Laquon Treadwell, Mackensie Alexander help Vikings to B- offseason grade
The Minnesota Vikings took big steps forward last season, winning the NFC North and dethroning the Packers for the first time since 2010. They then came within a 27-yard field goal of advancing in the playoffs, only to see it shanked wide. They will be looking to build on a strong season under Mike Zimmer and truly emerge as contenders in 2016. Let’s take a look at what they did to achieve this.
Offseason grade: B-
New arrivals: G Alex Boone, T Andre Smith Jr., LB Emmanuel Lamur, LB Travis Lewis, S Michael Griffin, TE Brian Leonhart
Re-signings: G Michael Harris, CB Terence Newman, ED Justin Trattou, TE Rhett Ellison, DI Kendrick Ellis, RB Matt Asiata, LB Chad Greenway, FB Zach Line, CB Marcus Sherels, LB Audie Cole
Departures: WR Mike Wallace, CB Josh Robinson, S Robert Blanton, LB Casey Matthews, LB Jason Trusnik
The Vikings aren’t in love with their offensive line, and made moves to address it in free agency, but both Alex Boone and Andre Smith, the free-agent lineman acquisitions, had their best seasons back in 2012, and both have fallen a long way since then. Retaining Terence Newman was an important move, as the aging veteran is still playing at a high level, and the Vikings aren’t sure what they have yet in last year’s first-round pick Trae Waynes or rookie second-round pick Mackensie Alexander. Newman could prove to be surplus to requirements pretty quickly, but keeping him around in case he is not was smart planning.
Elsewhere, the Vikings brought back a lot of players that don’t do much for the roster, at least on the field, such as LB Chad Greenway and RB Matt Asiata, but it’s tough to hate too much on keeping veteran leadership around, as long as they don’t see the field too much, which is Greenway’s issue.
- Round 1 (pick No. 23) Laquon Treadwell, WR, Ole Miss
- Round 2 (pick No. 54) Mackensie Alexander, CB, Clemson
- Round 4 (pick No. 121) Willie Beavers, OT, Western Michigan
- Round 5 (pick No. 160) Kentrell Brothers, ILB, Missouri
- Round 6 (pick No. 180, from San Francisco) Moritz Boëhringer, WR, Germany
- Round 6 (pick No. 188) David Morgan, TE, UTSA
- Round 7 (pick No. 227) Stephen Weatherly, OLB, Vanderbilt
- Round 7 (pick No. 244) Jayron Kearse, S, Clemson
The Vikings had an interesting draft, if not a spectacular one. Laquon Treadwell is a player PFF has been less high on than others, given that he struggles to separate and does not have the kind of contested catch ability of a player like Josh Doctson. He was only the 11th-highest graded receiver in the draft class last season, though he can make things happen after the catch (17 broken tackles last year) and does block well. He could be a good fit in this Vikings’ offense if they are prepared to use him underneath, where he has better success separating.
Alexander is a player our analysts think has first-round talent, but like more in a man-coverage-scheme than in zone. The Vikings pulled the trigger because they had a similar grade on him, and couldn’t pass up on the value, but it remains to be seen if he will see the field much in year one, or if he gets a similar redshirt season to Waynes a year ago.
Willie Beavers was the lowest-graded tackle in the nation last season among the draft class, and the second-worst among all tackles in the FBS. The Vikings are looking to move him inside to guard, but everything on tape suggests that he is simply not an NFL-caliber player, so to take him with their third pick in the draft was a reach.
Minnesota also became the first NFL team to draft a player directly from Europe by selecting height/weight/speed freak Moritz Boëhringer from the German Football League.
Somewhere in this Minnesota roster is a talented offensive line, but it’s not clear whether they will be able to assemble the right five-man combination to show that for the 2016 season. In Alex Boone and Andre Smith, the team brought in two players that have each shown Pro-Bowl caliber play, but neither has reached it since the 2012 season, and Willie Beavers will defy every snap of grading we have on him over the past two seasons if he can prove the team right and become a good player inside at guard after his position switch.
Adding talent like Mackensie Alexander represents some excellent value in the draft, but overall, this offseason for the Vikings is one more of potential than clear upgrade moves. That potential can work in either direction.
Vikings’ projected base defense in 2016 (2015 grades shown):
Vikings’ projected base offense in 2016 (2015 grades shown):