Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Potential "Mr. Mankato" Award Candidates- Part One

Photo: Bleacher Report

Sure, training camp will be in Eagan at TCO Performance Center, but the legendary Mr. Mankato namesake shall remain for readers of this website. Learn more about a few potential candidates!




The Vikings will open training camp in a few weeks and it's time to start thinking about potential Mr. Mankato candidates. Sure, training camp will be in Eagan at TCO Performance Center, but the legendary namesake of this award shall remain for readers of this website. We will await word from the official committee over at 1500ESPN, but perhaps they will choose to keep the award's iconic name.

Until the committee releases the official odds sheet, here is part one of a two-part series analyzing potential candidates.

DT- Jalyn Holmes- Ohio State

At 6-foot-5, 283 pounds, fourth-round pick Jalyn Holmes has the length and in-between size to play on the edge and inside. Holmes will begin working at three-technique defensive tackle as the Vikings continue searching for depth inside. Head coach Mike Zimmer has indicated the team must do a better job of rotating players up front in 2018. I recently wrote about how they could develop a strategy to execute this goal. Holmes is one player who could enter in relief of Sheldon Richardson.

Holmes’ versatility leaves the option for him to kick to the edge and move inside in sub-package situations as well. At Ohio State, Holmes flew under-the-radar as the Bosa brothers and Tyquan Lewis stole much of the attention. With 34-inch arms and his overall power, there is room for him to develop more pass rushing moves and polished technique. This is the type of player defensive line coach Andre Patterson has elevated in the past. Holmes isn’t an amazing athlete, but can be a presence in the Vikings defense if he executes the details such as hand technique and rushing moves at a high level. The length, size and power traits are all available and the untapped potential has to leave the coaching staff excited about the potential they could unlock.
K- Daniel Carlson- Auburn

The Vikings spent a fifth-round pick on one of the top special teams players in the NFL Draft. Daniel Carlson set the SEC career points record last season (474 points) and holds 14 kicking records at Auburn. He made 23-of-31 field goal attempts in 2017, going 4-of-8 from 50-plus yards (three of those blocked). His kicking percentage dropped ten percent during his senior year, but a few of those misses were the result of blocked kicks and long attempts. As I noted in a recent post, Carlson is now the tallest kicker in the NFL, which creates an interesting storyline regarding the past history of players with this body profile. It makes the technical aspects of the game extra important for Carlson, who will be competing with veteran Kai Forbath for a starting gig. Carlson’s ability to hit field goals from long distances and boot kickoffs deep will be areas he can separate himself in the competition. If he hits a few long range kicks, perhaps the Mr. Mankato committee will make history and select a kicker to win the award.

OT- Brian O’Neill- Pittsburgh

Despite the difficulty associated with an offensive lineman winning the popular “Mr. Mankato” award, it’s worth including one option in the field. Brian O’Neill has been labeled a project by many evaluators. I recently questioned whether he was “raw” or more inconsistent with his technique. O’Neill was a relatively efficient pass protector at Pittsburgh, but there were a few reps where he just simply didn’t execute technically. He is a developmental left tackle with unique physical traits. O’Neill is athletically gifted, but must get stronger and add weight at the next level to maximize his full potential. It’s worth seeing where he is at in training camp during 1-on-1 drills. Not only that, but he could catch a touchdown in a red zone drill, which might cause the Mr. Mankato fire alarms to erupt. Everyone loves linemen touchdowns, right?

LB- Devante Downs- California

Seventh-round pick Devante Downs was an extremely productive player at California and slid down draft boards because of concerns regarding a season-ending knee injury he suffered last year. He was reportedly progressing throughout offseason activities and should be ready to participate in training camp. He notched 212 career tackles (14.5 for loss), 8.0 sacks and five interceptions at California. According to Pro Football Focus, Downs had the highest pass rushing productivity rating (21.7) among Pac-12 inside linebackers last season. He had a knack for making plays and this could translate to the next level. I wrote more about this in a recent post. When healthy, I could see him serving as a sub-package rusher who can blitz and get downhill. His athletic ability fits the mold of players the Vikings’ coaches and evaluators like at linebacker. Downs could make a few splash plays and find himself high on the depth chart as a reserve.

LB- Garret Dooley- Wisconsin

The door is wide open for a linebacker to burst onto the scene and claim one of the final two roster spots. Garret Dooley was a player the Vikings prioritized as he received $41,000 in guaranteed money and an $11,000 roster bonus at signing. He doesn’t fit the athletic profile of a linebacker the Vikings would normally value. Dooley is more of a finesse style player with pass rushing experience. He converts speed to power well and has enough strength/moves to be sent off the edge as a rusher in packages. His hand technique is excellent and he flourished when sent as a blitzer. Dooley played just one year as a starter, so the sample size is small. The real question will be if he can overcome his athletic limitations at the next level. He will have every opportunity to prove himself and it will be particularly fascinating to see his role in training camp.
WR- Korey Robertson- Southern Mississippi

There are so many underrated options with upside at the wide receiver position, so it’s really hard to project who will emerge as the potential “underrated star” of training camp. I wrote a lengthy piece on Korey Robertson earlier this offseason and explained why he could be a sleeper inthis group. In summary, poor testing caused him to slide down draft boards. Before his workout, many evaluators had him slotted as a potential mid-round pick. He has shown an ability to create after the catch and certainly plays quicker than he tests. Last year, he posted 1,106 yards and 12 touchdowns and was a major contributor in the Southern Mississippi offense. Robertson also was a threat in the red zone because of his leaping ability and ball tracking skills. He must become more nuanced as a route runner, but will likely make a few splash plays in training camp or the preseason because of his ability after the catch. If he has a strong camp, the final spots at wide receiver are certainly option for grabs. 

Curtis Cothran- DT- Penn State, Rookie

Penn State defensive tackle Curtis Cothran was one of the undrafted free agents who didn’t receive a high amount of press. He is a developmental player that could make some noise during training camp and the preseason. Cothran is the type of player defensive line coach Andre Patterson can elevate to the next level. Early in his Penn State career, Cothran originally played defensive end, but shifted inside to play three-technique last year. When you watch his tape, you see a player with a quick first step, light feet and a little explosiveness off the snap. More importantly, he plays extremely hard and is able to shed because of his quickness and overall movement.

He’ll need to get stronger at the next level and develop more nuanced pass rushing moves. Cothran was winning purely off bull rushes and quickness. With the help of defensive line coach Andre Patterson, he can develop more overall moves and hand technique. He has experience at both five and three techniques, but I would anticipate he’ll bulk up and play at three-technique. He is likely a practice squad candidate in year one, but could develop into a future rotational option inside.


2 comments:

  1. Excellent write-up. Easy to talk about the #1 pick, but examining the UFDA guys, well, that's doing some homework.

    Keep an eye on Ade Aruna also in TC.

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    1. Thanks for reading, Duane! I'll have my eye on Ade Aruna. He is a very developmental player at this point, but I'm curious to see how Andre Patterson can coach him up.

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