, but became well-known for coaching USD’s rivals in Brookings from 1982-1990. Haensel went 45-52 as SDSU coach.

John Kohler became USD’s highest pick ever in 1970, taken in the third round by the Broncos after a two-time All-NCC career with the Coyotes as an offensive tackle. Kohler didn’t end up making an impact for Denver.

Defensive back Mike Slaton was taken by the Vikings in the ninth round in 1986 and saw action in one game for them in ’87, while running back Chul Schwanke was taken by the Rams in the 11th round of that same draft, but never played for them.

The Vikings have spent big bucks in free agency on offensive linemen without great success. Alex Boone and Andre Smith, signed in 2016, each lasted one season and Mike Remmers, signed in 2017, stuck around for two. At least Riley Reiff, signed to a five-year, $58.75 million contract in 2017, looks as if he’ll be around for a third season.

The Vikings last month signed free agent Josh Kline to a three-year, $15.75 million contract to likely take over for Remmers at right guard. They signed Dakota Dozier to a minimum contract, and he hopes to be in the mix for Tom Compton’s previous job at left guard. Compton wasn’t offered a deal to return, and signed with the New York Jets.

But more help is needed to protect Kirk Cousins. According to Pro Football Focus, the Vikings gave up the most quarterback pressures in the NFL in 2018.

Dan Bailey Jersey

NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero reported Tuesday that the Vikings re-signed Dan Bailey to a one-year, $1 million contract, per a source informed of the deal. The pact is worth a max of $2 million with incentives. The only guarantee in Bailey’s deal is $250,000 of his base salary, per Pelissero. The Vikings later announced they had agreed to terms with the kicker.

Bailey joined the Vikings in mid-September last season after the team jettisoned rookie Daniel Carlson. The 31-year-old Bailey converted 21 of 28 field goal attempts, with a long of 52 yards, and 30 of 31 extra point attempts in 14 games in 2018. The former Dallas Cowboys kicker is coming off the two worst seasons of his career, netting 75 percent of his field goals each of the past two years.

Minnesota has struggled with its kicking situation for years, but with the low-guarantee deal for Bailey, Mike Zimmer’s squad will stick with a veteran kicker who currently sits No. 5 all-time in field goal rate (86.6 percent).

One of the best six-year stretches for a kicker in NFL history preceded an up-and-down two years for Dan Bailey. From 2011 to 2016, Bailey connected on 89.5 percent of his field goal attempts for the Dallas Cowboys. In the past two seasons, however, he has made just 75 percent of his kicks, comfortably below the league average.

Bailey, once a premier kicker, is unemployed due to his recent struggles. But he’s still the fifth-most accurate ever at the position. At 31 years old, he seemingly has many years left.

Dan Bailey is gone. The club decided to cut the second-most accurate kicker in NFL history and keep a fourth tight end who was in jail when the day began.

No direct link exists between the decision to release Bailey and keep Rico Gathers, who was arrested and charged with misdemeanor possession of marijuana. But it does underscore what a strange, unpredictable day it was at The Star.

And this is just the start. More personnel moves will follow in the next 72 hours as the club massages its roster for opening day. The biggest decision will be if Pro Bowl center Travis Frederick (Guillain-Barre syndrome) should be placed on injured reserve or carried on the active roster without a clear idea of when he can return.

While Frederick’s status with the club continues to unfold, Bailey’s does not. A brilliant Cowboys career has come to an unceremonious end.

Veteran Dan Bailey was signed in Week 3 to be the Vikings’ savior and provide stability after the disastrous three-miss outing in Week 2 from rookie Daniel Carlson, but Bailey offered more of the up-and-down play fans have grown accustomed to since they released veteran Ryan Longwell in 2012.

While Bailey went 30 of 31 on extra points, an area where predecessors Blair Walsh and Kai Forbath struggled, the 30-year-old missed a career-high seven of his 28 field goals, matching his 75 percent mark from 2017 when the Dallas Cowboys decided they’d likely move on from Bailey.

“I think, given the circumstance, on a personal level, I came in and thought it went OK,” Bailey said on Minnesota’s locker-clean-out day. “Definitely the last month personally, and then just as a unit, the whole operation with field goal and everything, I felt like we were really kind of gelling and working well. So I think it’s definitely trending upwards. There’s definitely a few kicks I’d certainly like to have back, but overall I think coming in with the situation the way it was, there’s a lot of positives to take away from it.”

The Vikings went 3-2 in games when Bailey missed field goals and 0-1 when he missed an extra point. He had a field goal blocked in a close game at Seattle that the league admitted should have been a leverage penalty on Bobby Wagner.

It didn’t help that Bailey missed two kicks in Philadelphia in just his third game with the Vikings, creating some apparent early distrust with the head coach. Bailey later missed from 48 and 56 yards in the the first half against the Green Bay Packers, prompting head coach Mike Zimmer to tell NBC’s Michele Tafoya that he’d be going for two points in the second half instead of putting the game in the hands of a kicker.

Some have questioned whether Bailey’s issues would be the final straw for special teams coordinator Mike Priefer, who has gone through three punters and four kickers in four seasons, but the Vikings are reportedly interested in an extension for Priefer, the Vikings’ special teams coordinator since 2011. Priefer spent a lot of time working on holding with punter Matt Wile, who may have been the cause of some of Bailey’s mishits.

Brett Jones Jersey

Brett Jones decided to look around, but ultimately decided to stay in Minnesota.

The Vikings announced they had re-signed the veteran center, who was acquired in a trade with the Giants last August.

Jones was more of a priority after they lost center Nick Easton to the Saints, but Jones had some other interest out there.

He started three games for the Vikings last year, and adds some interior depth to a team that still needs some help up front.

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They released former guard Mike Remmers and replaced him with former Titans guard Josh Kline, and could easily justify more moves to add help to their line.

EAGAN, Minn. — Going into this week’s NFL draft, Kirk Cousins doesn’t seem too concerned about the Vikings’ offensive line.

Yes, Cousins played behind a line that last season allowed more quarterback pressures than any team in the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus. But he said during spring drills last week that he likes the linemen on the roster as the team begins preparations for the 2019 season.

“We’ve done very, very well with five linemen playing for us who are in this building today,” Cousins said about portions of last season. “So, my point is we can win and we play at a very high level with the best we have in our building right now. And if we solidify that group with more people, so be it.”

The Vikings are expected to take an offensive lineman high in the draft, which runs Thursday through Saturday in Nashville, Tenn. But it sounds as if Cousins wouldn’t be too upset if they don’t use their first-round pick on one.

Barring a trade, the Vikings will select No. 18 Thursday. If all the blockers they really like are off the board then, it’s not out of the question they could select a tight end or defensive lineman and then grab an offensive lineman in the second round.

The five linemen Cousins spoke about who are still around from last season are tackles Riley Reiff, Brian O’Neill and Rashod Hill, and centers Pat Elflein and Brett Jones. The Vikings added guards Josh Kline and Dakota Dozier in free agency over the past couple of months.

They also enter the season with a new offensive line coach, Rick Dennison. The Vikings’ linemen were disrupted when Tony Sparano died just before the start of training camp and was replaced by co-offensive line coaches Clancy Barone and Andrew Janocko. Barone was not brought back, but Janocko was retained with the same title.

Put it all together, and the question is: Are the Vikings willing to draft someone other than an offensive lineman in the first round?

“That’s a legitimate pressure from the outside world (to take an offensive lineman),” said Charles Davis, an NFL Network draft analyst and Fox game analyst. “But I think there’s even more pressure to not reach for a guy you don’t believe in just to satisfy the fact that you picked an offensive lineman this year. If that guy’s not there, if you don’t believe in that player with the first-round pick, I’m still of the opinion you go elsewhere.”

Whether that happens obviously depends on how the draft unfolds. Will there be a run on offensive linemen? And, if so, would Vikings look to trade up?

The Vikings will watch with interest what happens with Iowa tight ends E.J. Hockenson and Noah Fant. With tight end Kyle Rudolph entering the final year of his contract, then mentioning last week that he hasn’t been offered an extension, there is a need at that spot.

“Tight end might be another place where you can increase the running game with better blocking, and if the Hockenson kid from Iowa fell to 18, I think the Vikings might run to it,” Davis said.

Hockenson, considered by most to be the top tight end in the draft, can catch as well as block. He had 49 receptions for 760 yards last season.

Meanwhile, his teammate is the second-rated tight end. Fant, who caught 39 passes for 519 yards, could be a better receiver than Hockenson, but he’s not nearly as good a blocker.

“At one point in one of my mocks, I did have Noah Fant going to the Vikings,” draft analyst Dane Brugler said. “It’s funny, whenever I have a non-offensive lineman going to the Vikings, I hear from Minnesota fans just saying, ‘It has to be an offensive lineman.’ But those two Iowa tight ends are certainly interesting if (the Vikings) get wiped out on the offensive linemen they like.”

Problem is, both of those tight ends also could be gone by No. 18. That could leave a third option: a defensive lineman.

Shamar Stephen is in line to replace the departed Sheldon Richardson at three-technique defensive tackle, but the Vikings might be able to do better. And with Everson Griffen taking a pay cut and turning 32 in December, he could be gone after 2019.

“It’s a strong defensive line class,” Brugler said. “Christian Wilkins of Clemson could fit the bill as a Sheldon Richardson replacement. I could see him falling to 18.”

Wilkins isn’t the only Clemson defensive lineman the Vikings will be looking at closely if they decide not to take an offensive lineman. Others who could be enticing if still on the board are edge rusher Clelin Ferrell and defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence.

Ameer Abdullah Jersey

With the 2019 NFL Draft now, officially, just a few days away, it’s time to take a look at the Vikings’ biggest areas of need. I’m going to do a quick series of articles throughout the next couple of days to look at what I think the team’s biggest needs lie and where they could potentially look for a player at those spots. This is just one man’s opinion, and your mileage may vary.

We’ll start with what I feel is the team’s fifth-biggest need, that being the running back position.

Current Vikings running backs: Dalvin Cook (starter), Ameer Abdullah, Mike Boone, Roc Thomas, C.J. Ham (fullback)

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We’ve gotten glimpses of what Dalvin Cook is capable of over the past two seasons. He’s great at catching the ball out of the backfield, he can get tough yardage between the tackles, and he has the speed to break long runs when he gets to the second level. The problem with Cook thus far certainly hasn’t been his talent. . .it’s been his availability.

Since the Vikings drafted Cook, they have played in 34 games, counting the postseason. Cook has played in 15 of those games. He has just two career games where he’s carried the ball 20 or more times, and he hasn’t done that since Week 3 of his rookie season. Until Cook shows that he can be on the field consistently and be someone that the Vikings can rely upon, having a solid backup for him is going to be a necessity.

The loss of Latavius Murray this offseason is significant, because he served as that solid option for the Vikings for the past couple of years, whether as part of a tandem with Jerick McKinnon in 2017 or carrying most of the load last season. With Mike Zimmer, apparently, wanting to continue to emphasize running the football, that need becomes even bigger, which is why I have it in my Top 5 Vikings needs.

Of the options currently on the roster, Mike Boone probably has the best chance of emerging as an in-house option, but he only saw 11 season. (For comparison, Stefon Diggs carried the ball 10 times.) Roc Thomas now has off-field issues to deal with, and I’m not sure if anyone considers Ameer Abdullah as a guy that’s going to get serious time at the running back spot. I mean, he might, but it seems that the Vikings view him as more of a special teams option at this point.

With Latavius Murray signing with the Saints this offseason, the Vikings find themselves in need of a back-up running back.

Many believe that could come through the draft considering the running backs on the roster (Ameer Abdullah, Roc Thomas and Mike Boone) aren’t exactly inspiring.

The aftermath of the Nebraska spring game provided a cool moment for Husker fans, and one that star quarterback Adrian Martinez called “an honor.”

The Heisman Trophy candidate went 100 yards with former Husker star Ameer Abdullah, who helped broadcast the spring game on the Big Ten Network. Abdullah received his own Heisman consideration in 2013 and left Nebraska with 4,588 career rushing yards and 46 touchdowns.

The two touched on a variety of topics during a 100-yard walk of the practice facility in Lincoln.

Martinez wrapped the interview with the kind of statement you want the face of your program to make about the Husker offense.

“It’s limitless,” Martinez said. “It really utilizes space well. When you have guys like coach Frost, coach (Troy) Walters, coach (Mario) Verduzco, really talented guys across the offensive staff, it puts the power in the players hands. It allows us to make plays. I’m thankful for that, and just a message for any talented ball players out there, if you have a skill and want to come make some plays, this is the place to do it.”

Both Abdullah (Alabama) and Martinez (California) came a long way to enroll at Nebraska, and both players found a perfect fit.

“A lot of different things (brought me to Nebraska),” Martinez said. “Ultimately it came down to the coaches, finding a community that fit me and was supportive and the right opportunity. God willing, the opportunity presented itself at the perfect time for me. It’s the best decision I’ve ever made.”

If the Vikings can finally have running back Dalvin Cook healthy for a full season, with knee and hamstring trouble having limited him to just 15 of 32 games over his first two years, their offense will get a big lift.

They’ll need a complement, though, after letting Latavius Murray leave as a free agent. Ameer Abdullah was re-signed, but don’t rule out the possibility of the Vikings taking a running back in the middle rounds.

“It’s controlling the game. It’s the mentality, the physicality. If you look at the teams playing really good on offense this year, the final four teams, they ran the ball,” Zimmer said. “Everybody says this is passing, this and that, but the good offenses run the football.”

Danielle Hunter Jersey

Danielle Hunter’s emergence as the premiere pass rusher on the Vikings defense has been all the more special considering he doesn’t turn 25 until October 29th.

In 2018 Hunter finished with 14.5 sacks (4th most behind Aaron Donald, J.J. Watt and Chris Jones), 21 tackles for loss (2nd behind Donald) and 19 quarterback hits. It was a sensational campaign for the now fifth year veteran, and he earned himself his first career trip to the Pro Bowl as well as being named to the Associated Press’ Second Team All-Pro.

With that said, just how good has Hunter been before hitting the age of 25? Well, his 25.5 sacks before his age 24 season were the 10th most in NFL history. He’s also one of eight players (Shawn Merriman, Aldon Smith, Robert Quinn, Terrell Suggs, Mario Williams, Von Miller and Derrick Thomas) with at least 30 career sacks before turning 24.

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Furthermore, since quarterback hits (sacks and hits after the pass was thrown are included) were fully charted by the NFL beginning in 2006, Hunter’s 58 QB hits are ninth all time before the age of 25.This was one of my favorite pressures from any pass rusher in 2018. Hunter looks as if he’s going to perform a rip move on left tackle Jason Peters and briefly slows himself. Peters gets ready for the move, and that’s when Hunter goes for the shallow swim move against Peters’ upper body.

This move is done so effortlessly that it’s hard for me to believe it could be executed this well. Hunter’s lightning fast footwork is also breathtaking on this play, and with the easy leverage he puts heavy pressure on Carson Wentz. While he doesn’t get the sack Hunter is rewarded with a QB hit and Wentz is flagged for intentional grounding, so I guess Plan B wasn’t a bad option either.

The point I wanted to make with those two clips is that Danielle Hunter’s pace in play before the age of 25 is special. He has a versatile combination of pass rushing moves and combines them with great footwork and selling points. He’s already off to a better start to his career than Everson Griffen was, and Griffen himself has been sensational on the field recently.

The expectation from draft analysts is that he will be selected in the middle of the first round, in part because of the exceptional number of quality defensive line prosepects. NFL.com’s Chad Reuter mocked him at 17th to the New York Giants, one pick before the Vikings.

The question is whether the need at defensive end is pressing enough for the Vikings to spend a first-round pick. For 2019, it might not be. But the Vikings do lack rotational pass rushers outside of Stephen Weatherly, who showed significant signs of progress last season. Gary could rotate in during pass-rush situations as an interior defensive linemen as Brian Robison did after Hunter took over the starting role in 2017.

At 277 pounds, Gary weighs as much as Tom Johnson, who has been the Vikings’ pass rushing specialist at the three-technique defensive tackle spot. Last year’s fourth-round pick Jalyn Holmes, who moved from outside to inside defensive line, weighs 283 pounds and had nearly identical wingspan and bench reps to Gary.
And as long as Hunter stays healthy it can only get better from here. He’s got plenty of sacks left in his young, young career.

Total yards allowed/game: 335.0 (10th); Rushing yards allowed/game: 110.1 (10th); Passing yards allowed/game: 224.9 (8th); Points allowed/game: 22.5 (T-16th); Sacks/pass attempt: 8.67 percent (4th); Interception rate: 1.41 percent (29th)

Icebreakers: The Vikings snapped a two-game home losing streak against the Lions (the first since 1990-91) by sacking Matthew Stafford 10 times to set a single-game franchise record. The dominant defensive performance was led by Danielle Hunter, who recorded a career-best 3.5 sacks and returned a fumble 32 yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter. … The 10-spot topped the previous record of sacks on Stafford among all teams (seven by Minnesota in Detroit on Oct. 25, 2015) and gives the Vikings 63 in 18 games against the tough quarterback who has been taken down 329 times in 141 career games. … This is the third time in four seasons for Detroit’s visit to Minnesota to occur in November.

You can bet if the Minnesota Vikings draft anyone that plays on the defensive side of the ball in the first round of Thursday’s draft that fans will be confused and frustrated. But in a deep offensive line draft it’s plausible that the Vikings could select the top player remaining regardless of position. Michigan defensive end Rashan Gary fits the bill as position of need down the road and Vikings-style defensive lineman .

Over his three seasons as a significant part of the Wolverines’ defense, Gary picked up 13 sacks and 62 hurries on 670 pass-rush snaps and ranked seventh in the draft class in run stop percentage, according to Pro Football Focus.

In the past, Vikings GM Rich Spielman has talked about trying to find “clones” of successful NFL players. If that’s the case, Gary should be getting a good amount of consideration at TCO Performance Center. Like superstar edge rusher Danielle Hunter, Gary did not have the most impressive sack numbers but pressured the QB often and stuffed the run.

He also put together a monstrous performance at the NFL Combine. Gary ranked in the 97th percentile with a 4.58 40-yard dash, 95th percentile in vertical jump, 87th in the broad jump and did 26 bench press reps. In comparison, Hunter ran a 4.57 40-yard dash and ranked in the 84th percentile in the vertical, 98th in broad and did 25 bench press reps (per Mockdraftable).

Hunter reached his full potential in part because he was able to work with Andre Patterson, who has headed up the development and/or refinement of every Vikings D-line star under Mike Zimmer. NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein points to Gary’s need to grow as a pass rusher to maximize his physical tools. Zierlein wrote:

Eric Kendricks Jersey

EAGAN, Minn. — When the Minnesota Vikings arrived this week for offseason workouts, they still had last season’s finale on their minds

To make the playoffs, the Vikings needed a win or a tie Dec. 30 at U.S. Bank Stadium against Chicago, which had clinched the NFC North and didn’t have much on the line. But Minnesota lost, 24-10, and finished a season that had begun with Super Bowl aspirations 8-7-1.

“We left a lot on the table,” running back Dalvin Cook said. “The main goal is to go win the Super Bowl, and we left that on the table. We didn’t achieve our goal, so we have a bitter taste in our mouth.”

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Not making the playoffs gave players three extra weeks before the start of spring drills than they had in 2018, when Minnesota advanced to the NFC Championship Game. So, they’ve had plenty of time to contemplate what went wrong.

“For me, it feels super long, especially if you don’t make the playoffs,” safety Harrison Smith said this week. “It gets boring. You’re trying to find things for you to stay busy. So, it’s great to be back in the building and have some semblance of preparing for something and working towards a goal together.”

The Vikings failed to make the playoffs despite ranking fourth in the NFL in total defense, their third straight season in the top four. But they were without middle linebacker Eric Kendricks for the final two games of the season because of a hamstring injury.

Eric Kendricks couldn’t wipe the smile off his face when recalling the moment he learned one of his best friends was staying in Purple.

And that was moments after Harrison Smith, one of the toughest players on the team, became choked up when talking about Anthony Barr’s decision during free agency.

Yes, Barr’s defensive teammates were both ecstatic and emotional Tuesday that the four-time Pro Bowl linebacker recently chose to continue his career with the Vikings.

“Yeah, he’s with us,” Kendricks said with that smile on his face. “It’s dope. So dope.”

Perhaps nobody is as close to Barr as Kendricks is, as the two were former college teammates at UCLA. Take away the 2014 season — when Barr was a rookie and Kendricks was flourishing with the Bruins — and the duo have played alongside each other since the 2011 season.

The linebackers, both California natives, were working out in Los Angeles last month when free agency began. And for a day or two, it looked as if Barr was heading to the New York Jets.

But when Barr had a change of heart, it felt as if Kendricks was kind of along for the ride.

“I was working out with him at the time. Every morning he’s on the phone going through it while we’re working out, but I tried to stay out of it as much as I could,” Kendricks recalled Tuesday morning from Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center. “I sent him a text when it started going down and I was just like, ‘Man, it’s going to be weird not playing with you.’

“Everyone was asking me if I’d thought about it yet … I’d thought about it, but I hadn’t really processed it at that time. Everybody was just kind of on me about it,” Kendricks added. “So I sent him a text … Hey, it’s going to be weird not playing with you … and he was like, ‘Hold on, wait a second.’ And I was like, ‘Oh.’ It kind of played out how it did, and I couldn’t be happier.”

Instead, Kendricks and teammates cleaned out their lockers the day after losing to the Bears.

“It’s definitely hard when you see everybody in the playoffs, chasing the Super Bowl,” Kendricks said. “That definitely sucks. But it also gives you a chance to reflect on yourself, your own performance a little bit. What you could have done a little bit better, what the team could have done better.”

The defense hasn’t changed much. The most major difference is the absence of defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson, who left for Cleveland as a free agent and will be replaced by Shamar Stephen, who returns after being with Minnesota from 2014-17.

On offense, departures included backup running back Latavius Murray, who signed with New Orleans, and starting guards Mike Remmers and Tom Compton moving on. Remmers was released and Josh Kline was signed as his likely replacement on the right side. Compton joined the New York Jets after not getting an offer to return, and the Vikings eventually signed Jets free agent Dakota Dozier as a candidate to replace him at left guard.

There also were changes on offense with the coaching staff. Gary Kubiak, who coached Denver to a win in Super Bowl 50, was named assistant head coach/offensive adviser and Rick Dennison offensive line coach/run game coordinator. Kevin Stefanski was retained as offensive coordinator after serving in that role for the final three games of 2018.

“Just getting back to work, building a foundation,” quarterback Kirk Cousins said. “We’re learning football all over again, if you will.”

The Vikings are moving forward, but can’t help but look back.

“It’s always hard when you don’t meet expectations,” tight end Kyle Rudolph said. “Everyone knows how our expectations were this time last year, coming off playing in the NFC Championship Game. … We have to earn our way back.”

Trae Waynes Jersey

MINNEAPOLIS — It has been a priority of Minnesota Vikings coach Mike Zimmer to have an abundance of cornerbacks dating back to his days as a defensive coordinator. While some may laugh off his “just one more” philosophy of filling out a roster with as many cornerbacks as possible, Minnesota’s situation at the position is no joking matter.

On paper, the Vikings have plenty of depth between Xavier Rhodes and Trae Waynes on opposite sides of the secondary and Mackensie Alexander coming along at nickel corner. Then there’s Mike Hughes and Holton Hill, two promising second-year players.

Last season, Rhodes missed time with injuries and didn’t play up to his ability, according to Zimmer. He vowed at the NFL owners meetings to help Rhodes, who will be 29 in June, get back to his 2017 Pro Bowl form, but that remains to be seen.

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There has been no public timeline revealed for 2018 first-round pick Hughes, who is coming off a season-ending ACL tear that interrupted his encouraging rookie season. At the NFL combine, Zimmer said he didn’t know whether Hughes would be ready for the start of the season.

Hill was suspended by the NFL earlier this month for the first four games of the season for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing substances.

Alexander and Waynes, who is set to play out his fifth-year option in 2019, are free agents after this season. The pre-draft rumor mill has circulated with Waynes as a possible candidate for a draft-night trade. But given the multitude of questions at the position, Minnesota isn’t in the best spot to lose any of its depth.

The Vikings are one injury away from being in a further bind, which is why replenishing their depth is always on the table.

“We’re always going to keep looking for corners because they get hurt and it’s important in our defense that we have them,” Zimmer said at owners meetings.

ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay doesn’t list cornerback in his top-five needs for the Vikings, who have the 18th pick in the first round. Mel Kiper Jr. sees them going offensive line, defensive tackle and running back — in that order — with their first three picks. Offensive line is the largest need, and the team’s thinking reflects that after Minnesota hosted more than 15 offensive linemen throughout the pre-draft process. But there’s reason to believe cornerback depth could alter their draft plans.

“Nobody wants to see a team continually swing and miss at the same position or just keep plugging away at the same position in the draft,” Pro Football Focus’ Sam Monson said on SKOR North. “If you look at the Vikings’ cornerback group over the last couple of years, it hasn’t been good. Holton Hill was the second-best graded cornerback on the team last season … in far fewer snaps than some other guys but they’re not in a good position at cornerback despite big money tied up in Xavier Rhodes and the first-round pick tied to Trae Waynes.

“This is a team that could easily upgrade at cornerback and if the right guy is there at 18, I don’t think it’s a bad position to again try and upgrade at that spot. I think they’re in this strange position where they’ve thrown a lot of resources at the cornerback position but it’s still not become the strength that it should have been given that investment. So the answer to that isn’t to run away and try and focus on another position, it’s to keep going until you fix it because cornerback remains one of the most important positions in the NFL and is one of the most vital facets when it comes to winning games. So if you’re not good there, you need to get better.”

Monson expects Byron Murphy, Greedy Williams and DeAndre Baker will be the first three cornerbacks off the board and likely not available if the Vikings wait until the second round, but there are other corners with second- and third-round grades. They are players with talent but more flaws to their game who could certainly fill in as reserve options for a group struggling with depth.

Given Minnesota’s history of drafting cornerbacks high, altering its strategy to bolster a group that remains in question could be the way to go.

I did a “realistic” mock draft for the Vikings a couple days ago in anticipation of the NFL draft at the end of the month, but I didn’t include any trades in that mock draft to keep it simple. But the reality is that Rick Spielman has made more trades while the draft is in-progress than any other team or GM in the league since he became the Vikings GM in 2012, so a more realistic draft scenario for the Vikings would include at least one, if not multiple trades.

Additionally, the Vikings are a little short on salary-cap space to sign all of their current draft picks, and they’ve been looking to trade both Trae Waynes and Everson Griffen this spring, so that could mean some trades during the draft this year.

Of course it’s very difficult to predict any trade, big or small, but there are some trades that make some sense based on team needs, draft capital, salary cap space, this year’s draft class, and scheme fit that could be beneficial to both sides.