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Hybrid Makes Sense

After spending a day in Florida (I’ll get to that later), members of the Vikings staff are expected to be in attendance for Virginia’s pro day.  The only known private workout the Vikings have scheduled is Virginia cornerback Chris Cook.  It is easy to draw the conclusion that they’ll be watching him closely today.

Cook, or a guy similar to him, makes sense for the Vikings to target in the upcoming draft.  Putting talent aside, his ability to play both cornerback and safety is a good strategy for the Vikings to address their needs.

Let me explain (as if you had a choice).

Cornerback is widely regarded as one of the Vikings top needs in the upcoming draft.  Given the injury to Cedric Griffin and the relative lack of depth at the position, I am not going to argue that it is a need.  However, I tend to think that cornerback is a short-term need, rather than a long-term one.

The Vikings let Karl Paymah leave in free agency and he recently signed with the Niners.  Cedric Griffin injured his ACL in the NFC Championship game and his status for the start of the season is up in the air (in the mysterious way… not the George Clooney way).

So, even if Griffin somehow beats the odds and is ready to go for the start of the season, the Vikings will still need at least one cornerback just to fill out their roster.  So, it is understandable that people assume at least one of their seven (soon to be eight) draft picks will be dedicated to that position.  Merely filling out the roster is not a reason to dedicate an early pick to the position, however, instead of simply selecting the best player available.

In the long term, the Vikings are fairly set at cornerback.  Antoine Winfield and Cedric Griffin signed contract extensions last year that will keep them on the roster until 2014.  Benny Sapp just signed a contract that will keep him a Viking through 2012.  Asher Allen’s rookie contract does not end until 2013, at which point he should only be a restricted free agent, meaning the Vikings are in no real danger of losing him until 2014.

So, from a long-term standpoint, a team that typically reserves five roster spots for corners have already dedicated four of them for quite some time.

Some people think that Antoine Winfield could potentially slide over to safety as his career starts to wind down.  I will not completely rule that out as a possibility, but the Vikings would prefer to see him used as a nickel back by 2011.

The reason for this is that he has a mechanism in his contract that states that his salary will be cut in half (about $8 million down to $4 million) if he is relegated to nickel duties in 2011 or after.  There is nothing in his contract that addresses the possibility of him sliding to the safety position.

Furthermore, the Vikings have long term contracts in place for most of their safeties, as well.  Special teamers Husain Abdullah and Eric Frampton are in contract years.  The competitors for starting spots are locked up for the long-term, however.  Tyrell Johnson will not be a free agent until  2012, Madieu Williams in 2014, and Jamarca Sanford in 2013.

So, out of ten defensive backs, only three could be leaving prior to the 2011 season (Paymah is already gone, Abdullah, Frampton)… none of which are starters.

So, while injuries have made cornerback a pressing short-term need, safety is perhaps an even bigger need for the Vikings long term plans, as they’ll be losing two relatively soon versus one cornerback.

Assuming (and you know what assuming means) that Asher Allen is destined to contribute at an average level at least, and that Cedric Griffin will still be of starter-quality when he returns… how big of a need is cornerback really?

Well, we know it is a big enough need to pick at least one guy in the upcoming draft.  Which brings us to Chris Cook.

Finding a big guy that can play both corner and safety would not only solve the Vikings short-term needs for a cornerback, but also potentially begin to address the safety position which will be a bigger long-term need very soon.

After helping provide depth at cornerback, Cook (or someone like him) would be able to compete for spots at both cornerback and safety. 

Hands down, this would be a wise choice, and would only cost a second round pick at most.


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35 Responses to “Hybrid Makes Sense”

  1. bigjohnny84 says:

    Adam, that was very well thought out and you could be on to something. Thanks for breaking it all down.

  2. bigjohnny84 says:

    Anybody hear what Paymah said about Vikes? There’s a little teaser on Vikings Update but I’m not subscribed.

  3. Fragile Freds says:

    I’ve heard it said before that the Vikings would prefer to see Tony used as a nickel back sooner than later. That makes no sense to Freds. Tony’s game isn’t coverage and this is a nickle’s role. Having Tony in primarily in passing down eliminates the best part of his game, run support.

    Fred thinks Tony if healthy never moves to nickle, he goes to safety when his cover skills get so crappy he can’t hold up (and that may be soon). That way the Vike always have his run support and his coverage doesn’t have to be a tight as a corner.

    Cedric won’t be back until mid year, my man won’t be effective next year. AK your numbers add up, the value and quality of the numbers are weak!! Vikes need corners.

    Thoughts?

    • Adam Warwas says:

      Interesting thoughts Freds, and you assume things the exact opposite of my assumptions (i.e. Griff’s return date).

      For better or worse, the Vikings are locked into their starters and second stringers for the long term. If the team thought they wanted to bail on those big money contracts and try to upgrade, they would have done it already… in a year with no cap and thus no cap penalties.

      ‘Toine has always been most effective when used in the nickel. Playing closer to the point of attack, more easily blitzed, better matched with slot recievers than big guys outside… it makes sense. The Vikings would simply play more nickel, essentially using Winfield as an outside linebacker with better coverage skills and range.

      At least those are my thoughts on it…

  4. Purplereign#57 says:

    I have though for quite some time that the secondary is one spot that we need to address. Man, I’m sick to death watching Minnesota’s pass defense suck. Shore up the O-line (properly), no worries about the run D, GET A REAL SECONDARY, get #4 to come back and,job done. Lombardi trophy bound, unless some big-wig mafioso boss spends a few mil to swing it the other way.

    • Adam Warwas says:

      I would also love to see an improved secondary… but there is no doubt that 2009 was the most improvement we’ve seen in this regard for a long, long time… right?

      The Vikings like their guys, or else they would have bailed on them by now.

      Not saying they won’t draft DB’s… of course they will, just saying i don’t think they view it as such a big need as the rest of us do.

  5. jianfu says:

    I think this post articulates well what the Vikings might be thinking, but I personally really don’t like the tweener philosophy in the secondary. I know as a tampa-2/almost exclusively zone coverage team that they don’t necessarily need Darrell Revis back there to succeed, but I just don’t like the upside of that idea. Cedric Griffen’s a bit of a S/CB tweener and he’s probably the upside of this philosophy.

    Personally, I liked the approach they took with Asher Allen last year. He’s a natural corner. You can teach scheme once you draft them.

    I agree that Winfield needs to go to safety.

    I also agree that the Vikings have set themselve up fairly well that they don’t “have” to draft a cornerback with their first pick. But I keep seeing guys like Donovan Warren or Patrick Robinson mocked in the second/third rounds, and both are physical enough to play the pressing style the Vikings like. Why not take another pure corner? Cook’s scouting reports make it seem like while he’s a good athlete with outstanding size, he allows a lot receptions and he’s a bit of a lumberer due to his long legs/frame.

    • Adam Warwas says:

      That’s a great argument, Jianfu (for the record, had to type your screenname three times before actually getting it right).

      I think Warren would be an excellent addition for the Vikes… but i wouldn’t call him a pure corner. He has the ability to slide into the safety role as well.

      One thing is for sure, there is a lot of corners in this draft and unless teams go corner-crazy there will be a lot of good value picks come the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th round.

      • jianfu says:

        Yeah, Warren’s physical enough to move to safety, but I’ve also seen pretty good reviews for him on those corner-specific traits: agility, ball skills, and my favorite, “hip turn.” He ran a slow combine 40, though. For as en vogue as it’s become to make fun of the combine workouts, I think there are certain positions where they do matter, and cornerback tops the list.

        There are a lot of corners, which is good. But its also part of the reason I find it a little odd that they’ve apparently taken such an interest in one of the umpteen second-tier guys. Or maybe there’s nothing to it.

        Guess we’ll just have to wait and trust. If Cook’s some king sized version of Cedric Griffin, I won’t be that excited. But to be fair, Virginia did have a very good pass defense despite not having an elite pass rush. I think their other corner (Ras I Dowling) is considered the better pro prospect, though (he went back to school).

      • Adam Warwas says:

        Don’t get me wrong, I think Warren is going to be very solid at the next level at either corner or safety…

  6. Norseman66 says:

    Adam,

    Actually I was thinking the opposite. Instead of finding a corner that can move to safety later on, how about a safety with the ability to play corner? I highly doubt it if Earl Thomas will fall to #30 but I’m pretty sure that Nate Allen FS (USF) will be there in the second round at #62.

    • Adam Warwas says:

      Also interesting. Two things make me think the opposite:

      1. I highly doubt Nate Allen drops to #62 (and would we really want THREE Allens on our defense? We already have three Williamses!)

      2. Overall, the corner talent in this class is far superior to the safety talent. With that being said, I really like the possibly mid-round value of guys like Major Wright and Myron Rolle.

  7. Fran the Man says:

    I agree that last year our secondary looked as good as they have in the last 3 years BUT,
    I agree with Freds on this one Adam.
    ‘Ced had a BAD injury, the type that can take over a year to come completely back from.
    He may be off the field well into the season
    ‘Toine has most definitely lost a step and that foot injury worries me.
    My take is we either trade for a top corner or draft one. As I’ve said before, I wouldn’t at all be opposed to trading up and getting the best corner possible, in the 1st round.

    And yeah, whoever said it, get your ass to training camp Favre, you pussy.

    • Adam Warwas says:

      Ced may very well not be back… so that means TWO corners are needed to fill out the roster.

      With what Sapp showed us, he can handle being a #2. Winfield got ordered “some rest” over the offseason by the doctor to get him to 100%. Is anyone here willing to tell me Asher Allen can’t play the nickle?

      Say they decide to go crazy at the corner position and the Ced comes back whenever he does. Who gets cut or traded? Who do we pay all that gauranteed moeny to only to see them walk? Sapp is the most likely… but even then… paying top dollar to THREE corners is a recipe for future disaster.

  8. Fran the Man says:

    By the way, has everyone realized that Jackson has been available for over a month for a 3rd round pick and NOBODY has bitten.
    Tells you what the entire NFL thinks of our 2nd string QB.

  9. Adam Warwas says:

    Okay, off to a board meeting. I’ll catch up with you all later on!

  10. c.carterhof says:

    And yeah, whoever said it, get your ass to training camp Favre, you pussy.

    Very good Fran.
    I think having Favre back is good, but he should get to camp. That being said, I hope he’s back, camp or not.

    • Fran the Man says:

      It really ticks me off that not has he not commited to playing but the reason being he doesn’t want to go to camp.
      The guy must know he’d be allowed to sit in a freaking lounge chair and sip a cold one and no one would care, JUST GET THERE!!

      • bigjohnny84 says:

        Fran, I personally like Favre, but we all know he’s gonna play this out until the last second. I agree there’s no reason for him to do it that way but that’s the pecker head part of him I dislike.

  11. Norseman66 says:

    I am a real big fan of Devin McCourty. I Realize the combine is not the real thing, however, When I watched the the CB’s do the drills he was one of the most fluid ones out there. I just think it would be a “missed opportunity” for the Vikes to pass on him at #30 if he’s still there. Like you said, it’s a very talented group this year so why get one of the very best if the opportunity presents itself. I do understand your point though and that why to me talking about the draft and team strategy really interesting and fun.

  12. jianfu says:

    Fun Fact: The last time the Vikings selected a defensive back in the first round was 1994 (DeWayne Washington).

    Not So Fun Fact: According to Football Outsiders’ DVOA metric, here’s how the Vikings ranked defending the various components of the passing game of their opponents:

    vs. #1 WR, 24th
    vs. #2 WR, 12th
    vs. other WR, 29th
    vs. TE, 23rd
    vs. RB, 20th

    • jianfu says:

      All that despite playing behind a very good pass rushing front four…

      • bigjohnny84 says:

        Very good point jianfu but alot of that is due to the scheme.

      • jianfu says:

        Their scheme has something to do with it, but Indy runs an identical philosophy and here were their ranks:

        v. #1 WR, 14th
        v. #2 WR, 24th
        v. “other” WR, 15th
        v. TE, 13th
        v. RB, 11th

        It’d be great to see the Vikings get to that level.

      • Adam Warwas says:

        Yes, but teams can run against the Colts… which they can’t do against us very well… which means they pass more…

  13. Purplereign#57 says:

    I posted here a month ago that secondary should be the Vikes main concern. From what they have right now, no one there deserves top dollars. None of them. THEY AREN’T that good. Either trade up to get a top dollar worthy CB, and although I don’t know their names, because I’m too busy (midterms) to look at the combine results, I know they should get something similar to a Steve Atwater (‘member him?) He hit like a truck and picked off some of the best in the game. OR trade up to get that CB AND at #30, get another one like the first. I’m telling you…you put two of the most feared corners in football on that team, they’re ‘aint no stopping them.

  14. c.carterhof says:

    Thats good logic #57, but trading up would probably cause us to lose that #30 pick.
    Wasnt Atwater a saftey? He was great, I would love the Vikes to have a young guy like him.

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