It’s finally here! The 2017 NFL Draft is just a few days away. The Minnesota Vikings first pick doesn't come until the middle of Round Two on Friday (Pick 48). With that pick, there have been a lot of rumors and opinions that the team should go best Offensive Line (OL) or Defensive Tackle (DT), but the team also holds two picks in both the 3rd and 4th rounds. There will be plenty of talented players to be had on Day 2 and into Day 3 of the draft. I go in-depth on three prospects that I like at a few different positions.
Let’s dive-in with an Offensive Lineman a lot of people aren’t talking about with the pick at 48 or the two 3rd round picks (79 & 86). Dorian Johnson, Guard from the University of Pittsburgh. Let’s see some of his strengths, weaknesses, and reasons why he could be the Vikings pick on Day 2.
Dorian Johnson #53 – University of Pittsburgh, Guard 6’5” 300lbs
40 Time: 5.27
Bench Press: 21 reps
Vertical: 30 Inches
Broad Jump: 114 Inches (9’ 5”)
Johnson was a fixture on the Pitt offensive line at LG for three years while starting 39 straight games. He earned All-American and All-ACC honors as a senior in 2016.
Johnson excels in the power run scheme where he shows strength to drive defensive lineman (DL) backwards and the ability to work to the second level on his blocks. Johnson’s a bully in the run game with lower body strength to drop his anchor against bull-rushers. He also offer some positional flexibility evidenced by his starting one game at Right Guard (RG).
In the clip below, you’ll see an example of how powerful Johnson’s lower body is in the run game. Playing Left Guard (#53), he shows the strength to drive his defender to the ground.
While Johnson excels in the run game, his struggles in the pass game worry me at the next level. He tends to get lost when defenses run twists and stunts in front of him. Johnson can also get off balance against bull rushers and get his while watching his film is when he gets to the second level on his blocks. He does good job of getting there quickly but can struggle when locating a defender to engage. Johnson tends to lunge and lose leverage when he reaches the next level.
In the clip below, you’ll see an example of Johnson getting confused and lost in the pass game. At first, he commits to the DT on his right, who ends up dropping into coverage. Which then makes him late to recover on the Linebacker (LB) and Safety (S) blitzing from two different levels. Because of his inability to recognize the blitz, the QB is forced to get rid of the ball quickly to avoid the sack.
Dorian Johnson’s best fit along the Minnesota Vikings offensive line as a rookie would be at the Right Guard position. He could eventually make the move back to Left Guard down the road. If the Vikings were to draft Johnson in late Round 2 (#TeamTradeBack) or early in Round 3, I'd feel comfortable with his competing with Jeremiah Sirles to be the starting Right Guard as a rookie. From what we’ve seen with additions of Riley Reiff and Mike Remmers, the Vikings are making a commitment to getting back to being a run-first offense. This is where Johnson excels and should be able to help right away as a rookie.
Other names I like:
Dan Feeney – G – Indiana
Pat Elflein – G/C – Ohio State
Kyle Fuller – C – Baylor
Danny Isidora – G – Florida
Dion Dawkins – G/T – Temple
The next name on my list is one I know people on Twitter have given me a hard time about for being my “Draft Crush”. That’s right, the next breakdown is Curtis Samuel! As I’ve previously mentioned on Twitter, Curtis Samuel is primarily a Running Back (RB) and that’s how I will be treating him in this article.
Curtis Samuel #4 – Ohio State University, Running Back 5’11” 196lbs
40 Time: 4.31
Bench Press: 18 Reps
Vertical: 37 Inches
Broad Jump: 119 Inches (9’ 9”)
2016 Stats: Rushing: 97 attempts, 771 yards and 8 TD’s
Receiving: 74 receptions, 865 yards and 7 TD’s
Coming out of OSU as a True Junior, Samuel was named an All-American as an All-Purpose threat. While at OSU, Samuel played the H-Back role, where he lined up both in the backfield and in the slot. He can also be used as the primary punt and kick returner at the next level.
Curtis Samuel is considered a jack-of-all-trades type of player and was used as such at Ohio State. Samuel got to showcase his speed (4.31 40 time at the Combine) in college, and should be able to do the same at the next level. Although he's labeled as a WR by some scouts, Samuel’s best position in my eyes is Running Back (RB). He’s big and strong enough to run between the tackles when given the opportunity while also having the ability to motion out of the backfield and to create mismatches against Safeties and Linebackers. The comparisons to Percy Harvin are valid given the similar usage in Urban Meyer's scheme and powerful play style displayed by both players. Although Harvin was converted to WR in the NFL, Samuel has better vision and ability to run between the tackles than he’s given credit for.
In the clip below, you will see Samuel motion from the left slot to the backfield and to the right of the Quarterback. He takes the handoff on the stretch sweep back to the left, and as you’ll see, when Samuel gets to the edge, not many people are catching him.
An example of Samuel’s strength and a reason why he can be used as a Running Back and not primarily as a Wide Receiver is his strength. In the clip below, you’ll see the Defensive Tackle get to Samuel in the backfield. Samuel displays his lower and upper body strength to stiff arm the defender away from him.
Some of the negatives that have circled around Curtis Samuel in the draft process is his Jack-Of-All-Trades “Master of None” stigma. Since he does play both RB and WR, his position flexibility is viewed as a negative to some. In a similar degree as Michigan’s S/LB Jabrill Peppers. Samuel does not have natural hands in the passing game and tends to body catch passes. Whether he’s used as primarily as a Running Back or Wide Receiver, Samuel’s won’t be a player who’s relied upon to carry an offense. Another weakness is that Samuel may need offenses to manufacture some of his touches through screens, sweeps and end arounds.
In the clip below, you’ll see an instance where Samuel’s lack of natural catching ability is on display. Although the throw was a bit high, Samuel still is expected to come down with the catch. In this play, the defender (Jabrill Peppers) ends up intercepting the pass after it tips out of Samuel’s hands.
Curtis Samuel’s fit if drafted by the Vikings would be primarily as a Running Back who can flex and be a mismatch nightmare for defenses. Samuel could also become the primary kick returner to replace Cordarrelle Patterson. With both Latavius Murray and Jerick (Jet) McKinnon on one year deals, Samuel could be the long-term pass catching back for this offense. In the current state of the offense, I would give Samuel 10-12 touches on offense and allow him to be a threat in the return game.
Other names I like:
Kareem Hunt – Toledo
Wayne Gallman – Clemson
Samaje Perine – Oklahoma
De’Veon Smith – Michigan
Jeremy McNichols – Boise State
As I’ve mentioned plenty of times on Twitter, I truly feel the Minnesota Vikings are missing a true downfield burner at the Wide Receiver position. Yes, Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs have plenty of speed to get downfield and yes, Thielen specifically was effective downfield last season. The type of player I'm looking for to bring some “pop” to that room does not need to be an every down receiver. As a rookie, he could be effective while only playing minimal snaps. I want a WR who scares opposing defenses downfield and helps to open things up underneath for Diggs, Thielen, Rudolph, and (last year's first round pick who I still haven't given up on) Laquon Treadwell. A player who fills these requirements perfectly is Baylor’s dynamic Wide Receiver, KD Cannon.
KD Cannon #9 – Baylor University, Wide Receiver 5’11’ 182lbs
40 Time: 4.41
Bench Press: 13 Reps
Vertical: 37 Inches
Broad Jump: 119 Inches (9’ 9”)
2016 Stat: 87 recptions, 1,215 yards and 13 TD’s
KD Cannon came onto the scene early as a true Freshman posting just over 1,000 yards in Baylor’s pass happy offense. This past season with 2016 1st Round WR of the Cleveland Browns Corey Coleman out of the picture, Cannon was the lead dog for the first time in his career. The true Junior posted 87 receptions, 1,215 yards and 13 TD and was named to First-Team All-Big.
KD Cannon is an explosive playmaker who benefited heavily in a pass happy offense down in Waco, TX. Cannon can be an effective downfield threat at the next level. Playing in an up-tempo offense, he’s expected to be in excellent shape. Some of the misperceptions within their offense is that people tend to think their WR’s take some plays off but this is what they are coached to do. With all the plays they run and how quickly they run them, Baylor WR’s are given what is essentially a “break” on some plays. End rant. Let’s get back to why Cannon is such an intriguing prospect and why he’ll be an excellent deep threat at the next level.
In the clip below, Cannon shows his double move and quick transition ability. The CB bites on the quick hitch in the red zone, and Cannon shows his quick twitch ability to get to the ball in the back of the end zone for the touchdown!
Another example of Cannon’s ability to win downfield. He gets the inside positioning against to shield the defender from the ball and forcing him to work through him. Nice route, and win on the deep post by Cannon.
As fast and competitive KD Cannon is, there are holes and concerns to his game that should make him a middle round pick. Cannon at 5’11” 186lbs, he’s not the biggest of receivers, which can be concerning with him getting jammed at the line of scrimmage at the next level. With the big plays, you will also get quite a bit of drops (9 in 2016 according to NFL.com/draft profiles). His route running can use some work getting in and out of breaks (But his stop/start ability is good, as noted in the clip above). The Baylor offense doesn’t do him any favors with the route tree they are asked to run, which could slow his development at the next level.
In the clip below, you’ll see a simple 6-yard hitch route by Cannon. His Lack of concentration and trying to turn up field before securing the catch, he drops the ball on 3rd down. These are some plays you’ll get with Cannon at the next level at times. Similar to Will Fuller from last year.
As I stated earlier in the article. Cannon brings the ability to get vertical to an offense that needs some juice added to the position. His ability to win downfield and push Safeties and Cornerbacks that extra half step back is important. No one on the current roster does that. Cannon would be able to contribute immediately to this offense in a part-time role. Allow him to play limited snaps, running hitches, go’s, double moves and post routes. Keep it simple for him while he develops the rest of his game, but still be effective as a rookie. Lastly, Cannon could step-in and be the Kick Returner right away, which is a missing piece with Cordarrelle Patterson signing with Oakland this offseason. If the team waits to address Wide Receiver until the middle rounds, Cannon should be their top choice in Rounds 4 or 5.
Other names I like:
Chris Godwin – Penn State
ArDarius Stewart – Alabama
Amara Darboh – Michigan
Shelton Gibson – West Virginia
Isaiah McKenzie – Georgia
Dede Westbrook – Oklahoma
Dede Westbrook – Oklahoma