Minnesota Vikings 2011 NFL Draft Review

The Vikings selected ten players and addressed a variety of needs, most importantly the quarterback of the future in Christian Ponder. Minnesota also came away with the top tight end in the draft in Kyle Rudolph. On the third and final day of the draft, eight players with good value for the slots were chosen. The Vikings’ fans hope their newest native Texan first round quarterback will be as good as their last – Tommy Kramer. Ponder brings the Kramer type leadership and toughness along with his accurate throwing style. The Florida State alum is patient passing the ball, letting the play develop while going through his progressions, and is especially skilled at throwing vertical or horizontal routes. Rudolph was drafted in the same area (43) as 2010 rookie sensation Rob Gronkowski (42) of New England. Both have a very similar skill set. Christian Ponder will have no problem learning a complex offense as he already has two college degrees and is working on a third. He does a good job of anticipating windows in coverage. He consistently keeps his receivers on their routes with few adjustments. He throws a catchable ball with timing, touch, and rare ball placement to his receivers. In 2009 he completed 68.8 percent of his passes. He sets up quickly to the throwing point in a conventional or shotgun alignment. He has sound quarterback mechanics and fundamentals. A poised leader, he doesn’t get rattled and is accurate on the move. Kyle Rudolph is a unique tight end with a combination of size, speed, blocking ability, and hands. It’s rare to find a player who can cause problems for opposing defenses like Rudolph does. Most teams have the hybrid type move tight end and a blocking tight end. He was an exceptional value in the second round. The huge red zone target lined up in the slot, at split end as well as tight end to take advantage of matchups at Notre Dame. As a high school basketball player he had over 600 rebounds in his career. He gets the ball at the high point and possesses excellent concentration and ball reactions. A three layer tight end, he catches the ball short, medium, and deep. He has recovered from a severe hamstring injury. Christian Ballard will start off inside at tackle, but the Vikings project him to eventually play off the edge outside. He gives the defense some flexibility in the four man front. He has first step explosive quickness, and is sudden when penetrating a predetermined gap, running line stunts, and twists. He presses the pocket with inside pressure and push. A positive drug test at the Combine caused Ballard to drop in the draft. Brandon Burton was a value pick in the fifth round. He has good foot quickness with a closing burst on the ball. A big corner with good ball and coverage skills, he is a developmental project with stop and go quickness, plus sudden plant and drive on the ball. DeMarcus Love was a three-year starter at the open side tackle in Arkansas’ flip-flop offensive line scheme. In other words, he played both right and left tackle. He plays with a good base and athletic ability. He projects inside to guard where he can take advantage of his arm length and ability to play in a zone blocking scheme. A developmental project, he has positive tools. Mistral Raymond started 15 games at South Florida and has experience at both corner and safety. He recorded 52 tackles, four tackles for loss, and seven pass breakups in 2010. He went from walk-on to starter to team captain after transferring from Ellsworth Junior College in 2008 where he played for two years. The tall, rangy developmental corner had the following pro day results: 6012, 194, 4.59/40, 8/BP, 32.5/VJ, 10-2/BJ, 4.51/SS, and 7.14/3 cone. Brandon Fusco was a four-year starter who is a developmental size and athletic prospect. A smart and good effort player, he is mentally tough and intense in his play. He began his career as a linebacker and has all the raw skills to play on Sunday. Ross Homan was drafted to compete at the open side linebacker position that Ben Leber has played. But he will also get a look at the Will linebacker position within the defensive scheme. He has good athletic skills and instincts and should contribute on all special teams coverage. D’Aundre Reed was in a three end rotation at Arizona with Brooks Reed and Ricky Elmore. He played in 39 games over his last three years. At the Combine he put up 225 pounds 30 times. He has long arms and big hands for the position. He will finish long pursuit. A developmental project, he flashes explosiveness. Stephen Burton was a two-year starter who was a junior college transfer. A big receiver, he has good run after catch ability. He is explosive off the ball and projects to be a possession type receiver with very good developmental potential and skills. GRADE: ABOVE AVERAGE.

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