Mike Zimmer, first-year head coach of the Vikings, continues to build his first football team with a clear defense-comes-first approach. In free agency, the Vikings targeted the defensive side of the ball with 10 draft picks in the 2014 Draft, believed to be the strongest Draft ever from a talent standpoint. Zimmer and General Manager Rick Spielman took seven of 10 defensive players.
They traded their number-eight first pick to Cleveland, giving up a fifth-round pick to take Cleveland’s ninth pick and draft big linebacker Anthony Barr. Barr is 6’-5” and 240 pounds and can run a 4.4-7 in the forty yard dash.
Barr will play strong side linebacker and some defensive left end. Remember, Jared Allen is gone and Barr will be counted on to get after the quarterback.
The second draft pick for the Vikings was in the first round also with the 32nd pick. Seattle, the Super Bowl champs, traded their first pick to the Vikings for the Vikings’ second- and fourth-round picks. The Vikings grabbed one of the three hottest quarterbacks in the 2014 Draft, talented Teddy Bridgewater from Louisville.
Bridgewater, Blake Bortles of Central Florida who was taken third overall by Jacksonville, and former Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel were rated 1-2-3 depending on who you ask. If the Vikings had wanted Manziel at number eight or nine, they could have taken him.
Apparently they did not value Manziel on their board as high, because he was taken by Cleveland with the 22nd pick of the first round. Bridgewater had a Pro Day workout that damaged his perceived stock. But Norv Turner, the Vikings’ new offensive coordinator, worked Bridgewater out privately and wanted him for the Vikings.
So the Vikings get a good young quarterback who will come in and compete for the job. Bridgewater said, “Before the Draft, I met with the Vikings about four or five times. I was able to establish a relationship with Rick Spielman, Coach Norv Turner, [and] Scott Turner through the entire process. Even when I worked out for the Vikings, I felt very comfortable being on board and on the field.”
The Vikings’ third pick was defensive end Scott Crichton, defensive end from Oregon State. With their second third-round pick, the Vikings drafted Jerick McKinnon, a running back from Georgia Southern.
The fifth pick of round five for the Vikings was Stanford guard David Yankey. With two picks in the sixth round, the Vikings took Antone Exum, a defensive back from Virginia Tech, and cornerback Kendall James from Maine. In the seventh round with their seventh pick, the Vikings selected Shamar Stephen, defensive tackle from Connecticut.
The final two picks of the seventh round were also on defense: Brandon Watts, linebacker from North Carolina, and cornerback Jabari Price, a cornerback from North Carolina.
I think Spielman and Zimmer worked well together this Draft, getting needed players they wanted. They have to improve the defense, which was awful last year, allowing 480 points. And we will soon see if they got the best quarterback in this Draft.
I would give the Vikings a B+ for their Draft choices — they really picked up some talented players.
Larry Fitzgerald can be heard weekday mornings on KMOJ Radio 89.9 FM at 8:25 am, on WDGY-AM 740 Monday-Friday at 12:17 pm and 4:17 pm, and at www.Gamedaygold.com. He also commentates on sports 7-8 pm on Almanac (TPT channel 2). Follow him on Twitter at FitzBeatSr. Larry welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.Larry-Fitzgerald.com.