The college national championship is tonight. If you’re like me, the greater interest rests in how some of these players might help the Minnesota Vikings’ roster. Of course, I’m looking for a competitive game, one that is entertaining. Nevertheless, the real hope is that Minnesota can find legit, high-end talent to improve their roster.
Pro Football Focus has published an article with their top 25 players in this game, and it’s definitely worth the read. I’ll merely highlight three players per side to keep an eye on. I’ve left certain positions off the list (QB, WR, RB) in favor of positions that are more glaring needs. Rick Spielman, as I like to repeat, doesn’t draft for need and he doesn’t draft for value; nay, Spielman’s approach is to marry need and value. It’s the equal portion of need and value that I try to highlight in this list.
Patrick Surtain II, CB, #5 on PFF’s List
Look *ducks* I totally get the frustration *ducks again.* Another corner seems like an awful waste, but there is reason to at least entertain the possibility. It’s not like the Vikings shut down opposing offenses this seaosn, and it’s fair to say that pretty much everywhere on the defense needs improvement. Surtain has good length and can handle man-coverage. I’m not saying it;s what they should do, just don’t be shocked if Zim gets another first-round corner.
Christian Barmore, DI, #6 on PFF’s List
Barmore, PFF explains, is “fresh off a purely dominant outing against Notre Dame in which he produced a 92.2 PFF grade and a whopping seven pressures. This was all the more impressive because the Fighting Irish’s offensive line is the best unit in the country.” The idea of adding a strong pass rusher at 3T must be extremely enticing for Mike Zimmer, especially since they should have an easier time addressing 1T with Michael Pierce returning.
Alex Leatherwood, T, #23 on PFF’s List
The Vikings would be well-served by continuing to add high-end players to the OL, regardless of position. Minnesota has repeatedly demonstrated a proclivity for shuffling o-linemen, so don’t get too caught up with their collection of tackles. One could easily transition to guard (see Cleveland, Ezra). PFF praises Leatherwood’s run blocking: “His run blocking, on the other hand, has been among the best at his position all season. Leatherwood ranks seventh among all Power 5 left tackles in run-block grade at 84.2.”
Haskell Garrett, DI, #8 on PFF’s List
Garrett, like Barmore, is an impressive interior lineman: he “has consistently been a disrupter against both the pass and run, generating a pass-rush grade of 90.8 to pair with a run-defense grade of 83.5.” It would be surprising if he was a first-round pick, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Vikings target Garrett later in the draft.
Jonathan Cooper, DE, #10 on PFF’s List
Cooper may end up being a nice addition. One thing to keep in mind is that Cooper is a fifth-year player, one who lost his entire senior season. Up until this year, Cooper was somewhat of a disappointment, but he had a super productive season: “This season, he broke out with a 91.3 pass-rush grade, which is tied for third best in the FBS. Cooper has won more than 20% of his pass rushes in all but one game this season, leading to a season-long win rate of 23.1%.” The Vikings always target pass rushers late; Cooper is a name to remember.
Chris Olave, WR, #13 on PFF’s List
Let me know if you’ve heard of a receiver like this: a “refined route runner” who is a “nightmare” in man coverage. In my mind, I think of Adam Thielen. Now, very few receivers are as good as Thielen, but Olave is certainly an intriguing prospect, one who fits the mold of what the Vikings want in the position. Many would argue that the Vikings really need to invest in their WR3 position, especially since Thielen is getting older. It will be interesting to see what Olave can do against Alabama’s elite corners.
Minnesota Vikings fans likely think that other areas of the roster deserve attention, but the reality is that corner still needs more work. Keep an eye on Alabama here; three of their corners are on the PFF list. Also, the QBs should be pretty fun to watch; both are going to be chosen relatively high. Perhaps this is finally the year Minnesota makes their move. Otherwise, my advice is to pour yourself a large glass orange juice, snag some jambalaya, and cuddle on the coach with your pup as you enjoy the game.