Daniel House spends countless hours studying NFL draft prospects and told Sports Headliners he could see the Vikings selecting coveted Florida quarterback Anthony Richardson Thursday night. “I am passionate about the draft,” said House who has a following because of his Mnvikingscorner.com and Gophersguru.com websites and appearances on local radio.
It’s a head scratcher as to what the Vikings will do with their five selections in the seven round NFL Draft that will go through Saturday. “The first round is interesting because there’s a couple different ways they could go,” House said.
He believes if Richardson is still available in the eight, nine or 10 range of the first round, the Vikings may be able to trade to a better position from their No. 23 spot and take the 6-4, 244-pound quarterback who could emerge as an NFL starter early in his career. “This is one of the more unpredictable top tens that I can remember in a while because you don’t really know how teams are going to value the quarterback (candidates), and then (defensive tackle) Jalen Carter, how much does the off the field situation (maturity-character) play into his slide down the board? Don’t really know.”
If the Vikings stay at No. 23, Pittsburgh defensive tackle Calijah Kancey could be their target and provide talent for new coordinator Brian Flores. “Kancey would be a very intriguing player in the Vikings’ scheme,” House said via email this morning. “He is an explosive DT who could move all over the front and create mismatches based on the situation or matchup. He’d also be a very dynamic weapon in the defensive line movement game. The Vikings need more interior pass rushing juice and Kancey could provide that. Flores would feature him very creatively too.”
House also likes North Carolina wide receiver Josh Downs, while admitting he is “a lot higher” on him than others. The Vikings can benefit from a third skilled wide receiver behind Justin Jefferson and K.J. Osborn. House said the 5-9 Downs has “excellent ball skills” as shown by his 72 percent success with contested catches last season. “He’s got great field vision and can cause damage after the catch,” House said about another possibility at No. 23.
The Vikings have cornerback needs, too, that need attention. “I am a huge fan of Cam Smith,” House said in regard to the South Carolina corner. The 6-1, 180-pound Smith runs a 4.43 40, per NFL.com, and is not only a physical defender but is skilled in anticipation of pass routes, House said.
If the Vikings trade back from No. 23 in the first round as part of a strategy to add picks, Downs or Smith might be available, or Wisconsin defensive tackle Keeanu Benton. House said the media is “undervaluing” Benton who NFL.com projects as a second-round pick. At 6-4, 309 he is not only strong but showed pass rushing skills at the Senior Bowl, per House.
Edge rushers are coveted in the NFL and Iowa State’s Will McDonald is another player that House believes is undervalued. McDonald looks like a possibility in the first round and certainly somewhere in the second. “I loved the energy and effort he played with,” House said. “He’s one of those guys that maybe didn’t play in the best fit schematically but could translate (to a new scheme) and be a huge, huge boon for an NFL team who values him.”
The Vikings don’t have a second-round selection but do have picks in the third, fourth, fifth and sixth rounds. Possible second or third round players House likes in the upcoming draft include Mississippi running back Zach Evans who with his explosiveness reminds him of the Vikings’ Dalvin Cook.
House also favors day two and three prospects Israel Abanikanda from Pittsburgh, Mississippi wide receiver Jonathan Mingo and Illinois defensive tackle Calvin Avery. The Vikings may have included Avery among top 30 players hosted here for draft analysis. House sees him potentially filling a nose tackle need for the Vikings and “someone to keep an eye on” during day three.
The Vikings’ NFC North Division rivals include the Lions who have two selections in the first round. House believes the Lions could take Illinois corner Devon Witherspoon at No. 6 and beat the Vikings to Kancey at No. 18. The Bears need offensive line help and may opt for Tennessee tackle Darnell Wright. At No. 13 the Packers may go with Georgia offensive tackle Broderick Jones. Before their trade Monday with the Jets that moved them up from No. 15 to 13, House thought the Packers might pull an “out of the box” move selecting McDonald who eventually would replace 30-year-old outside linebacker Preston Smith.
Several Golden Gophers could be selected over the three days, starting with center John Michael Schmitz who is likely to go in the first round, possibly to the Giants or Seahawks. House believes cornerback Terell Smith and safety Jordan Howden may be selected in the fourth round. He sees running back Mo Ibrahim, quarterback Tanner Morgan, pass rusher Thomas Rush and linebacker Mariano Sori-Marin as possible seventh rounders.
The draft projection for Ibrahim, the Gophers’ record setting All-American, may surprise some fans. While Ibrahim has strength, toughness and excellent run vision, there are concerns about his injury history and lack of top-level speed.
Passionate Vikings fan Steve Nestor, who has followed the franchise since its inception in 1961, emailed the following: “If the Vikings draft a QB @ 23, I will no longer follow or watch them. They have so many holes to fill. They need to get more picks and sign some free agents! How is that for being adamant?”
House said dating back to 2017 the football Gophers are the least penalized team in the FCS. “I spent a lot of time looking into that project,” he said.
Minnesota averaged 3.97 penalties per game. Air Force was second at 4.03. Cincinnati, where Luke Fickell led the Bearcats before taking over at Wisconsin after last season, was the most penalty prone team with an average of 8.05.
Look for P.J. Fleck and his assistants to be active in the transfer portal now with needs that include defensive backs. Also, coaches will be on the road recruiting high school players during May.
The Wild, tied at 2-2 in their first round series with the Stars and resuming play tonight in Dallas, could make history if this team advances to the Stanley Cup Finals and wins, per NHL Stats. No expansion team in the NHL, NBA, NFL or MLB that began play this century has ever won a championship. The Wild’s first season was 2000-2001 and although the franchise has been to the playoffs 11 times, Minnesota has never qualified for the Stanley Cup Finals.
The Wild, who lost 3-2 to the Stars Sunday night at Xcel Energy Center, don’t lose often at home. Minnesota has had 24 wins and only eight losses at the X since November 19 of last year.
Denny Schulstad, a close friend of basketball immortal George Mikan, speaks to the CORES lunch group Thursday, May 11 at the Bloomington Event Center. Schulstad, who served 22 years on the Minneapolis City Council and is a former Brigadier General in the Air Force, will share stories about Mikan who led the Minneapolis Lakers to five world championships in six years and was named Mr. Basketball for the first half of the 20th century. Reservations can be made by emailing Jim Dotseth, email@example.com. CORES is an acronym for coaches, officials, reporters, educators and sports fans.
Dick Jonckowski, who emcees the CORES lunch programs, will be the featured speaker at the annual Brainerd Elks Fishing Fling fundraiser Wednesday, May 10 at the Brainerd National Armory. Proceeds benefit the organization’s youth activities fund.