1. Wide Receiver
The Minnesota Vikings need to upgrade the talent around Christian Ponder. Michael Jenkins has already been cut, and to make matters worse, it sounds as though Percy Harvin could be traded at some point this offseason. This is a position that must be address with a high-profile free agent, or in the first round of the draft.
The Vikings could use an upgrade at both middle and weak-side linebacker, especially if Erin Henderson isn’t re-signed. Arthur Brown and Alec Ogletree could be options in the first round.
3. Defensive Tackle
The Williams wall crumbled a few years ago and the Vikings interior defensive line hasn’t been the same since. They could use a nose tackle to plug in next to Kevin Williams.
1. Weak-side linebacker
The Cincinnati Bengals have relatively few glaring holes to fill. As a result, their primary needs are fairly specific. Vontaze Burfict is expected to shift to inside linebacker to replace Rey Maualuga, leaving a gaping hole on the weak side. This could be addressed in the second round with Arthur Brown.
2. Right Tackle
Re-signing Andre Smith would solve this issue, but he’s expected to command a fairly hefty price tag, and considering his inconsistency and weight issues, he may not be worth it. The Bengals may consider addressing this in the first round with Alabama’s D.J. Fluker.
3. Running Back
BenJarvus Green-Ellis is servicable, and the Bengals could certainly survive another year with him as the feature back. But they should at least entertain the idea of adding a younger option such as Eddie Lacy in the first or second round.
Barkevious Mingo DE LSU #49
Size/Athleticism: Incredible athleticism. Height is only average which hurts him slightly. His strength is very average, which is a key reason why he’s a liability against the run. If he’s going to be a three-down lineman, he needs to add about 10 pounds of muscle.
Run Defense: A liability against the run. Weak at the point of attack. Susceptible to draws because he almost exclusively blitzes off the edge and offensive linemen can dictate the direction he takes. Used almost exclusively as a pass-rusher at LSU, so his experience against the run is limited. He lacks the upper body strength to consistently shed blocks. Effort is never an issue, it’s just a matter of not having the strength to get the job done. When he recognizes the run he does tend to take proper angles in pursuit, and does a nice job fighting through traffic.
Pass Rush: Elite explosion off the snap. Can fly past slow-footed offensive tackles and get into the backfield before the quarterback has time to react. But can also be overaggressive at times. Offenses can manipulate him on draws and screens because he flies into the backfield and full speed on every play. Needs to become a more well-rounded player, rather than a guy whose sole focus is the quarterback. Can be stonewalled by more physical offensive linemen once they engage him. Below average strength and has almost no leverage as a bull rusher. Consistently gets his arms up into passing lanes.
Versatility: Primarily lined up at defensive end, but may be better suited for linebacker in a 3-4. Very little experience dropping into coverage.
Intangibles: Limited experience and production. Shows tons of potential, but was only part of the rotation at LSU and his production was modest at best. A player with legitimate top-10 skills should have been more dominant than he was in college.
Durability: No known issues.
Comments: Mingo will immediately be a force as a pass-rusher, but he won’t be a three-down player early in his career. And it’s fair to wonder if he’ll ever become that type of player. However, in today’s NFL teams need pass-rushers more than ever and even if he’s only going to play 60-70 percent of his teams’ snaps. Bruce Irvin played just under 50 percent of the Seahawks defensive snaps as a rookie, and that’s about what we should expect from Mingo early in his career. If he develops into a more well-rounded player, that’s great, but I wouldn’t rely on him for anything more than an elite pass-rush specialist.
Ezekiel Ansah DE BYU #47
Size/Athleticism: Tall and well built. Really long arms gives him exception length and allows him to play with leverage. Bench press at the combine was below average, but considering his long arms it shouldn’t be a concern. He clearly plays with upper body strength and that’s what matters.
Run Defense: Surprisingly patient and does a nice job anticipating. Impressive speed in short bursts, closes quickly on the ball carrier. Strong upper body allows him to shed blocks fairly consistently. Stout at the point of attack. Uses his length to get good leverage and holds his ground.
Pass Rush: Can bull rush his way into the backfield when he’s in a one-on-one situation but lacks the pass-rush moves to maneuver his way around strong offensive linemen who hold off his initial push. Unbelievable initial pop; he can knock lineman to the ground with one blow. But needs to rely on more than just his strength.
Versatility: Lined up all over the field and end, three-technique, nose tackle and linebacker. Best suited for playing a 4-3 end position, but could definitely play linebacker in a 3-4. May lack some of the lateral movement required to really excel at linebacker, however.
Intangibles: Intelligent off the football field. Relatively new to the sport. Enrolled at BYU to participate in track and field. Joined football team in 2010.
Durability: No known issues.
Comments: In terms of raw talent, Ansah is the premier defensive end in this year’s draft class. He may not make a significant impact as a rookie due to the fact that he’s still learning the nuance of being a well-rounded pass-rusher, but there is no denying his raw skill set. He’s an intelligent guy on and off the field and there’s no reason to believe he won’t dedicate himself to learning the sport and developing into an elite player.
Tank Carradine DE Florida State #91
Size/Athleticism: Prototypical size and overall build. He’s shown a nice blend of a speed rush and a bull rush. Has the speed to make some plays in pursuit.
Run Defense: Very patient against the run. Stays in his area until the play develops and then goes hard in pursuit. Holds his ground at the point of attack. Plays nasty when engaged at the point of attack. Strong upper body and active hands to disengage from blocks. Does a great job getting keeping his eyes in the backfield and reacting to the play.
Pass Rush: Can be extremely explosive when he wants to be. But he seems tentative at times and hesitates off the snap. Needs to improve his anticipation skills. Plays too upright at times and can get knocked off balance by stronger offensive linemen. Needs to develop his arsenal of pass rush moves. He relies almost exclusive on his speed and bull rush. Needs to get his hands into passing lanes more consistently.
Versatility: Played almost exclusively at left defensive end once he was moved into a starting role. Very little experience playing standing up. Could be considered a 3-4 outside linebacker by some teams due to his athleticism.
Intangibles: Ruled academically ineligible out of high school and forced to added JUCO for two years before committing to Florida State. Very little experience at the highest level. Was not moved into a starting role until Brandon Jenkins went down with an injury in 2012.
Durability: Suffered a torn ACL during regular season finale in 2012.
Comments: Carradine would be a first-round lock if not for the knee injury which will limit him this offseason. However, he expected to be able to work out for teams before the draft and will be ready for the 2013 season. Depending on how his medical reports check out, there’s no reason why he shouldn’t still receive first-round consideration. Players return to full strength from ACL injuries all the time and it should be of little concern.